When the leaders of the G-20 convened in Washington DC last November, they committed themselves to “lay the foundation for reform to help ensure that a global crisis…does not happen again.”
If there is to be lasting change, the G-20 must acknowledge that the current financial crisis did not happen by accident, and it was by no means inevitable. The root cause of the problem has as much to do with moral, indeed spiritual failure, as governmental or financial mismanagement. For this reason, improved fiscal, economic and trade policies alone are not enough. The attitudes and behaviour of people, institutions and even entire nations must change.
The social sphere that comprises business, trade, and finance is embedded in a wider culture and ethos that, during the best of times in human history, provide the moral and spiritual framework within which we, as human beings, live day to day. Thus, the G-20 must engage in deeper reflection on the moral and spiritual infrastructure that forms the foundation of life in the world. We take an enormous risk when we either ignore or de-value that reality.
Therefore, as the G-20 gathers in London, we offer the following recommendations:
Ethical Reform: In addition to consideration of critical factors such as energy, security and climate change, food security, the rule of law, and the fight against terrorism, poverty and disease, an even greater need is for ethical reform. This call for ethical reform should be accompanied by greater transparency and fairness whether in financial markets, trade or ‘tax havens’ or in standards of good governance both in developing and developed nations.
The Importance of Social Institutions: Wealth, prosperity and human security are dependent not only on the proper functioning of governments, banks and markets, but also the proper functioning of families, communities, schools, and faith-based institutions, where character is shaped and our core values are learned.
Marriage and Family: Strong, stable, loving families are profoundly relevant to the quality of economic life. The G-20 should give consideration to the relevance of family life to wider economic realities.
Character Education: Character education, not only in the family or faith-based institution, but also in our schools, will help assure a thriving moral culture that is necessary for a robust and stable economy. Hard work, thrift, honesty, responsibility, empathy are moral virtues that are essential to a good business and a good economy.
Unselfishness: At the heart of many of the world’s greatest religious and moral worldviews is an emphasis on the universal value of unselfishness, and the control of self-centeredness. While traditionally, free markets are guided by a profit incentive, that human inclination must be balanced by higher principles such as altruism and service to others. We call upon the G20 nations to dedicate 0.7% of Gross National Income at least by 2013 (agreed upon by developed nations in 1970 by UN General Assembly Resolution and reaffirmed on several occasions since) to support overseas development assistance and the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals. We would encourage developed nations to forgive debts of the poorest nations of the world especially those accumulated by despotic regimes and that are now shackling succeeding democracies. This altruism demonstrates 'living for the sake of others' within the human family.
We are All Members of One Human Family: Humanity is one universal family. Despite the diversity of race, nationality, ethnicity and religion, we are all human and we all derive from a common source or origin, known by many as God, Allah, Jehovah, Brahman, the ultimate reality. We call for increased emphasis upon interfaith and intercultural dialogue between and beyond the nations of the G20 to promote understanding of our common root. Let us never forget that we are one family under God.