Holy See to UN: No Need to Reinvent the Wheel; Family Is Solution to Poverty

"It is within the family that the next generation of humanity is welcomed, fed, clothed, and provided for"

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Here is the intervention of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations given Monday at the 10th Session of the Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals. It is on Cluster 1 “Poverty Eradication and Promoting Equality.”

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Mr. Co-Chair,

  The importance that all States place on poverty eradication is abundantly manifest from the opening lines of The Future We Want, which unequivocally considers poverty eradication to constitute “the greatest global challenge facing the world today” and “an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.”[1]

The Holy See, which actively participated in this negotiated outcome, stands resolutely with all of you in this conviction. Pope Francis wrote recently that “[t]he need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good order of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises.[2]

Fortunately, in this regard we do not need to reinvent the wheel. Through trial-and-error, society itself has developed what the Secretary-General calls its own “basic building block”:[3] the family. It is within the family that the next generation of humanity is welcomed, fed, clothed, and provided for. Setting a development agenda for the next 15 years is a powerful gesture of intergenerational solidarity. The future we want becomes, then, the future we want for our children and our children’s children. In the very paragraph where Rio + 20 decided to launch this intergovernmental process, it is extremely instructive to note how it immediately stressed that “we will also consider the need for promoting intergenerational solidarity for the achievement of sustainable development, taking into account the needs of future generations, including by inviting the Secretary General to present a report on this issue.”[4]

The Secretary-General has not been remiss in this regard. In numerous reports,[5] he highlights the centrality of the family for poverty eradication and sustainable development. “The family,” he rightly observes, “remains the basic societal unit of reproduction, consumption, asset-building and – in many parts of the world – production.”[6] My delegation recognizes that it can be irksome for some, as Pope Francis has also acknowledged, “when the question of ethics is raised, when global solidarity is invoked… [and even, at times, that] these issues are exploited by a rhetoric which cheapens them.” Nevertheless, obstinacy in recognizing the obvious role of the family in eradicating poverty and addressing its causes with family-sensitive policies that bolster the stability of this most fundamental of societal institutions is highly irresponsible and ultimately counter-productive on the part of governments.

Recognizing, as does Rio + 20, that “people are at the centre of sustainable development”[7] one does not need to look far for those who are the most urgently affected by the scourge of poverty and hunger, namely: women, children and the youth. To these, the Secretary-General recommends adding, as a post-2015 development priority, the family. This is a recommendation my delegation can wholeheartedly support. With him, we call upon States to recognize that adding the family as a cross-cutting priority to the post-2015 development agenda could constitute “a progressive step”,[8]since this is currently insufficiently addressed in this process.

Pope Benedict XVI considered charity to be “the principle not only of micro-relationships (with friends, with family members or within small groups) but also of macro-relationships (social, economic and political ones)”.[9] To this, his successor, Pope Francis, adds: “I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor! It is vital that government leaders and financial leaders take heed and broaden their horizons.”[10]

Thank you, Mr. Co-Chair.

[1] Rio +20, The Future We Want, 2.

[2] Evangelii gaudium, 202.

[3] A/67/61 at para. 4.

[4] Rio +20, The Future We Want, 86.

[5] A/69/61, A/68/61, A/67/61.

[6] A/68/61at para. 5.

[7] Rio +20, The Future We Want, 6.

[8] A/69/61 at para 67.

[9] Caritas in veritate, 2.

[10] Evangelii gaudium, 205.