Agricultural Reform Is Key to Defeat Poverty, Vatican Aide Says at U.N.

Archbishop Martino Calls for Financial and Moral Mobilization

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NEW YORK, NOV. 7, 2001 ( The international struggle against poverty begins by improving life in rural communities — and that calls for the cooperation of rich countries, a Vatican aide told the United Nations.

Archbishop Renato Martino, the Vatican´s permanent observer at the United Nations, delivered that message Tuesday when he addressed a special committee of the General Assembly.

The panel is focusing on the theme «Sustainable Development and International Economic Cooperation.»

Beginning with the principle of the universal destination of material goods, a decisive concept of Christian social doctrine, Archbishop Martino concentrated his talk on the need to make a qualitative change in social policies affecting poor countries.

In this connection, there must be a basic policy «that attacks rural poverty, since most of the world´s poor still live in a rural area,» the archbishop said.

«It is necessary to stress once again the importance of implementing agrarian reforms that are effective, equitable and productive,» the Vatican aide affirmed.

However, he added, «agrarian reform cannot be confined simply to redistribution of ownership of land; it must be intended as an instrument capable of extending private ownership of land, even if common property, a feature of the social structure of many indigenous populations, must be taken into consideration.»

Archbishop Martino proceeded to list some of what he considered to be the indispensable aspects of social policies in the struggle against poverty: development of family-sized farms; respect for the rights of rural workers; and the possibility of «effective cultural and professional growth.»

At the international level, the victory of poverty will only take place by facilitating the access of these rural communities to «international trade,» the archbishop stressed.

This objective must be attained with the contribution of the private sector, he said.

This implies «the substantial reduction of tariffs of access to markets,» «subsidizing the import and export of agricultural and processed goods of developing countries,» the «creation of infrastructures, and the application of technologies to the agricultural field,» Archbishop Martino explained.

The Vatican permanent observer concluded by appealing to the conscience of the national delegations attending the meeting, as the struggle against poverty is not only a financial but also a moral mobilization, «directed to precise objectives and with a view of obtaining a drastic reduction of poverty.»

«Commitments undertaken at the international conferences and meetings devoted to promote development should be respected,» he urged.

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