action: economic morality statement

colist-admin at colist-admin at
Tue Apr 4 22:15:56 CDT 2000

[ed:  as the IMF prepares to meet in Washington DC in a couple of weeks 
(see "mobilization for global justice" message from today), and the 
possibility of another Seattle type event looms, you may find this 
statement of interest.]

From: Maryellen Lewis <lewisma9 at>

[Fwd: Message from Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns]
March 28, 2000
Please consider endorsing the following statement, sponsored by the Religious
Working Group on the World Bank and IMF. I have invited the leadership groups
of the Society , the Congregation and MMAF to sign, but I thought other groups
and individuals within Maryknoll or friends of Maryknoll might like to endorse
as well. Both individual or institutional endorsements are welcome and should
be sent to ogc at Please pass this on to others who might be
interested. It will be available in French and Spanish soon. We will present
any endorsments gathered by April 5, 2000 to the U.S. government and
international financial institutions as part of the Economic Way of the Cross
in Washington D.C. on April 11th, but will continue to accept endorsements
after that for several weeks at least.
If you have questions, please contact me.
In peace,
A Moral Assessment of Progress Toward Jubilee:
 From Structural Adjustment to Just Economic Relationships
by the Religious Working Group on the World Bank & the IMF

(Individual or institutional endorsements of and reflections on this 
statement are welcome and may be sent to the Religious Working Group on the 
WB/IMF, P.O. Box 29132, Washington D.C. 20017; ogc at

Three years ago, in a statement entitled Moral Imperatives for Evaluating
Structural Adjustment and Economic Reform Measures, hundreds of religious
leaders declared:

"Economic decisions by individuals, institutions and governments involve 
moral choices and are subject to moral accountability. Our faith traditions 
insist that public policies be shaped and evaluated according to the 
standards of God's love and mandate of justice."

The Moral Imperatives statement was a faith-based critique of the farreaching
economic policy changes required of developing countries to qualify for debt
relief or new loans. The statement was rooted in reports from our partners in
the global South and our own observations that conditions for many 
people around the world were worsening as a result these policies.

Repeatedly, we have brought this concern to the discussion about Jubilee and
debt cancellation. We are more convinced than ever that the immediate, broad
cancellation of debt is essential and support the demands of the Jubilee 2000
campaign. It must be deep enough to make a real difference and wide enough to
include debts that are overwhelming, odious or illegitimate.

Our Moral Assessment statement now specifically addresses the current 
status of
economic policy prescriptions attached to debt relief as expressed in the new
Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) process recently adopted by the World
Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). We have been told by officials at
the U.S. Treasury, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund that the
new Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) process will take a more
enlightened approach to economic reform.

There is enormous skepticism about the ultimate intentions of creditor
institutions and governments who for decades have supported damaging 
adjustment programs. Furthermore, official policy pronouncements have often
failed at the level of implementation.

This Moral Assessment statement focuses on holding policy makers 
accountable to
the commitments they have expressed with respect to the PRSP approach. If 
commitments are truly kept, it appears to us that the PRSP approach has at
least the potential to move away from structural adjustment in its current 
and make economic reform subordinate to poverty reduction and subject to
authentically democratic processes.

As communities of faith and people of conscience we commit ourselves to 
policy makers accountable to their own pledges of a new and more just effort.
I. We have been told that under the new framework, poverty reduction will 
in every instance take precedence over economic policy reform.

This commitment must imply that reforms associated with trade, investment, 
privatization, monetary policy, financialmarket policy, labormarket policy 
and other measures that have constituted structural adjustment programs 
will now be reevaluated and eliminated if they impede progress toward 
poverty reduction, even more so if they themselves worsen the situation of 
people living in poverty. We will monitor with great care the 
implementation of this proposal and will judge it not by promise but by 

II. We have been told that decisions will be made in a transparent manner 
and that people in local communities will be participants in the design of 
national poverty reduction plans.
The new PRSP approach will only succeed if creditor countries cease 
attempting to control the economies of countries in the global South and 
respect the right of the people of these nations to democratically 
determine their own policies and goals. We will monitor the PRSP process to 
see if "participation" moves beyond Aconsultation@ to include real power in 
decisionmaking, implementation and evaluation of poverty reduction 
strategies, including debt cancellation and economic reform measures. 
Sufficient resources must be made available to local communities to make 
such participation possible for all levels of civil society.

III. We have been told that assessment of the social and environmental 
impact of policy reforms will be an integral part of decisionmaking about 
the suitability of any such reforms prior to and during implementation.

But we will not be convinced until we see the identification and 
termination of adjustment programs that have deepened unemployment, lowered 
wages and job security, destroyed small businesses, undermined food 
security, increased the burdens on women and undercut government=s ability 
to protect the environment.

IV. We have been told that countries emerging from overwhelming debt and 
poverty will not be held to a rigid model of economic life, but will be 
able to adapt economic policy decisions to their specific social, cultural, 
economic and environmental contexts.

We insist that this is essential. Policy prescriptions designed and imposed 
by outsiders are bound to ignore the varied nature of multiple local 
realities. The "Washington Consensus" set of policies forming the basis of 
structural adjustment programs have been a disaster for poor people. We 
will observe the PRSP process to discern whether or not countries are 
genuinely freed from this inadequate model to shape their own economic 
lives and futures.

V. We have been told that in the new plan savings from debt cancellation 
will be used for poverty reduction.

We believe the best assurance that debt cancellation will benefit ordinary 
people lies in the empowerment of local communities to hold their own 
governments accountable. We will monitor the PRSP process to see if it 
facilitates this empowerment, and ensure that it does not serve as an 
excuse for delaying debt relief.

We will judge the value of all policies by their impact on impoverished 
communities and the environment.

--When unjust and overwhelming debts are abolished;
--When those now carrying the burden of debt sit as equals at 
decisionmaking tables;
--When local people impoverished by debt and structural adjustment see real 
improvements in the quality of their lives;
--When debt no longer serves as an obstacle to environmental protection and 
human dignity;
--When the global North faces up to its own debt to the global South for 
the terrible moral wrong of slavery, the unjust appropriation of natural 
resources and centuries of destructive military, political and economic 
intervention and domination;

**Then we will know that the call for Jubilee is being answered.

Marie Dennis, Director
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
P.O. Box 29132
Washington D.C. 20017

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