Africa: Economic Justice Conference, 8/15/98

Africa: Economic Justice Conference, 8/15/98

Africa: Economic Justice Conference
Date distributed (ymd): 980815
Document reposted by APIC

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Region: Southern Africa, East Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains a statement from the Dar es Salaam conference of the Economic Justice Network for Church Organizations in Eastern and Southern Africa on the theme "Economic Justice."It puts the Jubilee 2000 campaign for debt cancellation for poor countries in the context of a wider range of economic issues.

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The Economic Justice Network for Church Organisations in Eastern and Southern Africa is made up of all the Council of Churches which form the Fellowship of Councils of Churches in Eastern and Southern Africa (FOCCESA), in Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The secretariat is at the Ecumenical Documentation and Information Centre for Eastern and Southern Africa (EDICESA).

Contact: Tendai Chikuku Nyahoda Director, EDICESA P.O. Box H94, Hatfield HARARE, Zimbabwe Tel: (263 4) 570311/572979 Fax: (263 4) 572979 E-mail:,



July 28-31, 1998 Kurasini Conference Centre, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania Theme: 'Economic Justice'


1. Theological base

The term 'jubilee' has a biblical origin which comes from the word 'yobel' (jubilee) or a horn. A horn was blown to announce or proclaim the beginning of the jubilee, that is, the year of the Lord's favour (grace). Thus, jubilee points to a year of grace whereby human beings had sinned against each other and against God.

In our context in Africa, Jubilee must not be exclusively confined to the cancellation of the unpayable debts of most of the poor countries of the world. While it is recognized that this is undoubtedly part of the jubilee package, it is important to stress that the concept must call for a transformation of society at various levels and emphasize the restoring of the broken bonds of the community of God's people. Jubilee was, and must, be a time for setting slaves free and redistributing land. Efforts at jubilee must, therefore, affirm Africa's dignity, resurrect the continent's lost identity and enhance its solidarity. In this regard, the process of jubilee must redress the socio-economic inadequacies in society's production relations and forces and seek to promote an equitable distribution of wealth.

Jubilee is thus about relationship between God and people; between people and people; and between people and nature. This relationship transcends human greed and distortion, lifting us towards the higher ideals of forgiveness and redemption. But 'forgiveness' implies that the offender has accepted their guilt. Thus, we implore the rich nations of the North to acknowledge their guilt for the long years of exploitation and oppression, from colonial through to the present times, of the poor countries of the South. Their acceptance of guilt, and our readiness to forgive, are what constitute the essential expressions of the celebration of the value of life. 1

With reference to the debt burden, we also acknowledge that numerous mistakes have been made by us, especially our political and religious leaders and we have been late to question them. Thus, true jubilee calls for a transformation that will lead to good governance, transparency and accountability.

Even more important is the fact that jubilee must relate to people's freedom. This freedom relates to political freedom, but it goes beyond that. Jubilee must be viewed within the context of man and woman created in the image o f God. The responsibility given to humanity as stewards and custodians is set on the perspective of a creation declared by God as 'good'-free from exploitation and oppressive culture. It is one where the potentialities of God's people ar e given room to flourish. In this regard, Leviticus declares jubilee as rearranging human relations so that they can conform to God's 'good' creation. While the liberation struggle gave Africa political freedom, there still remains the matter of economic justice. Jubilee, then, relates to putting right those things that militate against the rights of our peoples to their freedom, economic empowerment and peace.

Jubilee is about community; it is about being your brother's keeper; it is about reinforcing Africa's famous dictum of 'I am because you are'. It is reaffirming 'ubuntu' for what it genuinely is. Unlike the current practices that perpetuate instability and chaos, the jubilee campaign presents hope and optimism.

2. Statement/Analysis of the problem

We travail and bleed with Christ as we witness the current turmoil of his people in our region, and as we see how human greed has subterfuged God's project of universal peace and harmony of jubilee. Africa in general, and our region in particular, is, like Job of Yor, afflicted with all manner of s ores, but the ones that we find ache most at this historical moment, are the scourge of debt, the new viciousness of Northern capital manifesting itself in the form of globalisation and the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, trade and investment distortions, as well as the key challenge to secure three meals a day for all of God's people and the need for food security.

2.1. The debt crisis

We noted with concern the glaring examples from the unworkable programs of the SAP which have caused endless poverty in our communities.

We also noted that as we approach the 21st Century, Africa is not yet free as the North continues to design and impose agreements on Africa which are only meant to make Africans indirect economic slaves.

The impact of debt is manifested in the denial of educational opportunities, the erosion of health care, and the inability to finance genuine public sector development. Furthermore, the circumstances under which the debt has been incurred are morally unjust, ranging, as they do, from the apartheid-caused debt, unfair international trade and investment terms, right through to corrupt diversion of development finance. In any event, in its current proportions, the debt is unsustainable as Africa finds itself caught up in servicing a usurious debt, notwithstanding the political instability which makes paying even more difficult.

2.2. The 'Lome' negotiations

The present Lome IV agreement between the EU and the ACP countries on development aid and trade expires at the end of the century and negotiations for a new agreement will commence during 1998. It is worth noting that the present agreement has not been successful. The present arrangement has not altere d but sustained colonial relations of production and redistribution, and consumption. The development aid is too centralized focusing mainly at the central governments and has often failed to reach the poor. Despite the availability of trade preferences the share of ACP countries in the total import of the E U has dropped to insignificant numbers compared with imports from Asia and Latin America. Trade preferences -- at zero tariffs -- have been available mainly for products where poor countries stand no chance in competing with the EU-manufactured goods and industry -- while heavy protection have been the rule on agricultural goods produced by the EU itself.

The negotiating mandate for a new agreement adopted by the EU governments is a cause for serious concern for the ACP countries. The EU aims at integrating the ACP into the world market system from which they are now largely marginalised, by introducing free trade agreements between itself and African, Caribbean and Pacific regions respectively. These regional agreements should achieve equal/reciprocal market access after a transitional period of only five y ears, which implies that African countries should open their markets to exports from the EU-countries. This approach is very dangerous since almost no economic sector in ACP countries would be able to survive competition from the EU within such a short horizon even if the EU provides support for improving economic structures and capacities. The least developed countries are offered special treatment which is WTO-compatible because it offered to all LDCs, but less favorable than those available in the present Lome Convention. The strategy of the EU should be seen in the context of capital-led globalisation where the rich nations of the North are involved in competition over the control of markets and resources in the South, and particular as a European response to the US-Africa Growth and Economic Opportunities Act. African countries must oppose these agendas and propose alternatives that better suit their needs for development and poverty alleviation.

2.3. The Multilateral Agreement on Investment

The Multilateral Agreement on Investment is an international treaty under secret negotiations by the twenty-nine (29) member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. More clearly put, the MAI is a charter of rights to transnational corporations, whose main goal is to restrict t he ability of governments to regulate them, promote greater legal security and protection for investments and establish dispute settlement mechanism which gives them rights to challenge national laws and seek payment to damages. If agreed, it will be open for ratification not only to OECD states, but to all non-OECD countries which will be asked to join after negotiations have ended.

In its current form, the MAI proposes an unprecedented expansion of corporate rights without a corresponding transfer of social and environmental responsibilities and obligations. The MAI has profound political, economic, social, environmental and cultural implications, characterized by large elements of control of the global economy from governments to unelected and unaccountable corporations.

MAI should be understood in the context of globalisation, which is a deliberate political project of the rich countries and transnational corporations manifesting itself in the economic processes and activities of World Bank , IMF, etc.

2.4. Food security and economic justice

Hunger and malnutrition is a daily reality for more than 40% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa. Efforts to improve food security have largely failed because of inadequate public policies, unequal distribution of productive resources, such as land, as well as distorted and unjust international trade structures. Malnutrition is widespread even in those countries in the region who are major exporters of agricultural products. The poor peasants and village communities have been neglected regarding access to land, credit, markets , appropriate and sustainable farm technologies and advice. In addition to this, the movement of large-scale commercial farming in the region has dispossessed many small-scale farmers of their land, apart from forcing them to grow certain types of cash crops. The introduction of structural adjustment programs favour the emphasis on export crops to earn hard currency often at the detriment of food production for local consumption. The market forces set free by adjustment programs often work against food security. When food subsidies and price controls are removed, the poorer sections of the population can only afford one or two meals a day often of insufficient nutritional value. Reduction of import controls in SAPs allow Europe, the US and other countries in the North to dump their agricultural surplus production in Africa at prices so low that local farmers go out of business. This is free-trade dogmatism with double standards that the World Bank preaches and forces poor countries to remove subsidies and protection while the EU and the US agricultural markets are heavily protected and subsidized.

3.0. The way forward

In view of these problems and challenges, the meeting recommends that Task Forces be created and mandated to tackle the following issues:

3.1. The debt crisis

3.2. The 'Lome'

3.3. The MAI

3.4. Food security and land

The Task Forces will work with churches, through their national councils, to engage in the analysis of the issues identified above, lobby governments and regional organisations, and mobilise councils and churches for concrete action on these issues.

The Task Force will comprise 5 people selected on the basis of commitment and competence on a given issue. More specifically, the terms of reference of the Task Force will be with respect to each of the groups mandated area of work -

a. to identify issues and set policy trends and strategies for policy work.

b. to lead in research and analysis.

c. To spearhead and, where applicable, carry out the tasks themselves, the preparation of briefing and educational materials, as well as other learning and communication resources for use in advocacy and campaigns.

e. To spearhead lobbying and advocacy efforts, including establishing and maintaining contact with key policy players as appropriate.

f. To network with other NGOs, civic groups, and media groups in order to promote the analysis, messages and concerns of the Network.

g. To report to and receive directions from the Network from time to time as will be agreed.

Where no economic justice officer exists, each National Council is requested to forward the name of a contact person to the Economic Justice Network. The Steering Committee was mandated by the meeting to put in place the Task Forces and to ensure that work on the identified topics start soon.

Other more general recommendations include the following:

a. That FOCCESA should constitute a delegation to go to Angola on a fact-finding mission in view of that country's political turmoil.

b. That FOCCESA should embark on research and action on regional integration.


Additional background on the Economic Justice Network for Churches in Eastern and Southern Africa (excerpts from FOCCESA newsletter)

Church organisations in Eastern and Southern Africa have established an Economic Justice Network to harness all the resources of the east and southern Africa region for all its people with a view to facilitate economic justice through the transforming agency of Christians compelled by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our Mission

The mission of the network is to strengthen the commitment of the church in its advocacy work on economic justice and in acting as a catalyst for engaging people in the promotion of economic and social structures.The network will establish mechanisms to bring the experiences and concerns of the marginalised and poor people to the agenda of church and society.

Description of existing situation and aims of the project

Churches and Christian Councils are forceful actors in the civil society on human rights and democratization. Increasingly their involvement on behalf of the poor and marginalised sectors of society of necessity should lead them to deal with economic justice issues.In this regard a just region and just world is what the network advocates for.

Various studies have revealed that we are operating under an economic system which ignore the Third World context characterized by the globalization of the economy, which has aggravated poverty in developing countries, especially Africa. The system tends to work against the poor in favour of the rich.Third World countries are living under the unbearable weight of foreign debt. National economies are functioning under the constraints imposed by the World Bank through among other things, SAPs.Social indicators show that there has been a reversal of literacy rates, a decline in health standards, growing poverty in urban and rural areas, a rise in social crime, rise in unemployment, growing gap between the rich and the poor and an erosion of the authority of national governments.

What is our challenge?

-To seek alternatives to the market forces

-To contribute to the democratizing of the global trading systems

-To affirm economic justice as a human right

-To restore dignity in the life of the poor

-To stress the need for sustainable development

-To ensure the meaningful participation of citizens and civil society in the development of our economy

-To eliminate poverty and enhance the quality of life

For more information, including network contact information in specific countries, please contact the FOCCESA secretariat at EDICESA (


From: Message-Id: <> Date: Sat, 15 Aug 1998 14:33:04 -0500 Subject: Africa: Economic Justice Conference

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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