Welcome to the May 2016 edition of #UpForJustice – a monthly news and prayer letter from the International Social Justice Commission (ISJC) based in New York City, USA.
We continue using the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework for prayer and reflection. There are 17 goals, which all 193 United Nations (UN) member states endorsed at the UN General Assembly in September 2015. The SDGs will shape the development agendas in all countries until 2030. Read more about the SDGs by visiting http://www.salvationarmy.org/isjc/SDGs.
This month, Robert Docter, an intern at the ISJC from the USA Western Territory, reflects on the eighth SDG – ‘Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all’.
Income is essential for survival. At the most basic level, we work to earn income so we can afford the universal necessities of food, water and shelter. Money also provides the opportunity to save, invest, loan and trade. Most people have a legal obligation to pay the government a portion of their income in taxes. People of faith are also expected to give a portion of their income to God and charity.
However, almost everyone wants more. I was born and raised in the USA. I confess I was greedy from a young age. I always bothered my parents for the latest toy that my friends had. But it was not enough – there was always something else I wanted. One toy car isn’t as good as two toy cars! Unfortunately we do not easily grow out of our childish desires. It is easy to desire more and more – not for the good of all people, but because we are driven by selfishness. At its most extreme, this selfish ambition results in corruption, illegal trading, trafficking of people, exploiting the environment and so on. Greed is aggressive, contagious and a catalyst for injustice.
The eighth SDG is a commitment by the leaders of 193 countries to ensure decent work and sustainable economic growth for all people. This is a goal that Christians should support. Work and economic growth are good and gifts from God.
Much of today’s global injustice is rooted in unequal access to fair, inclusive employment and economic growth. This forces many into unsafe jobs that prohibit growth and safety, such as trafficking, criminal activity, illegal trade and forced labour.
Two statistics highlight this global problem:
- According to the International Labour Organization, more than 204 million people were unemployed in 2015.
- Roughly half the world’s population still lives on the equivalent of approximately US$2 a day. And in too many places, having a job does not guarantee the ability to escape from poverty.
SDG 8 is a well-rounded goal that addresses many components, such as:
- Efforts towards quality job creation
- Sustainable economic productivity and technological innovations
- Lessening environmental impact
- Encouraging fair practices in banking and investing
- Creation of more small and medium enterprises
- Instilling policies that eradicate forced labour, human trafficking, illegal trade and other criminal activities
- Responsible money practices.
There are many issues crammed into this one SDG, but such an all-encompassing goal is required to tackle the power of greed in our world today.
From the first chapters of Genesis the Bible instructs us about the importance of wise stewardship of our given resources. God instructed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to, ‘work it and take care of it’ (Genesis 2:15). Regarding unjust policies and decrees, Isaiah chapter 10 states: ‘Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people’ (vv 1-2).
The Salvation Army addresses these issues in an International Positional Statement on Corruption (www.salvationarmy.org/isjc). It notes:
- God chastises those who engage in bribery and treat the poor unjustly (Isaiah 1: 21-25).
- The Lord condemns those who enrich themselves through dishonesty and cheating (Micah 6:10-13).
- In order to tackle corruption, action is needed both individually and collectively. The Salvation Army will work intentionally to increase transparency, accountability and good governance in its own organisation. The Salvation Army particularly charges its leaders to exemplify and encourage the highest levels of accountability and reject all forms of corruption.
- Existing Salvation Army policies, procedures, orders and regulations must be followed to prevent corruption, bribery, cronyism and nepotism. The Salvation Army will regularly review its systems to ensure the highest possible standards are being followed.
- The Salvation Army will promote environments which are corruption-free and based firmly on values of justice and mercy.
Many of the goals represented in SDG8 have been at the heart of The Salvation Army’s work since its earliest days. General William Booth was passionate about ensuring ‘decent work for all’. This commitment continues to this day with Salvation Army programmes developing vocational skills in many parts of the world to empower women and men in various skills training. ‘Others: Trade for Hope’ (formally Sally Ann) is one excellent example of an initiative in support of SDG 8. ‘Others’ is an enterprise that creates income, sustainability, is environmentally-friendly and boosts local economies. It values fairness, equality, fair compensation, fair trade, profitability and openness.
As we reflect on the challenge of SDG 8, let us pray for:
- Those without access to safe, adequate work around the world. This includes people who are homeless, victims of trafficking and exploitation, and those in forced labour – these people suffer the consequences of economic injustice.
- The millions of people who are displaced from their homes for many reasons – such as war, poverty and natural disaster. Pray also for those who are seeking to find solutions for this global problem.
- Salvation Army income generation and work programmes, such as ‘Others’, around the world.
- The Salvation Army’s ongoing anti-human trafficking work in many countries.
- Lieut-Colonels Dean and Eirwen Pallant who will be teaching at the International College for Officers on 10 and 11 May.
- Lieut-Colonel Eirwen Pallant who travels to Cape Town, South Africa, for an Anti-human Trafficking Workshop in the first week of May and also to Istanbul, Turkey, for the World Humanitarian Summit from 21 to 24 May.
- Lieut-Colonel Dean Pallant who will attend a meeting of the General’s Consultative Council in London from 22 to 24 May.