Remember the Poor, Canadian Bishops Urge G-8

To Promote Development Is to Invest in Security, Council Says

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OTTAWA, JUNE 17, 2002 (</a>.- Canadian bishops are urging the G-8 leaders to keep in mind the plight of the poorer nations, especially those in Africa, when they gather in Kananaskis, Alberta, on June 26-27.

Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary, in whose diocese Kananaskis is located, released a pastoral statement at a news conference on behalf of the Permanent Council of the bishops´ conference, entitled «That We All Might Have Life, in Abundance».

The statement by the 15-member council notes the Kananaskis meeting is taking place at a time when increased concerns for global security could «drown out other stated items of the agenda, namely strengthening global economic growth and building a new partnership for Africa´s development.»

«If the governments of the richest countries spend more on their own increased security measures than on the development needs of the world´s poorest peoples, they will frustrate the aspirations of the poor majorities and avoid the major economic changes required of the North to meet the Millennium Development Goals,» the Permanent Council said in its statement.

Concerning the growing gap between rich and poor, the bishops state the current situation «demands fundamental changes to an economic system that maintains and furthers poverty. We challenge the leaders of the G-8 to commit to such change and adopt wealth distribution as an important and crucial goal of global economic policy.»

The Group of Eight comprises the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia.

The pastoral statement appreciated Prime Minister Jean Chrétien´s leadership in pressing forward with the New Partnership for Africa´s Development (NEPAD).

«The need for action here is undeniable,» the statement said. «Africa is the only continent where both poverty and the number of children out of school are on the rise. Life expectancy in Africa is the lowest in the world, and will continue to fall in some countries where HIV/AIDS incidence rates are over 25%, and the disease has become the leading cause of death.»

It continued: «Over 40% of sub-Saharan Africa´s 659 million people live on less than … $1 a day, where the average income per capita is lower than in the late 1960s.»

With NEPAD in mind, the bishops raised a cautionary note that consultation with Africa´s citizenry on any plan is considered essential, for without this consultation there can be no real development.

The statement added, «The G-8 could look to other measures suggested by Africans, from ending arms sales in areas of conflict, to controls over negative environmental and labor standards effects of resource extraction industries,» for example, so that African development can be enhanced.

«We ask for a special solidarity with members of the Churches and civil society of Africa,» the statement said, «beginning with a new willingness to listen to their guidance for developing policies that will affect their own countries.»

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