The Common Good

G-20 Recap: Global Economics Cannot Be a Values-Free Zone

The group of 20 leading and emerging nations met at the Excel Centre in London's Docklands last week in a meeting which Gordon Brown heralded as the dawning of a new world order. So, is it an answer to our prayers?

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Well, there are some disappointments: leaders didn't take the opportunity to make progress on climate change; and we'd hoped they'd do more to move us towards an agreement that makes trade fair for all. But there is also much that is positive: leaders agreed an unexpected additional $50bn to support the poorest nations through the crisis; clear intent was expressed to increase the voice of developing nations in institutions such as the World Bank; and there is a definite sense that the global financial crisis has shifted our thinking for the first time about what it means to govern in an interconnected, shrinking world.

History may look back on the London Summit and recognise Gordon Brown's statement that "in this new global age, our prosperity [as individual nations] is indivisible and global problems require global solutions" as ushering in a new age in international relations. His words were backed up by the striking images of leaders of 20 nations standing together and are borne out by a raft of measures which do seem intent on bringing cooperation and participation in issues which affect us all. History will make its judgement, though, not on the fine rhetoric of the summit press conference but on whether the concrete actions of these leaders in the weeks, months and years ahead truly embody this spirit of global partnership.

What feels most directly like an answer to prayer today is the general acceptance, in commentary around the summit, that global finance and global economics cannot be a values-free zone. Back in November I attended a lecture from the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, in which he suggested that the highest aspiration of mankind cannot be wealth creation. Instead, said the Archbishop, we need to ask "what that wealth creation is for?" No-one, it seemed to me, was asking this question. I felt convicted that, as God's people, the church needed to do so and to begin to point to the possible answers.

Less than six months later, I was at St. Paul's cathedral on the eve of the G-20 summit, for another debate, and witnessed both Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister of Australia, and UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, asking this very same question and suggesting, to assembled faith leaders, that government had a lot to learn from the church. There will be a measure of flattery of one's host in the expressed desire to learn from the church, but these two leaders were clear that the crisis had exposed our need of values to guide our markets, our corporations and our governments. Similar views are being expressed from almost every quarter, even in the pink pages of the Financial Times.

What has brought about such a dramatic shift in public opinion? Well, I am sure we have all experienced how a crisis brings us greater clarity on what it is we value most. There is a part of all of us, I feel sure, which desires most a world where justice is done, where mercy is our first concern, and where we walk humbly with our God. Perhaps this global crisis is bringing that to the surface in thousands and thousands of people around the world. As God's people we should be encouraged. Let us keep praying, let us keep speaking out, and let us keep demonstrating a different way of life. Our good news has never been so relevant. If the world really is seeking a set of values to guide it, what better set of values than those of its creator?

Andy Clasper is executive director of Micah Challenge U.K., part of a worldwide movement of people speaking out against the injustice of global poverty. Over the coming months Micah Challenge U.K. is running a prayer campaign called Rise Up, calling on Christians worldwide to rise up in prayer for a better world.

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