Faith meets finance

15 April 1998

In February World Bank President James Wolfensohn met the leaders of nine religious faiths to discuss views on development. The meeting produced a joint statement by Wolfensohn and the meeting’s host George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury. This recorded that all participants shared “a deep moral concern for the future of all human well-being and dignity” and believe that “desirable development must have regard to spiritual, ethical, environmental, cultural and social considerations”.

A general commitment was made to continue sharing religious and secular perspectives on development, and some action points were agreed. Religious communities will be invited to influence Bank thinking by participating in World Development Report drafting. Joint working groups will explore: community building, hunger/food security, environmental sustainability, cultural heritage, post-conflict reconstruction and social service delivery.

It is unclear whether specific areas of controversy, such as debt and structural adjustment, were tackled in detail or whether thought has been given to how World Bank economists will change their approach to valuation, for example of sacred sites on mountains containing mineral ores. Other organisations working on these themes want to ensure that good communication is established and that the Bank’s external relations teams are not allowed to imply that the world’s faiths have endorsed its operations.