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2003 Statement of Conscience

Summary of the Statement of Conscience

While economic

globalization has helped some people attain higher standards of living, it has

marginalized and impoverished many others and has resulted in environmental

degradation and the depletion of natural resources. The benefits of economic

globalization have been inequitably distributed and have not reached many people

around the world. Our vision of the world as an interconnected web challenges us

to turn from self-serving individualism toward a relational sense of ourselves

in a global community, and toward practices that help create economic structures

designed to serve the common good. We are called to bring our Unitarian

Universalist Principles to our understanding of economic globalization and to

help mitigate its adverse effects.

Economic Globalization and Its Consequences

Economic globalization, broadly understood, is the growing global integration

not only of markets but also of systems of finance, commerce, communication,

technology, and law that bypass traditional national, cultural, ethnic, and

social boundaries.

Proponents of economic globalization argue that it leads to more efficient

division of labor, greater specialization, increased productivity, higher

standards of living and wealth, and ultimately the end of poverty. Proponents

also argue that recent economic growth has greatly contributed to the high

standard of living enjoyed by many within the developed world and raised living

standards of many people formerly living in abject poverty. Many others have not

made such gains.

Opponents argue that economic globalization detaches markets from essential

regulations meant to protect national sovereignty, the democratic process, human

rights, labor rights, and the environment. Opponents also argue that the

policies and practices of industrialized countries and transnational

corporations drive the market forces of economic globalization. There is no

effective global regulatory system controlling economic globalization.

The rules governing economic globalization have been created through trade

agreements, international law, and institutions dominated by industrialized

countries. These rules favor those with access to capital, legitimizing measures

such as dropping tariffs, eliminating capital controls, enforcing intellectual

property rights, privatizing public services, and weakening regulations that

protect labor, health and safety, and the environment. Economic globalization is

increasingly perceived by the rest of the world as American economic

imperialism. Many Americans, accustomed to an individualistic and competitive

culture, are insensitive to the realities of abject poverty, cultural erosion,

and environmental degradation. As a result, systematic exploitation of labor and

the environment goes unnoticed as do coercive monopolistic pricing of goods and

services, criminal evasion of local legal controls, growing debt among

developing countries, widening economic disparities, and devastation of

traditional cultures. Unitarian Universalists are concerned about the

concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a corporate elite who are

dictating the terms of major economic and social parameters throughout the

world. Together these factors generate profound anger and despair that fuel

ideological and religious fundamentalism, increasing violence, and international


A Unitarian Universalist Response to Economic Globalization

As people of faith, we are challenged to find ways to promote global economic

fairness while maintaining the dynamism of the marketplace. As Unitarian

Universalists, we affirm and promote:

  • The acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth, and a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. We are called to better

    understand the complexities of economic globalization, mindful that deeper

    global awareness enriches our individual and communal spirituality. We must

    resist the arrogance of supposing that our own experience of truth is universal.

    We affirm the value of congregational study groups devoted to a cyclical process

    of study, action, and reflection that includes monitoring our investments, the

    products and services we consume, the ways we consume them, the costs we bear to

    secure them, and the burdens we place on others in so doing. We must commit

    ourselves to actions that support and assist rural cultures that provide

    sustainable livelihoods adapted to the possibilities and limitations of the

    natural resource base. We must resist those who push unwanted globalization,

    industrial farming, or commodity agreements on nations and communities that wish

    to safeguard sustainable rural livelihoods and traditions.

  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all, and justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. Wealthy countries need

    to open their markets to agricultural goods, textiles, and other products from

    developing countries. We must become more effective advocates for increased

    funding of international economic, environmental, and humanitarian assistance as

    well as the expansion of educational opportunity. Existing debt of the poorest

    nations should be forgiven as part of a strategy under which such countries

    become self-sustaining. Certain public goods like water and education should

    remain under the protection of the state for the benefit of all citizens. We

    need to work to ensure that intellectual property provisions in international

    trade agreements take into account the rights of all people to medications,

    seed, fertilizer, and pest control.

  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within society at large. We must commit to participate in local, state, and

    national affairs regarding economic globalization, and to partner with other

    progressive community organizations to advocate for just economic policies and

    laws. We need to hold our political and corporate leaders accountable for their

    policies and actions. We advocate the increased use of socially screened

    investment policies and participation in shareholder accountability initiatives.

    Trade agreements, such as The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and

    the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), should safeguard democratically

    decided public policies, statutes, and regulations that protect children, labor,

    and the environment of all parties. The International Monetary Fund, the World

    Bank, the World Trade Organization, and other international financial and trade

    institutions must become transparent and democratic and support

    self-determination for communities and countries.

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person. We are called to

    participate in the work of organizations that advocate for human rights, fair

    employment standards, and environmental justice. Countries are responsible for

    requiring foreign and domestic companies to pay fair taxes, ensure their workers

    a locally defined living wage, provide a healthy and safe work environment, and

    respect the right of their workers to bargain collectively in independent labor

    unions and to engage in strikes and other job actions when necessary. The

    standards of the International Labour Organization of the United Nations should

    be incorporated in all trade agreements. We advocate measuring the success of an

    economy not only by fiscal performance but also by quality-of-life indicators

    such as child mortality rates and literacy and education levels. We recognize

    that developed nations, such as ours, need to reduce consumption of resources.

  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. We open our minds and hearts to the ideas, ideals, and dreams of

    others pursuing a more equitable, sustainable, and environmentally sound global

    community. We advocate for trade agreements and other international accords that

    safeguard the environment, and we must monitor their enforcement. We need to

    hold corporations, as well as governments, accountable for the damage they do to

    the environment by their policies and practices. We need to guide our

    investments and consumption toward companies that produce, provide, and purchase

    goods and services that are in accord with environmental, health and safety, and

    fair wage standards. We acknowledge our own responsibility to refrain from

    disproportionately consuming natural resources or transforming resources into

    waste and pollution.


We are challenged by the

reality that many of us work for the very institutions driving economic

globalization. We acknowledge our fears and resistance to change as we benefit

from the global economic processes that foster inequity. The transformation we

experience as we move from ignorance to knowledge and from speech to action is

not easy. Nonetheless, we are called to become competent advocates. Seeing the

world as an interconnected web challenges us to turn from self-serving

individualism toward a relational sense of ourselves in a global community, and

toward practices that help create economic structures designed to serve the

common good.


This Unitarian Universalist Association Statement of

Conscience builds upon five previous social witness statements on economic,

environmental, and labor issues adopted between 1972 and 2001. In June 2001, the

General Assembly of the UUA selected “Economic Globalization” as the issue

suggested to congregations for two years of study, action, and reflection. The

Commission on Social Witness (CSW) received initial reports from congregations

and districts in March 2002. In June 2002, the CSW held a workshop on this issue

at General Assembly. A draft Statement of Conscience was distributed to all

congregations and districts for their reflection and feedback in the fall of

2002. Comments were reviewed by the CSW at its March 2003 meeting. A revised

draft was on the final agenda of the 2003 General Assembly. A Mini-Assembly was

held on Friday afternoon, June 27, 2003, to receive proposed amendments.

Delegates of the 2003 General Assembly passed this statement with a clear

required two-thirds majority. This text is available for immediate media release

but remains unofficial until confirmed by the Board of Trustees. The text of

other UUA Statements of Conscience can be found at and the CSW website.

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