Statement of H.E.
Archbishop Francis Chullikatt
of the Holy See to the United Nations
FOURTH SESSION OF
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OPEN WORKING GROUP
“Employment and decent work for all,
education and culture”
(New York, 18 June
The interconnected nature of our theme, “decent work, social
protection and education for our youth”, presents a broad but necessary
challenge for establishing long-term human-centered sustainable development.
Education is the point upon which these discussions must
begin; for without education young people lack the knowledge necessary for
adulthood, adults lack the skills needed to adapt to changing work environments
and the wisdom of our older persons is not passed from generation to
During the deliberations on the Rio+20 Outcome there was a
long and productive discussion about the importance of intergenerational
solidarity. In many ways, this intergenerational solidarity and the means for
fostering it finds its roots in the need to educate our children so that they
can become healthy, productive and responsible citizens.
In educating the youth, the family plays an
essential role. As the fundamental unit
of society, the family provides the first lessons of interpersonal
relationships, transmits cultural, ethical, social and spiritual values as well
as many of the skills which serve to promote the common good of the society. It
is of the utmost importance, therefore, that policy-makers respect and promote
this fundamental role of the family.
In fulfilling their responsibility as first
educators of their children, parents have the right to found and support
educational institutions. These institutions play a vital role in providing the
integral training necessary for young people and those looking to improve their
knowledge and skills. In a world in
which technological innovation and the demand for greater skills advance at an
ever increasing rate, how will the 250 million children who are unable to read,
write or count, be able to keep pace? How will
the three-quarter of a billion adults who are unable to read and write be able to
adapt to the evolving demand for different skills?
This is a collective shame for Governments,
world leaders and international community. It requires placing the right to
education for all at the very center of all our efforts for sustainable
development. Through universal access to education and respecting the
different needs of each country in this regard, the rich resource of human
ingenuity can be unlocked for the good of all society.
While education provides the knowledge and
skills necessary for contributing to society, work is a fundamental right of
all human beings. This right is inherently linked to human dignity and provides
for the needs of the individual and their families and is thus, by its very
nature, essential to integral human development and the common good of the
human family. Work is the condition
which makes establishing the family possible and is the means by which the
family is maintained and supported. Work, education, the family – these three –
cannot be spoken of severally, if not also jointly: they are interrelated and
interdependent – each is the sine qua non
for the other.
Profound concerns about unemployment,
underemployment or lack of decent work, which persists now in people of all
ages and in all countries, reflect the reality of the crucial role of work. The persistent unemployment is a social
injustice undermining freedom and stifling human creativity. It is a cause of
great suffering for society in our time.
Accordingly, our policies should be directed towards the goal of
providing full and decent work for all.
Providing decent work
also requires adopting social protections to ensure that respect for the rights
of the employed is maintained. The “scourge”
of child labor, for example, is a real form of slavery which gives rise to
mistreatment, exploitation and discrimination of over 10 million children
worldwide. It deprives these children of their access to education, and smothers
them “in their joyful enthusiasm of hope”. Governmental
leaders, private sector corporations and the international community as a whole
must work together towards the goal of eradicating this ever worsening abuse of
children. Child labor is a patent violation of the rights of the child as
enshrined in the Convention on the rights of the Child and State parties have a
direct obligation to address this deplorable situation of these most vulnerable
members of our society.
The nearly 400 million
working poor who still live in extreme poverty, i.e. below $1.25 a day, and the additional 32.1 percent of workers who
live in households, earning below $2 a day,
are eloquent evidence of the urgent need for social protections for our workers.
If we wish to eradicate extreme poverty,
as recommended by the recent High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post
2015 Development Agenda, we must start by ensuring that those who do work do
not find themselves still living in a condition of extreme poverty.
It is a gross injustice for millions of working people, who
manufacture products or are employed as domestic workers, often for the greater
well being, comfort and happiness of their more affluent fellow men and women
in developed countries, while at the same time earning less than $2.00 per day
and living in poverty. Juridical
and social protection systems must recognize and respect the rights of all workers:
to a just wage, to a decent life and subsistence, to rest, to a safe working
environment, to personal conscience and moral integrity, to their pensions, to
unemployment support, to social security for maternity, to the right to
assemble and to form associations. International cooperation is imperative,
therefore, if we are to halt this exploitation of the poor by upholding a
living wage for all so that they too may enjoy a life befitting their human
you, Mr. Co-Chair.