May 26, 1987


OSLO, MAY 25 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) – Representatives of Churches and Church-related organisations from OECD countries have called upon governments of their countries to adopt policies which are not only in their own interests but of third world countries and "create a new partnership" on which third world countries could fully participate in planning their own economic progress.

After three days of deliberations here last week, the Church groups adopted their "Oslo statement" on problems relating to the forthcoming UNCTAD-VII, and have presented it to the secretary-general of UNCTAD, Kenneth Dadzie and the Foreign Minister of Norway, Thorvald Stoltenberg at a seminar at the Norwegian Foreign Office.

The Oslo statement has since been made public. Part of Norway’s preparatory process for UNCTAD-VII, the seminar was attended by the Church groups and other NGO representatives and media personnel.

The Oslo statement covered proposals of the Church groups on the major issues before UNCTAD-VII, the debt crisis and resources for development, trade, commodities, and the problems of the least developed countries (LDCS).

In presenting the statement on behalf of the Church groups, John Reardon of the British Council of Churches said that children presently born were already debtors to other children being born in another part of the world.

"This cannot be right and we (the Churches) feel the time has come for nations of the world to address this central issue of debt and, at UNCTAD-VII and meetings of other economic institutions, find ways of releasing the world from these major hurdles to development which is crippling all our countries" Reardon added.

The Oslo statement is to be used by the Churches in the coming period in discussions with their own governments as they prepare themselves for UNCTAD-VII.

Citing biblical texts and warnings of prophets that "an economic system based on economic exploitation and indifference to the poor is contrary to god' s intentions", the Oslo statement said that this was why the Churches "have the responsibility to address the current inequities in the global economic order".

Calling for radical steps to tackle the debt crisis, the Oslo statement cited the prescription in the old testament that the 50th or jubilee year should be celebrated as "God' s year of release" by cancellation of all debt and return of all agricultural land sold to non-family members to the family.

"Today this could also be a critical point of departure for the international economic system raising what are the structural possibilities for a more equitable distribution of wealth, protection of the vulnerable, cancellation of debt, and responsible sharing of resources", the Churches said.

The deterioration in the economic situation of many third world countries since UNCTAD-VII, the Oslo statement said, was "not only a technical and economic problem but a political and moral issue".

As signatories to human rights conventions and declarations, the OECD countries are obliged to strive for realisation of economic and social justice world-wide, and could not be proud of their human rights achievements when so little was being done in support of the struggle for a just international society".

Calling on OECD governments to promote structural changes in the world economic order, the Churches declared: "a commitment to human rights requires achievement of an equitable economic system involving basic economic rights of the majority of human kind".

"The success of UNCTAD-VII will largely depend upon the way in which our governments will respond to the just demands from the countries of the south ... we urge our governments to act at UNCTAD-VII, to act in the interests of developing countries in their national economic progress and participation in international economic cooperation".

The major problems of economic development in the third world could not be solved by domestic measures of these countries alone. The primary strategy for solving the problems of these countries required OECD countries "to pursue domestic adjustment policies in support of a just framework for international economy".

As the most important multilateral institution dealing with north-south issues, where basic problems of the international economic order were negotiated "in a holistic perspective" UNCTAD should be supported politically and as a major institution for north-south negotiations, the Churches said.

UNCTAD-VII should make proposals for policy guidelines for more specific negotiations in the World Bank, the IMF and the GATT.

"The crisis in the international economic system is a structural one, and requires basic changes in existing institutions and negotiating systems, and UNCTAD-VII should work out concrete proposals for democratic representation and decision-making in international economic institutions and regulation of the transnational corporations".

Governments of the world should also take into account in all their negotiations and policies the inter-relationships between peoples, resources, environment and development, and OECD countries should tackle the problems of poverty at UNCTAD-VII in order to build the foundations for sustainable development. UNCTAD’s own mandate should be expanded to include sustainable development.

The Churches also underscored the relationship between disarmament and development, and called upon UNCTAD-VII to consider this issue and "develop a strategy to tackle the two issues in a coordinated way".

On the problems of the LDCS, the Oslo statement complained that most of the recommendations of the 1981 UN Conference on LDCS and the substantial new programme of action (SNPA) adopted there, had not been implemented.

OECD governments were urged to take prompt actions to implement the SNPA, particularly by achieving the SNPA's target of providing 0.15 percent of GNP as ODA to LDCS, improving the quality of aid provided, dismantling all tariff and non-tariff barriers to LDC exports, converting all outstanding ODA debt into grants, and encourage the IMF and world bank to take more appropriate measures to ease the debt burden of the LDCS.

In the area of commodities, the Churches called upon the OECD governments to muster the political will to support stabilisation agreements, as well as for providing compensation for shortfalls in export earnings and provision of funds for structural change.

Towards this end the common fund must be made operational, the Churches declared.

Use of natural resources was often being turned into "irresponsible exploitation of nature", and in future all commodity agreements should have provisions for protection of the environment, the Churches urged.

The debt crisis, especially in Africa and Latin America, the Churches said, was a major impediment to sustainable development. The external debt had various components, of which legitimate loans based upon assumed conditions was "not one of the most substantial part".

Other components included those due to deterioration in terms of trade over which the third world countries had no control, and "a substantial increase (in the debt burden) is due to the disorder of the international monetary system, due to the dominant position of the dollar and the interest rate levels".

There were also cases of "illegitimate loans" in which corrupt governments or dictatorships had collaborated with interested lobbies in the industrialised world.

UNCTAD-VII, the Churches said, provided a new opportunity not only to formulate policy guidelines for differentiating these different aspects of the debt, but also to link dept to the broader contexts of growth and development.

The present case by cast approach should be abandoned and debtor clubs should be recognised.

The debt burden should be shared equitably among creditor institutions and debtor governments, and corporations and elites, which incurred the debt.

Also, interest rates should be lowered, re-payment periods extended, and the level of debt service linked to the level of export earnings.

The burden of adjustment should be lifted from those least responsible and most vulnerable, and "all cases of illegitimate loans should be referred to the international court of justice".

Steps should also be taken to prevent capital flight from the third world.

The Churches also urged the OECD countries to fulfil the ODA target of 0.7 percent of GNP, and to devote a large part of ODA to enhance the environment and productivity of resource sectors, especially through small projects with maximum grass-roots participation.

On trade, the Churches called on OECD governments to use UNCTAD-VII to pledge effective measures for standstill and rollback.

Also, the generalised scheme of preferences should be expanded and better incorporated into the world trading system.

The secretariat of UNCTAD, the Churches said, should be asked to analyse the "wider implications of further liberalisation of the trade in services", the Churches urged.