World Religions - Universal Peace - Global Ethics, Welcoming Address by Horst Köhler

September 19, 2002

World Religions - Universal Peace - Global Ethics
Welcoming Address by Horst Köhler
Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund
Washington, D.C.
September 19, 2002

Professor Küng, distinguished guests, dear colleagues:

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the official opening of the exhibition entitled World Religions - Universal Peace - Global Ethics.

I am particularly happy to host this exhibition here at the IMF. When the IMF was created at the Bretton Woods Conference of 1944, the Second World War was not yet over. But those sitting around the table in New Hampshire in 1944 were determined not to repeat the mistakes that contributed to two world wars in the first half of the 20th century. Cooperation, dialogue, and mutual trust, within a rules-based system, were to replace the distrust and unilateral economic policies of the 1930s, in particular.

Nearly 60 years have gone by since the Bretton Woods Conference. World income levels have risen, manifold in some countries. Advances in physical travel and in electronic communications have changed the world dramatically. But at the same time, these gains have not been shared by everyone, and poverty remains rampant in some regions. And the costs of this rapid growth, costs for the environment for instance, have neither been fully realized nor fairly shared.

This process of wrenching change is often summarily described as "globalization". This is hardly a single, well-defined process, and while some people might complain of excessive globalization, others can argue that they have been left out. I firmly believe that the process of global integration can be instrumental in addressing world poverty and spreading the benefits of global wealth creation. But to steer this process, to protect the most vulnerable, and to ensure that the benefits of globalization extend to all citizens of the world, requires a conscious effort. And in that effort, we must make sure that we respect the cultural and religious diversity that enriches this planet.

At the IMF, we have been engaged in this process in particular through the intensification of our work on crisis prevention and crisis resolution, in full realization that the poor and the vulnerable suffer most from financial crises. There is a need for sound and transparent rules governing national and international financial relations. Good global governance requires an institutional framework that ensures mutual trust. International institutions can and do play a role, but the key responsibility falls to national governments and Parliaments, to national institutions, to provide the basis upon which trust can be built.

As we try to harness the forces of change to ensure the benefit of all world citizens, I believe that guidance provided by fundamental ethical principles, principles common to all civilizations are important, yes, essential for an international institution such as the IMF. Economics and finance do not exist in a vacuum, but are expressions of human endeavor. Decisions are taken by people, affecting other people, sometimes on the other side of the globe. It is our responsibility, as human beings, to ensure that those decisions always rest on a solid ethical foundation. Last week's commemoration of the terrible events of one year ago provided one more reminder of the pressing need to strengthen international cooperation, and the IMF certainly stands ready to do so in its areas of competence.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you Professor Hans Küng. For over ten years, he has been a driving force behind the work to develop a global ethic befitting a global community. Stressing commonalities rather than differences between world religions, he drafted the Declaration Toward a Global Ethic, which was approved by the Parliament of the World's Religions in Chicago in 1993. Since 1995, Professor Küng has been president of the Global Ethic Foundation, which promotes inter-cultural and inter-religious research and education. In this capacity, Professor Küng has devoted much of his time to bringing together policy-makers from around the world, both in business and in government, to build bridges between civilizations, and to articulate common values - rights as well as obligations - for today's global economy.

Professor Küng, it is an honor to have you with us today.


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