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Statement 2019 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Plenary Session

Statement by His Eminence Pietro Cardinal Parolin

Secretary of State of the Holy See

Head of the Delegation of the Holy See to the

Seventy-Fourth Session of the UN General Assembly


2019 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

Plenary Session

New York, 24 September 2019


Mr. Moderator,

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development commits the international community to eradicate poverty in all its forms and dimensions and to ensure that all women, men and children have the conditions necessary to live in freedom and dignity. This commitment is as overarching as it is daunting; it requires all our concerted effort and resources to implement successfully and achieve the Agenda. No single State or Government, no official development assistance program alone, no lone organization or financial institution can make good on this commitment without working in solidarity. It requires a global, integral, whole-of-society approach.

A special responsibility lies, however, with those in public office. In his recent visit to Madagascar, Pope Francis noted that “political office and political responsibility represent a constant challenge for those entrusted with the mission of serving and protecting their fellow citizens, particularly the most vulnerable, and of favouring conditions for a dignified and just development involving all the actors of civil society.”[1]

In the fulfillment of the primary responsibility to promote sustainable and integral human development in which no one is left behind, governments should encourage and welcome, harness and utilize the strengths and capacities of academia and business enterprises, of faith communities and faith-based organizations, of civil society organizations and private actors, of international organizations and other multilateral partnerships. 

The latest report of the Secretary General on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals highlights the pivotal role of partnerships with concrete commitments for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, taking into account also that financial means are needed for this. This implies the marshalling of human, financial, technical and technological resources to assist developing countries, in particular those struggling the most due to wars and conflicts, geographical isolation, extreme poverty, severe environmental degradation, or indeed the absence of the most basic services. This equally means that those assisted demonstrate trustworthiness, transparency and accountability. There is nothing more discouraging for donors than to see their hard-earned, development resources disappear without a trace or employed in projects that have little or even an adverse impact on the lives of the populations they hoped to improve.

Furthermore, the report paints a troubling picture of the absence and gaps in available data. A more coherent and consistent effort must be made by both civil society and governments to provide an accurate and up-to-date picture of the reality faced on the ground. If not, the international community risks lifting only the visible out of poverty and leaving others even further behind. This is all the more worrisome since the people unaccounted for by available data are often the ones first left behind; they are people caught in situations of conflict and violence, they are those living extreme poverty and isolation in the remotest places, they are the oppressed and those living the scourge of modern slavery. Moreover, in countries where instruments for gathering data are so inadequate, many citizens are not civilly registered. More effort and attention are still needed to ensure that every country has the support it needs to gather and manage accurate and quality data.

In conclusion, Mr. Moderator, I would like to stress that partnership for sustainable and integral human development means moving together in the same direction. It means steering away from the tendency toward ideological colonization and from imposing the will of a few on the many. It means working for the common good, in good faith with all parties concerned. Partnership depends on the readiness of all of society to deal with one another fairly and honestly in a common effort to find solutions together. This is the way to see the noble and daunting overarching goal of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development succeed for all, and especially for those most left behind.

Thank you, Mr. Moderator.


[1] Pope Francis, Address at the meeting with the authorities, civil society and the diplomatic corps, Antananarivo, 7 September 2019.