|UUA Commission on Social Witness|
|service · advocacy · education · community organizing · witness ·
reflection · discussion
You may be interested in the Study/Action Issue Resource Guide developed by the Washington Office for Advocacy and sent to all congregations October 2001 including the original Study/Action Issue.
The final agenda is out. For a printable version of the entire final agenda in PDF click here including the Revised Draft Statement of Conscience.
Economic Globalization and Its Consequences
Economic globalization, broadly understood, is the growing global integration not only of markets but also of systems of finance, commerce, technology, and law that bypass traditional national, cultural, and social boundaries.
Proponents of economic globalization argue that it leads to more efficient division of labor, greater specialization, increased output, generation of wealth, higher standards of living, and ultimately to the end of poverty. Opponents argue that economic globalization detaches markets from essential regulations meant to protect national sovereignty, the democratic process, human rights, labor rights, and the environment. The policies and practices of industrialized countries and transnational corporations drive and strengthen the market forces of economic globalization. Recent economic growth has greatly contributed to the high standard of living enjoyed by many within the developed world and has raised living standards of many people formerly living in abject poverty. Many others have not made such gains.
The rules governing economic globalization have been created through trade agreements, international law, and institutions dominated by industrialized countries. These rules favor those with access to capital, legitimizing measures such as dropping tariffs, eliminating capital controls, enforcing intellectual property rights, privatizing public services, and weakening regulations that protect labor, health and safety, and the environment. Economic globalization is increasingly perceived by the rest of the world as American economic imperialism. Many Americans, accustomed to an individualistic and competitive culture, are insensitive to the realities of abject poverty, cultural erosion, and environmental degradation. Systematic exploitation of labor and the environment thus goes unnoticed as do coercive monopolistic pricing of goods and services, criminal evasion of local legal controls, growing debt among developing countries, widening economic gaps between people, and devastation of traditional cultures. Together these factors generate profound anger and despair that fuel ideological and religious fundamentalism, increasing violence, and international terror.
As people of faith, we are challenged to find ways to promote global economic fairness while maintaining the dynamism of the marketplace. As Unitarian Universalists, we affirm and promote:
The acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth, and a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. We are called to better understand the complexities of economic globalization, mindful that deeper global awareness enriches our individual and communal spirituality. We must resist the arrogance of supposing that our own experience of truth is universal. We affirm the value of congregational study groups devoted to a cyclical process of study, reflection, and action that includes monitoring the products and services we consume, the ways we consume them, the costs we bear to secure them, and the burdens we place on others in so doing.
The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all; and justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. Industrial countries need to open their markets to agricultural goods, textiles, and other products from developing countries. We must become more effective advocates for increased funding of international economic, environmental, and humanitarian assistance as well as the expansion of educational opportunity. Existing debt of the poorest nations should be forgiven as part of a strategy under which such countries become self-sustaining. Certain public goods like water, medicines, and education, must remain under the protection of the state for the benefit of all citizens. We need to work to ensure that intellectual property provisions in international trade agreements take into account the rights of all people to medications, seed, fertilizer, and pest control.
The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within society at large. We must commit to participate in local, state, and national affairs regarding economic globalization, and to partner with other progressive community organizations to advocate for just economic policies and laws. We need to hold our political and corporate leaders accountable for their policies and actions. We advocate for the increased use of socially screened investment policies and participation in shareholder accountability initiatives. Trade agreements, such as NAFTA (The North American Free Trade Agreement) and the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas), should safeguard national sovereignty of all partners and not supercede democracy. The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, and other international financial and trade institutions must become transparent and democratic and support self-determination for communities and countries.
The inherent worth and dignity of every person. We are called to participate in the work of organizations that advocate for human rights, fair employment standards, and environmental protections. Countries have the responsibility to require foreign and domestic companies to pay fair taxes, ensure their workers a locally defined living wage, provide a healthy and safe work environment, and respect the right of their workers to bargain collectively in independent labor unions. The standards of the International Labour Organization of the United Nations should be incorporated in all trade agreements. We advocate measuring the success of an economy not only by fiscal performance but also by quality-of-life indicators such as infant mortality rates and education levels.
Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. We open our minds and hearts to the ideas, ideals, and dreams of others pursuing a more equitable and environmentally sound global community. We must advocate for trade agreements and other international accords that safeguard the environment, and we must monitor their enforcement. We need to hold corporations, as well as governments, accountable for the damage they do to the environment by their policies and practices. We need to purchase goods and services produced and sold in accord with environmental, health and safety, and fair wage standards. We acknowledge our own responsibility to refrain from disproportionately consuming natural resources or transforming resources into waste and pollution.
We are challenged by the reality that many of us work for the very institutions driving economic globalization. We acknowledge our fears and resistance to change as we benefit from the global economic processes that foster inequity. The transformation we experience as we move from ignorance to knowledge and from speech into action is not easy. Nonetheless, we are called to become competent advocates. Seeing the world as an interconnected web challenges us to turn from self-serving individualism toward a relational sense of ourselves in a global community of all living things, and toward practices that help create economic structures designed to serve the common good.
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