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Transnationality and global governance as a challenge for the Christian social ethics – A report of Berlin Workshop/Conference of German social ethicists (February 23 to 25, 2015)

Transnationality and global governance as a challenge for the Christian social ethics – A report of Berlin Workshop/Conference of German social ethicists (February 23 to 25, 2015)

Petr Štica

Every year for the last 15 years, in late February, Christian social ethicists from German speaking countries have come together at Katholische Akademie in Berlin, in order to focus on and to discuss a current social, political and economic issue from an ethical perspective. The meeting is respectively a single theme oriented conference; however, in general it is also an occasion for theological social ethicists to conduct academic exchanges about significant and burning issues of contemporary Catholic social ethics. This year, the members of the association of Christian social ethicists of German speaking countries resolved to debate on a topic that cannot be dismissed from our increasingly interconnected world – transnationality and transnational political structures – hence the subject area, which the political and social sciences address since at least the 1980s under the key word “global governance”. On the one hand, it is obvious that the globalization processes require appropriate political structures, which is manifested, for instance in the existence of the United Nations and its various commissions and committees. On the other hand, it is evident that this enormous political challenge ‘jams’ at different places. For instance, the UN Security Council can be evoked here. It reflects the power-relations and the situation immediately after the Second World War, nevertheless is not feasible at the beginning of the 21st century and in security issues many political solutions are blocked. Since globalization is hardly conceivable without global political structures, the current politics and civil society undoubtedly face the challenge of designing the global structures appropriate to the time.

At the beginning of the meeting, Ingeborg Gabriel from Vienna introduced this complex topic from an ethical perspective. She identified three issues in particular: the deficient democratic legitimacy of “global governance structures”; the present increasing opposing tendencies and movements (e. g. nationalistic withdrawal tendencies in some European countries); and the fact –which was already mentioned with the example the UN Security Council – that the current global political structures do not correspond to the prevailing political realities. Gabriel found a way out in consolidation of international law, strengthening of international solidarity and justice as well as in the discussions on moral foundations of global governance.

The following lectures addressed the subject from the perspective of individual issues. John Wallacher from Munich presented the post-2015 agenda, which developed a link to the subsequent Millennium Development Goals, inter alia, under the keyword of “sustainable development”. Dirk Sauerland (University of Witten / Herdecke) dealt with transnationality from the standpoint of economics. Political scientist Jens Steffek (TU Darmstadt) in his presentation focused on international governance and the common good. Common good played an important role also in the paper of Michael Lysander Fremuths (University of Cologne). In his opinion, international law has unmistakably advanced in recent decades (cfr. courts of human rights, international criminal law). However, the indispensable further development of international law requires not only further intense political and civic engagement, but also sufficient time in view of the dynamics of the processes. One of the key issues is the justification and the material reach of human rights, which constitutes the basis of international law.

Other issues, such as transnational management of international migration, ethical issues in the global economy and international trade and the current international security policy were intensively discussed in small working groups. The Munich philosopher Michael Reder rounded off the range of presented topics. He focused on the question of which “form of ethical theory” may be helpful for transnational governance. From his point of view, the philosophical theories, which represent the “common basis” for the political ethics of global governance, in reality proceed from a national context and presume a certain homogeneity. Reder, however, outlines an “inductive approach” as a plausible path, which presupposes that one tackles the (diverse) experiences and subsequently –similar to what H. Joas did in his Genealogy of Human Rights or as the pragmatist philosophy did –“to reconstruct the normativity”. Theological ethics could and should be an accompanying reflective science in this process of seeking and communicating in respect of a global political order.

In the discussions that followed these presentations, the role of the state and human rights as the basis of the transnational and global politics stood particularly in focus. It was clearly shown that, given the complexity of the problem, only one solution is possible that takes into account this intricacy and looks for moral foundations of global and transnational politics. Both theology (especially theological ethics) and the Catholic Church, which represents a global player and at the same time is rooted locally, should accompany and help shape this process.