International Catholic groups call for \"polluter-payer\" economic system

South Korea held a G20 summit in Seoul last November. In preparation for the event, the International Catholic Movement of Intellectual and Cultural Affairs (ICMICA - Pax Romana), the Woori Theology Institute (WTI), and the Korean Catholic Lay People Movement held an international conference in Seoul from one week before the gaqthering. It’s theme was “Rethinking Economics and Development, Towards A Model of A Sustainable, equitable And Pro-Poor Development”.

The following is the final statement from that gathering sent to me by Paul Hwang, head of the Center for Asian Theology Solidarity (CATS)

We the members of the International Catholic Movement of Intellectual and Cultural Affairs (ICMICA - Pax Romana), Woori Theology Institute (WTI), Korean Catholic Lay People Movement, theologians, economist and friends of ICMICA came together in reflection in Seoul Korea from 1st till 4th November 2010, parallel with the ongoing G20 meetings/summit. Through our discussions and debates on the theme; “Rethinking Economics and Development, Towards A Model of A Sustainable, equitable And Pro-Poor Development”, we have come up with the following reflections:

G20 is an alternative to G8, discussing on economic development and financial reform and parallel to this we reflected on the current global crisis, rethinking economics and development, towards a model of a sustainable, equitable and pro-poor development.

Our Current Reality

Billions of people around the world continue to suffer from poverty despite the various remedial measures taken by governments and international institutions. Looking into this, we emphasize that the economy and future models of development should be more equitable, inclusive and sustainable in which the welfare of peoples takes priority especially the concerns of the poorest and the marginalized. Development should go beyond monetary aspects and it should include ethics of justice, equality and be holistically seen in its multi dimensional aspects of education, health, environment, rights, gender etc.

Analysis of Global Poverty Reduction

We have to re-look into what are the indicators of development and poverty reduction as the current benchmark of “GDP” is not sufficient to asses condition of human welfare. This calls for a need to take into consideration other indictors such as the Human Development Index. Development must be accompanied with peace and justice, social security, political participation, social inclusion, equal access, etc which uses right based approaches to development. Every development policy and project should include poverty reduction impact assessment.

There is a need for more effective Global Governance as the recent crisis has raised serious ethical questions regarding global justice. This reinforces our stand that current systematic oppression needs a systemic solution. We re-emphasize that Governments and states have the primary role to play in poverty reduction and for this they need to listen to the poor in order for a just redistribution of wealth.We propose that the economy should be regulated on behalf of citizen’s interest, not for groups of people. Provided the significant impact of financial instability on economies as a whole, the financial sector too needs more regulation.

Environmental discourse since the beginning have always shown contradictions with the economic theory based on free market and free disposal of public goods. This includes the accumulation of waste and pollution which will harm human beings especially poor people as they don’t have the means to avoid its negative effect. And so we should be efficient in using natural resources and environmental resources.
Theological reflection

Poverty is not a misfortune but an injustice and extreme poverty is dehumanizing. We want to encourage the poor to voice out their concern by themselves rather than we be their voice. We have to see means to empower the poor. We have to live out our prophetic roles in ensuring development puts concern for the poor at the centre instead of growth. Catholic Social Teaching promotes preferential option for the poor, good stewardship over creation and human dignity, where poverty reduction should be at the heart of policy and theology.

And hence we make the following recommendations:


We agree on the following propositions, articulated by the principles of justice, independence and responsibility of the financial sector:

1.tJustice because the public help for the rescue of the financial companies should be reimbursed by these companies. So must be of the cost created by financial turmoil, on the basis of the polluter-payer principal.

2.tIndependence because the crisis reveals the close ties between the political and financial sector. This independence should be assessed regularly and independently of these sectors. The design of an index of the independence between the financial sector and public authorities on the model image of Transparency International Index computation is one important goal on this dimension.

3.tResponsibility of the financial sector over the velocity quality of their products sold on the market. Freedom must implies liabilities on the consequences of their actions. Regulation restrained on financial activities must be implemented to compensate for the financial intermediaries being exempted from their responsibility.


1.tCivil society/NGOs have the capacity and therefore share the responsibility to strengthen international governance. To this aim they should constantly remind the governments of their international commitments.

2.tThe role of civil society in particularly ICMICA is to continue engaging, challenging in a critical way such bodies (governments and intergovernmental organizations) to ensure they are pro poor.

3.tMeetings of the Pax Romana –ICMICA network should continue with some action plans for future. This is a good beginning and in future we need to focus on the following
otWe need to broaden our networks with the NGOs
otMake connections with the Media
otLobby with the Government officials on specific issues and concerns

4.tAs ICMICA, we have to go beyond meeting and conference. We do not gather just to know what is being done but to enter into advocacy on specific issues that concern poor and the marginalized. We can do this by having specific action plans to do as a team. Hence this network can continue to get a report from the participants periodically to make it going ahead as a process, as a movement.


1.tWe need to focus the pro-people and pro-poor agenda/stand in all the undertakings of the church and at the same time, inspire the church to lobby with governments and international institutions to do the same.

2.tTo ensure the Church leaders, both religious and lay, have sufficient formation to be able to do critical analysis and be able to discern effective solutions for poverty alleviation and to its interdisciplinary demands. This includes social justice formation for the youth to ensure they can continue the effort for justice.

3.tWe need to help Church leadership focus on some of the burning issues of the people that affect their basic developments in economic, social and cultural as well as civil and political entitlements. Among the issues that need special attention in the pro-people and pro poor undertakings are:
a.tIndigenous people and their Rights
b.tMigrant people and their concerns
c.tReduction of Extreme poverty and hunger – through Right to Food
d.tGender Rights

4.tThe Church should play an effective and strategic role in development by forging inter-religious corporations and alliances.


1.tFor sustainable green economy, investment is needed, either for pollution prevention or research and development for new sustainable production system. Environmental investment is a long term investment while the financial system prefers the short term investments. This is an economical contradiction which should be addressed. There should be a reduction of the use of fossil fuel replaced by renewable resources like winds, hydro, solar system and other renewable source.

Most poor people depend on primary sector activities especially agriculture and they are usually small holders. Some researches findings even show small holders have a higher yield than larger companies. Nevertheless they are prone to become victims of big corporations who are large holders of land and hence, need protection.

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