Time to think globally
Readers may well remember the Jubilee 2000 Campaign which was a worldwide campaign of aid agencies and Christian churches to achieve significant reduction in the debt owed by the poorest countries on our earth. It achieved huge publicity and had a major impact on the discussions and decisions of the G8 group of nations. They actually agreed to some reductions though these never in any way approached the promises.
Now we are well into this new millennium and the problems and the poverty are still with us. Most of the countries profoundly affected are in sub-Saharan Africa. These are the countries where the AIDS epidemic is at its worst, where there are so many orphaned children, many of whom are themselves dying of AIDS. And there is so little money to buy the drugs that could help. Some of these countries have dysfunctional and tyrannical leadership that has been supported by the west for political reasons, but which is cruel and unjust for those who have to live with it. Such leadership must be effectively challenged.
The Jubilee 2000 campaign has now divided into two. One part of the campaign, known as "Drop the Debt", focuses firmly on the original agenda, that of raising public pressure to persuade the richest nations of the world to relieve the sufferings of the poorest nations by forgiving debt. There is a most startling poster being used in Britain of an emaciated and sick black woman giving suckle to a very well-fed and healthy looking white baby, with the caption "Haven't we taken enough?"
But "Drop the Debt" is bottom of the cliff aid -- trying to alleviate the sufferings that have been caused by the promiscuous lending of, mainly First World, countries that have surplus money to invest. The other part of the campaign is called "Global View 2001" and it takes up the challenge of addressing the underlying causes that lead to such terrible disparities in wealth in our world.
There are a number of planks to "Global View 2001". It challenges each developed country to accept a target of 0.7% of aid within 10 years. It wants to reform the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to allow developing countries to design their own assistance programmes, rather than have programmes imposed which are markedly monetarist. (The threat of such imposed programmes has been responsible for riots in PNG this last week, causing the deaths of four students.) "Global View 2001" further wants to tend the environment by calling on countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2010. And it seeks reformation of the arms trade. The agenda is wide and reads in one sense like a list of the placards waved at Seattle and elsewhere. But then, what on earth can global issues be but wide?
There are 1.3 billion people living in absolute poverty. The charity approach, the giving of money to relieve distress following natural disasters or in response to appeals for personal sponsorship, has made no significant long-term impact. "Global View 2001" sees the world economic, market and consumer-driven system as in need of change if our global woes are to be addressed. And in a number of ways, both those we can control and those we cannot, we are all complicit. As individuals, we could cut down on our use of cars and energy-guzzling household gadgets. And indeed, these are matters over which we have relatively good control.
But there is much that seems beyond our control. There are many of us who have our savings and pension funds harnessed to an economic system that we do not understand and which we cannot control, and no real option is apparent. International investment is a system that at worst undermines the finances and security of vulnerable nations and at best does only what it is asked to do, that is, further our interests as investors. Any tug of conscience is quietened by the unchallenged boast of capitalism: that the economic success of the few benefits the many.
It doesn't. The poverty gap continues to grow.
Are we going to continue to ignore this as too big, too difficult, or not relevant to us? This world does not belong only to ourselves, but to all the inhabitants God has given life to, and to those yet to be born. These are huge issues, beyond our individual efforts but not beyond our prayers and our collective efforts.
There was a time when people thought that it was quite impossible to end
slavery in the United States, but it did end. The
challenge is, right here and now, to truly think, pray and
act globally for global good. Perhaps the word I am searching
for is "glocal".