Friday 15 February 2013
Intervention of the Holy See 51st Session of the Commission on Social Development (New York, 6-15 February 2013)
Intervention of the Holy See 51st Session of the Commission on Social Development (New York, 6-15 February 2013)   Madame Chairperson,   My delegation congratulates you and the bureau on your election and looks forward to contributing towards a fruitful 51st session of the Commission.  The Commission’s priority theme for this year’s session, "Promoting empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all", comes at a time when an estimated 456 million workers continue to live on less than $1.25 day and, as the Secretary General’s report notes, 200 million people are still unemployed as at the end of 2011. These figures are a stark reminder of the persistent presence of extreme poverty in our world. How could the current situation not awaken the conscience of policy-makers, private enterprises, individuals and families to urgently engage in the promotion of a culture of work so fundamentally akin to our human dignity? Work is first and foremost a good of humanity. It educates the individual to take responsibility for his or her acts. Through the experience of work, the individual develops a sense of service to others and learns to discern that personal growth and happiness are the fruits of a work well done. The achievement of a work in which the individual engages all of his or her talents, in a spirit of creativity and service to society, is always a source of joy and legitimate human pride. At the same time, work substantially contributes to socioeconomic development and to the common good of society. It grants those living in extreme poverty the joy of living in dignity. As a fundamental right, work relates to the right to property and is, most importantly, indissoluble from the inherent right of founding and supporting a family. In this regard, it is both timely and appropriate that we begin, during this session, to address the stakes of the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014.  “The family”, as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights observes, “is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”[1] The state should be at the service of the family because the family is a good in itself. Every human being, endowed with reason and conscience, can recognize this good as universal. The family cannot be redefined at the whim of now rapid sociological evolutions; it cannot be instrumentalized by the state for socioeconomic purposes; it cannot be reduced to the social functions it does indeed perform and performs best when it is healthy and when state policies seek what is good for husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. Accordingly, my delegation welcomes the recognition in the Secretary General’s report for this session that the family is the backbone of intergenerational solidarity and social cohesion, and bears the primary responsibility for the development, education and socialization of children (cf. A/68/61-E/2013/3, para.5).  This reality manifests in the lives of young people around the world who rely on their father and mother to fulfill their role as their first educators. The family is the locus within society wherein new generations learn solidarity towards the weaker and the elderly, love, forgiveness and respect for social norms – in short, how to grow as persons and become responsible citizens. The Holy See remains firmly committed to promoting both respect for the rights and responsibilities of parents and the integral personal development of the youth that are necessary for both generations to fulfill their respective roles within society.  To this end, the Holy See looks forward to organizing its 28th World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro later this year, expected to gather two million young people from around the world in celebration of their faith and solidarity with all corners of the globe. Madame Chairperson, This year’s session also marks the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing. At the time, Blessed John Paul II reminded those participating in the conference that when addressing the concerns and needs of the elderly one must first of all consider their “dignity as persons, which does not diminish with passing years nor with physical and mental deterioration.”[2]  At a time when many developed countries are facing the challenge of ageing populations, the recognition of the equal dignity of older persons must be vigorously reaffirmed, rejecting operational utilitarian theories which measure the elderly by their economic contributions to society. My delegation recognizes the elderly as vital contributors to society, whose inherent dignity, human and professional experience, knowledge and wisdom command respect and makes of intergenerational solidarity a two-way street for younger generations in search of personal guidance and stability. Governments and society must work to allow the lessons learned by the elderly to be transmitted to future generations while also ensuring that people reaching older ages have access to ongoing educational programmes and social support structures.   Madame Chairperson, In conclusion, the family plays a vital role in all the areas of social development under discussion during this session, for as fundamental unit of society, the family is also the primary economic entity and engine of growth. It is the family that cares for the elderly, and it is the family that furnishes the material, personal, educational, social and spiritual support to the youth in their transition from childhood to adulthood.   If this Commission is to help people and countries make real progress on social development, therefore, it must work to reverse trends manifesting indifference to the family and trends destabilizing what the family is by nature and recommit to advancing a perspective genuinely supportive of the family in all aspects of social development.   I thank you, Madame Chairperson. [1] United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10 December 1948, article 16,3. [2] John Paul II, Message to the Second World Assembly on Ageing, Madrid (3 April 2002).