3rd Meeting of the Ecumenical Panel on a New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA)

by Cheon Young Cheol

Photo: The NIFEA Joint Planning Team  from CWM, WCRC, WCC and LWF.

The 3rd meeting of the Ecumenical Panel on a NIFEA is in progress in New York to connect with the United Nations (UN) 3rd Economic and Social Council Forum on Financing for Development (FfD) taking place from 23-26 April 2018 at the UN headquarters.

As a follow-up to the 2012 “Sao Paolo Statement: International Financial Transformation for an Economy of Life”, the Council for World Mission (CWM), World Council of Churches (WCC), World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) and Lutheran World Federation (LWF) brought together the Ecumenical Panel on a NIFEA – composed of thirteen (13) experts in finance, economics, sociology and theology – with the mandate of developing an advocacy plan to “give legs” to the Sao Paolo Statement.

Following two meetings in August 2013 and January 2014, the Ecumenical Panel on a NIFEA produced the report titled, “Economy of Life for All Now: An Ecumenical Action Plan for a New International Financial and Economic Architecture”. The NIFEA Plan maps out areas for advocacy and engagement by churches in the areas of financial sector regulation, public finance and debt, and global economic governance, with a view to transforming the international financial architecture by relinking finance to the real economy, countering greed and embedding economy in society and ecology.

Economic inequality has consistently worsened since the global financial crisis of 2008 and is at its highest level since the 19th century. Among numerous studies, the 2017 Oxfam report, “An Economy for the 99%”, points out that, today, eight men own as much wealth as 3.7 billion people combined or half the world population. Global and national wealth disparity is considered by the World Economic Forum as “the biggest threat to the global economy”. Inequality also emerged as a key concern at the October 2016 Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund. Notwithstanding this, there is scant discussion at the international level on real measures to tackle a problem rooted in a dysfunctional global financial and economic system that rewards the already-affluent and, often,  the corrupt.

Not unrelated to the aforementioned phenomenon of widening socio-economic chasms, there is growing public disenfranchisement with a multilateral system which has failed to deliver on its promise of generating shared prosperity. Consequently across Europe, in the United States and many parts of the world, populist, polemic and “protectionist” governments have achieved political victories.  There are also, the ecological challenges confronting the world today are more daunting than ever. The year 2016 is the warmest on record, breaking the record set in 2015 which broke the record set in 2014. Indeed 16 out of the 17 warmest years ever documented have occurred after 2000.

The question of a supportive financial architecture is pivotal to the implementation of both international instruments, which, though far from perfect, carry the potential of directing the world towards a more just and sustainable future. Importantly, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched an inquiry into the design of a “Sustainable Financial Architecture,” producing two reports: “The Financial System We Need: Aligning the Financial System with Sustainable Development” in October 2015 and “The Financial System We Need: From Momentum to Transformation” in October 2016.

Against this background the  Ecumenical Panel on a NIFEA has been reconvened to give fresh analysis and new strategy for churches.

Meeting objectives:

1. To analyse the signs of the times for the economy and the earth

2.To identify emerging and persisting elements of economic and climate injustice and the key issues ahead 

3. To set up a process to update the NIFEA Plan, especially the priority actions, in light of the above and our findings so far 

4. To strategise new actions and partnerships as we advocate the analysis and transformation of NIFEA


In addition to the NIFEA panel members, the CWM General Secretary, Rev Dr Collin Cowan,  his counterparts and relevant staff of the WCC, WCRC, and LWF as well as the delegates from Roman Catholic community who have been invited in light of Pope Francis’ recent statements on economic and ecological injustice, are in attendance.

Photo credit:  Charis Bhagianathan.

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