ACT Alliance general secretary: “equity is not negotiable”

As the 78th session of the UN General Assembly and the first-ever Climate Action Summit were held in New York City in September, ACT Alliance general secretary Rudelmar Bueno de Faria reflected on the importance of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the ecumenical movement in creating a more sustainable and equitable world.

ACT Alliance is a global faith-based coalition organized in national and regional forums operating in more than 120 countries. Through our more than 140 members, we work on humanitarian aid, gender and climate justice, migration and displacement, and peace and security to support local communities. Our goal is to promote a locally-led and coordinated approach to advocacy, humanitarian and developmental issues.

What do you believe is the role of the ecumenical movement in international multilateral dialogue and cooperation? 

Bueno de Faria: The ecumenical movement plays a significant role in international multilateral dialogue by fostering peace, mutual understanding, and respect among different faith communities. But more importantly, it advocates for social, ecological and economic justice by addressing poverty, inequalities, human rights abuses, climate change, and other global challenges. The collective voice of the ecumenical movement can influence international policies and encourage cooperation to address these issues. 

The ecumenical movement often aligns with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and works to mobilize resources and expertise to achieve these goals. This can involve partnerships with international organizations and governments to address global development challenges. It also contributes to breaking down barriers and stereotypes that hinder international cooperation, as ecumenical leaders and organizations can provide moral and ethical guidance on global issues. Their influence extends beyond their respective religious communities, and their ethical perspectives can shape international discourse and policies. 

How does ecumenical diakonia relate to the SDGs?  

Bueno de Faria: Ecumenical diakonia, which refers to the Christian concept of service or ministry to those in need, can play a significant role in contributing to the achievement of the SDGs. Based on Christian moral and ethical imperatives, ecumenical diakonia focuses mainly on issues that require deep transformation to achieve justice.   

By addressing poverty and social injustices, ecumenical diakonia can help reduce inequalities within and among countries. Many ecumenical organizations emphasize environmental stewardship and climate justice, supporting efforts to combat climate change.

Ecumenical diakonia is closely related to the SDGs, as it encompasses a wide range of activities that address key global challenges. By promoting social justice, equality, and human wellbeing, ecumenical organizations can contribute significantly to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals and the creation of a more sustainable and equitable world. 

What was your message to the UN Climate Ambition Summit? 

Bueno de Faria: The urgency of addressing the climate crisis has never been clearer. As heads of states gathered to reaffirm their commitment to climate action, our message emphasized equity, the responsibility of developed countries, urgency, and the obligation to protect the rights of future generations and the environment. 

In this pivotal moment in history, we must address the climate crisis with unwavering resolve, guided by the principles of equity and responsibility. The urgency cannot be overstated, and the burden of action falls on us all, especially the developed nations. 

Equity is not negotiable. We must acknowledge that historical emissions have disproportionately burdened vulnerable communities and nations. To rectify this, developed countries must step up their commitments, not just in terms of finance and technology transfer but also in leading by example. It is their moral obligation to provide the support needed for developing nations to transition to sustainable, low-carbon economies. 

Our responsibilities extend beyond the present. We are stewards of this planet, entrusted with safeguarding the rights of future generations and the entire ecosystem. The choices we make today will reverberate through time, affecting the quality of life for our children and their descendants, as well as the very existence of countless species. 

Can you describe how you have been advocating for a UN convention on taxation to avoid greater global crisis? 

Bueno de Faria: There has been a growing global advocacy movement pushing for the establishment of a United Nations convention on taxation as a critical measure to avert a potentially devastating worldwide crisis. Our advocacy efforts recognize the intricate interplay of factors within the contemporary global economy and asserts that a UN convention on taxation is a pivotal solution to address a range of pressing challenges. For this reason, ACT Alliance has established a Community of Practice (CoP) on Tax Justice. 

The core objective of advocating for a UN convention on taxation is to foster international cooperation, enhance transparency, and promote fairness in the realm of taxation. We argue that a convention of this nature could establish clear, standardized rules and guidelines for cross-border taxation, mitigate harmful tax practices, combat tax evasion, and ensure that multinational corporations contribute their equitable share of taxes to the countries in which they operate. 

We are advocating in different multilateral spaces, including the UN, World Economic Forum, and regional governmental bodies. Our advocacy is grounded in the understanding that the current global tax landscape is marked by fragmentation, significant loopholes, and the exploitation of tax regulations by multinational corporations and affluent individuals. Such practices lead to rampant tax evasion and substantial revenue losses for governments and investments for social protection systems. We emphasize that this not only exacerbates income inequality but also severely hampers the ability of nations to finance vital public services, combat climate change, and respond effectively to crises like pandemics. 

How does cooperation with the WCC help you? What would strengthen cooperation even more? 

Bueno de Faria: Cooperation between the WCC and the ACT Alliance can be mutually beneficial, as both organizations share common values and goals related to humanitarian assistance, social justice, and peacebuilding.  

WCC and ACT Alliance can collaborate on advocacy initiatives to address global issues like climate change, poverty, and inequality. Our combined voice can carry more weight and influence policymakers and international organizations. ACT Alliance, with its focus on humanitarian assistance and development, can benefit from the WCC’s extensive network of churches and religious organizations in affected regions. Both organizations can share resources, expertise, and best practices in areas such as disaster relief, peacebuilding, and sustainable development. This sharing can lead to more efficient and impactful programs. 

WCC’s commitment to interfaith dialogue can complement ACT Alliance’s work in diverse religious and cultural contexts. Joint initiatives can foster better understanding and cooperation among different faith communities.This collaboration can help both organizations engage with grassroots communities more effectively. This can involve empowering local religious leaders and organizations to address pressing social issues. 

ACT Alliance website

Learn more about the work of the Ecumenical Office to the United Nations

WCC among “movers and doers” at UN Climate Ambition Summit (WCC news release 20 September 2023)

As UN assembly opens, prayers for children and young people (WCC news release 20 September 2023)

Churches march in New York City to declare no faith in fossil fuels (WCC news release 18 September 2023)

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