Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the
Seventy-third Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Second Committee General Debate
New York, 10 October 2018
At the outset, I would like to extend my Delegation’s congratulations to you and the bureau on your election and assure you of the Holy See’s continued collaboration in seeking to promote the common good and integral development.
The Holy See’s vision of development is that it concerns not just one particular dimension of the person — for example, the material dimension — but the person as a whole and is destined not just for some people but all people. The Holy See believes that development “cannot be restricted to economic growth alone. To be authentic, it must be well rounded; it must foster the development of each [person] and of the whole [person].” Therefore, in promoting integral human development, the Holy See wants to ensure that political, economic or financial systems respect the dignity of every person and the identity of every nation.
Last year, in this Committee, we witnessed attempts to shift the focus from integral human development to various controversial issues discussed in other General Assembly Committees. Instead of assessing people’s needs, we were debating selected rights, losing sight of the holistic approach to the human person.
It cannot be overstated how important respect for fundamental human rights and human dignity is in the fight to eradicate poverty and to promote integral human development. If we forget these essential human coordinates, then there is a serious risk that the sustainable development agenda may be understood only in partial ways, through excessively economic, environmental, sociological, or ideological lenses, thus missing the deeper ethical and anthropological context and purpose.
It is a great sign of ethical progress that today almost everyone speaks about human rights. When the term becomes a rhetorical catch-all, however, endlessly expanded to suit the passing tastes of the age, such an elastic approach can end up undermining integral human development and discrediting and opposing outright the very rights enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This is what Pope Francis called attention to in his January 8 remarks in the Vatican to the Ambassadors accredited to the Holy See. He shined a spotlight on what he described as “ideological colonization” — a term he mentioned here at the United Nations during his 2015 Address to the General Assembly — that refers to the use of development models to impose “anomalous models and lifestyles that are alien to people’s identity.”
He recalled the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and stressed, quoting the Declaration, that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family” is the foundation for freedom, justice, peace and integral human development. “A reductive vision of the human person, on the other hand,” he emphasized, “opens the way to the growth of injustice, social inequality and corruption.”
He then described the anthropological reductionism at work in what he calls the “new rights” that have been invented since the social upheavals of the 1960s. These novel rights claims significantly stray from the vision of the human person on which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the other conventions that form international human rights law, are grounded. “Debatable notions of human rights,” the Pope stated, “have been advanced that are at odds with the culture of many countries. The latter feel that they are not respected in their social and cultural traditions, and instead neglected with regard to the real needs they have to face. Somewhat paradoxically, there is a risk that, in the very name of human rights, we will see the rise of modern forms of ideological colonization by the stronger and the wealthier, to the detriment of the poorer and the most vulnerable.”
My Delegation believes that fervor for the integral good of the human person is the key to authentic development and should remain at the center of our considerations. It is precisely this authentically humanistic vision that allows us to look at others not primarily as potential competitors, but as potential allies. It is what helps us to recognize that the legitimacy of an economic system depends not only on the mere quantitative growth of exchanges, but above all on its capacity to produce development for humanity as a whole and for each man and woman. This vision implies that a “rights-based” approach must be balanced by a “responsibilities-based” approach.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
1. Pope Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, 14.
2. Pope Francis, Address to the Members of the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, 25 September 2015.
3. Pope Francis, Address to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, 8 January 2018.
4. Ibid, emphasis in original.