Rosie Venner, ECCR’s Money Makes Change programme manager, reflects on ways to ‘invest’ in peace.
Turn away from evil, and do good,
Seek peace, and pursue it
Preparing for a workshop recently with members of the Fellowship of Reconciliation on the theme of faith, finance and building peace, I came across these stark words from Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Director of UN Women:
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, public life in much of the world has largely ground to a halt. For the two billion people living in conflict-affected countries, however, there has been no lull in violence and upheaval. Some of the world’s conflicts have even escalated or been reignited during the crisis, dealing devastating new blows to infrastructure and health-care systems that were only beginning to be rebuilt. Globally, we continue to invest far more in the tools of war than in the foundations of peace.”
That final sentence stopped me in my tracks. Through the Money Makes Change programme we encourage Christians to think about the links between their faith, their finances and the change they want to see in the world. How can we respond to the challenge that Mlambo-Ngcuka describes?
Let’s look first at who is investing in the tools of war. There’s an easy but challenging answer. You and I probably are.
The arms trade is big money. Around $100 billion worth of arms are sold every year.
Many of us will be investing in the arms industry through our personal pensions. Research from the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association suggests that only one in five (22%) pension holders know the types of companies that their pension invests in.
It’s not just pension funds, but banks too. The Nuclear Weapons Financing research group estimates that nearly $32 billion is invested in companies producing nuclear weapons by UK financial institutions, including big high street names like Barclays and HSBC.
If we look closely, we start to see how the money we steward may be invested more in the tools of war than in the foundations of peace.
How do we invest in peace?
It’s easier to estimate what’s invested in the tools of war than it is to put a figure on building peace, but one way to look at it is through the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The UN estimates that there is a funding gap of $2.5trillion needed annually to meet the goals by 2030. That includes goal number 16 which focuses on peace and justice. This goal for a more peaceful world is often seen as the most difficult goal to finance. But if we pursue gender equality, tackle climate change, improve access to education and healthcare – this all contributes to peace. The goals are interconnected. By using our finances to shape a fairer, more sustainable world, we can start to lay the foundations for peace.
Actively ‘making peace’ with our finances is something we can all do.
The choices we make with our personal finances can be part of our positive action as peacemakers.
Here are five suggestions for action:
- Explore the Investing in Change report. Find out whether your bank or pension provider invests your money in nuclear weapons, and then ask them to play their part in creating a more peaceful world.
- If you have investments, choose to move money away (divest) from the arms industry and call on others to do the same. If you are a student, get involved in CAAT’s student network campaigning to break ties between universities and arms companies.
- Choose to invest in funds that are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. Good with Money has some useful guides. If you are an Ethical Consumer subscriber you can view their score table of ethical investment funds.
- Use our Money Makes Change resources to talk about ethical investments and pensions with others in your church.
- Consider donating to organisations working for peace, locally and globally.
Looking deeply at the ethics of our financial decisions, speaking out and holding those in power to account, are challenging things to do. But collectively, our actions have an impact. Read this inspiring story of a group of Christians from Coventry who successfully put pressure on the West Midlands Pension Fund to divest from cluster bombs.
Are you taking action with your finances? Let us know here.