Holy See on Main Challenges Facing the Family of Nations

Humanitarian Emergencies, Religious Freedom, Economic Crisis and More

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NEW YORK, SEPT. 30, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address given on Tuesday by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the secretary for Relations with States in the Vatican Secretariat of State, at the 66th session of the U.N. General Assembly.

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Mr. President:

On behalf of the Holy See, I have the pleasure to congratulate you on your election to the presidency of the 66th session of the UN General Assembly, and to assure you of the full and sincere collaboration of the Holy See. My congratulations are extended also to the Secretary General, H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon who, during this period of sessions, on Jan. 1, 2012, will begin his second mandate. I would also like to greet cordially the Delegation of Southern Sudan, which became the 193rd member country of the Organization last July.

Mr. President:

Every year, the general debate offers the occasion to share and address the principal questions that concern humanity in search of a better future for all. The challenges posed to the international community are numerous and difficult. Yet they increasingly bring to light the existing profound interdependence within the "family of nations," which sees in the U.N. an important instrument, despite its limitations, in the identification and implementation of solutions to the main international problems. In this context, without wishing to be exhaustive, my Delegation wishes to pause on the priority challenges, so that the concept of "family of nations" will become increasingly concrete.

The first challenge is of a humanitarian order. It exhorts the whole international community, or rather, the "family of nations," to look after its weakest members. In certain parts of the world, such as the Horn of Africa, we are, unfortunately, in the presence of grave and tragic humanitarian emergencies which cause the exodus of millions of people, the majority women and children, with a high number of victims of drought, famine and malnutrition. The Holy See wishes to renew its appeal to the international community, expressed many times by Pope Benedict XVI, to amplify and support humanitarian policies in those areas and to influence concretely the different causes that increase its vulnerability.

These humanitarian emergencies lead to stressing the need to find innovative ways to put to work the principle of responsibility to protect, on whose foundation lies the recognition of the unity of the human family and attention to the innate dignity of every man and every woman. As is known, this principle makes reference to the responsibility of the international community to intervene in situations in which governments can no longer cope on their own or no longer wish to comply with the first duty incumbent upon them to protect their populations against grave violations of human rights, as well as anticipating the consequences of humanitarian crises. If States are no longer capable of guaranteeing this protection, the international community must intervene with the juridical means foreseen in the United Nations Charter and by other international instruments.

However, it must be recalled that the risk exists that the said principle might be invoked in certain circumstances as a reason to use military force. It is good to recall that the very use of force, in keeping with the United Nations rules, should be a solution limited in time, a measure of real urgency which should be accompanied and followed by a concrete commitment to pacification.

Consequently, to respond to the challenge of the "responsibility to protect," it is necessary that there be a more profound search for the means to prevent and to manage conflicts, exploring all the possible diplomatic avenues through negotiation and constructive dialogue, paying attention to and encouraging the weakest signs of dialogue or of the desire for reconciliation on the part of the parties involved.

The responsibility to protect must be understood not only in terms of military intervention, which should always be the last recourse, but, above all, as an imperative for the international community to be united before the crisis and to create agencies for correct and sincere negotiations, to support the moral force of law, to seek the common good and to incite governments, civil society and public opinion to identify the causes and to offer solutions to crises of all kinds, acting in close collaboration and solidarity with the affected populations and placing above all, the integrity and security of all the citizens. Hence it is important that the responsibility to protect, understood in this sense, is the criterion and motivation that underlies all the work of the States and of the United Nations Organization to restore peace, security and the rights of man. Moreover, the long and generally successful history of the peacekeeping operations and the most recent initiatives of peace-building can offer valuable experiences to conceive models to actuate the responsibility to protect, in full respect of international law and of the legitimate interests of all the parties involved.

Mr. President:

Respect for religious liberty is the fundamental path for peace building, the recognition of human dignity and the safeguarding of the rights of man. This is the second challenge, on which I would like to pause. Situations in which the right of religious liberty is injured or denied to believers of the different religions, are unfortunately numerous; observed is an increase of intolerance for religious reasons, and unfortunately, one sees that Christians are at present the religious group that suffers the greatest number of persecutions because of their faith. The lack of respect of religious liberty is a threat to security and peace and impedes the realization of authentic integral human development. The particular weight of a specific religion in a nation should never imply that citizens belonging to other confessions are discriminated against in social life or, worse still, that violence against them is tolerated. In this connection, it is important that a common commitment to recognize and promote the religious liberty of every person and every community is favored by sincere interreligious dialogue and supported by governments and international agencies. I renew to the authorities and to religious leaders the concerned appeal of the Holy See, so that effective measures are adopted for the protection of religious minorities, wherever they are threatened in order that, above all, believers of all confessions can live in security and continue making their contribution to the society of which they are members. Thinking of the situation in certain countries, I would like to repeat, in particular, that Christians are citizens with the same right as others, connected to their homeland and faithful to all their national duties. It is natural that they should enjoy all the rights of citizenship, of liberty of conscience and worship, of liberty in the field of teaching and education and in the use of the media.

Moreover, there are countries in which, although great importance is given to pluralism and tolerance, paradoxically, religion tends to be considered as a factor foreign to modern society or considered as destabilizing, seeking through different means to marginalize it and impeding it from influencing social life. But how can the contribution be denied of the great religions of the world to the development of civilization? As Pope Benedict XVI stressed, the sincere search for God has led to greater respect of man's dignity. For example, the Christian communities, with their patrimonies of values and principles, have contributed strongly to individuals' and peoples' awareness of their identity and dignity, as well as to the triumph of the institutions of the State of law and to the affirmation of the rights of man and of his corresponding duties.

In this perspective, it is important that believers, today as yesterday, feel free to offer their contribution to the promotion of the just regulation of human realities, not only through a responsible commitment at the civil, economic and political level, but also through the witness of their charity and faith.

A third challenge on which the Holy See would like to call the attention of this assembly concerns the prolongation of the global economic and financial crisis. We all know that a fundamental element of the present crisis is the ethical deficit of economic structures. Ethics is not an external element of the economy and the economy does not have a future if it does not take into account the moral element: in other words, the ethical dimension is fundamental to address the economic problems. The economy not only functions through a self-regulation of the market and much less so through agreements that are limited to reconcile the interests of the most powerful; it has need of an ethical reason to function at the service of man. The idea of producing resources and goods, namely, the economy, and of managing them in a strategic way, namely political, without trying to do good through the same actions, that is, without ethics, becomes a naïve and cynical illusion, always fatal. In fact, every economic decision has a moral consequence. The economy needs ethics to function correctly, not just of any ethic, but of an ethic centered on the person and able to offer prospects to the new generations. Economic and commercial activities oriented to development should be able to make poverty diminish effectively and to alleviate the sufferings of the most unprotected. In this connection, the Holy See encourages the reinforcement of public aid to development, in keeping with the commitments assumed at Gleneagles. And my Delegation has the hope that the discussions on this topic, in view of the forthcoming high-level talks on the "Financing of Development," will bring the expected results. Moreover, the Holy See has stressed on several occasions the importance of a new and profound reflection on the meaning of the economy and its objectives, as well as a far-sighted revision of the global financial and commercial architecture to correct the problems of functioning and the distortions. This revision of the international economic rules must be integrated in the framework of the elaboration of a new global model of development. In reality, it is exacted by the planet's ecological state of health, and required above all by the cultural and moral crisis of man, whose symptoms have been evident everywhere for a long time.

This reflection should also inspire the working sessions of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) of the forthcoming month of June, with the conviction that "the human being must be the center of the concerns for sustainable development," as it is affirmed in the first principle of the 1992 Rio Declaration on the environment and development. The sense of responsibility and the safeguarding of the environment should be guided by the awareness of being a "family of nations." The idea of "family" evokes immediately something more than simply functional relations or simple convergence of interests.

By its nature a family is a community based on interdependence, on trust and mutual aid, in sincere respect. Its full development is based not on the supremacy of the strongest, but on attention to the weakest and marginalized, and its responsibility is enlarged to the future generations. Respect for development should make us more attentive to the needs of the most underprivileged peoples; it should create a strategy in favor of a development centered on persons, fostering solidarity and the responsibility of all, including future generations.

This strategy must benefit from the UN Conference to analyze the Treaty on Arms Trade, planned for 2012. Arms trade that is not regulated or transparent has important negative repercussions. It stops integral human development, increases the risk of conflicts, especially internal ones, and of instability, and promotes a culture of violence and impunity, often linked to criminal activities, such as drug trafficking, the traffic in human beings and piracy, which are ever more serious international problems. The results of the present process of the Treaty on Arms Trade will be a test to measure the real will of States to assume their moral and juridical responsibility in this field. The international community must endeavor to reach a Treaty for the Arms Trade that is effective and applicable, conscious of the great number of people that are affected by the illegal trade of arms and munitions, as well as of their sufferings. In fact, the main objective of the Treaty should not only be the regulation of the trade of conventional arms or become an obstacle of the black market, but also and above all it should have as objective to protect human life and build a world more respectful of human dignity.

Mr. President:

Your contribution to the building of a world more respectful of human dignity will demonstrate the effective capacity of the UN to fulfill its mission, whose objective is to help the "family of nations" and to pursue common objectives of peace, security, and an integral human development for all.

The Holy See's concern is also directed to the events taking place in some countries of North Africa and the Middle East.

I would like to renew here the appeal of the Holy Father Benedict XVI so that all citizens, in particular young people, do everything possible to promote the common good and to build societies in which poverty is overcome and in which every political option is inspired in respect of the human person; societies in which peace and concord will triumph over division, hatred and violence.

A last observation concerns the request for recognition of Palestine as a member State of the United Nations, presented here on September 23 by the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas. The Holy See considers this initiative in the perspective of the attempts to find a definitive solution, with the support of the international community, to the question already addressed by Resolution 181 of the United Nations General Assembly, dated November 29, 1947. This fundamental document lays the juridical basis for the existence of two States. One of them was already created, while the other has yet to be constituted, despite the fact that almost sixty-four years have passed. The Holy See is convinced that, if one wants peace, one must be able to adopt courageous decisions. It is necessary that the competent organs of the United Nations make a decision that helps to get underway effectively the final objective, namely, the realization of the right of Palestinians to have their own independent and sovereign State, and the right of Israelis to security, both States being provided with borders that are recognized internationally.

The answer of the United Nations, whatever it is, will not be a complete solution, and a lasting peace will only be achieved through negotiations in good faith between Israelis and Palestinians avoiding actions or conditions that contradict the statements of good will. Consequently, the Holy See exhorts the parties to return to negotiations with determination and makes an urgent appeal to the international community to increase its commitment and stimulate its creativity and initiatives, so that a lasting peace is reached, in respect of the rights of Israelis and Palestinians.

Thank you, Mr. President