Ethics in Action NYC: Finding Solutions for the Common Good

The Ethics in Action is a global effort to put ethics at the core of our problem solving at the local, national, and global levels.  Our deep economic, political and environmental challenges require reforms, financing, expertise, and citizens’ participation, but perhaps most important, they require that we come together to defend the common good.  Without an ethical core in our politics and community decision-making, we are bound to fail.  With an ethical compass, we will find that even the toughest problems – climate change, poverty, joblessness, crime – have deep and lasting solutions within reach and within our budget.

Following the calls by Pope Francis and other global leaders for a new moral course, and following the adoption by the United Nations of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement, religious leaders, scientists, ethicists, politicians, and development practitioners are joining together to explore Ethics in Action in support of sustainable development.

New York City can and should be a global leader in this effort.  NYC is home to the United Nations and of course to many world-leading economic sectors.  And NYC faces its own profound challenges of sustainable development.  Our community needs to build and fortify a shared vision of the common good for the 21st century in order to confront our own challenges in NYC and to help our nation and the world to solve the great and often unprecedented problems facing us today.

The New York Society for Ethical Culture, in conjunction with the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Religions for Peace, will convene Ethics in Action NYC in order to help build a shared vision of the common good for NYC and to help guide problem solving in NYC and in the US. Ethics in Action NYC will convene a sequence of nine meetings over the course of the next year. Each meeting will include an evening public event at the Society for Ethical Culture. The calendar of meetings is as follows:

1. Sustainable Development Goals—Ban Ki Moon (Nov 29, 2016)
All 193 member-states of the United Nations adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals on September 25, 2015, to guide global cooperation and national policies through 2030.  The first meeting of Ethics in Action NYC will celebrate the leadership of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in guiding the world to adopt the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement, and will engage the SG in a dialogue on the future of the UN and sustainable development.

2. Ethics and Wall Street (Feb 9)
The 2008 financial crisis and subsequent investigations and regulatory actions have exposed an underside to the financial industry.  We will invite leaders of Wall Street, academia, and the public to engage in an intensive dialogue on what is right, wrong, moral, and immoral in the current environment of the financial markets.

3. Climate change and NYC (March 2, 2017)
As a low-lying coastal city, NYC is highly vulnerable to human-induced climate change, and the sea-level rise and intensive storms that can result.  NYC must also be a leader in the effort to decarbonize the energy system, a challenge encapsulated in the City’s 80×50 plan (to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 80 percent as of 2050).  This session will engage city officials, scientists, real estate developers, technologists, and others on the moral dimensions of the fight against Climate Change.

4. Police-community relations in NYC (April 13, 2017)
The second session will examine the highly charged issues surrounding policing and community relations.  The mutual trust of the citizenry and the police force constitute a vital underpinning of social stability, safety, and the wellbeing of the citizenry.  We will invite leaders of the police force and the NYC community to share their perspectives and ideas on the path ahead.

5. Poverty in NYC (May 4, 2017)
As Mayor De Blasio has famously noted, NYC is a tale of two cities, one rich and another poor.  This session will discuss the ethical aspects of fighting poverty and inequality, and will discuss the practical challenges of boosting low incomes, reducing poverty, and fighting the high inequality of income and its pernicious influences.

6. Corruption in NYC (June 1, 2017)
We have experienced pervasive corruption in our public and private institutions in recent years.  Public and private officials are marched off to prison for bribery, insider trading, and other crimes.  Money in politics seems to cause a race to the bottom of public morality.  This session will explore how we might restore honesty and ethics to public and private governance.

7. Education reform in NYC (June 29, 2017)
A high quality of education is critical for every child to achieve his or her potential.  Yet we also know of the deep challenges of ensuring quality education for all in NYC, especially in the context of great inequalities of income and opportunity.  We will explore the options for creating a system of high-quality education that is available to all, both rich and poor.

8. Health policy and reform in NYC (September 2017, TBD)
New York City is home to one of the world’s largest and most complex healthcare delivery systems, with some of the world’s greatest healthcare institutions.  At the same time, NYC is a microcosm of national and global healthcare challenges, with the health of New Yorkers reflecting massive inequalities of income and social status, with healthcare costs soaring and beyond the reach of many citizens, and with public budgets threatened by rapidly raising healthcare costs.  This session will explore the right to health for all, and the ways to achieve it through actions within and beyond the healthcare system.

9. Immigration reform in NYC (TBD)
Immigration is one of the most important and contentious social issues facing the world, the nation, and NYC as one of the greatest global homes of migration.  We will review the moral and practical challenges of migration policies and national choices, in an era when more people are moving globally as refugees and migrants.