Interventions: Statements of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations
 
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INTERVENTION OF THE HOLY SEE TO THE

 

IV SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OPEN WORKING GROUP

ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS

 

“Health, Population dynamics”

(New York, 17-19 June 2013)

 

Mr. Co-Chair,

As an institution deeply committed to promoting and providing access to health care, my delegation considers that this discussion provides a welcome opportunity for the international community to recommit to a truly human-centered path for health care and demographic changes.  At the outset, however, we note with concern a tendency in United Nations settings to link “health” with “population concerns” in a way that reduces human health care concerns to an equation resolved merely by reducing the numbers of people in need of help rather than a proper focus on serving those who seek access to a wide range of basic health care services.

The Holy See has consistently advocated for the right to basic health care for all, which, through its numerous institutions world wide, it has committed itself to realizing in every region of the world.  Today, the Catholic Church is one of the largest providers of health care in the world. Globally, this represents some 5,400 hospitals, 17,500 dispensaries, 567 leprosaria and 15,700 homes for the elderly or handicapped. These efforts demonstrate the tangible commitment of the Holy See to promote real access to health care throughout the life-cycle: from the moment of conception until natural death. Therefore, if we wish to make real progress in this regard in our post-2015 sustainable development agenda, international and governmental leadership cannot fail to take into account the vast experience and expertise of these institutions, respecting at the same time their unique mission as religious organizations.

In creating and adopting new goals on health for the 2015 development framework, the Holy See calls on States to move beyond an exhausted, stereotyped and fatal logic reducing this goal to merely sexual and reproductive health, which masquerades a nihilistic defeatism, positing as a health “service” the deliberate, systemic destruction of nascent human life and instead embrace a holistic understanding of the human person and their health care needs.   Every day, 19,000 children under the age of five die from preventable causes of death.  Only around half the people in the world who need access to HIV and AIDS treatment are able to access it – 25% of these find it only in our Catholic hospitals and clinics – while another 660,000 and 1.4 million people perish needlessly each year from malaria and tuberculosis respectively.[1]  Lack of access to basic health care is not a burden borne by developing countries alone, with 100 million people in developed countries pushed into poverty by escalating health-care costs each and every year. 

Making this reality all the more tragic is the fact that the global community has the financial and technical ability to save millions of lives each and every year, if only it were no longer willing to acquiesce to this sad reality.  The only thing preventing us from adopting a global commitment to provide universal access to basic medicines and technologies is the continued protection of unbridled greed for profits. Let us break this selfish logic of profit in the face of human dignity, and replace it with a logic of care, of the selflessness and solidarity for those in need for which health-care was formerly known.

Mr. Co-Chair,

Knowledge about demographic changes within societies is a useful tool for understanding and responding to the needs of those communities.  Rather than using demographic statistics as a means for better understanding and for serving communities, however, my delegation views with dismay the continued defaulting to outdated and discredited Malthusian mechanics of development that disregard human life as an end in itself and consider human beings as obstacles to development.

The harsh consequences of this obsession is glaringly evident in ageing communities in many societies which promote this agenda, and the loss of millions of creative individuals who never had the opportunity to be born and contribute their human potential to the sustainable development of our communities.

The Holy See believes that instead of increasing yet again our financial commitment to preventing the gift of life, let us dedicate our efforts rather to protecting and saving the lives of the millions who die needlessly from preventable causes each and every year, by embracing a broader health-care vision than merely the contraceptive mentality. In so doing, we may not only achieve political goals for sustainable development but also, and more fundamentally: save lives.                               

Thank you, Mr. Co-Chair.



[1] TST issues brief: Health and Sustainable Development.


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