Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See
Seventy-second Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Second Committee
Agenda Item 19: Sustainable Development
New York, 10 October 2017
My Delegation welcomes the Secretary-General’s recent reports on sustainable development. Building on the concept of integral human development, sustainable development moves beyond economic growth for its own sake. It looks, instead, to the development of the whole person and every person in the context of the community and the natural environment. Sustainable development requires sustainable consumption and sustainable production, linking people across global supply chains with everyone in the chain aware of the consequences of his or her actions on others in a global interdependent world. A rejection of excessive individualism and inordinate consumerismis at the center of our efforts to achieve the enjoyment of a decent life for all in a sustainable planet.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the lack of environmental and economic sustainability is a major barrier to integral human development. The intensity and frequency of natural disasters strain resources and capacities of even the richest countries and quickly overwhelm and incapacitate smaller, less developed countries. Island States, in particular the Small Island Developing States, have the added problem of access for rescue workers and aid supplies. The Holy See supports a renewed attention by the UN community to capacity building and other efforts to build resiliency for communities, especially in Small Island Developing States and the Least Developed Countries.
Sudden climatic changes can result in excessive rains in some areas, and drought and desertification in others. Africa has experienced severe drought and desertification, which has damaged lives and livelihoods, exacerbated ethnic and tribal conflicts and threatened its security, stability and sustainability. Each year 12 million hectares, which is roughly the size of Nicaragua, is lost due to desertification.
Solidarity with our brothers and sisters suffering from the effects of environmental catastrophes is not a plea for charity; it is a call for justice. Much of the heightened risks, like rising sea levels and desertification, that poor and vulnerable States face are often provoked by causes for which they are not responsible. As Pope Francis notes in Laudato Si’: “A true ‘ecological debt’ exists, particularly between the global north and south, connected to commercial imbalances with effects on the environment, and the disproportionate use of natural resources by certain countries over long periods of time” (51).
Pope Francis calls us to an “ecological conversion” (Laudato Si’, 216). Problems related to sustainability cannot be solved by technology or aid alone, but require a more honest re-examination of our economic systems to make them work not only for the haves but also for the have-nots, and a change of personal and social lifestyles to better protect our common home. My Delegation is pleased to note that this need for a new relationship between humanity and the planet is also emphasized in the Secretary-General’s report on Harmony with Nature.
Finally, my Delegation would like to underline the importance of intergenerational solidarity to attain sustainable development and long-term care for the environment. Pope Francis stated in Laudato Si’: “The notion of the common good also extends to future generations. … We can no longer speak of sustainable development apart from intergenerational solidarity. Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently; we realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others. Since the world has been given to us, we can no longer view reality in a purely utilitarian way, in which efficiency and productivity are entirely geared to our individual benefit. Intergenerational justice is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us” (159).
Thank you, Mr. Chair.