A special forum on “Ethics” made a unique contribution to the Summit of the Peoples of the Americas held in Santiago de Chile in April of 1998. The forum evaluated the basic principles underpinning the global economic system according to universal human values. At the Peoples’ Summit groups like Dialogo 2000 from Argentina strongly condemned the immorality of the external debt which is causing immense suffering throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Following the Summit, the Latin American and Caribbean Jubilee 2000 Campaign for the annulment of external debt was launched at a meeting in Honduras in January of 1999.
Neoliberalism’s Hidden Values Manuel Ossa of the Centro Ecumenico Diego de Medellin in Chile opened the Ethics Forum with a reflection on how the disappearance of the socialist bloc has allowed capitalism to take on “a single, universal form – neoliberalism”. This neoliberal capitalism is dismantling, little by little, the “Welfare State” which used to reflect an ethical concern for the common good. In the name of “freedom” the whole social system is being deregulated. Even social welfare, health and education are being handed over to the private sector.
What are the ethics of neoliberalism? • The economy is detached from human values. It follows its own laws without taking responsibility for its social costs. • The profit motive is legitimized and made sacred. • Human sociability – as embodied in the interchange and fiestas that accompany a traditional farmers’ market – is no longer valued. • The State no longer has a role as regulator and guarantor of the common good.
What are the consequences of neoliberalism? • Economic power is concentrated in fewer hands. • The gap between the rich and poor is growing. • The poorest are excluded from active participation in society. • The poor are blamed for their own poverty. • Our cultural values are changing – Competitiveness and individualism prevail over solidarity. – Instrumental rationality prevails over free expression. – Efficiency predominates over the search for meaning. – Utilitarianism replaces conviviality.
Faced with neoliberalism we must ask again – what kind of society do we want? We begin this search for a social ethic in the context of an economic system that does great damage to society and to the environment. We face a new kind of economic determinism that assumes that it is the only possible option and that all aspects of human life – political, social and cultural – should be determined by the profit motive. In this context: • The state and politics are no longer instruments of the common good, just means of administering a faceless market; • This system frequently violates social, cultural and individual rights and its expansion demands the “sacrifice” of natural resources, communities and people. • The profit motive affects all areas of life leading to consumerism, individualism and competitiveness. • This leads to self-destructive search for wealth by any means including corruption or drug peddling. • Low productivity becomes the responsibility of workers who are forced to accept low incomes and the blame for the system’s problems.
We must take responsibility for our world because it does not belong just to us but also to future generations. This responsibility belongs to all members of society and not just to public authorities. To assume this responsibility we must: • Revise the criteria for equity and the forms it takes. This must involve policies to redistribute wealth without hoping the market will do it for us. Up till now the market has led to greater concentration of wealth. • Assure that decisions are not taken in national and transnational spheres beyond the reach of citizens. Citizens must have the widest possible participation in decisions that affect everyone. • Listen to people who think differently than we do, or who, for cultural reasons, will experience things differently as may be the case for the black or indigenous populations. • Administer justice respecting the rights of the poor and those without political or social power. • Demonstrate solidarity with those who are excluded because they lack political or economic power – women, indigenous peoples, the disabled, the impoverished majority of the Americas.

.Jubilee 2000

Yes to Life, No to Debt

The Tegucigalpa Declaration launching the Latin American and Caribbean Jubilee 2000 Campaign for the annulment of external debt builds on universal ethical values. It also explicitly invokes the biblical tradition of Jubilee. Chapter 25 of the Book of Leviticus prescribes that every 50 years a Jubilee is to be celebrated when debts are remitted; slaves are freed and wealth is redistributed

The exorbitant foreign debt of the so-called Third World excludes four-fifths of the world’s population from economic and social development. The debt reflects an unjust international economic order and a long history of slavery and exploitation. It is mathematically impossible to repay this debt. Between 1982 and 1996 the Latin American and Caribbean region paid out $739 billion in debt service – more than the entire accumulated debt – and yet the debt continues to grow. The debt is illegitimate because, in large measure, it was contracted by dictatorships or formally democratic, but corrupt, governments. The debt is also illegitimate because it swelled due to high interest rates and conditions imposed by creditor governments and banks. It is immoral to pay the debt because, in order to do so, governments have to allocate an extremely high percentage of government revenues at the expense of social programs and workers’ wages. There is already a huge social debt in terms of peoples’ health, education and nutrition. Latin American governments spend 60% less per capita on these areas than they did in 1970. Attempting to increase exports to pay the debt will lead to over-exploitation of natural resources, ecological damage and threaten the survival of future generations. The debt is used to justify neoliberal policies of structural adjustment as a way of perpetuating dependence. The Biblical Jubilee (Lev.25) calls for justice between creditors and debtors, as well as peace and harmony within human society and the natural world, as well as the elimination of slavery resulting from debt. The Latin American and Caribbean Jubilee 2000 Campaign joins the international movement for the annulment of impoverished countries debt by the year 2000. adapted from The Tegucigalpa Declaration – Latin American and Caribbean Jubilee 2000 Platform issued in Honduras – January 1999.

How you can get involved Find out more about the “Ethics Forum” held in Santiago Contact: The Ecumenical Coalition for Economic Justice Suite 208 – 947 Queen St.,East, Toronto, ON M4M 1J9 e-mail The Latin American secretariat for the Ethics Forum may be reached at Centro Ecumenico Diego de Medellin Argomedo 40, Casilla 386 V, Correo 21 Santiago, Chile e-mail
Get involved in the Jubilee 2000 Debt Campaign

  • For more information contact:

The Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative P.O. Box 772 Toronto, ON M4Y 2N6 e-mail web site Learn more about Trade and Ethics

  • A book entitled Consenso Etico Global en vez de Globalizaci_n NeoLiberal: Hacia una Carta Etica is available from the Centro Ecumenico Diego de Medellin
  • “Jubilee 2000: Time for Debt Remission” Economic Justice Report Vol. VIII, No. 4, Ecumenical Coalition for Economic Justice
  • “Time is Ripe to Expand Call for Jubilee” Economic Justice Report Vol.IX, No. 4, Ecumenical Coalition for Economic Justice
  • John McMurtry Unequal Freedoms: the Global Market as an Ethical System Toronto: Garamond Press