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CHURCHES PROTEST ‘BW FOR ALL’ REPORT

by Chakravarthi Raghavan

Geneva, 28 June 2000 -- The “Better World For All” report launched here Monday by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, with senior officers of the OECD, World Bank and the IMF, continues to receive strong criticisms, with the World Council of Churches joining the chorus of protests.

On Wednesday, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Dr.Konrad Raiser sent a letter to Kofi Annan expressing the WCC’s regret and concern that Annan should have issued the report.

A copy of the letter was later made available in a WCC press release.

Separately, over 60 non-governmental groups, organized in caucuses for the World Social Summit + 5, issued a statement and held a press conference asking Member-States to reject the report which did not reflect “the spirit, opinion and positions of the United Nations as a whole, particularly that of civil society.” The NGOs, they said, would intensify a global campaign against the document.

In his letter to Annan, Konrad Raiser said that the report was received “with great astonishment, disappointment and even anger” by many representatives of civil society and NGOs, including the Ecumenical Team coordinated by the WCC, which had gathered in Geneva to support and encourage the Special Session on Social Development, following Annan’s “consistent injunction to move the world closer to placing controls on the negative features of globalization.”

“The consternation of these civil society representatives, and a good many of the government delegates as well,” the WCC general secretary said, was aroused by Annan’s participation in what amounted to “a propaganda exercise for international financial institutions whose policies are widely held to be at the root of many of the most grave social problems facing the poor all over the world and especially those in the poor nations.”

“We and many other non-governmental organizations,” Raiser said, “have consistently supported the United Nations and encouraged you in efforts to address the injustices embodied in these (international financial) institutions. By identifying yourself with the goals and vision promoted by this report in your address to the General Assembly on 26 June, you have cast doubt upon the will of the United Nations to reaffirm the Copenhagen commitments and translate them into effective strategies for the eradication of poverty and further significant progress towards the goals of a people-centred approach to social development.”

The WCC addressed these concerns, Raiser said, “not as a simplistic criticism” of the UN or of Annan’s role as Secretary-General. The WCC has been with the UN as a supporter and cooperating body since the San Francisco Conference (where the UN Charter was negotiated and signed).  And while the WCC has not hesitated to issue its critique when it was due, it has done so “as an organization deeply committed to the aims of the Charter, and as one substantially involved in many of the aspects of the work of the Organization.”

The WCC had been consistent in efforts to sustain and support Annan personally in his enlightened approach to leadership of the world body in challenging and critical times. The WCC had warmly welcomed Annan’s statement in his Millennium Report that the challenges of globalization need a functioning platform for States “working together on global issues - all pulling their weight and all having their say.”

The WCC has noted “with dismay” in recent years how the UN’s development agenda “has floundered, as more and more responsibility for global economic and trade reform was ceded to the World Trade Organization and the Bretton Woods institutions controlled by a small number of highly industrialized countries.

The policies of these institutions have not only failed to bridge the gap between the rich and poor and achieve greater equality, “but rather contributed to a widening gap, the virtual exclusion of an increasing number of the poor and widespread social disintegration.” The OECD, comprised exclusively of rich countries could hardly be said to have “the interests of the poor nations at the centre of its concerns.”

“By privileging these organizations as your partners in presenting a vision to UNGASS,” Raiser told Annan in his letter, “considerable damage has been done to the credibility of the UN as the last real hope for the victims of globalization. It signals an acceptance of the logic of the market and could further limit space for governments and civil society to develop alternative goals and means to achieve social development through democratic and transparent processes. The question of how major international decisions are made has become of pressing urgency in the world today. If the UN abdicates its independence and its authority, to whom are the people to turn?”

The above article first appeared in the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) of which Chakravarthi Raghavan is the Chief Editor.

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