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On the Outcome document of the United Nations Summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”
New York, 1 September 2015

Position Statement of the Holy See on the Outcome document of the United Nations Summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”

New York, 1 September 2015

Mr. President,

At the very outset, my delegation expresses its gratitude to Ambassadors Macharia Kamau and David Donoghue for their leadership and commitment in guiding the intergovernmental process leading to the adoption of "The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development". Their tireless efforts and perseverance provided for an inclusive and transparent process that produced the universal agenda we have before us today.

This Agenda is a clear sign that, in spite of differences in some areas, the international community has come together and affirmed its commitment to eradicate poverty in all its forms and dimensions and to ensure that all children, women and men throughout the world will have the conditions necessary to live in both freedom and dignity.

The Agenda rightly puts the centrality of the human person as the subject primarily responsible for development (preamble and paragraphs 1 and 2). The Holy See remains confident that the related pledge “no one will be left behind” will serve as the perspective through which the entire Agenda will be read to protect the right to life of the person, from conception until natural death (paragraph 4).

My delegation believes that a renewed global partnership will be crucial to the Agenda's success. Also, by valuing the enormous potential of youth, by empowering women and girls, and by recognizing the role of the family in integral development, we will ensure the centrality of the human person as the primary subject responsible for development, while holding governments accountable.

As Pope Francis reminds us in Laudato Si', "environmental problems cannot be separated from the analysis of human, family, work-related and urban contexts, nor from how individuals relate to themselves, which leads in turn to how they relate to others and to the environment."[1] A more integrated approach to development will make us see better that "we are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis that is both social and environmental." Therefore, strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the underprivileged, and at the same time protecting nature" .

The Holy See agrees that the Agenda is an ambitious plan of action, with many proper and laudable “aspirations” (paragraph 55), which might be described as “a great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge.”[2] The Holy See takes the position that for any successful development plan the underlying efforts must be directed toward an “integral ecology” open to “categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what is human”.[3] We need to cultivate a greater awareness of a human ecology including the appreciation “of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone.”[4]

Mr President,

While agreeing with most of the goals and targets enumerated in the Agenda, the Holy See, in conformity with its nature and particular mission, wishes to make the following reservations on some of the concepts used therein.

1. Regarding the terms "sexual and reproductive health" and "reproductive rights", the Holy See considers these terms as applying to a holistic concept of health, which embrace, each in their own way, the person in the entirety of his or her personality, mind and body, and which foster the achievement of personal maturity in sexuality and in the mutual love and decision-making that characterize the conjugal-relationship between a man and a woman in accordance with moral norms. The Holy See does not consider abortion or access to abortion or abortifacients as a dimension of these terms.

2.         With reference to the terms "contraception", "family planning", "sexual and reproductive health", "sexual and reproductive rights", “reproductive rights”, and any other terms regarding family-planning services and regulation of fertility concepts in the document, the Holy See reaffirms its well-known position concerning those family-planning methods which the Catholic Church considers morally acceptable and, on the other hand, family-planning services which do not respect the liberty of the spouses, human dignity and the human rights of those concerned.

3.         With reference to "gender", the Holy See understands the term to be grounded in the biological sexual identity that is male or female.

4.         In relation to paragraphs 2 and 3 of this Statement of Position, the Holy See also reaffirms its reservations to the outcome documents of the International Conference on Population and Development, in Cairo and the  Fourth World Conference on Women, in Beijing.

5.         With respect to "education" or "information" on "sexuality", the Holy See reiterates the "primary responsibility" and the "prior rights" of parents, including their right to religious freedom, when it comes to the education and upbringing of their children, as enshrined, inter alia, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In that sense, the Holy See wishes to underline the centrality of the family, “the natural and fundamental group unit of society,” as well as the role and rights and duties of parents to educate their children.

6.         The Holy See places its reservations on paragraph 26 of the Declaration and on Targets 3.7 and 5.6.

7.         The Holy See underlines that the Agenda is to be read in line with the properly interpreted “purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, including full respect for international law…the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international human rights treaties” (paragraph 10).  In regard to non-binding instruments that are also mentioned in the Agenda, the Holy See emphasizes the important distinction that needs to be maintained between treaties, which have been formally negotiated and adopted by States with the intention of creating legal obligations, and other international documents which do not have the same authority. The Holy See does not endorse principles in any international or regional non-binding instrument that differ from those set out herein, and articulated in her teachings.

My delegation requests that this statement be included in the official records of this meeting.

Thank you Mr. President.

[1] Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ On Care of Our Common Home, 24 May 2015, 141.

[2] Laudato Si’, 202.

[3] Laudato Si’, 11.

[4] Laudato Si’, 202