Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See
Seventy-fourth Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Third Committee, Agenda Item 25 (a, b): Social Development
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.
The Secretary General’s Report on the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (1) shows that inequality within and among nations continues to be a significant concern despite progress in narrowing disparities of opportunity, income and power. So many are still excluded and rejected. The elderly, persons with disabilities, youth and their families are among those in most need of our support and assistance.
Measures aimed at building societies that care for and allow all to participate actively in social, economic, cultural and political life need a clear vision based on the centrality of the human person, his or her human dignity and the inalienable rights that flow from that dignity. (2) Pope Francis calls on us to consider that in order to enable men and women to escape from extreme poverty and exclusion, they must be dignified agents of their own destiny. Integral human development and the full exercise of human dignity cannot be imposed. Rather, they must unfold for each individual and every family in relation to others. (3)
In this regard, the creation of new opportunities for the elderly through access to education and employment enables them to continue to be full members of society and puts an end to the deeply fallacious and utilitarian approach that values the elderly only by their economic input. Education and employment, alone, are not enough. Senior citizens who cannot engage in these activities, no matter how much assistance is provided, must also be cared for. Far too often, elderly men and women in need of assistance and care fall victim to discrimination in medical services, especially at the end of their life.
The great importance of access to education and employment for persons with disabilities must similarly be advanced, as well as special provisions for those with more serious forms of disability. Persons with disabilities face all kinds of discrimination; one of the most serious is discrimination against those prenatally diagnosed with disabilities. The high rates of abortion for those diagnosed with disabilities in the womb indicates that some of the worst discrimination happens at that tender state in life. Unfortunately, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities fails to ensure protection for these most vulnerable and defenseless.
Young people also experience exclusion and marginalization. Lack of employment opportunities negatively affects their integral growth and deprives them of the possibility of contributing to the development of society; in some parts of the world where poverty is extreme and opportunities are scarce, the youth are prey to radicalization and recruitment into armed groups. Others choose to migrate to countries where they and their contribution are rejected. Quality inclusive education, in particular for children and youth in disadvantaged socio-economic situations, is fundamental in overcoming inequalities and fostering a more dynamic and equitable socio-economic mobility of individuals and families.
Protecting the elderly, the disabled and the youth and promoting their inclusion and integration in our society begins with investing in the family. Strengthening this vital dimension is perhaps the most effective social protection policy of all, since a strong family provides a solid safety net and helps make society more inclusive and familial. Therefore, social programs and governmental initiatives should support the irreplaceable and primary role of the family in caring for its elderly, disabled and young members. Today, more than ever, we must strengthen our common efforts to protect the poorest and the weakest. This is essential for true social development now and in the future.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
1. Secretary General Report on the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (E/2019/68)
2. Pope Francis, Apostolic journey to Romania, Meeting with the authorities, civil society and with the diplomatic corps, Friday, 31 May 2019.
3. Note of the Holy See regarding the 2030 agenda for sustainable development (A/71/430)