The Holy See
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Thursday, 10 October 2002


Mr. Chairman,

Some experts are saying that the World Summit on Sustainable Development was the last of the large international conferences, that the United Nations has come "full circle' with regards to issues surrounding development and now a new format needs to be found.

One of the concerns that my Delegation continues to have regarding those conferences and summits is the need to turn words into action.

Mr. Chairman, The Fourth World Conference on Women and the Special Session of the General Assembly, Beijing+5, produced two important documents and helped to guide the work of the UN in including women in peace building, conflicting resolution and development.

In the discussion of the advancement of women, the Holy See would like to reiterate its support for the key elements of the Beijing Platform for Action:  the recognition of human dignity, the dignity of women, the importance of strategies for development, including access to employment and equal payment, land and capital, the provision of basic social services and ending violence against women. These are all part of the long standing and well known social teaching of the Holy See.

The Holy See continues to direct the work of Catholic institutions in renewing and strengthening their commitment to the women of the world. The Holy See accomplishes this through reaching out to those most vulnerable and those in need. Catholic institutions - schools, hospitals, and humanitarian agencies - throughout the world continue to put words into action and continue to be major providers of basic social services to girls and women, especially in developing countries.

Mr. Chairman,

In many ways, the world of today is very different from the world at the time of the Beijing Conference. The recent United Nations conferences, including the Millennium Summit, the Conference on Least Developed Countries, the Conference on Financing for Development and the recently concluded World Summit on Sustainable Development, along with the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children and the Special Session on HIV/AIDS, have not only helped to set goals and targets but have also focused attention on those aspects of the protection of human rights and promotion of development that still need to be realized.

And how is the advancement of women realized? How do we begin to and continue to put those words into action? None of this can be accomplished without recognizing the dignity of human persons, especially women and girls. This must be the starting point for fostering authentic human development and advancement.

Development that ignores the inherent dignity of women and particularly the special contribution that they make to their family and society will certainly reduce them to instruments of solely economic means. Placing human beings at the centre of our concerns for sustainable development and recognizing the particular role that women play, in equality with men, can only be accomplished through the recognition and respect for that inherent dignity.

Once human dignity is recognized, the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls must be promoted and protected so that they will benefit from the goals and plans of development. Respect for the right to freely enter into marriage and raise a family, to seek employment and just wages and to be protected from violence and moral, physical and psychological abuse and exploitation, is fundamental to women's contribution to economic and social development.

When those universally recognized human rights are protected, the next step is ensuring access to basic social services, especially access to education, health care, clean water and safe sanitation. These are the cornerstones of women's health, well being and economic development. To be actors in the changing economy, women need to be physically and mentally healthy and possess marketable skills. It is essential, therefore, that the education and health of girls and women continue to be a priority in development plans, as was so clearly outlined in Johannesburg.

Mr. Chairman,

The implementatiojn of these objectives is imperative. The World Summit on Sustainable Development has provided the foundation. The Holy See, for its part, will do whatever is in its capacity to continue working toward putting words into action so that women and girls might continue to realize the benefits of achieving the development goals, established since Beijing.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.