Statement of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations
Second Committee of the 70th Session of the General Assembly
Agenda Item 20: Sustainable development (a)-(h)
New York, 20 October 2015
By adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the international community made a firm commitment to seek a life of dignity for all and protect the planet.
For too long, development has been understood in terms of ever greater economic growth and wealth accumulation, oftentimes at the expense of the environment and of human life itself. This concept of development has fueled an unrestrained quest for the biggest profit margin and has driven exploitations of peoples and an assault on our common home. Such a model of development cannot be sustainable, because it reduces human beings to production tools for ever greater profits and accumulation of wealth by a few, and treats the earth as an inexhaustible resource to be exploited.
Thus the Holy See agrees with the Secretary General’s Report on the vital importance of mainstreaming the three dimensions of sustainable development and the need for a “paradigm shift in development thinking.” Pope Francis, in his Address to the UN General Assembly on September 25, insisted that this paradigm shift must always be “guided by a perennial concept of justice and constantly conscious of the fact that, above and beyond our plans and programs, we are dealing with real men and women who live, struggle and suffer, and are often forced to live in great poverty, deprived of all rights.”
We need a multidimensional understanding of poverty and development because the human person is multidimensional. As Pope Francis urged in the same Address, sustainable development plans must secure for persons the “minimum spiritual and material means needed to live in dignity and to create and support a family, which is the primary cell of any social development. In practical terms and for so many, this absolute minimum has three names: lodging, labour, and land; and one spiritual name: spiritual freedom, which includes religious freedom, the right to education and other civil rights.”
There is no authentic development if it is not development of the human person, and an essential aspect of this process is the agency of each person. My delegation concurs with the Secretary General’s Report that “Integral human development and the full exercise of human dignity cannot be imposed. They must be built up and allowed to unfold for each individual, for every family, in communion with others, and in right relationship with all those areas in which human social life develops – friends, communities, towns and cities, schools, businesses and unions, provinces, nations, etc.”
Integrating the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development cannot be a mere “bureaucratic exercise of drawing up long lists of good proposals” or finding the right “theoretical and aprioristic solution”, both of which run the risk of being top-down agendas forced upon the poor. The adoption of more mutually beneficial forms of development based on trade is a step in the right direction, provided that in trade the poor are “allowed to be dignified agents of their own destiny” and equitably share the fruits of development.
Exclusion creates scarcity that exploitation turns into profits. When everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape. This is the unsustainable development process of the past. We need to challenge and change it, because with it neither people nor planet can survive in the long run.
The serious ecological crisis affects us all, though we are not equally responsible of its causes. The burdens are disproportionately born by the poor, who bear the least responsibility for the problem. The cries of the earth and the cries of the poor are one, because “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,” that demands an “integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the underprivileged, and at the same time protecting nature.”
This multifaceted crisis is an opportunity to reject the culture of waste for one of solidarity, a call to examine our personal lifestyles, so that we can move from living in excess to living in moderation.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
 Pope Francis, Address to the UN General Assembly, 25 September 2015.
 Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, n.139.