Statement of the ILRS Congress in Espoo, Finland,
1-4 August 1997

We, the Congress of the International League of Religious Socialists, associated member of The Socialist International, gathered in Hanasaari (Finland) to consider the issue "The price of freedom and the cost of poverty".

Part of the aim of our congress was to strenghten efforts against growing poverty and inequality in European countries and the USA, and against the persistent gap in wealth between North and South in the world.


The congress believes:

· that freedom should be the winner of the cold war, not capitalism;

· that poverty should not be the price of freedom, or of reforms of social security systems or the welfare state;

· that the nonchalant arrogance and unrestricted egoism of modern capitalism cannot be tolerated. There are religious and social values of justice, older than capitalism, which must be maintained.

· that the idea of human dignity is universal and indivisible, as is solidarity.

The congress rejects any accomodation of a development in our countries in the direction of a two-thirds society, in which one third of the population has no longer a part in the prosperity of the country.


A state which claims to be fair should adjust itself according to the basic needs of all its citizens, in particular the needs of the weak. Governments - on a local or national basis, and on an European or international basis - should continue their social duties towards the less privileged categories of citizens.

National debt is not a reason for postponing these duties. Putting in order state finances should be done in a way that the strongest shoulders have to bear the heaviest burdens. At the same time the congress does not accept leaving the burden of debt to coming generations.

The congress is worried about growing inequalities and growing income gaps in our societies, especially where this process is caused by policies which fail to employ the principle of the heaviest burden on the strongest shoulders.


A market economy is not and should not be an unplanned economy and without any rules. An active state or other regulating authority, with a set of rules and a climate of trust, is needed to make market economies function.


In principle every citizen of the world has - within the restraints of sustainable development - an equal right of access to sources of wealth and use of natural resources such as raw materials.

The global distribution of wealth and income is a scandal. The richest fifth of the world population receives 82.7 % of the global income, the next fifth 11.7 % and the last three fifths get 5.6 %. Less than 400 persons have more income than the half of humanity.

Developed countries should make room for growth in the South, by adopting fair trade systems, and by making their own production and consumption sustainable, through less use of non-renewable natural resources for their economic activity, and reducing pollution. Economic growth which is not fully sustainable is no way to solve the problems of environment and poverty.

People and companies in industrialised countries should adapt their ways of production and patterns of consumption, as is recommended by the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, and as repeated at the follow-up meeting in New York (UNGASS) this year. The congress aims for a just and sustainable society.

Rich people in every country should live more modestly.

Ways must be found to change the system of - by means of marketing and advertising - creating ever more new demands going far beyond the basic human needs, and commercially exploiting those demands.

Measures against advertising of dangerous products like nicotine and alcohol are an example of what is to be done.


Unemployment is one of the main contributory factors to poverty and inequality. The congress considers this issue to be one of the foremost tasks for the social-democratic movement, Therefore it is natural that the ILRS focuses on this issue.

The congress proposes:

· shortening of working hours,

· harmonisation of the terms for enterprises to avoid social and tax dumping,

· changes of taxation on labour to other forms of taxation, i.e. on consumption, with compensation for families and elderly people.


A taxation system based on consumption, especially on natural resources and energy, should be introduced.

In taxation policy emphasis should be put on taxation of capital, especially capital growths, rather than of incomes.

International taxation should be introduced for financing the UN. Possible areas for such taxation can be international economic transactions and tax on oil and fuel for aviation.


Cooperation should be the main organising principle of national and world society, not naked competition. In addition to cooperation, competition and the market can in many situations be effective instruments, but they should not become principles.

European nations should take advantage of the historical opportunity offered by the EU to follow, also as a world wide system, the best examples of meeting the needs of people for housing, food, medical care, education, transport, protection and just incomes.

The congress asks governments not to outbid each other with policies of lowering wage costs and cutting social spending and health spending in order to lower taxes. This type of "policy competition" creates a downward spiral, breaking down the structure of the welfare state.


The ongoing decline of international development assistance must stop. The developed countries urgently need to honour the UN goal of 0.7 % of the GDP. Decreasing military expenditure leaves room for increasing international solidarity.


Everyone has a personal responsability for the creation of wealth as far as her/his talents and skills allow. In other words, the moral context must always be borne in mind. We are reminded of the religious teachings and the importance of common ownership.


The Congress of the ILRS welcomes the proposal of the InterAction Council of former state and government heads (under the chairmanship of Helmut Schmidt) for a Universal Declaration of Human Responsabilities, to be adopted by the UN in addition of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The congress urges that your country will support this initiative in the UN. We include the text of the proposed declaration as an appendix with this statement.

August 3, 1997.
The ILRS Congress


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