Cardinal Murphy-O´Connor´s Address to Friends of CAFOD

Challenges United Kingdom to Meet Overseas-Aid Goal

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LONDON, NOV. 1, 2001 ( Here is the text of the address by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O´Connor at Wednesday´s relaunch of the Parliamentary Friends of CAFOD (the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development) at the House of Commons. The address comes in advance of this month´s World Trade Organization meeting in Qatar.

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It is a great honour to be with you this evening as your guest at this relaunch of the Parliamentary Friends of CAFOD. I am particularly pleased to be here together with Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN in Geneva. During most of the last Parliament he was Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in the Vatican. A major focus of his work there was the preparation and celebration of the Millennium Jubilee, and particularly that dimension of fostering reconciliation between rich and poor in our world that is so horrendously divided between North and South.

There has been a consistent and also very insistent strand in the teaching of Pope John Paul II over more than 20 years, which has attracted so little coverage or commentary by our media, pointing to the «intolerable social and economic inequalities of our world». He has critiqued the structures of trade and international finance and debt through the lens of Catholic moral teaching and laid out the imperative for globalised solidarity and bold, transformative action.

It was admirable that the colossal international debt burden which threatened the future of many nations was in the end tackled by the world community, albeit partially. This came after the Jubilee 2000 Campaign crystallised the aspirations of so many, that reflecting the biblical Jubilee ideal, the new millennium should truly mark a new start for the world´s poor.

Our own government in Britain has played a major role in the debt cancellation process and has received the support of all Parties in parliament in those endeavours. And the Pope himself and the Church worldwide pleaded and advocated with one voice that the unpayable debt of the poorest nations should be written off once and for all.

Now here is the third millennium — and of course the scandalous division between the North and South of our planet remains, with 1.3 billion people living in absolute poverty on less than 65 pence a day. But I would like to point to one particularly encouraging sign, indeed a sign of hope, in the form of the International Development Targets or the 2015 targets: 7 promises and commitments adopted first by the governments of the industrialised countries and last year endorsed by the Millennium UN General Assembly. The crucial promise is that the proportion of people living in absolute poverty will be halved by the year 2015; but also that every child in every country will have primary education by 2015; that infant and child mortality rates will fall by two thirds by 2015 – and so they go on; powerful commitments, powerful promises.

Perhaps we could criticise them as imperfect by the standards of the Gospel. We were not enjoined to give food to half the hungry and water to two thirds of the thirsty. But let us not make the best the enemy of the good. They are inspiring targets, worthwhile targets and we hope meaningful and achievable targets.

Achievable? Well, of course if we «will the end» of halving world poverty by 2015, then we must also «will the means». It seems to me that the governments of the rich world must be coherent in this, for example, by ensuring that the financial flows necessary to keep the promises are in place. This means first and foremost fairer trade rules to boost the income of poor countries and it is worth mentioning that Archbishop Martin (and I hope the British Government too) will be working towards this goal next month at the World Trade Organisation Assembly. Second, it means wider and deeper debt cancellation. And thirdly, a substantial increase in international development aid to the Third World.

If a guest is permitted to ´issue a challenge´, then this is my challenge to you today, as Parliamentary Friends of CAFOD, to resurrect and make real that commitment of our Government and of all the Parties at Westminster to the target of 0.7% of gross national product for our British aid budget. We are slowly, very slowly, working towards that target but we are still less than half way. At the present rate of increase, our aid budget will not reach 0.7%, I am told, until 2040. And that is simply not good enough. So I would hope we can set a date, a target date by which Britain´s aid will reach 0.7%. I appreciate it can´t happen overnight but we can, and we should now, move deliberately and decidedly towards reaching that target well before 2015.

So not today, not tomorrow, maybe not even by the end of this Parliament but surely within ten years. Ireland I am told is on course for 0.7% by 2007; Portugal by 2005; Luxembourg has just hit the target; Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands have been there for quite a while. I believe there is overwhelming public support for a British aid programme commensurate with the poverty and suffering in our world and the challenges of those tantalising 2015 targets. If you parliamentarians can secure the public commitment of Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and the Labour Party that will be a great achievement — but not enough. This is an All-Party Group and we need exactly the same commitment from all our political parties: 0.7% by 2012 – come what may. A national commitment that the nation can and will be proud of. If this was imperative before September 11th, it is even more crucial now. The confidence and hope with which we entered the new millennium has taken a severe blow. But we must not be deterred.

Pope John Paul II in his apostolic letter for the new millennium enjoined us to «put out into the deep» with confidence — to throw down our nets and haul in a rich catch; to transform our charity into solidarity, to put ourselves in the shoes of the poor. After September 11th the deep is deeper than we thought. But I can think of no more meaningful sign that the poor of the world remain at the very heart of our concerns in this post-Jubilee world than to transform this development aid goal of 0.7%, at present utterly timeless and therefore in the end devoid of substance, into a specific cast iron cross-party commitment. In fact, enhanced and authentic globalised solidarity.

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