North-South Cooperation Projects Respond to Globalization

World Forum of Concrete Initiatives Held in Rome

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 26, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The challenges of globalization will only be addressed by concrete cooperation, the Second North-South World Forum concluded.



The forum, held in Rome last week from Oct. 23-25, took the motto "An Ethical Network for the Global Economy."

The initiative was called for by the Worldwide Movement of Schools of Ethics and Economics, by the Pontifical University "Regina Apostolorum," and by the "Ethics and Economics" Foundation of Rome.

Many Catholic Movements participated, including the St. Egidio Community, the Focolare Movement, and the Society of Works of Communion and Liberation, among others.

Also in attendance were research institutions such as the Acton Institute of the United States, Eurispes of Italy, Link Campus University of Malta, and the International Institute “Catholic Rural Association.”

Father Paolo Scarafoni, L.C., rector of the Pontifical University "Regina Apostolorum," opened the sessions, explaining that "the Catholic Church and Christians want to contribute to knocking down the high and solid wall that divides the North from the South, a wall that causes many sufferings."

"On several occasions during the year 2000, the Pope appealed to nations and those in authority to give a strong sign that would demonstrate a change of will, an interior conversion. But there have been few answers, at least for the time being," Father Scarafoni said.

Many examples of collaborative effort were shown throughout the three days.

Professor Ulderico Bernardi mentioned the relationship established between Italian and Ecuadorian Savings Banks. The Italian banks were created by Catholics during the 19th century to counteract usury and offer ways for underprivileged people to make investments.

Likewise, Angel Font Vidal, president of the "Un Sol Mon" Foundation of the Social Work of Catalonia's Savings Bank, has created a network of micro-credits for poor peoples.

An average micro-loan in Latin America is U.S. $300, in Mozambique U.S. $100, a sufficient amount to open a small store. In Spain, however, the average amount of micro-credit offered is 6,000 Euros (a similar figure in U.S. dollars), which is repaid over 3-5 years at an interest rate of 6%.

Another idea discussed in the Forum was "de-tax," presented by Tullio Chiminazzo, founder of the Schools of Ethics and Economics.

The project calls for businesses to allocate 1% of their earnings to development programs in the poorest countries. Some enterprises of Northern Italy are supporting the initiative with 1,250 million Euros. The funds already have served to construct commercial centers in Lithuania and Madagascar.

In Madagascar, with minimal investment, a medical laboratory, a bread factory, a furniture company, and a car-repair business have already been formed.