Remarks by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Head of the Delegation of the Holy See to the
United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III)
“A Common Home Where Everybody can Live with Dignity”
Conference sponsored by Caritas Internationalis
Quito, 17 October 2016
Distinguished Panelists, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to convey to you the best wishes and cordial greetings of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, who follows with keen interest this United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, for the obvious reason that it talks about how urban dwellers can live in dignity and harmony.
As we know very well, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development contains 17 goals, 169 targets, with 250 indicators added by experts to measure the progress and achievement of those goals and targets.
Pope Francis makes it much simpler and easier to remember. In several discourses and speeches, the Holy Father reduces to four points the essential material and spiritual means that are necessary for everyone to live with dignity. These are three “Ts” in Spanish – tierra, techo y trabajo, or the three “Ls” in English, land, lodging and labor — and the fourth means, what he calls spiritual freedom.
Pope Francis articulated all of these points on 25 September 2015 when in his Address to the United Nations General Assembly on 25 September 2015, he urged all government leaders to “do everything possible to ensure that all can have 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, 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 all other civil rights.”
Pope Francis gave a comprehensive sketch of the essential components for what he called in his Encyclical Laudato Si’ “integral development,” which incorporates human, social, economic and environmental development.
The first is the minimal material goods necessary. Pope Francis stressed that governments need to do “everything possible” to ensure that all can have the minimal material means to live in dignity and create and support a family, which he emphasized is the “primary cell” of any social development. This absolute material minimum are “techo, trabajo y tierra” or “lodging, labor and land.”
Thus the simplest and best way to evaluate the implementation of the 2030 Development Agenda will be to evaluate whether people have access to “housing, dignified and properly remunerated employment, adequate food and drinking water,” and more generally to the “right to life.”
The second essential component is access to what he called “spiritual” goods, which includes religious freedom, spiritual freedom and education. Part of these spiritual goods is to allow people to be “dignified agents of their own destiny.” The Holy Father stressed 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 a right relationship with all those areas in which human social life develops – friends, communities, towns and cities, schools, businesses and unions, provinces, nations, etc.”
These are the essential elements for everyone to live with and in dignity, whether they live in the villages or in megacities.
The key to realizing this objective of giving all the possibility of living with dignity is to make the human person the center of all. This historic meeting in Quito therefore has the enormous challenge to redefine the urban paradigm towards an urban renewal that is centered on the human person, founded on a long-term vision and grounded in the interconnected dimensions of integral human and sustainable development, as well as on what Pope Francis, in his Encyclical Letter Laudato si’, defines as “integral ecology.”
This side event, with its theme “A common home where everybody can live in dignity,” takes up this challenge to ensure that all urban dwellers can live in dignity, so that our cities will be places where no one is left behind, and so that, despite increasing pressures of all sorts, our urban centers will be drivers of integral human and sustainable development. Given the increasing role of cities as places of where peoples live and work, it must then play a central role in the efforts to guarantee the minimum spiritual and material means for people to live in dignity of which the Holy Father has talked much about.
The challenge is, indeed, daunting and becomes even more so everyday, as people are moving to the cities in such numbers that cities are turning into megacities, causing an increasing number of people to live in urban slums and informal settlements and to experience considerable difficulties in having access to the minimum spiritual and material means needed to live in dignity. Those in these situations risk losing their sense of self-worth and the respect of their own dignity. They risk finding themselves trapped in a vicious circle of extreme poverty and marginalization.
Thank you for your commitment to work especially in favor of those left behind in urban slums and precarious settlements. Any urban action agenda can only be successful if actions include them in decision-making and implementation and if tangible benefits reach them in a meaningful way, in a way they all can live with dignity.
In the name of Pope Francis, thank you for your work in facing this challenge.