"Taking courageous and far-reaching steps to resolve huge global problems”

Statement by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, chair of the German Bishops’ Conference, and Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, in the lead-up to the G20 summit on 7 and 8 July 2017 in Hamburg

The attention of the world in the coming days will be on Hamburg, and the meeting of the heads of state and government of the strongest economies and political powers. The Group of Twenty (G20) is not a representative institution of the international community but it is a forum where the powerful nations can join forces and thereby exert considerable influence on worldwide developments. In speaking out on the upcoming G20 summit, we as churches do not want to intervene on individual political issues. Instead, we wish to remind all those involved in deliberations and decision-making of their responsibility for the global common good. The G20 will do justice to its claim to importance if it serves the common life and survival on our earth, and improves the opportunities for poorer population groups to enjoy a life with dignity.

We are concerned to see the growing support, in many parts of the world, for movements that contest the responsibility of their countries for the global community. The complexity of the international situation, the sense of losing control over the management of national affairs, and disappointments in the face of the downsides of globalization - all these are weakening people’s sense of the need for international cooperation. In many countries the readiness to show solidarity is declining. We are increasingly witnessing states becoming self-referential, unilateralist, isolationist and nationalist. For that precise reason, it is urgent to recall that without international cooperation and global solidarity we will not be able to cope with current challenges: climatic changes do not stop at national borders. Widespread violent conflicts are promoting terrorism and driving people to flee to other continents. As members of one human family on this earth we are closely linked. Poverty and extreme inequality are threatening global stability. We are convinced that the G20 summit can best respond to any criticism of international treaties and structures by taking courageous and far-reaching steps to resolve these huge global problems.

Around the G20, numerous civil society initiatives are calling for justice in international relations. In so doing, they are expressing an understandable uneasiness about the current handling of crisis-driven upheavals in the global order. As churches we call on the nations to seek political and social dialogue using solely nonviolent means and to take joint responsibility for our One World.

In December 2015 the international community signed an agreement in Paris on combating climate change. This agreement must remain the basis of further policies at the international level, as well as in individual countries. Withdrawing from the Paris commitments would be as irresponsible as only implementing it half-heartedly. There is too much at stake, both for the strong economies and, above all, for the poorer countries, which have far fewer capacities for adapting to the new conditions. The G20 summit in Hamburg should therefore send the signal that “Paris” is the starting point of all further endeavours to achieve an ambitious climate policy, and not call into question the target of limiting the rise in global temperature to considerably under two degrees centigrade over that of pre-industrial times.

Even though the share in the global population of people living in poverty has considerably declined in the last few decades, the absolute number of those whose basic needs are not met is still appallingly high. This is a humanitarian disaster being played out day by day. In order to change it, we need cooperation between many political actors and policy areas. The way forward is set out in Agenda 2030 as adopted by the United Nations in September 2015 with its sustainable development goals. The countries of the Global South have the responsibility of bringing about major changes which may run counter to the interests of their elites: focusing on the poorer population groups, on good government, combating corruption and clientelism, improving working conditions and introducing reforms in the field of agriculture. At the international level these efforts must be supplemented by a development policy that concentrates on the needs of poor population groups, and a trade policy that enables less developed countries to bring their own strong points to the international markets. Africa must be at the centre of these efforts. That is not just an imperative of solidarity with those who are hardest hit by poverty. It is also a matter of pure reason, as we in Europe cannot have lasting stability if our neighbours do not feel that they are living under dignified conditions.

The life of people in many parts of the world is defined by violent conflicts. The situation in the Middle East is particularly distressful. Syria, Iraq and Yemen are succumbing to war, civil conflicts and terrorism. Hunger, displacement and death characterize the daily lives of countless people. The suffering of the civilian population will continue for a long time to come unless the global community takes coordinated action. Instead of that, we note that some of the powers that will sit at the table in Hamburg are fighting for their own advantage in the Middle East and contributing to the escalation of violence. The G20 summit cannot be expected to come up with solutions for this region with immediate effect. However, we call on the national leaders gathered in Hamburg to take this opportunity to press for a new cooperative security and peace policy and to withstand any rearmament ideology: more arms are no solution!

For us Christians, every person on earth is part of the human family. We are all God’s creatures, endowed with the same dignity. Scattered over the continents we belong together as human beings and bear responsibility for each other. This conviction has gained credence all over the world in the secular language of human rights. It is therefore our profound wish that the G20 summit in Hamburg will give priority to the common good of the whole human family. May this summit produce beneficial results for the world’s poor! This is our active concern and this is our prayer to the creator of all humankind.