Holy See Address at U.N. Economic Commission for Europe

Growth Must Protect Environment and Human Health

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GENEVA, OCT. 4, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the Holy See´s permanent observer at the United Nations, gave this address Sept. 24 at a conference of the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe in preparation for next September´s World Summit on Sustainable Development.

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Mr Chairman,

The «Rio Declaration», adopted at the conclusion of the 1992 United Nations World Conference on the Environment and Development, begins with the affirmation that human beings are the centre of concern for sustainable development.

Sustainable development, in fact, requires policies which aim at establishing an effective combination of three fundamental principles:

— the unique dignity and the inalienable rights of every human person,
— the unity of humankind, constituted as a single family, within which all of us share in responsibility and solidarity for others,
— the unity of all of creation, which serves the needs of humankind, but which can never be considered just as the personal property of some, but is rather entrusted in stewardship to humankind for the good of its present and future generations.

The challenge is to ensure the full advancement of all three principles. The fight for human rights, the quest for solidarity and development and our efforts to protect the integrity of creation must go hand in hand. We must forge a broad concept of sustainable development, understood as a charter for holistic, comprehensive human development which fosters at the same time a qualitative interaction between the fundamental needs of persons, the human family and the environment.

The Holy See is thus happy to note the broad understanding of sustainable development which is emerging as we prepare for the Johannesburg World Summit. It is an understanding which includes a strong emphasis on the fight against poverty, on human health, on access to fundamental resources such as clean water, on sustainable production and consumption patterns which both generate employment and foster sustainable communities, as well as on the conservation and protection of the resources of nature.

To realise such a comprehensive concept of sustainable development we must work for the establishment of global partnerships in a spirit of solidarity and burden-sharing. We need, above all, to evoke a sense of responsibility for this common endeavour which involves, in an appropriate and equitable manner, individuals, communities, enterprises and public authorities.

The drive for open markets and for the economic growth needed for the fight against poverty and in favour of human development can be combined with strong environmental concern. We must repeat that economic growth, in any part of the world, is not incompatible with the enhancement of an environment which is clean, healthy and is able to reflect the beauty given to it by its creator. Indeed it should be clear to all, including the business world, that globalisation will be sustainable in the long term, only in the manner in which it equitable integrates social and environmental concerns.

A renewed sense of global responsibility must, of course, also be accompanied by measures which ensure that widely accepted fundamental norms concerning the environment and the protection of human health are adopted, respected and enforced. Lacunae in international collaboration which permit the evasion of responsibilities should be eliminated. There should be no impunity for individual and corporate criminal behaviour which seriously damages human health or the environment.

At the same time every effort must be made to provide technical assistance to those countries that are facing a legacy of past neglect. The efforts of the countries in transition in this region to address the challenge of technological modernization in an environmentally friendly way, for the good of their citizens, merits our strengthened support, include those efforts aimed at establishing an adequate judicial and administrative framework for environmental protection.

Sustainable development is a concept aimed at inclusion. It can only be attained through responsible and equitable international cooperation, partnership and participation. It must work to bring people, cultures and civilizations together at the service of our common humanity, within our common home. Sustainable development can be a path to foster harmony among human beings and between human beings and creation, a path to true peace.

[Original text: English; distributed by Holy See mission]

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