open forum davos 2010: bulletin fspc
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DESCRIPTIONNo. 1 / 2010 9 4 The Magazine of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches Is ageing just a matter of planning? Interview on tax evasion and bank secrecy A recommendation for a basic consensus among religions The Gospel of Barack Obama Ideas for a new economic model Eco-activist Vandana Shiva fights against global players SWITZERLAND AND ITS BANKS RELIGIOUS CLAIMS TO TRUTH PORTRAIT AGEING SOCIETIES AFTER THE FINANCIAL CRISIS YES WE CAN!
bulletinOpen Forum Davos 2010 Special Edition
The Magazine of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches
4 SWITZERLAND AND ITS BANKS
Interview on tax evasionand bank secrecy
9 AFTER THE FINANCIAL CRISIS
Ideas for a new economic model
24 RELIGIOUS CLAIMS TO TRUTH
A recommendation for a basic consensus among religions
26 AGEING SOCIETIES
Is ageing just a matter of planning?
30YES WE CAN!
The Gospel of Barack Obama
Eco-activist Vandana Shivafights against global players
2 bulletin No. 1 / 2010
The Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches FSPCP.O. BoxCH-3000 Berne 23Phone +41 (0)31 370 25 01Fax +41 (0)31 370 25 email@example.com, www.sek.ch
Frequency of publication:4 times a year
Print run:6500 German, 1200 French, 500 English
Head of Communications:Simon Weber
Translation from German:David Dichelle, Leipzig
Design/Production:Meier Media DesignSilvan Meier
Print:Schlfli & Maurer AG
Cover:Open Forum Davos 2009 Alessandro della Valle / Keystone
EDITORIAL Welcome to the 2010 Open Forum Davos
Dear readers and dear guests,
The FSPC Bulletin has taken on a new look for the new year, taking our readers changing aesthetics and reading habits into account. It is also important to us to put a little more colour into a world that is much too often presented to us in terms of black and white.
Climate change, the financial crisis, interreligious contention, the ageing of our Western societies and all the challenges that this entails: So much bad news can already begin to ruin our day early in the morning, and the answers provided are often mired in a black-and-white mode of thinking, simple and without nuance. Our environment is becoming more and more complex, just as the vocabulary that we use to express this complexity shrinks. This can prove irritating since simple solutions and one-dimensional thinking do nothing to solve our complex problems in the long run. As the French physicist and philosopher Marc Halvy wrote: Complexity demands that we raise ourselves to meet it, and complexity does not exhibit any goodwill in the process.
The Open Forum Davos, jointly presented by the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches (FSPC) and the World Economic Forum, serves as a platform, in the midst of our complex and tempestuous world, for political, economic, scientific, and religious figures to meet in public debate. The participants can present their suggestions and reflect on those topics that are most important to our times. The Open Forum Davos, in short, can inspire us all to think for ourselves.
You too, dear guests, are invited to pick up the ball and join the debate, and to refuse to be satisfied with simple solutions and black-and-white answers.
The Protestant Church will of course participate in this discourse as well. In the pages to follow, church leaders, theologians, and ethicists have presented their thoughts on the topics discussed at the Open Forum. They have provided new insight into ageing, a different view on the financial crisis, and a theological reflection on the Gospel of Barack Obama.
I hope you find reading this report stimulating and edifying.
Rev. Simon WeberFSPC Head of Communications
PANEL 1 MISFIT SWITZERLAND
4We all profit from the financial industrys business. Interview with Business ethicist Christoph Weber-Berg by Maja Peter
PANEL 2 AFTER THE FINANCIAL CRISIS
9 Ideas for a neweconomic model By Hella Hoppe and Otto Schfer
The Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches at the Open Forum Davos By Theo Schaad
14AFTER THE FINANCIAL CRISIS
Can morally respon-sible action prevent a crisis? By Beat Kappeler and Denis Mller
PANEL 3CLIMATE CHANGE
16 The churches andclimate policy By Otto Schfer and Hella Hoppe
PANEL 4RELIGIONS CLAIM TO TRUTH
20 Truth is God. By Rajmohan Gandhi
22 When is a religiona religion? By Christopher Caldwell
24 TO DISCUSS
Thomas Wipf towards a basic consensus among religions. By Thomas Wipf
26 Everything undercontrol? By Ivana Bendik
PANEL 6YES WE CAN
30 The Gospel of Barack Obama. By Matthias D. Wthrich
PANEL 7 NUCLEAR WEAPONS
34 Nuclear weapons: What happens next?Photo by Shigeo Hayashi
36 VANDANA SHIVA
Those who destroy nature destroy their own basis for life. By Stephanie Riedi
39 FINAL POINT
Our ageing society:a challenge and oppor-tunity for the church. By Helen Gucker-Vontobel
bulletin Open Forum Davos 2010 Special EditionThe Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches and the World Economic Forum have joined together to host the Open Forum Davos for the eighth time. This edition of the FSPC bulletin features themes of relevance to the Open Forum programme. For more information on the Open Forums individual panels and guests, please consult www.openforumdavos.ch
4 bulletin No. 1 / 2010
PANEL 1 Misfit Switzerland
We all profit from the financial industrys
Dr. Weber, what is your view of bank secrecy from an ethical perspective? On the one hand, I think that indi-viduals need to be protected. Private in-formation requires protection from an ethical point of view. On the other hand, it is of course a problem when bank secrecy is abused, and when this abuse is practically enabled by the regulations themselves. Bank secrecy should not be misused to escape from ones responsibility to society.
Bank secrecy laws differentiate between tax evasion and tax fraud. Is this approach ethically tenable?
From the understanding of Swiss law, it is indeed ethically tenable, but Switzerland is not an island unto itself. When the differentiation between administra-tive and criminal offences provides foreigners with an avenue for abuse, it loses its legitimacy.
What end does this differentiation serve?It keeps you from being stamped as a criminal if
you do not fill out your tax returns correctly and do not declare the piggybank that you inherit from your grand-mother. You might of course be punished, and possibly even harshly so, depending on the case. But you would not be charged as a criminal in the legal sense.
There have, however, also been a few Swiss who have transferred their grandmothers piggybanks
to accounts in Liechtenstein that are protected by bank secrecy, and who have conveniently forgot-ten about them.
A lot has been changing in Liechtenstein as well. And actively avoiding ones taxes does indeed consti-tute tax fraud. While I do not wish to glorify bank se-crecy, there are aspects of it that I can in fact under-stand. We cannot, however, support bank secrecy when it invites people from abroad to engage in its abuse.
It was not always bank secrecy alone that invited foreigners to abuse the system, but Swiss bank employees have themselves invested considerable criminal energy to get customers to do so, as records from the UBS case in the United States and Switzerland have shown.
I do not blame the foreigners. Business models are illegitimate if they lead their foreign customers to violate the laws of their own countries. It therefore comes as no surprise that certain Swiss bank employ-ees are now afraid to travel abroad.
Is it ethical for the Swiss Federal Office of Justice to help bankers to figure out whether they need to fear arrest?
The state has, until now, generally assumed that the banks have been working on this basis. The bank-ers have thus been right to expect protection. We can therefore say that the state does in fact owe them this.
I do, however, oppose any general suspicion of every-one who has handled the personal banking of foreign customers. I know numerous decision-makers at Swiss banks who did not make use of the situation, even to their own detriment. Their banks ethics and reputa-tions were more important to them. But even they have now become anxious.
Churches, developmental aid providers, and politicians of the left have been criticizing bank secrecy for a long time. Even Hans J. Br, the doyen at the Julius Br Bank, wrote years ago that one should and could do away with bank secrecy. So why has it taken so long until the system actually broke down?
Too many people have benefited from it for too long, both in Switzerland and abroad. It is in the na-
ture of many people that they do not like to change things when they work well. The negotiations on the interest taxation agreement of 2002-2004 were the last opportunity that could have been used to maintain bank secrecy in the future. The negotiators, however,
only played for time, and many of those involved did not seize the moment to prepare their busi-nesses for a future without bank secrecy.
Their desperate clinging to bank secrecy might also have something to do with the way it has been criticized. Church lead-
ers, left-wing politicians, and developmental organiza-tions have all criticized the institution at