U.N. Still Feeling Effects of Sept. 11

Interview with Vatican Permanent Observer

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican in 2001 took a leading role in U.N. discussions on topics as diverse as human cloning, racism, and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

In this Vatican Radio interview, Archbishop Renato Martino, the Vatican´s permanent observer at the United Nations in New York, evaluates the year´s work and its effect on the international scene.

–Q: What is the atmosphere at the United Nations headquarters in New York after the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon?

–Archbishop Martino: The U.N. headquarters are located in the heart of New York, therefore, it is not surprising that the Sept. 11 events have had what I would say is an indelible effect. The repercussions of the attacks on the World Trade Center have elicited a feeling of uncertainty that grips all those who enter the U.N. building daily.

–Q: If we were to evaluate the activity of the United Nations in 2001, what would you say are the results obtained that will have the greatest possibility of having positive and lasting effects?

–Archbishop Martino: The U.N. program cannot be realized from one year to the next. In particular, I would like to refer the commitment of the heads of state and government, adopted at the summit of the year 2000, in favor of a 50% reduction of absolute poverty by the year 2015.

Over the past year, this has been the object of continued commitment on the part of the delegates. This is something positive. Unfortunately, however, because of the Sept. 11 events and the present recession, it has already been announced that the objective will not be reached until 2030.

–Q: What are the most significant topics addressed by the United Nations, to which the Vatican is committed?

–Archbishop Martino: As it has always done, this year, the Vatican delegation took part in all the U.N. fields of action.

I have spoken officially on several points of the agenda, which I would like to enumerate, because they are very important: the uprooting of poverty; international economic cooperation; economic development, especially in Africa; disarmament; the protection of elderly and handicapped people; questions regarding human rights, in particular, freedom of religion; rejection of human cloning.

In regard to the Vatican´s activity, I would like to point out in particular the seminar on child-soldiers that we convoked on June 5 at the United Nations, a very important event that we organized in cooperation with the office of Olara Otunno, the representative of the U.N. secretary-general for children in conflict situations.

Former child-soldiers of Kosovo, Uganda and Colombia participated in this seminar; they gave living and dramatic testimony of their experience. Mr. Otunno said that in all the conflict situations he visited, the first thing he saw was the commitment of the Catholic Church, missionaries, priests, religious and Catholic laity to rescuing these victims of war.

Outstanding among the most important events, the U.N. will [sponsor] in 2002, are the second world assembly on elderly people, which will be held in Madrid in the spring; and the special session of the General Assembly on children, which will be held in New York in May. Finally, the summit on the environment and sustainable development will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in August, to evaluate the world situation 10 years after the Rio de Janeiro conference.

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