The Holy See
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New York
Friday, 11 February 2005


Mr President,

Almost 10 years ago the Secretary of State of the Holy See said in Copenhagen:  "A society which is not rooted in solid ethical values is a society without direction. It lacks the necessary foundation upon which the sought-after social development can be built and sustained. For this reason the Holy See is pleased to recognize that, right from the outset of the formulation of the Principles of the Declaration of this Summit, the commitment to promote a vision of social development which is "political, economic, ethical and spiritual'... has been emphasized" (Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Address at Copenhagen Summit, 12 March 1995, n. 3; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 15 March 1995, p. 2).

I would like today to confirm the validity of this affirmation in the specific context of the fight for the elimination of poverty. Indeed, this vision of development is close to the Catholic Church's conception of it as the integral "development of each human being and of the whole human being" expressed by Pope Paul VI (Populorum Progressio, n. 14). It is the only view that can produce strategies for fighting poverty that respect human dignity.

We know that since then the vision of social development - facing reality with a reasonable desire to be effective - has lost this all-embracing quality. National leaders and experts, whether they work in academic or international institutions, have adopted an approach to the eradication of poverty that is based rather on the realization of quantifiable financial results.

The perspective of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) also largely reflects this; the goals are formulated on the basis of quantitative indicators.

Now, if on the one hand precise and controllable indicators are part of the positive commitment of the international community in this sector, on the other, they risk concentrating efforts on the achievement of short-term quantifiable results to the detriment of the quality of the work for development, which requires instead the patience of sharing, education and participation.

It is true, moreover, that despite the success revealed by statistics in sectors of social development, such as, for example, the data for basic education, certain regions will not only fail to achieve the target of halving the number of their population that lives in dire poverty by 2015, the date established by the MDGs, but will not achieve it even in 150 years. This is especially the case with the Sub-Saharan African countries, whose per capita income has not increased in the last two decades of the 20th century:  if the cause can sometimes be imputed to bad government, this is not always the case.

As a qualified assertion states, some countries are ensnared by povertytoo poor to generate internal savings, hence, growth, they are also too poor to attract direct foreign investment, since they are devoid of infrastructures and human capital. If their development is to take off, they need what has been termed a "big push" in public investments.

It must be recognized that the international community is giving more and more attention to studying ways of giving these countries this "big push", but has not yet put them into practice.

In Monterrey, the rich countries committed themselves to effectively bring public aid to development up to 0.7 percent of their Gross National Product (GNP). However, here too, it is necessary not only that this percentage be reached effectively - and we are still far from it -, but that it be directed straightaway to the elimination of poverty.

Indeed, half the current public aid that is spent on global public goods, such as, for example, the study of climate changes and the fight against terrorism or the pandemics, is earmarked for goods of undoubtedly vital importance but that have no direct impact on improving the living conditions of the poor or on opportunities for their development.

Progress has already been made concerning the question of the international debt of the poor countries, and here too it is necessary to persevere in the efforts to find an equitable and lasting solution.

However, it is in the area of new forms of financing that certain donor countries are truly giving proof of creativity and good will. The Delegation that I have the honour of leading makes the most of this opportunity to express its satisfaction in this regard.

Initiatives such as the International Finance Facility or approaches through the expedient of the international tax authorities deserve to be more thoroughly examined with a positive and realistic attitude and, should the case arise, implemented with care.

In fact, this "big push" that the economies of the poor countries so urgently need must be supplementary, concessional, reliable and regular, four indispensable requirements respected by the mechanisms I have just mentioned.

Moreover, if this "big push" is to be effective it is necessary to establish in the recipient countries appropriate policies for public interventions that target all the sectors for which the governments are directly responsible, and at the same time, to ensure that there is an improvement in governance.

To return to the starting point of my intervention, I would now like to stress that we are facing a real challenge:  to work practically to achieve positive financial results to eliminate poverty and, at the same time, to safeguard the Copenhagen vision of social development.

In this regard, therefore, I will make several suggestions, some more pragmatic and others that mainly concern the values and principles proper to the Catholic Church and her social doctrine.
I would first like to emphasize that to obtain the desired result it is important that the MDGs be followed-up simultaneously. Simultaneousness in achieving them means, in fact, that the same importance and the same significance be given to all the aspects of community life.

It then proves necessary to refine the means and methods of study of the dynamics of poverty. Indeed, these dynamics do not benefit from such perfected means as those for examining the state of poverty.

One of the causes of this phenomenon lies, for example, in the virtual inability of underprivileged groups to make their voice heard. Endogenous institutions exist, either the village community or the enlarged family, that are not recognized in certain institutional schemas. Their possibility of participation is consequently very limited.

What does their opinion count for in working out a strategic frame for the reduction of poverty?
Ways and means must be found to enable the poor to participate in their own development. Only a social development that starts from the bottom will have strong and vigorous roots.

Furthermore, if it is true that in recent decades it has been declared countless times that the eradication of poverty has become a moral imperative, one would advance towards its realization by considering it effectively as a primary global public good. In this way people would recognize the need for supplementary charges to deal with the phenomenon of free-riding that goes with the search to satisfy every public good, both national and international.

Finally, all these suggestions will not bear fruit while one moral condition remains unfulfilled. This is the creation of an international sense of social justice, which still seems to be lacking. It is only in responding to the needs of social justice that it will truly be possible to stipulate and bring into force this "world social contract" which was a concern in international circles after the Declaration of the Millennium or the Consensus of Monterrey.

This requires going beyond the categories of "common interest" or "mutual benefit" that currently inspire policies for development aid or funding. It is precisely in this perspective that the necessary political will to give free rein to the forms of financing envisaged by the international tax authorities can be created.

If in the immediate future and from a practical viewpoint it is reasonable to present these mechanisms as a tax system for funding, work must be done to have them recognized as an expression of international social justice that strives to re-establish equity between peoples.
In addition, we must establish at an international level the goal proper to tax revenues and national public spending, that is, to be "an instrument of development and solidarity" (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n. 355).

In other words, even beyond national frontiers, those who have more, who have a greater portion of goods and common services, must feel responsible for the weaker and ready to share what they possess with them (cf. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 39).

Thus, we will take the path that leads to the realization of this "world citizenship" conferred upon each and every one through their membership in the human family, of which John Paul II speaks in his Message for World Day of Peace this year (cf. n. 6).


*L'Osservatore Romano. Weekly Edition in English n.9 p.9.