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Friday, 9 July 2004


I am most pleased to personally welcome all of you who have accepted the invitation of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace to take part in this important Seminar on "Poverty and Globalization:  Financing for Development, including the Millennium Development Goals". A particular greeting goes to the representatives of international financial institutions, Ministers of Finance and Development of various countries and the representatives of international organisations, Catholic and non-Catholic, who will accompany us with their reflections. I especially thank for his presence and for the collaboration of his Ministry, the Right Honourable Gordon Brown, who, with the IFF initiative, is in some way at the origin of this Seminar.

It is easy to grasp the sense and dynamic of our reflection from our programme of work. The focus is given to issues connected with "the new sources of financing" to achieve and implement the Millennium Development Goals. Among these we particularly intend to underline the question of foreign debt, one of the pastoral concerns of the Catholic Church that had a strong impact on world public opinion during the Great Jubilee Year of 2000. I would like to recall the great commitment of this Dicastery to raise the debt issue with representatives of the Catholic Church inviting them to collaborate with their governments to realize the programme of The World Bank known as "Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers" (PRSPs).

All of you know that the crisis of highly-indebted poor countries is a crisis almost completely African, affecting countries trapped in a spiral of poverty that feeds itself.

These countries are often involved in bloody conflicts, faced with enormous health emergencies, with fragile economic structures sometimes wholly dependent on the exportation of a few raw materials with falling prices. This crisis is all-the-more difficult to resolve because it does not disturb foreign financial markets or creditors, whether they are countries or institutions, for whom the debt of poor countries is a very small thing.(1)

The question of the debt of highly-indebted poor countries is, therefore, an exquisitely political one, and not a question of market. The most realistic element on which blame can be attributed for the debt crisis is inertia, inaction, non-involvement, a relations network characterized by widespread irresponsibility and routine behaviour. Pardoning the debts of the poorest countries is obviously not enough to solve the current real problems of their development. Still, the remission of debt can be an occasion for creditors and debtors to rethink and firmly involve themselves in the solution of the problems.

The question of financing for development is the other central and significant theme of our Seminar. Here, the framing of rules and global institutions and the actions taken to combat poverty are visibly connected. The question of financing for development was the specific subject of the Monterrey Conference (March 2002), which signalled the emergence of a significant consensus to consolidate a partnership between developed and developing countries, based on the sharing of opportunities and responsibilities. The determination of these common objectives and the expression of good will are important results to note and to which all actors can contribute.

From this perspective, Official Development Assistance is one indispensable instrument which must be expanded, both quantitatively and qualitatively for an ever-closer collaboration among bilateral and multilateral public agencies, non-governmental organizations, public authorities, and civil society in recipient countries. In Monterrey, developed countries committed themselves to reversing the decline of ODA.(2) It must be noted with disappointment that the most recent data show that the commitment of developed countries to allocate a promised percentage (0.7%) of their GNP for development cooperation has not yet been adequately implemented. I would also like to add that this concerns not only the quantitative aspect of available financial resources. From the qualitative point of view, development cooperation suffers from bureaucratic delays, with supervisory and evaluatory conditions imposed on recipient countries by donors, who do so on the basis of their own internal policies and not to help the recipient develop their own realistic and effective procedures.(3)

In the broad context of the issues concerning ODA, our Seminar will dwell above all on new proposals for financing development. The initiatives of some governments will be taken into consideration. Among these is the International Finance Facility, proposed by the British Government and to which the Holy Father Pope John Paul II has promised the moral support of the Holy See.(4) Still other initiatives propose to make recourse to taxation at the international and/or national levels.

The entire issue of financing for development must be based on the intention of giving a perspective of hope to the new millennium, a perspective of hope above all to the poor. The new millennium began with a wide consensus on the commitment to promote development and fight poverty. This consensus was formalized in the Declaration of the Millennium Development Goals, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in the fall of 2000. Such objectives were formulated with specific reference to quantitative indicators to reduce absolute poverty, improve access to health and education, better the situation of women and children, promote environmental quality and international cooperation for development between 1990 and 2015. The commitment to pursue the MDGs was again confirmed on other important occasions, such as the Monterrey Conference in March 2002 and the Johannesburg Summit in August 2002. There were also the actions of UNCTAD and the Doha Ministerial Declaration in November 2001, which launched a new round of trade negotiations further discussed in Cancun in September 2003, all of which identified the interests of developing countries as the centre of the negotiating process for a sustainable development.

The final aim of our Seminar is to find common and united actions and to adopt with great strength, incisiveness, and concreteness all those initiatives that can resolve the dramatic situation of so many poor. In this regard, it seems to me that the present urgency consists in identifying the persons, instruments and methods suitable to contributing to their realistic and sustainable implementation. In all this, the recognition of the centrality of the human person, above all the poor in the great economic and social processes, is of utmost importance. These processes are not merely mechanical in nature. This element is part of the great tradition of the social doctrine of the Church, expert in humanity, and is also confirmed by the more insightful studies of economic and social research.

I wish all of you a good and productive Seminar.


1) It is worth noting that, for highly-indebted poor countries, more than 80 percent of their debt is owed to official bilateral (54%) and multilateral (29%) lenders, and in large part is contracted directly by the local government or by agencies under public authorities.

2) The United States and the European Union committed themselves to increase ODA by about 15 billion dollars; the EU is committed to increase from 0.33% to 0.39% the share of its GNP to development cooperation by 2006.

3) The costs of the reporting requirements of development cooperation is of vast dimensions: $4 billion a year in Africa alone. A single African country can be required to compile 4,000 reports a year for donors and receive three visits a week from development agencies. The improved functioning of development cooperation is a concrete and urgent task:  the number of actual projects is more than 63,000, conducted on the basis of very diverse approaches and criteria, such as the evaluation of social and environmental impacts. Many projects have the same objectives and are redundant, others follow desirable objectives but fail due to competing pressures. The principle of subsidiarity is applicable, not only as a workable solution, but above all as a root of understanding why and how to operate.

4) Cf., Speech to the new Ambassador of Denmark, 12 December 2003, and the Speech for the presentation of the Letters of Credence of the Ambassador of Suriname, 26 May 2004.