The Earth as Mother

Table of Contents
issue 16/1999

justice, peace and creation news

ECHOES is an occasional publication of the World Council of Churches' cluster on "Issues and Themes", Justice, Peace & Creation team.

The executive Director of the Cluster on "Issues and Themes", Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia

Publication Staff Team:
Susie Harrison, Bob Scott, Eugenio Poma, Miriam Reidy-Prost

Articles for future publications are welcome.

Articles published in ECHOES are WCC copyright, however permission will be granted to reproduce most material on application.

All correspondence and inquiries should be directed to:

Justice, Peace & Creation
World Council of Churches
150 rte de Ferney
P.O. Box 2100
1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

Tel: (41 22) 791 6111
Fax: (41 22) 791 6409
Email: WCC Contact

Echoes from elsewhere

An introduction to Echoes magazine in reactions, facts and issues from all over the world.

In September, Piet Riksman of Zwijndrecht, the Netherlands, sent a letter to Bert Boer after reading Martin Robra’s article "Watch Out!" in the last issue of Echoes (15/1999).

Writing on behalf of the diaconal committee of the Netherlands Reformed Church in the Dutch province of South Holland, Mr Riksman said he had read Robra’s article with "mounting surprise and disquiet".

"Aside from all the detrimental consequences for developing countries, and especially the poor part of their populations" of current World Bank and IMF policies, he was concerned that it now seems to be the intention of these global financial institutions, through their Comprehensive Development Framework (CDF), to influence the churches’ development programmes as well.

Describing this as an "unacceptable prospect", Mr Riksman asked Mr Boer if he indeed shares the impression given by the article regarding the dangerous implications of the CDF for the work of church-related development agencies -- and if so what the churches can do to counter this.

The text of Mr Boer’s reply, which follows, continues the discussion begun in Martin Robra’s article.

Dear Piet,

Your letter of September 1999, in reaction to the article "Watch Out!" in ECHOES nr. 15, really points to important developments on a global level which may have great impact on the position of poor countries and especially the masses of poor people in those countries.

There is indeed a growing tendency with global institutions to coordinate developmental efforts, both the multilateral (World Bank, UNDP, IMF) and the bilateral (country to country) development aid relations. It depends on how you evaluate both intentions and practice of those efforts to coordinate. Those who can only see e.g. World Bank as "the enemy of the poor" most certainly will assume that the Comprehensive Development Framework is intended not only to coordinate the developmental efforts of global institutions and national governments.

Others, I do belong to them, see the need for this kind of coordination and for a constructive role of these global institutions. Development aid both from national governments, from multilateral bodies and even from NGOs is still far from taking positive effects in many countries, just because there is a dangerous lack of coordination of all developmental efforts in those countries. We all know how the doors are wide open for a practice of development aid that is just aimed at serving national interests of donor countries, inviting corruption, supporting the wrong elements in the political scene in the respective countries, giving opportunities for the local government to divide the donor countries. The global institutions are represented in those countries just as "agencies". They could do much better in assuming the role of coordinators and strategists as a reasonable alternative to the present practice of letting so many billion of dollars disappear every year in the hands of corrupted and inefficient structures in countries with bad governance. There is a strong need for more coherence between donor countries amongst themselves, between developmental policies and foreign policies, between international institutions and local governments in developing countries. I do not agree with the doom scenario designed in the ECHOES article and would rather like to see us in the ecumenical family to be alert on the direction World Bank (and IMF) is heading and to be in constant and critical dialogue on this. This can only be done in a credible and effective way with the involvement and help of economists who are willing to put their skills in the service of furthering social justice.

Do we have to trust the intentions of World Bank in setting up its Comprehensive Development Framework?

I would say: not more than we, the people in the South and in the North, can see and control. In other words, global monetary institutions like World Bank need to become transparent and more accountable to the world community. They do need a clear set of criteria and values to be adhered to, not only of monetary and economic nature, but evenhandedly social, humanitarian, democratic, ethical values. There has been a growing awareness in international monetary and business circles that even in terms of cost benefit analysis the obedience to these values and principles is profitable for the long term and that it is the duty of the international community to help safeguard the interests of the respective nations against the short term thinking of the corrupt political and military leaders and their allies in international business circles (military equipment, gold, diamonds, drugs, oil interests) that leads to long term destruction and destabilization.

Will CDF be the end of civil society and of ecumenical development cooperation?

I really cannot see happening what is depicted in the ECHOES article as a result of the CDF pilot. Civil society is widely seen as indispensable in the building up of a sustainable society. The contrary may be the case: if World Bank is serious in wanting to put its resources in the service of real inclusive development (democracy, human rights, social economy), then the need for a strong civil society in the developing countries, including the organizations of the poor and downtrodden, will appear to be of great importance. It seems to be more fruitful to me to be in critical but constructive dialogue with both national governments of giving and receiving countries and with the international institutions on the important question: how can we, churches and ecumenical NGOs, in our own role and responsibilities, contribute to the much needed coherence in development policies?

Therefore I would say: let us see how World Bank does its pilot on de CDF, provided that we, as ecumenical family, are ready and able to monitor in a critical, not on forehand hostile, way what it will aim at and where it will lead to.

Warm greetings,

Bert Boer
Global Ministries of the Uniting Churches in the Netherlands

© 1999 world council of churches | remarks to webeditor