The current Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted every aspect of our lives in a world already plagued with immense human suffering. In response, four organisations – the World Council of Churches (WCC), the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), and the Council for World Mission (CWM) – through the joint New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA) initiative convened an e-conference under the theme, “Economy of Life in a time of Pandemic”, on 17 and 24 April 2020.
A panel of experts who have been part of the NIFEA process contributed socio-economic analyses, theological-ethical reflections and practical recommendations with a view to systemic transformation as called for in the Sao Paulo Statement: International Financial Transformation for an Economy of Life which initiated the NIFEA process.
The crises of the Covid-19 pandemic are rooted in human and systemic sickness. They stem from oppressive and exploitative economic systems that are based on the logic of profit-making, socio-economic inequalities, ecological indifference, political self-interest, and colonial legacies. This joint message aims not only to voice our deep concern, but also to call upon the Christian community, governments, and international financial institutions to responsible action that addresses the root causes of the crises that are now exposed before the world.
An Urgent Call to Action
Holding to the promise of a new creation, we make the following calls: As a matter of urgency, in the immediate term:
- We renew our call for international banks and financial institutions to cancel the external debts of low- and middle-income countries (which were at damaging levels even before the pandemic). In the restorative and liberative spirit of Jubilee, countries, especially in the global South, need empowerment in confronting the challenges posed by the Covid-19 crisis, particularly in assuring funding for building the resilience and livelihoods of people and communities.
- We call upon governments to allocate the necessary resources towards public health and social protection for the hundreds of millions of people whose livelihoods have been decimated because of the lockdowns. This includes ensuring widespread testing, provision of protective and other equipment for healthcare, essential workers and hospitals; healthcare coverage for all and the vulnerable expressly; the search for an effective but also accessible and affordable vaccine or cure; basic income grants, unemployment assistance, and wage subsidy schemes; as well as support for small businesses.
- We reiterate our call for the implementation of the Zacchaeus Tax proposals: the initiation of a progressive wealth tax, financial transaction tax and carbon tax at national and global levels; the reintroduction of capital gains and inheritance taxes; measures to curb tax evasion and avoidance; and reparations for slavery and other social and ecological debts including through debt cancellation. Furthermore, a Covid-19 surcharge must be levied on the super-wealthy, equity and hedge funds, and multinational, e-commerce and digital corporations that are reaping even greater returns from the current crisis to resource the critical response to the pandemic.
- We call upon governments to reclaim and safeguard public goods and the ecological commons from neoliberal processes of privatisation and commodification; guarantee living wages for all; and privilege such life-affirming areas as health, education, water and sanitation, agro-ecology, and renewable energy in both Covid-19 recovery and longer-term plans. Our societies must foster and invest deeply in what the crisis has unveiled as essential: community-based systems of health, care and resilience as well as the protection and sustenance of ecosystems in which our economies are ultimately embedded in.
- We call upon the United Nations (UN) to convene a UN Economic, Social and Ecological Security Council (building on the 2009 Stiglitz Commission proposal for a Global Economic Coordination Council) to provide leadership in addressing interconnected economic, social and ecological crises that require coordinated international action. No country is an island. The current juncture and the burgeoning climate disaster demand coherence, collaboration, innovation, and transformation on a global scale.
Finally, we call upon our own Christian communities to recommit to pursuing a New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA), to model an Economy of Life in our work and lives, and to join with faith-rooted and social movements in amplifying advocacy for the aforementioned emergency measures and systemic changes.