The Holy See
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Monday, 7 April 2003


Madame Chairperson,

My Delegation wishes to address, under this agenda item, the question of extreme poverty within the context of globalization. The fact that extreme poverty exists in all parts of the world is a sharp reminder that globalization in its current form - with all its benefits and opportunities - has not produced a broad-based system of inclusion. The concentration and intensity of extreme poverty in certain regions of the world are among the most potent symbols of the unacceptable inequalities which still exist in our world today.

Inclusion should be a distinguishing mark of a human rights approach to poverty reduction, an approach which stresses the indivisibility and universality of human rights, through placing the integral dignity of each human person and the unity of the family of humankind at its centre.

A human rights approach to the fight against poverty must distinguish itself by fostering policies which treat persons as creative subjects of their own lives. Every person ought to have the possibility of sharing in the benefits and the opportunities of globalization, through being an acting protagonist of the fundamental choices which belong to him or her as a person. Practices which inhibit women from assuming an active role in society, with the same legal protection as men, should be addressed.

A human rights approach to fighting poverty in the era of globalization must look at the person, as Pope John Paul II recalls (Centesimus Annus, 40) within the context of "those qualitative needs which cannot be satisfied by market mechanisms alone". It is useful, in this context, to recall that when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights speaks of remuneration for work (Art. 23, 3) and of an adequate standard of living (Art. 25, 1) it does not treat the person simply as an individual, but in the context of that network of needs and responsibilities linked with his or her family.

Extreme poverty is an affront to human dignity and a de-facto violation of human rights. A human rights approach must stress the fundamental responsibilities of States to provide an appropriate legislative and policy environment which favours human development for all. States must guarantee assistance so that basic needs are met and that a minimum of services are made available. But this is not enough. A human rights approach to the fight against poverty must be in the forefront in the move forward from policies of assistentialism, to policies of enhancing human capacity, of enabling all to realise their God-given potential.

To do this, it is necessary that people living in poverty be involved directly in the policy decisions which affect them and their families. It is probably only through listening to the poor that we can fully understand what the experience of poverty entails. For people living in poverty to be active partners in the fight against poverty, they require above all voice, recognition, security and inclusion.

A human rights approach to fighting poverty must therefore involve and engage directly those living in poverty. Being deprived of access to income or basic human services does not render the person living in poverty any less human. The fact that a person lives in poverty does not mean that others should decide his or her best interests.

In the past, many international development programmes, for example in the area of debt reduction, have failed because of their lack of sensitivity to local knowledge and to local ownership. Pro-poor policies have often overlooked the extraordinary creativity which persons living in poverty show simply in trying to survive and offer a better future to their children. Such creativity must be utilized for a more productive human future.

Allow me in concluding, Madame Chairperson, to recall that today one cannot talk about extreme poverty without addressing the dramatic crisis of HIV/AIDS in certain regions, especially in Africa. Here again, a primary requirement is to recognize the person suffering with HIV/AIDS fully as a person, a brother and a sister, who has the same right as any other to voice, security, recognition and inclusion. The fight against poverty must involve a fight against any stigmatisation of the victims of HIV/AIDS and against any discrimination which fails to recognize their inherent dignity and personhood.

*L’Osservatore Romano, 12.4.2003 p.2.

L'Osservatore Romano. Weekly Edition in English n.17 p.6.