Economic Forum Leaves Biggest Question Unanswered

Caritas Leader Notes Hopes for More Than Profits

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DAVOS, Switzerland, FEB. 1, 2010 ( After participating in the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, the secretary-general of Caritas says she is left wondering if financial institutions can really become motivated by more than just profit and also look out for the common good.

This was a reflection posted by Lesley-Anne Knight after Sunday’s conclusion of the five-day gathering of world and political leaders.

Knight questioned not only the possibility of better intentions from financiers, but also if development aid can really be directed to the poor and not national interests. «As Caritas people, as the sign and action of God’s love for all humanity, this must remain our hope,» she said.

As the secretary-general of a network of 164 national Caritas centers working in more than 200 countries, Knight participated in the forum, speaking at sessions and leading group discussions.


She noted how since last year, world economic leaders have focused on values, since the lack of values «was identified as a key contributory factor behind the global financial crisis.»

The Davos meeting this year took up that same emphasis, Knight said, with participants seeking «to identify the values that are lacking in society and, more importantly, how they can be implemented.»

For her part, she emphasized three: compassion, courage and «above all,» respect.

Knight urged «respect for all human life, for the dignity of all, for the human family and for the whole natural environment in which we live.»

But the forum left the Caritas leader with «mixed feelings,» she acknowledged.

«The World Economic Forum is good at responding to crises, at identifying innovative solutions, at tackling new challenges — in the words of this year’s theme, at ‘rethinking, redesigning and rebuilding.’ But what concerns me,» she explained, «is that the old, chronic problems of the world — like poverty, for instance — should not be neglected.»

As a case in point, Knight noted a lack of interest at a session on the Millennium Development Goals, far behind schedule.

After leading a discussion on «Lessons from the Past to Redesign Future Values,» organized by the Faith Communities at the Forum, she wrote: «As is often my experience, when people from such different professional and cultural backgrounds come together in conversation, we find common values which unite us around shared objectives without difficulty.

«These were outlined as being respect for the dignity of every human person, solidarity and concern for the common good and care for the most vulnerable in our society.»

The real challenge though, Knight suggested, is that «our financial institutions now put these into practice.»

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