2009 UN Conference on Climate Change

Article about UN Conference on Climate Change, New York

September 2009  

Oped: An Opportunity for Just Global Economic Reform – By René Grotenhuis

Loving your neighbour, across the street or the world, is becoming more necessary as the global economy declines, even in the wealthiest nations.  In the poorest countries the situation is getting much worse. All told, more than 50 million people are expected to lose their jobs, and 100 million more have fallen victim to hunger.  The international economic system is not responding to these injustices. The multilateral institutions have kept silent. The U.N.’s Doha Conference last year postponed the issue six months, which is now. The clock is still ticking for the poor who did not cause the economic crisis but suffer its worst impacts.

As followers of Christ, our response cannot mimic the silence of our institutions. Proverbs 31:8-9 calls us to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” This week, government officials from across the globe are gathered at the United Nations in New York for a follow-up conference. We’re attending on behalf of a group of Catholic antipoverty agencies, together with other humanitarian groups trying to influence a just outcome. The conference outcome looks right now like it will include progress – towards a payment freeze and even bankruptcy procedure for national governments, and towards a new Global Economic Council at the U.N., with a limited membership of diverse countries.

Currently the poorest countries are the least represented in the global economic hierarchy. The U.S. and Europe effectively control the two most powerful global financial institutions, the World Bank and IMF, and the U.N. has been constantly undermined in its economic efforts. The effect is that self-selected, ad hoc groups like the G8 and G20 nations set global economic policy.

These oppressive bonds must be broken, and the voiceless should be included in the dialogue that determines their fate.

René Grotenhuis, President of CIDSE, an international alliance of Catholic development agencies working together for global justice.