Holy See's Address to UN on Poverty Eradication

"Authentic Development Requires Fostering the Development of Each Human Being"

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NEW YORK, FEB. 15, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address delivered last Friday by Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, to the 49th session of the Commission for Social Development of the U.N. Economic and Social Council. The theme of the meeting was "Poverty Eradication."


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Mr. Chairman,

At the outset my Delegation extends its best wishes to you and the Bureau for a productive session and looks forward to a successful discussion on the important theme of poverty eradication.

The subject of poverty eradication is of supreme importance to the Holy See. Motivated by the "preferential option for the poor," the Holy See currently works in every region of the world to achieve poverty eradication for all people.

The last two decades have seen continued progress towards addressing and reducing global poverty. However, this progress remains uneven with many regions of the world still failing to see substantial progress and over one billion people still living in extreme poverty and hunger. For example, over 1.5 billion have no access to electricity, and over one billion still live without access to clean water. After the World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen (12 March 1995), the global community sees evidence of hope and optimism in the field of social development. Nevertheless, against the backdrop of the recent world economic and financial crisis, millions of our brothers and sisters go hungry every day and struggle amidst surmounting poverty.

The international community urgently needs to find proposals for a durable and enduring solution to this problem. At the Copenhagen Summit, the Holy See promoted a vision of social development which is "political, economic, ethical and spiritual... with full respect for religious and ethical values and the cultural patrimony of persons". My delegation continues to believe that this heuristic view of human development is necessary; development cannot be measured only in terms of economic growth and eradication of poverty cannot be based only on measurable economic outcome. Rather, authentic development requires fostering the development of each human being and of the whole human being.

Without the accompanying ethical and spiritual dimension, social development lacks the necessary foundation upon which it should be built and sustained. At the centre of development is recognizing the dignity of the human person and ensuring full respect for man's innate dignity and fundamental rights. This ethical foundation must link individuals, families, generations, and peoples – irrespective of class and distinction that are based on politics, economic position or social status. This calls for renewed forms of cooperation and a more decisive commitment by all. In that sense, the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is the human person in his or her integrity: "[the] human being is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life."

As we prepare for the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family, drafting a programme for social development must give due recognition to the most basic social institution, the human family, founded on marriage. The institution of the family, which is a sine qua non for preparing the future generation, is being challenged by many factors in the modern world and the family needs to be defended and safeguarded. Children should not be seen as a burden but instead must be recognized as irreplaceable gifts. We must also acknowledge publicly that they are the builders of future generations. Often overlooked are the procreative and educational mission of parents and the intergenerational engagement experienced best in families.  When a society is deprived of its basic unit, the family, and the social relationships that emerge from it, great psychological and spiritual suffering, even amidst economic and social well-being, can ensue.

As Pope Benedict XVI, stated: "It is thus becoming a social and even economic necessity once more to hold up to future generations the beauty of marriage and the family, and the fact that these institutions correspond to the deepest needs and dignity of the person. In view of this, States are called to enact policies promoting the centrality and the integrity of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, the primary vital cell of society, and to assume responsibility for its economic and fiscal needs, while respecting its essentially relational character."

While policy makers often state that population growth is detrimental to development, the reality is that where economic growth has increased, it is often accompanied with population increases. In developed regions, we are now witnessing dwindling and ageing populations and many nations are struggling to maintain social services and economic growth as the ratio of workers to non-workers decreases. In the developing regions, we are witnessing an unprecedented decline in fertility / birth rate – a decline advocated often as the best means to achieve development. However, many nations in the developing world are now at risk of "growing old before they grow rich."

The future generations of children and youth are in fact the best and only means of overcoming social and economic problems. Poverty is caused not by too many children, but by too little investment and support in the development of children.  Human history teaches us that if there is sufficient investment in children they will grow up to contribute far in excess of what they have consumed, thereby raising the standard of living for all. It is their strong hands and able minds that will feed the hungry, cure the sick, and build homes for the homeless. Societies and humanity itself need an internal support and substratum to survive. But if this natural support is threatened, the culture will wither. In brief, promoting a culture that is open to life and based on the family is fundamental to realizing the full potential and the authentic development of the society for both today and the future.

Furthermore, social integration policies must be motivated by the common good, which goes beyond the good of the individual but must include all elements of society: individuals, families and intermediate groups who together constitute the society. As such, even at this international level, we must be mindful of the essential role of smaller social groups, starting with the family, in poverty eradication. International efforts should foster and augment, not replace, the legitimate function of intermediate groups at the local level. The common good belongs to the entire social community and the whole human family.
In the proper effort for promoting social integration for the entire human family, globalization has provided new avenues for economic and civil cooperation; however, "as society becomes ever more globalized, it makes us neighbours but does not make us brothers and sisters". An authentic and durable social development can be attained through real social measures and incentives originating from fraternal solidarity and charity.

Some of the biggest challenges to social integration and cohesion are, first, the inequality in wealth and incomes as well as in human capital and education, and second, the lack of access to all sectors of society especially by the poor and other disregarded groups such as women and children.  Increasing disparities in income and access to economic growth have limited the effectiveness of economic growth in reducing poverty. While informal social protection mechanisms have played a vital role in fostering a more just economic civil system, efforts to expand social programs in education, health care for the ageing, disabled and the other needy sectors of the society must be done in a manner which promotes the essential right to life and which respects the freedom of conscience of service providers who care for those in need. Moreover, social protection programs must avoid creating dependency; rather, they should seek to provide assistance and the tools necessary to promote individual and community renewal and self-support. In the familial and other informal social protection mechanisms, NGOs and local religious organizations can play an important role.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, my delegation would like to draw attention to the plight of migrants. In these troubled times, extra efforts are needed to defend their human rights and to respect their inalienable human dignity. Social integration and poverty eradication programs must take into account the millions of these brothers and sisters who are destined to live outside of their own country and on the margins of the societies. Full respect for their fundamental rights, including their rights as workers, must be duly ensured by countries of transition and destination. Social justice demands favourable working conditions for these souls, ensuring their psychological stability, avoiding new forms of economic marginalization and guaranteeing their individual freedom and creativity.

In conclusion, what is needed today is a strategic approach towards poverty eradication based on true social justice in order to help reduce the suffering of millions of our brothers and sisters. Authentic social development policies must address not only the economic and political needs, but also the spiritual and ethical dimension of each human person. In this manner, every individual in the society can be free from all forms of poverty, both material and spiritual.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.