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Statement of H.E. Arch. Renato R. Martino
Head of the Delegation of the Holy See
to the twenty-second Special Session of the General Assembly
for the Review and Appraisal of the Implementation
of the Programme of Action for the
Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States

New York, 27-28 September 1999

Mr. President:

With all of the intense negotiations that have taken place during the past several months, would it not be safe to say that the preparations for this Special Session began as the final gavel sounded in Barbados, bringing the World Conference on Sustainable Development of Small Island Development States to a close? My Delegation believes that they have.

At that time, five short years ago, speaking on behalf of the Holy See, I noted that the Barbados Conference was the “first intersection on the road from the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development in Rio”.

Today, we arrive at a new junction in what has grown from a path to a superhighway, stretching from the present to the future. There have been obstacles but progress continues to be made on the way toward sustainable development.

My Delegation is interested in the outcome of this Special Session because the Holy See has always recognized the centrality of human beings in concerns for sustainable development. That first principle of the Rio Declaration must continue to guide each and every initiative undertaken in the name of development.

Respect for the dignity and freedom of each person affected by development programmes must be the guiding force in our work. This being said, it is thus true that improvement of the quality of life for all, especially the inhabitants of small island States must be the first purpose now and for the future implementation of this Programme of Action. These programmes must be formulated and implemented not just in theory but in relation to the actual needs of the men, women and children of today and future generations.

His Holiness Pope John Paul II, stressed that balance between social and economic development during visits to Jamaica and Papua New Guinea when he said:

“Dear Friends: As you look out upon your beautiful land with its jungles and mighty rivers, its mountains and deep valleys, its volcanoes and limitless seas, give thanks to God whose goodness is without end. With your many different languages and traditions you are a wonderful tapestry which God is weaving into the image of a diverse but united family of peoples upon whom he wishes to shower his blessings.”(Papua New Guinea, 17 January 1995).

“Now is the time for the Island’s [people] to strive to ensure that the principles which guide political, social and economic life are in conformity with God’s law and with the Gospel. Now is the time to work together to overcome the effects of injustice and exploitation, to counteract the lack of concern for the needs of the poor and the disadvantaged, the lack of respect for the dignity and value of each person, especially women and children.” (Jamaica, 10 August 1993).

“As citizens, you should feel the need to work to improve your country, and to ensure that society develops in honesty and justice, harmony and solidarity.” (Papua New Guinea, 17 January 1995)

Those areas of priority action, identified by the Commission on Sustainable Development call attention to the fact that the Programme of Action remains a “valuable, living framework for the sustainable development efforts being undertaken”.

The discussion surrounding small island States reveals the fact that no person or group lives in isolation. What affects one affects others. My Delegation believes that the benefits in discussing the issues and proposing solutions for removing the obstacles that challenge the sustainable development of small islands will be felt in every corner of the world.

In this understanding of human solidarity we can not lose sight of the need for responsible stewardship which demands attention to the common good; no one person, no one group of people is allowed to determine their relationship with the universe. The universal common good transcends the interests of the individual, national and political agendas and the limits of time.

Responsible stewardship and genuine human solidarity are directed to all critical areas discussed in this review process and must also remain the starting point in the discussion of access to basic social services. The effects of climate change, the issue of freshwater resources, protection of the coastal and marine environment, mobilization of energy resources and sustainable tourism must be addressed in the context of health, education, nutrition, shelter and security.

In view of the progress made during this discussion, the Holy See wishes to state, once again that simply giving aid, however laudable and necessary, is not sufficient to touch all of the aspects of human solidarity that must be offered to those in need Nations must work toward creating new, more just, and hence more effective international structures in such spheres as economics, trade, industrial development, finance and the transfer of technology.

The Catholic Church will continue to develop and promote specific programmes in those critical areas that seek to improve human life in some of the poorest and least developed areas of small island developing States and in so doing, help to improve life for all.

My Delegation applauds the progress made in this Special Session and will look forward to the future initiatives which will be the next step in attaining the goals of sustainable development for all.