The Holy See
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Friday, 4 October 2002


Mr. Chairman,

If someone, unfamiliar with the essential elements of development, would read the outcome documents of the United Nations Conferences and Sumits of the past two years, the reaction would be that they are heavy with economic issues, with few or no references to social development.

However, once one becomes familiar with the true basis for everything that the United Nations attempts to accomplish within the realm of sustainable development, the elements of social development begin to shine through.

Social Development

In this discussion of the Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-forth special session of the General Assembly, the document before us clearly outlines that essential connection between social and economic development, beginning - it is very interesting to note - with the World Summit on Social Development and culminating in the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

The issues discussed in the Report of the Secretary General stand out as basic elements in all the meetings and conferences that have been held in recent years:  poverty eradication, social integration, creating an enabling environment, access to basic social services and the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. These elements lend themselves to the discussion of both social development as well as economic development - and prove that they are inseparable.

The first paragraphs of the Copenhagen Declaration state: " ...[We] gather as heads of State and Government to recognize the significance of social development and human well-being for all and to give to these goals the highest priority both now and into the twenty-first century. We acknowledge that the people of the world have shown in different ways an urgent need to address profound social problems, especially poverty, unemployment and social exclusion, that affect every country. It is our task to address both their underlying and structural causes and their distressing consequences in order to reduce uncertainty and insecurity in the life of people" (Copenhagen Declaration, World Summit for Social Development. Copenhagen, Denmark, 6-12 March 1995).

Mr. Chairman,

The final paragraphs of the Johannesburg Political Declaration state, "We commit ourselves to act together, united by a common determination to save our planet, promote human development and achieve universal prosperity and peace. We commit ourselves to the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and to expedite the achievement of the time-bound, socio-economic and environmental targets contained therein ... we solemnly pledge to the peoples of the world, and the generations that will surely inherit this earth, that we are determined to ensure that our collective hope for sustainable development is realized" (Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development. World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, South Africa, 4 September 2002).

My Delegation is also pleased to find those same messages throughout all the documents from Copenhagen to Johannesburg.

Mr. Chairman,

The Holy See appreciates and agrees with the statement in the Report, where we read that the core issues and the commitments to promote an enabling environment, established at Copenhagen continue to be recognized as interrelated and are the concern of all countries, "regardless of their level of development".

Placing human beings at the centre of concerns for sustainable development is the key. True development can only be achieved with the recognition of the essential place that each and every person holds as an agent for his or her development.

The Family

The Pontifical Council for the Family was established as a ministerial level Central Office of the Holy See in 1973. The Council is charged with the promotion of the family as the basic unit of society and the protection of the basic functions of the family, the role, rights and responsibilities of parents and the safeguarding of the place of the family within society and humanity.

The Holy See has and will always call attention to the protection of the family and its members. Even though, according to the Report, "family life worldwide has been transformed by changes in family structure" (13), my Delegation does not agree with and will continue to resist any attempt to define the family in any way that changes the well known and firmly established fact that:  "Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family" (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 16).

My Delegation looks forward to the Anniversary of the International Year of the Family as an occasion to continue the discussions that will help strengthen the role of the family in today's world.

Persons with Disabilities

The Holy See took part in the Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities, and looks forward to the ongoing work of the Committee and the possibility of the drafting of a Convention that will further protect their rights.

It has been twenty-seven years since the United Nations first published the Declaration on the Rights of the Disabled. Much has changed and there have been many advances in science, access, acceptance, health care, understanding and hope.

During a recent gathering of people with disabilities, His Holiness Pope John Paul II gave voice to that hope:  "On this solemn occasion, I would like to ask those who have political responsibilities at every level to work towards ensuring living conditions and opportunities such that your dignity, dear disabled brothers and sisters, is effectively recognized and protected. In a society rich in scientific and technical knowledge it is possible and necessary to do more in the various ways required by civil coexistence:  from biomedical research for preventing disabilities, to treatment, assistance, rehabilitation and new social integration" (Pope John Paul II, Homily during the Celebration of the Jubilee of the Disabled, 3 December 2000).

Mr. Chairman,

In this discussion of various elements of social development, my Delegation can assure that the Holy See will continue to work to bring that same hope for a better future for all, through recognition of that human dignity in which we share.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.