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World leaders have been urged to use the current financial crisis to push for a fundamental reform of the global economic system.

The call came from campaigners representing nine million people across a range of church, anti-poverty and environmental groups ahead of Gordon Brown’s address to City business leaders at the Lord Mayor of London’s banquet on Monday night.

They asked Mr Brown to press for a new economic system that ‘puts people and the planet first’.

The groups say that while those to blame for the global credit crisis have been bailed out with billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money, the world’s poorest people remain ‘saddled with an unfair economic system and have received nothing’.

The protestors’ alliance included the Jubilee Debt Campaign coalition, which numbers the Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB), BMS World Mission, Christian Aid, Tearfund, World Vision and the Evangelical Alliance within its 80 strong membership.

The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), ActionAid, the New Economics Foundation, Stamp Out Poverty, the Trade Justice Movement, War on Want, and the World Development Movement were also present on Monday.

The alliance is calling for a major recovery plan for the financial crisis ‘that puts people and the environment at its heart – in particular enabling countries to better feed, clothe, educate and protect their people’; effective regulation of the financial system, including just tax, debt and trade rules; and a new and democratic set of institutions to govern this economic system.

The campaigners staged two demonstrations. In the morning protestors donned a mask of the prime minister and a fat cat suit in the forecourt of the Royal Exchange, opposite the Bank of England.

A massive alarm clock declared, ‘Gordon: Call Time on Global Greed’.

In the evening, scores of campaigners gathered outside the Guildhall – where Mr Brown was speaking – to stage a noisy demonstration with bells, alarm clocks and whistles.

The Revd Jonathan Edwards, general secretary of the BUGB, explained to The Baptist Times why the current situation could act as a watershed.

He said, ‘The current economic crisis is very bad news. But we could turn it into good news if we were to grasp the opportunity to reflect upon the selfish and destructive policies which have led us into this present situation.

‘The world continues to live in a way that is fundamentally unjust towards the weaker nations of the earth and we have all contributed to ecologically damaging policies. This is a wake up call for the world.

‘I pray that we will recognise our God-given responsibility to engage with these issues, and to take every opportunity to encourage our political leaders to follow policies which are driven by justice, and not by the pathetic desire to see ever increasing prosperity for the wealthier countries.’

Mr Brown’s speech addressed a number of the issues raised by the alliance.

He told guests at the Lord Mayor’s banquet that the current turmoil in the world economy offers a chance to build a ‘new global order’ based on cooperation and opportunity.

Mr Brown argued that the financial crisis and a world of apparent ‘conflict and injustice’ could also give rise to a ‘hard-headed and progressive’ multi-lateralism within a ‘truly global society’.

He called for renewed energy to deal with the issues of democracy and human rights, peace, financial reform and poverty.

He added that world carbon emissions must peak by 2020 if emissions were to be cut to half their 1990 levels by 2050.

The speech came days ahead of a controversial G20 summit in Washington DC to discuss solutions to the global financial crisis.

The campaigners believe Saturday’s meeting should not go ahead without the world’s poorest countries around the table, and propose that reform to the global economic system be made ‘in a far more democratic forum that gives the poorest of the world a full and equal say’.

They say that the United Nations, as the only organisation with such a mandate, must be empowered to lead a process of comprehensive reform of the financial and economic system which involves all countries.

Meredith Alexander from ActionAid, said, ‘We need a radically different economic system which puts people first.

‘Most importantly, the world’s poorest people must have a full and equal say in developing this system.

‘Decisions must not be taken by organisations that only represent rich countries.’

Used by permission of The Baptist Times, based in England.

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