Tuesday 12 April 2011
Statement of the Holy See before the 44th session of the Commission on Population and Development of the United Nations Economic and Social Council on the theme: Fertility, reproductive health and development, New York, 12 April 2011
Statement by H.E. Archbishop Francis Chullikatt Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See Economic and Social Council44th Session of the Commission on Population and DevelopmentFertility, reproductive health and development New York, 12 April 2011 Mr. Chairman, As we consider the theme of “fertility, reproductive health and development”, my delegation takes this opportunity to focus on the paramount importance of respect for the inherent dignity of the human person in all development efforts. At the outset, it will become clear that the theme for this Session mandates a careful scrutiny in order to attain, rather than frustrate, the noble goals of the United Nations that are ordered to preserving the “dignity and worth of the human person.” Unfortunately many discussions in the present day continue to be led by a false notion that, in the context of population growth, the very act of giving life is something to be feared rather than affirmed. Such thinking is based on a radical individualism which sees human reproduction as a commodity that must be regulated and improved in order to encourage greater market efficiency and development. How can such a view be consistent with the objectives of the United Nations? Put most candidly, it cannot. This flawed understanding leads to the distorted view that population growth, especially among the poor, must be decreased in order to address poverty, illiteracy and malnutrition. It is also based upon the consistently disproven theory that population increase will devastate the environment, lead to global competition and confrontation for resources and undermine the ability of women to interact fully with society. These apprehensions contribute to the advancement of forms of reproductive technology which denigrate the nature of human sexuality. The combination of these misconceptions have led some national governments to adopt laws and policies which discourage parents from exercising their fundamental and non-derogable right to have children free of coercion and which even make it illegal for mothers to give birth in some cases or for a child to have one’s own brothers and sisters. As the Secretary General’s report notes, reproduction rates vary in many places in the world. However, the report improperly suggests that the rates of reproduction in developing countries are an area of primary concern which demands urgent action. The report, furthermore, promotes the tragic theory that if there were fewer poor children there would be less need to provide education; that if there were fewer poor women giving birth then there would be less maternal mortality; and, that if there were fewer people needed to be fed then malnutrition would be more easily addressed and that greater resources could be allocated to development. In order to combat legitimate problems, the increasingly discredited concept of population control must be discarded. This distorted world-view regards the poor as a problem to be commoditized and managed as if they were inconsequential objects rather than as unique persons with innate dignity and worth who require the full commitment of the international community to provide assistance so that they can realize their full potential. Instead of focusing political and financial resources on efforts to reduce the number of poor persons through methods which trivialize marriage and the family and deny the very right to life of unborn children, let us instead focus these resources on providing the promised development assistance to the approximately 920 million people living on less than $1.25 per day. Let us feed the nearly 1 billion people who are malnourished, and let us provide skilled birth attendants at every birth to reduce the incidents of maternal and child morality. Let us achieve our promise of providing primary education to the 69 million children who risk becoming another generation without such basic assistance. These children of today will be the citizens of tomorrow who have much to contribute to the welfare and common good of all. Through the pursuit of the common good and integral human development—which necessarily takes into account political, cultural and spiritual aspects of individuals, families and societies—the international community can respect the dignity of each and every person and thus foster a new ethic for development. This ethic is precisely the tonic that our world desperately needs in order to promote enduring peace and the authentic flourishing for all. Mr. Chairman,While the Holy See continues to encourage and advocate that greater priority be placed on addressing the needs of the most vulnerable, at the same time my delegation urges that greater financial, political and social emphasis must be directed at supporting the family. As the Secretary-General’s report notes, in some regions of the world countries are experiencing population growth below replacement level. This lowering of fertility rates has given rise to ageing populations which lack the necessary population to sustain economic development and provide the resources necessary to support these ageing populations.  Inherently linked to addressing this demographic problem is the need to support families. Through the adoption of policies which encourage marriages that are open to and welcome children, and which also provide families the necessary assistance in bearing and rearing children, including those with large families, national policies can encourage a new commitment and openness to life—life that will sustain a flourishing human family! The very first principle upon which the outcome document of the International Conference on Population and Development was based recognized that the international community must, in conformity with universally recognized human rights, “respect the various religious and ethical values and cultural background” of all people.[1]  This principle is not only a long-held value for international cooperation but it is also necessary for authentic economic development. Recognition of this critical tenet is vital to the success of our work during this Session. Religious institutions have long been the source for providing health care to local populations around the world. It is worth noting that the Catholic Church provides approximately 25% of all care for those living with HIV/AIDS with over 16,000 social welfare programs and over 1,000 hospitals, 5,000 dispensaries and over 2,000 nurseries in Africa alone.[2] Respecting religious and cultural values is not merely a matter of theory; it is essential for an integral and authentic human development consistent with the objectives of the United Nations and its family of related organizations. It is important that the international community continue to reflect on the relationship between population and development. Yet, in doing so, governments must always remember that people are an asset and not a liability. The more governments recognize this, the more they will be able to put in place programmes and policies that truly advance the well-being of all persons, and thus contribute to the development of the entire human community. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. [1] International Conference on Population and Development, Chapter II, “Principles.” [2] Statistical yearbook of the Church, 2008.