Statements

Thursday 21 October 2010
Statement by H.E. Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, before the Second Committee of the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly , on item 24: Eradication of poverty and other development issue, New York, 21 October 2010
Statement by H.E. Archbishop Francis ChullikattApostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See65th session of theUnited Nations General Assembly Before the Second Committee, on item 24: Eradication of poverty and other development issues New York, 21 October 2010 Mr. President, Poverty is a multi-dimensional and complex reality. Several types of poverty exist that must be confronted within different places and in different levels. In the poorer countries of the world, we find poverty in its most dire form: extreme or absolute poverty. This condition is characterized by severe deprivation of basic needs that include, for example, food, drinking water, sanitation facilities, basic health-care, shelter, education, information, etc. Extreme poverty depends not only on income but also on the need to access the basics of life. Whatever the form it takes, poverty is an insult to our common humanity that so many people around the world continue to suffer. We have the means to bring to an end poverty. Do we have the will? That is the question. The poverty that affects the developed countries - despite many situations of extreme poverty - is a ‘relative’ poverty, which can be considered a lack of sufficient financial and material resources that enable people to reach an acceptable standard of living in a society and, above all, in comparison to the possibilities enjoyed by others. The year 2010, marked as the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion, has in fact pointed out that poverty is a reality even in so-called affluent societies, and not just in economically poorer countries. In his first social encyclical, Pope Benedict XVI draws attention to another type of poverty, often neglected: “One of the deepest forms of poverty a person can experience is isolation. If we look closely at other kinds of poverty, including material forms, we see that they are born from isolation, from not being loved or from difficulties in being able to love.” (Caritas in Veritate, N. 53) All forms of poverty affect the human person, who by such poverty is injured in his inviolable human dignity and enjoyment of fundamental human rights, starting with the right to life. One must always remember that discussions regarding poverty concern human beings; the poor, who are in a situation of dire necessity, abandonment, suffering and loneliness. Poverty profoundly affects the dignity of the human person. The human person deprived of the basic conditions to live decently, is humiliated, and must therefore be helped to recover. Mr. Chairman, My delegation cannot ignore the moral implications of poverty. It affects mainly those who are not capable of a decent livelihood, especially the most affected being children, the disabled, the elderly, and women. In fact, almost half of those living in absolute poverty today are children. “To take the side of children when considering poverty means giving priority to those objectives which concern them most directly, such as caring for mothers, commitment to education, access to vaccines, medical care and drinking water, safeguarding the environment, and above all, commitment to defence of the family and the stability of relations within it.” (Message for World Day of Peace 2009, N. 5). This 65th session of the General Assembly offers us an important opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to achieve the MDGs before 2015, including eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. Unfortunately the combined food, fuel, and financial crises since 2008 have slowed down, and even reversed, progress towards eradication of poverty in many developing countries around the world. The recent IMF and World Bank Annual meetings in October 2010 reminded us of the real impact of this crisis on the poor: 64 million more people are now estimated to be living in extreme poverty in 2010 while some 40 million more went hungry last year because of the food, fuel, and financial crises. By 2015, 1.2 million more children under five may die, 350,000 more students may not complete primary school, and some 100 million more people may remain without access to safe water. Now, more than ever, is the time to recommit efforts towards such poverty eradication. Once again, we have the means to bring to an end poverty. Do we have the will to do so? That is the question. Unfortunately, many donor countries have reduced the already small percentage of GDP contributed as official development aid and instead are devoting such resources to stabilizing their own financial systems. On the positive side, some countries around the world are showing the first signs of economic recovery. It is therefore necessary that development assistance to the poorest countries be driven by a principle of global solidarity between rich and poor countries, triggered by a common recognition of belonging to one human family. Mr. Chairman, The global economic crisis had dramatic social consequences in terms of job loss and rising unemployment, especially among young people, and has led to a deterioration of living conditions of the poor in all parts of the world. We should not leave them to their fate. On the contrary, in moments of greatest difficulty, we should show greater solidarity. Again, the recent encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI reminds of this obligation: “The current crisis obliges us to re-plan our journey, to set ourselves new rules and to discover new forms of commitment, to build on positive experiences and to reject negative ones. The crisis thus becomes an opportunity for discernment, in which to shape a new vision for the future. In this spirit, with confidence rather than resignation, it is appropriate to address the difficulties of the present time.” (Caritas in Veritate, N. 21). The call and mission of the Church, inspired by the key principles of the social doctrine of the Church, especially the principle of the universal destination of goods of the earth, is to stand alongside the poor, give them a voice, and promote initiatives to help them overcome their poverty. “If the earth truly was created to provide man with means of his livelihood and the tools for his own progress, it follows that every man has the right to glean what he needs from the earth. God intended the earth and everything in it for the use of all human beings and peoples, so that created goods should flow fairly into the hands of all, according to the rule of justice, which is inseparable from charity" (Populorum Progressio, N. 22). Furthermore, my delegation wishes to reiterate again the importance of the virtue of solidarity, even at the international level. Solidarity should not to be confused with “a feeling of vague compassion or shallow emotion at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is the firm and persevering determination to engage in striving for the common good - for the good of each and every person because we are all mutually responsible for all” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, N. 38). The principle of solidarity should always go hand in hand with the principle of subsidiarity: the poor should be helped to take their own initiatives to improve their living conditions and become champions of their own development. Otherwise we run the risk that the place of creative initiative will be replaced by passivity, dependence and submission to a bureaucratic system. Hence, investing in education and the training of people i.e., developing in an integrated manner a specific "culture of enterprise", is crucial. It is urgent to make available also to the poor the medicines and treatments needed to fight pandemic diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, tetanus and HIV/AIDS which affect many populations. This requires “a determined effort to promote medical research and innovative forms of treatment, as well as flexible application, when required, of the international rules protecting intellectual property, so as to guarantee necessary basic healthcare to all people.” (Message for World Day of Peace 2009, N. 4). Finally, as my delegation has emphasized in previous interventions, it continues to be of great importance to ensure access by low-income countries to global markets, without exclusion or marginalization, by providing such countries a preferential treatment. In summary, Mr. President, eradication of poverty should not be considered as an act of charity but rather as an obligation of the international community. More than 60 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted and proclaimed, it is unacceptable that hundreds of millions of people still live in inhuman conditions and are deprived of the enjoyment of fundamental rights, including the right to food, water, basic health care, and decent work. “If at all times commitments ought to be kept, promises made to the poor should be considered particularly binding. Especially frustrating for them is any breach of faith regarding promises which they see as vital to their well-being. In this respect, the failure to keep commitments in the sphere of aid to developing nations is a serious moral question and further highlights the injustice of the imbalances existing in the world. The suffering caused by poverty is compounded by the loss of trust.” (Message for World Day of Peace 2003, n. 8). We have the means to bring to an end poverty. Let us now demonstrate to the skeptics that we have the will to alleviate the suffering of those who go without the basic needs that everyone should have! Thank you, Mr. Chairman.