Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN
Seventy-third Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Third Committee
Agenda Item 28: Social development
New York, 3 October 2018
I would like to begin by congratulating you on your election as Chair of the Third Committee. My Delegation looks forward to working constructively with the Committee during your tenure.
Over the past three decades, we have witnessed a significant reduction in global poverty, especially extreme poverty. In fact, a new report by the World Bank estimates that nearly half of the countries represented here today now have poverty rates below three percent, a truly remarkable achievement. While the global poverty rate is lower than it ever has been, yet “end[ing] poverty in all its forms everywhere” by 2030 remains a distant goal.
Moreover, even though the global economy continues to grow, social and economic inequalities are still present among countries as well as within them. Indeed, the gap between the haves and have-nots continues to grow and income inequality remains a defining socio-economic challenge of our time. Thus, answering the question of why poverty persists and why growth is not always inclusive remain crucial to making meaningful progress toward the goals we have set.
Poverty and inequality are too often reduced to a question of economic development alone. A purely economic approach, however, provides only a partial solution to a problem that is multidimensional. Such inadequate responses inevitably encourage the growth of injustice, social inequality and marginalization, especially for the most vulnerable, who are always the first to be left behind.
Recently, we have witnessed firsthand how people react when they are left behind; they feel ignored; they feel victimized by an unfair system; they develop pent-up anger that is usually behind social unrest and protests; they question and reject the political and economic system in which they find themselves. This is not new, but as the world becomes increasingly interconnected, the inequalities we experience become even more conspicuous than they were in the past, as we can more easily compare our lives with those of others, irrespective of the physical distance between us.
For this reason, today more than ever, global poverty and inequality are a provocation to which each of us must respond with a firmer sense of collective responsibility and solidarity. They also demand a more holistic response that considers the entire, integral human development of the person as well as the common good of all our brothers and sisters, regardless of their geographic location or cultural identity.
In this respect, I would like to focus on three segments of society that deserve greater attention and consideration, because upon them the future depends.
First, the family. In Article 16, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms the family as the natural and fundamental group unit of society. This is because the family is the bedrock of society, forming its children and providing the surest foundation for every individual’s social stability and security.
For this reason, governments must increase their efforts to guarantee the right of the family to support and care for itself, based on the principle of subsidiarity. This means access to social benefits, especially for low-income households. Without such benefits, many parents are increasingly unable to survive in the global economy, let alone give their children the time and care they need to develop into mature and healthy adults. Similarly, without some support from the State, the family struggles to provide its elderly members, and those with disabilities, with the help they need to live healthy, happy, and fulfilling lives. When the family is vulnerable, all of society becomes vulnerable.
Second, youth. The investment we make in every young person is not just for that person’s individual good but for society as a whole. For youth to realize their full potential, governments must make investments in early childhood and higher education. Meeting the needs of youth is not just a matter of providing jobs, but also of furnishing opportunities to take on leadership roles and responsibilities. Only then will young people become protagonists in their own lives and within society. After all, the young cannot strive to reach their goals if they are not taken seriously and provided with real opportunities to grow, learn and mature into adulthood.
Third, persons with disabilities and the elderly. Many within our society today feel alienated, ignored and left behind. This is particularly true for those with disabilities and the aged. Pope Francis continually reminds us that, even as the world has become global and the economy and communications more unified, “for many people, especially the poor, new walls have been built.” He proposes a different way, saying: “The future of the global world is to live together: this ideal requires a commitment to build bridges, maintain open dialogue, and to continue to encounter one another.”
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
1. The estimates will be published in “Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2018: Piecing Together the Poverty Puzzle,” a report to be released on Oct. 17, End Poverty Day.
2. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Sustainable Development Goal 1.
3. Pope Francis, Meeting with the St. Egidio Community to mark the 50th Anniversary of its Foundation, 11 March 2018.