“We have built a world where 1 percent of the population owns 99 percent of the wealth”, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate has denounced in the ‘Economy of Francesco’ online conference.

– “The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed all the weaknesses of the current system”

Muhammad Yunus, the economist and social entrepreneur from Bangladesh who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to drive economic and social development from the grassroots with his innovative microfinancing philosophy, was a keynote speaker Friday on the second day of the ‘Economy of Francesco’ event.

That’s the event the Pope organised to bring young people into dialogue with some of the world’s best and brightest academics and business people “to set in place a new economic model, the fruit of a culture of communion based on fraternity and equality”.

Speaking Friday to the over 2,000 direct participants in the ‘Economy of Francesco’ webinar – with an address entitled “Finance and Humanity: a road towards an integral ecology” – Yunus explained that the goal of microfinance – which provides loans and other financial services to low-income individuals to allow them to work themselves to end their poverty – “is not to make money for yourself but to solve people’s problems”.

The professor added that microfinance and solutions like it have been made ever more necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has only exacerbated the plight of the world’s most marginalised people.

“They became poor; they don’t have any food; they don’t have any income. That’s almost half the population of the entire world”, Yunus alerted.

The microfinance pioneer issued a powerful plea for a paradigm shift post-coronavirus:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed all the weaknesses of the current system. Those who were on the margins of existence on a global level ended up even more on the margins.

“Now everyone is working to return to the situation before the pandemic. But why do we want to return to that system, which was terrible?

“The train that was leading us to death has stopped. It is time to get off and ask ourselves: do we want to go back or is it the right time to go in the opposite direction: a world without pollution, without concentration of wealth, without massive unemployment?”

– Indian expert pleads for economy “of gratitude, of service, of care”

Also speaking on the second day of the ‘Economy of Francesco’ event Friday were Mauro Magatti, a sociologist and economist at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, and Leonardo Becchetti, an economist at the Tor Vergata University in Rome.

Magatti and Becchetti spoke to ideas of “Generativity, Relational Good, and Civil Economy”, and insisted on the need for a fourfold transition in our economies and societies that would embrace formative, organisational, communitarian and environment elements.

Another keynote speaker at the event was environmental activist and Member of the International Forum on Globalisation Vandana Shiva, who insisted that “the economy should take care of our common home”.

“If we work in harmony with nature, we create well-being. Key words should be: local distribution, healthy food, giving back to the Earth what the Earth gives us, sharing. Giving back to the Earth what the Earth gives us, we will have better food. The spirit is one of gratitude, of service, of care”, the Indian expert explained in her talk on “An economy of abundance: how to foster bottom-up development?”

Shiva had earlier given an interview to Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano to explain her ideas in more detail.

There she insisted that building “an economy of giving and and sharing for the common well being of all beings in our common home” has become with the COVID-19 pandemic “an ethical and ecological imperative”.

The ‘Economy of Francesco’ event continues this Saturday with panels on the themes “We are all developing countries” and “Young enough to change the world” before Pope Francis addresses participants live in a video message at 5.30pm.

Novena’s full coverage of the ‘Economy of Francesco’ event:

On first day of ‘Economy of Francesco’, Pope’s young social “changemakers” set sights on economy “aimed not at serving the few but at benefiting all”

Vatican official deplores: “It cannot be that we produce enough food for the whole world and millions die of hunger every year”

‘Economy of Francesco’ organisers insist pre-COVID economy now obsolete, push for more than just ‘green’ recovery to focus on poor

April 2020: Youth promise Pope redoubled efforts on “economy of relationships” in wake of coronavirus


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.