About 30 representatives of World Council of Churches (WCC) member churches and partner agencies will meet 11-12 September in Geneva to determine how to respond most effectively to the policies of the international finance institutions (IFIs).
The ecumenical movement has long been concerned by the ethically unacceptable consequences of decisions made by the Bretton Woods institutions. Over the years, WCC attention has focused, among others, on transnational corporations and human development, employment and unemployment, and the international financial system. Most recently, the ecumenical critique has centred on economic globalization, and the WCC is involved in the quest for a just finance system, just trade, and an alternative to the neo-liberal economic paradigm.
Testimonies from and research by WCC networks show that poor people are affected negatively by the IFIs' economic policies. The commodification of public goods like water in many countries of the South is one example of how these policies cause far-reaching hardship to the poor.
>From 1999 through 2003, a series of regional church consultations jointly organized by the WCC, the Lutheran World Federation, the Conference of European Churches and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches developed the theological basis for challenging economic globalization.
Convinced that the philosophy and methodologies of IFI poverty alleviation policies need to be questioned, the WCC thus responded positively in 2000 to a call from the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to dialogue with them. The first formal WCC-IFIs encounter took place in Geneva from 13-14 February 2003, and a second is planned for 28-29 October in Washington DC; on the WCC side, the aim is to create a space for churches and ecumenical partners to raise their critical concerns with the IFIs.
The 11-12 Geneva "internal" encounter is thus intended to allow church groups and related agencies to discuss the issues they wish to raise with the WB and the IMF in October. It will help them to elaborate a common vision and coherent strategies to address IFI policies, and determine effective ways to promote ecumenical responses to those policies from the perspective of people in poverty.
As well as presenters from WCC member churches and agencies and speakers from academia, the WB and the IMF will also address the meeting. Background will be provided by a document entitled "Lead us not into temptation: churches' response to the policies of international financial institutions" that has been sent to the churches as well as to the heads of the WB and IMF.