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IDB international meeting on ethics and development attracts more than 400 participants in Honduras

TEGUCIGALPA — The international meeting on "Ethics and Development: The New Challenges" organized by the Inter-American Development Bank Sept 1-3 was received with wide interest of all sectors of society and attracted more than 400 participants who heard the proposals of experts, ministers, eminent intellectuals and church leaders, as well as representatives of the private sector and civil society in Central America.

In the opening session of the meeting held under the auspices of the IDB together with the governments of Honduras and Norway, IDB President Enrique V. Iglesias --accompanied by Honduran President Carlos Flores and Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez, archbishop of Tegucigalpa-- noted "there is hunger for ethics in the world".

"Return to democracy in Latin America has brought in particular a demand for greater ethical values," said Iglesias. "Communities judge the actions of officials, businessmen and the international organizations. Civil society, one of the great forces in the years to come, will increase ethical demands."

"There is also hunger for solidarity", Iglesias added, pointing out the importance of developing a strong human and social capital in the region as a value in itself and to support economic progress and democratic strengthening of the countries.

President Flores said later on that in addition to resources and opportunities, the region needs more international understanding vis-à-vis its difficult realities. He insisted that it is necessary to see "what we could do with what we have" and not to apply foreign models automatically.

Pablo Schneider, President of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, also presided at the inaugural ceremony, together with ambassador Jan Erik Leikvang of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who said that equity, inclusion and social participation should constitute an ethical imperative of the agenda for development.

"Basic ethical values of our civilization, such as responsibility for one another, sensitivity on poverty, deep respect for the dignity of the poor, a feeling of urgency before the irreversible damages of poverty, and helping the poor in such a way that does not need more help should guide the design of policies and efforts for development", said Bernardo Kliksberg, coordinator of the meeting, who opened the second day of the forum with the IDB representative in Honduras, Helge Semb.

Kliksberg used the example of neglected children as a great ethical challenge. Even though caring for children is a central value of our society, 58 per cent of children in Latin America live below the poverty line, 33 of those younger than two years old are malnourished, and the number of children living in the streets is increasing, he said.

Although equity is a strong value in our civilization, Latin America is the most unequal region in the world, he said, where the richest 10 per cent has an income 84 times higher than that of the poorest 10 per cent.

Family protection is a central value, but in reality poverty is destroying families daily; mothers alone are in charge of 30 per cent of homes; and maternal mortality rates in the region are five times higher than in the developed world, Kliksberg added.

The main speakers included the Costa Rican Vice President Astrid Fischel; the rector of the Pedro Hurtado University of Chile, Father Fernando Montes; the viceminister of Education of Guatemala, Demetrio Cojti Cuxil; the director of Casa Alianza in Costa Rica, Bruce Harris; the president of the International Association of Ethics and Development, David Crocker; ADB Sustainable Development Director María Teresa Szauer; and the dean of the Political Science Faculty of the Universidad Javeriana of Colombia, Father Javier Sanín.

Other distinguished participants were the El Salvador Labor Minister, Jorge Nieto Menéndez; the dean of the University of Buenos Aires Economic Sciences Faculty, Carlos Aníbal Degrossi; the rector of the Andres Bello Catholic University in Venezuela, Father Luis Ugalde; the director of the Getulio Vargas Foundation Public Administration School in Brazil, Bianor Scelza Cavalcanti; and Francois Vallaeys of the Pontificia Universidad Católica of Peru.

Fernando Montes said that values such as truth, honesty, confidence, austerity and capacity to take risks make up social capital and are essential to foster development, while taking into consideration the ethical consequences of economic decisions in the countries is of the essence.

"Globalization has blurred the ends, and we lack clarity on the means. The values perspective in our culture has been broken, and with that the possibility of setting our place in the world", he said. The worst threat of globalization is not the economic phenomenon, but the cultural phenomenon. "The challenge is how to achieve development without loosing the soul, how to use the means without loosing sight of the ends", he added.

"If the mechanics of possessive individualism is maintained, the increasing velocity of accumulation will increase exclusion in the countries and worldwide. There could not be development for all in peace without ethics and solidarity," said Luis Ugalde. "The long-term objective of good national and global development should be to assure an adequate level of basic capacities morally for everyone in the world," said David Crocker.

Astrid Fischel presented the achievements of the "Triangle of Solidarity," a Costa Rican initiative that articulates the will, efforts and resources of municipal and national governments, private enterprises and communities for development initiatives with a shared vision.

María Teresa Szauer emphasized the sustainable development approach as an ethical alternative against global environmental problems, by linking environmental, economic and social aspects and fostering the capacity to satisfy today’s needs without compromising future needs.

Demetrio Cojti Cuxil pointed out the importance of a wide access to strong education in values and, in particular, attention to the requirements and proposals of the indigenous communities.

Political scientist Javier Sanín referred to the need to find ways of participation and compensation to sectors that, even in democracy and being many times in the majority, are not represented and are outside the political system, such as the children and young people under 18 years old. He also underlined the importance of respecting multicultural rights and that of ethnical, regional, and generational groups, and gender issues.

Francois Vallaeys analyzed ethical problems in social programs and concluded that development efforts should focus not only on the well-being of the beneficiaries of projects, but also on fostering their autonomy to look out for their own well-being, and the self-development of the communities.

Other sponsors of the forum were the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI). The Andean Development Corporation (ADB), also co-sponsored by both the National University and the Catholic University of Honduras.

Inter-American Initiative and Academic Centers Network

During the meeting, Kliksberg also presented the Inter-American Initiative on Social Capital, Ethics and Development that he coordinates, a joint effort of the IDB, the government of Norway, and 15 academic centers to expand the ethical debate in the region and to explore issues such as social responsibility of the private enterprise.

This initiative will catalyze efforts of diverse public and private organizations in the region in areas such as volunteerism and ethics, corporate responsibility, and great social concertation to fight poverty.

The directors of 15 such centers in Latin America, Europe, Israel and the United States that formed the network held their first meeting during the forum to strengthen the initiative and catalyze efforts of diverse public and private organizations in the region on ethical issues for development.

The initiative intends to promote strengthening of ethical values and also the value of social capital in the countries of the region. These two aspects are deeply intertwined and could mutually reinforce each other. International experience indicates that countries with more social capital and ethical values have had better results in terms of economic development, quality of life and democratic maturity.

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