Pope Urges Initiatives to Fund Development of Poor Nations

Recipients of Aid Must Be Accountable, He Says

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 9, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II encouraged the initiatives of international organizations and governments, in particular the richest, to fund development in poor countries.



At the same time, the Pope reiterated the Church's preferential option for the poor and asked for "transparency and accountability" from those countries in the "use made of such assistance."

The Holy Father's proposals were sent in a message to the participants in the international seminar on "Poverty and Globalization: Financing for Development, Including the Millennium Development Goals." The seminar took place today under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

One of those development goals, agreed to by the community of nations, is to halve, by the year 2015, the number of people stuck in poverty.

Referring to the Church, the Pope in his message said: "Through the many Catholic aid and development agencies she makes her own contribution to relief efforts, thereby continuing the work of Christ himself, who came to bring good news to the poor, to feed the hungry, to serve and not to be served."

"What is needed now is a new 'creativity' in charity so that ever more effective ways may be found of achieving a more just distribution of the world's resources," he suggested.

"Much work has already been done to reduce the burden of debt afflicting poor countries," the Holy Father said, "but more is needed if developing nations are to escape from the crippling effects of under-investment and if developed countries are to fulfill their duty of solidarity with their less fortunate brothers and sisters in other parts of the world."

"In the short to medium term, a commitment to increase foreign aid seems the only way forward, and the Church therefore welcomes the search for innovative solutions, such as the International Finance Facility," he added.

Gordon Brown, chancellor of the Exchequer, illustrated this initiative, promoted by the British government, to the participants.

Brown explained that the project seeks to collect, over 10 years, $50 billion a year through the emission of obligations in the international capital markets.

The funds will be allocated to improve conditions in hospitals and schools of poor countries, Brown said. He added that the project has received the support of numerous nations.

Great Britain, Brown announced, is committed to sponsoring the project next year among the seven most industrialized countries and Russia, the Group of Eight.

The Church, the Pope said, also "encourages other initiatives being sponsored in many parts of the world both by various organizations of the United Nations and by individual governments."

Foreign aid also calls for commitments by the recipient countries, he said. "At the same time, financial support from wealthy nations places an obligation on the receiver to demonstrate transparency and accountability in the use made of such assistance."

"I am confident that the governments of rich and poor countries alike will take seriously their responsibilities towards each other and towards their people," he concluded.

When announcing the meeting, Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, explained that the Holy See hopes to establish a "Coalition of Support and Promotion for the Funding of Development."

"We would like the developed world to fulfill its commitment acquired 30 years ago of giving 0.7% of its gross national product to the development of poor countries," he told Vatican Radio.

"When civil society mobilizes, governments listen, as, after all, it is civil society that elects governments," the cardinal concluded.

Among the participants in the seminar were Jean-Pierre Landau, who headed the French government's working group for the funding of development, and Oscar Rojas, executive coordinator of U.N. funding for development.

Among the ecclesial representatives were Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster; Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C.