Holy See on Changing Perspectives Regarding Development

"Common Good ... Needs to Be the Primary Objective"

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ACCRA, Ghana, APRIL 24, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is an excerpt of the note for discussion sent Thursday by the Secretariat of State to the 12th U.N. Conference on Trade and Development in Accra, which ends today.



The entire text can be found on ZENIT's Web page: http://www.zenit.org/article-22414?l=english

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A change in perspective: the common good as the goal for development

It must be clear that development is not only about the growth of the economy in general; it is about the development of the human being with his/her capabilities and relationships with intermediary social groups (family, social, political, cultural groups etc.) within which he/she lives. This requires a change in perspective that recognises peoples as united by a common factor, their humanity being created with the imprint of the common God creator. Only by starting from this premise can we aim, within pluralist institutions, toward the achievement of the common good, which needs to be the primary objective of any society. The common good is neither an abstract goal nor a simple list of targets. It is simply the realisation of the primary needs of the person: the need of truth, love, and justice. These needs cannot be completely fulfilled but, by nature, the human being tends to support the tension of aiming toward their fulfilment.

As the world’s bishops stated in the Vatican II Council document, “Gaudium et Spes”: “Because of the increasingly close interdependence which is gradually extending to the entire world, we are today witnessing an extension of the role of the common good, which is the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfilment more fully and more easily. The resulting rights and obligations are consequently the concern of the entire human race. Every group must take into account the needs and legitimate aspirations of every other group, and even those of the human family as a whole” (n. 26).

This is the essence of development, and it is something that concerns every person, rich and poor, because every man is always in development. In fact, development is not a target to reach; it is rather a path to follow: we can say that there is true development when persons are put in a position to follow their most important desires and needs. Following this premise, it is clear that the tension toward the common good finds its fulfilment within the relationships that human beings establish among each other. The common good, therefore, is fulfilled within belonging, within a people. As stated by His Holiness John Paul II: “Man, in keeping with the openness of his spirit within and also with the many diverse needs of his body and his existence in time, writes this personal history of his through numerous bonds, contacts, situations, and social structures linking him with other men, beginning to do so from the first moment of his existence on earth, from the moment of his conception and birth” (Redemptor Hominis, n. 14).

How can we design international rules and international institutions so that different paths for development of different peoples can be sustained and not hampered? Through two principles: solidarity and subsidiarity.

Solidarity is the responsibility of developed nations to favour economic growth in LDCs by helping less fortunate individuals to create their opportunities for development. Solidarity should be the guiding principle, not only in the definition of foreign aid, but also in the economic relationship between developed and developing countries and within regional or multilateral agreements. At present, the principle of solidarity is acknowledged by multilateral institutions in several frameworks; the generalised system of preferences designed within the WTO and other trade-related initiatives (AGOA, EBA, Aid for Trade etc.) are examples of this. However, as stressed above, there is room for extending the system of preferences to other areas such as rules of origin, non tariff barriers and intellectual property rights in order to give a real different opportunity for development to least developed countries.

While solidarity should be the spark that generates the definition of development-oriented policies both at national and at international level, subsidiarity should be the guiding principle in their design and implementation.

As stated above, development-oriented and aid policies by advanced economies and multilateral institutions mainly have been designed in accord with the principle of solidarity. However, when implemented, too may of them have failed to comply with the principle of subsidiarity. This has resulted in a marginal involvement of civil society and of its intermediate bodies, with a primary role given to the central government as recipient and manager of aid flows. This also could be a possible explanation for the fact that, at macroeconomic level, aid policies delivered far less to LDCs than was expected.

Subsidiarity not only preserves and promotes originality in the development of social life, but also implies an act of freedom by individuals who try to follow their vocations. In fact, “the characteristic implication of subsidiarity is participation, which is expressed essentially in a series of activities by means of which the citizen, either as an individual or in association with others, whether directly or through representation, contributes to the cultural, economic, political and social life of the civil community to which he belongs. Participation is a duty to be fulfilled consciously by all, with responsibility and with a view to the common good.”[3] Once the conditions are created, individuals are called to act in order to pursue their vocations.

In other words, at international level, solidarity and subsidiarity imply a double responsibility: by developed countries in helping LDCs to find their path for development and by least developed countries in implementing all the necessary policies that would allow them to take the opportunities that are offered.

In this framework, the policy space could be an instrument for the implementation of subsidiarity by allowing policy actions to be diversified according to the different needs of the society. Moreover if the policy space is extended following the principle of subsidiarity the contradictions discussed above between individual policies and the rules of multilateral institutions disappear as the former are implemented in an original tension towards the common good.