Vatican Paper to Preparatory Committee for Development Summit

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 13, 2002 ( Here is the paper that the Vatican delegation issued in Bali, Indonesia, during the May 27-June 7 preparatory meeting for the World Summit for Sustainable Development. The summit will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from Aug. 26 to Sept. 4.

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Paper of the Holy See To the IV Preparatory Committee Meeting for the World Summit for Sustainable Development
Bali, May 27 - June 7, 2002


1. The World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD), meeting 10 years after the Rio Earth Summit, provides the nations of the world with an opportunity to assess the progress made in the last decade, to reinforce the positive gains made while reducing the negative elements that still persist.

Addressing the three pillars of sustainable development -- the economic, the social and the environmental -- the WSSD endeavors to safeguard and improve the material conditions that will be passed on to future generations of all societies. This endeavor will be even more praiseworthy if it is a true sign of human solidarity, bridging important national, cultural, generational, and other differences, on behalf of the common good, which obviously includes the preservation and cultivation of the earth´s resources. To achieve this, any society must be rooted in solid ethical values or it is without direction and lacks the necessary foundations upon which the sought-after development can be built and sustained. These efforts are best directed in finding ways to better order human society by guaranteeing basic requirements of justice, human rights, peace and freedom. The WSSD will prove to be a worthy contribution to an improved state of the world if it can successfully balance and indeed prioritize its efforts to improve the living conditions of all.

Sustainable Development as a part of Integral Human Development

2. The concept of sustainable development is taken to mean the process of meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This concept has to be understood from the perspective of integral human development. "The development we speak of cannot be restricted to economic growth alone. To be authentic, it must be well rounded; it must foster the development of each human being and of the whole human being." The WSSD must take care to ensure that sustainable development efforts explicitly serve the integral development of the human person.

All institutions, especially those of an international scope, may be tempted to place their own preservation above all else and at the expense of serving those they were meant to serve. Once an institution does this, it loses its primary objective and purpose. The principle to follow is not that of allowing economic, social and political factors to prevail over the human being, but for the dignity of the human person to be put above everything else.

Recognizing Human Dignity as a Basis for Sustainable Development

3. The first principle of the Rio Declaration states: "Human beings are at the center of sustainable development concerns"; as such it is the starting point for the discussion of sustainable development and must be recognized as the basis for the work of the WSSD. It helps focus the special responsibility human beings have not only to each other but for the environment.

Following the principle of human dignity is the complete notion of human ecology, which rests primarily on ensuring and safeguarding moral conditions in the action of the human being in the environment. It must also be noted that the "first and fundamental structure for ´human ecology´ is the family, in which man receives his first formative ideas about truth and goodness, and learns what it means to love and to be loved, and thus what it actually means to be a person." In this context, particular attention should be given to a "social ecology" of work.

Globalization, Cultural Identity and Sustainable Development

4. The setting of the WSSD is that of a globalizing world, characterized by the growing integration of economies and societies. Here, it is necessary to recall that "globalization, a priori, is neither good nor bad. It will be what people make of it. No system is an end in itself, and it is necessary to insist that globalization, like any other system, must be at the service of the human person; it must serve solidarity and the common good."

There are concerns that globalization has also become a cultural phenomenon, where the individual has begun to doubt his own ability and aptitude to really shape the milieu in which he lives, and the things he has created. Accordingly, sustainable development must be based on a solid ethical basis that respects the diversity and importance of cultures, which are "life´s interpretative keys. In particular, it must not deprive the poor of what remains most precious to them, including their religious beliefs and practices, since genuine religious convictions are the clearest manifestations of human freedom."

It is also possible that greater integration brings cultures closer together, more in the form of mutual exchange rather than a clash, and often promotes greater understanding and interdependence among cultures. While the sudden intermingling of cultures may bring out social tensions and antagonisms, a more complete understanding of the role of culture in human development and a more sincere "dialogue among cultures and civilizations" may help lessen these difficulties.

Important Issues for the WSSD

5.a. It is absolutely necessary to give priority to poverty eradication with respect to both human dignity and solidarity. A necessary element in affirming human dignity is to ensure that the poor are seen as active participants in poverty eradication efforts. There is a distinct possibility that too many of the schemes currently under discussion look at the poor simply as a problem rather than as potentially productive and creative actors in society.

5.b. The delivery of employment opportunities, education, basic health care and adequate shelter is crucial. Forms of social insurance and worker re-training that protect the vulnerable while also providing timely and efficient incentives for continual advancement are needed.

5.c. New patterns of consumption and production should be examined and promoted in accordance with the principles of human dignity and solidarity. Within the concept of environmental stewardship, it is the human person who exercises power, intelligence and responsibility to help order the world. This concept can be further developed by promoting systems that allow for the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.

5.d. Since more than half of the world´s population still lives in rural areas and the rural poor lack access to the most basic social services, they must be given increased attention and consideration. The rise of and priority given to modern urbanization often has been the cause for the rural populations to be forgotten. This makes their addressing of basic human needs very difficult and results in limited consideration for environmental sustainability. Rural development merits being given higher priority in sustainable development concerns.

5.e. Water is a fundamental necessity for life,. Adequate supplies of water of good quality need to be ensured for everyone. However, too many people have no access to clean drinking water and sanitation. This has tremendous negative health and development effects. Increased access to fresh water will bring more food, less starvation, better health and a general boost to sustainable development.

Solidarity: more effective international cooperation

6. Solidarity is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good. Much more than vague promises of support or feelings of compassion, solidarity has a spiritual quality that must become more deeply rooted in our approach to international problems. Pope John Paul II has called for a "globalization of solidarity," which ensures that globalization will not take place to the detriment of the least favored and the weakest if it is based on a complete conception of the human person, on a adequate understanding of the dignity and rights of the person. To the extent that the WSSD identifies issues of global concern, especially poverty eradication, there is a need "for rethinking international cooperation in terms of a new culture of solidarity."

Efforts towards international governance in the area of sustainable development will help to produce a more coherent framework for development, especially if based on a common set of principles and adopt measures to ensure transparency and accountability. There is a need "for effective international agencies [to] oversee and direct the economy to the common good Š [and to] give sufficient support and consideration to peoples and countries which have little weight in the international market but which are burdened by the most acute and desperate needs." But without a clear set of priorities and a more definite plan of implementation, any agreement reached will be in danger of remaining unfulfilled. Once again, a solid ethical basis for sustainable development will help clarify the most urgent priorities and sharpen the focus of the WSSD.

The Principle of Subsidiarity

7. The WSSD process must ensure that States have the primary responsibility for their own sustainable development with respect to the principle of subsidiarity. As cases of assistance become more necessary, as much respect as possible for the rightful autonomy and capacity for the self-determination of the person or community being assisted ought to be preserved. Should a State be incapable of meeting its development needs, others are obliged to come to its assistance. This principle applies especially to the efforts towards international sustainable development governance mentioned above, and is vitally important for the preservation of cultural identity.

The calls of the WSSD to promote good governance are significant, especially with regard to fighting corruption, promoting more participatory systems, establishing well-functioning bureaucracies and regulatory systems, enforcing laws, and protecting human rights. Certainly States can do more to enrich the notion of political community and encourage the active and responsible involvement of persons in public affairs and decision-making. These efforts can indeed greatly improve the chances for sustainable development.

Future Challenges

8. In terms of material progress, the WSSD has the opportunity to increase the gains already made in the last 10 years. There have been nearly universal improvements in areas such as life expectancy at birth, infant mortality and under-5 mortality rates, nourishment, literacy, school enrolment, income, gender equality, environmental sustainability and democracy. Even more promising are recent findings that technology can be a leading engine, and not only a result, of human development. Building on this progress is surely a form of sustainable development, as future generations will inherit superior living standards. A main priority should be to include least developed countries in the expanding circle of productivity and exchange. While there are many complex reasons why these countries have not progressed at the same rate of other developing countries; there are a number of steps that could be taken to improve their situation.

8.a. Following the Doha Ministerial meeting, a new round of multilateral trade negotiations aimed at promoting development has been launched. The main focus is to lower trade barriers, especially those that keep the good and services of developing countries out of developed markets but these barriers also affect trade between developing countries. International agreements must be respected and implemented; at the same time, labor and environmental concerns should not be used as protectionist measures by the developed countries. Rather, developing countries should be encouraged to implement stronger environmental regulations as their incomes rise and in line with their national circumstances.

8.b. Developing countries must take steps to provide a better governing infrastructure for sustainable development. The lack of stable institutions and sound policies is often a cause of poverty, one that even increased levels of development assistance cannot overcome. Corruption must be considered a scandal and a major impediment to development. Other aspects of good governance, such as the delivery of adequate education and health services, and the availability of social services that provide temporary relief and re-training for displaced workers, are also necessary. Given the persistent levels of rural poverty in developing countries, rural development cannot be neglected.

8.c. Foreign assistance should be increased and better managed. Although it is just one aspect of international development financing, Overall Development Assistance (ODA) is declining. The recommendations of the Monterrey Conference to enhance the coherence and consistency of international monetary, financial and trading systems in support of development are notable. Private capital flows and foreign direct investment should also be encouraged, with respect to the recipient countries´ long-term needs.

These three widely-recognized steps -- lowering trade barriers, improving the governing infrastructure, and increasing foreign assistance -- should be reinforced at the WSSD, and as far as possible, implemented with a renewed sense of moral purpose and urgency.

The Gift of Self

9. Human dignity is based on the uniqueness of the human being from the rest of creation; that of being made in the image and likeness of God. This however does not entitle the person to be selfish. "This likeness shows that man, the only creature on earth that God wanted for its own sake, cannot fully find himself except in sincere self-giving." The gift of self ultimately ensures the well being of others and of future generations.

The human person is created free precisely in order to be able to give himself to others. This self-giving forms the basis of marriage and family life, the first communion of persons through which we all enter the world. This is also the basis of other types of voluntary associations and partnerships which the WSSD wishes to promote. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that every sign of corruption and abuse in the world is a result of selfishness and pride, the very opposites of self-giving.

In the context of sustainability, it must be recalled that members of future generations depend on the gift of self as well, for they rely on the present generation to exercise self-mastery and responsibility. Young people especially rely on the generous sacrifices of others in their education. In a most basic way, self-restraint and dedication to others are bound together, and even seemingly small forms of human love and charity can indeed have great social consequences. In a fundamental and often over-looked way, the gift of self is the noblest use of human freedom and the basis for all actions toward integral human development.


1) Pope Paul VI, Populorum progressio, n. 14.

2) Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, n. 39.

3) Ibid., n. 38.

4) Pope John Paul II, Address to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, 27 April 2001, n. 2.

5) Ibid., n. 4.

6) Cf., Pope John Paul II, Message for the 2001 World Day of Peace.

7) "[W]e realize that the major economic problems of our time do not depend on a lack of resources but on the fact that present economic, social and cultural structures are ill-equipped to meet the demands of genuine development. Rightly then, the poor, both in developing countries and in the prosperous and wealthy countries, ´ask for the right to share in enjoying material goods and to make good use of their capacity to work, thus creating a world that is more just and prosperous for all. The advancement of the poor constitutes a great opportunity for the moral, cultural and even economic growth of all humanity.´ Let us look at the poor not as a problem, but as people who can become the principal builders of a new and more human future for everyone" (Message of Pope John Paul II for the 2000 World Day of Peace, n. 14).

8) Cf., Pope John Paul II, Address to the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, 11 April 2002, n. 3-4.

9) Message of Pope John Paul II for the 2000 World Day of Peace, n. 17.

10) Pope John Paul II, Centesimus annus, n. 58.

11)"Just as it is wrong to withdraw from the individual and commit to the community at large what private enterprise and industry can accomplish, so too it is an injustice, a grave evil and a disturbance of right order for a larger and higher organization to arrogate to itself functions which can be performed efficiently by smaller and lower bodies" (Pope Pius XI, Quadragesimo anno, n. 185).

12) Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes, n. 24.

13) Ibid., n. 25.

14) Pope John Paul II, Evangelium vitae, n. 86.