"The Poor Are Not Mere Clients Who Must Be Turned into Consumers"

Bishop Crepaldi Evaluates World Summit on Development

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 9, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The conclusions of the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development are not as negative as they might seem, a Vatican representative said.

«The results reached in terms of governments’ commitments and concrete projects are far superior to those discussed and never realized in the previous conference, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1991,» the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, told ZENIT.

«Despite the misunderstandings that characterized the working sessions,» he explained, «the summit called by the United Nations from Aug. 26 to Sept. 4 approved 562 projects and will make some $1.5 billion available to poor countries.»

«However, as the Vatican delegation emphasized, there will be no genuine development without a real commitment to the integral promotion of the person,» the bishop said. «But one has to start with something.»

Q: After threatening withdrawal on various occasions, the environmental associations have spoken of total failure at the summit in South Africa.

Bishop Crepaldi: I understand their disappointment. Indeed, the cultural attitude that characterized the summit was very different from the typical one of these associations.

The development of rich countries, regarded by some environmental groups as the first cause of contamination, could have been put on the bench of the accused. Instead, there were, above all, discussions on the way to win the battle against underdevelopment, which in reality has ended by being the principal problem that must be resolved.

Many ecological groups called for measures to limit consumption and restrictive legislation for development projects, while both the United States as well as a good many developing countries showed themselves favorable to growth measures, both in trade as well as investment in infrastructures.

It is true that there are serious environmental problems, but they cannot be solved only with global statements of intent.

The Vatican favors the use of the most modern means for the progress of peoples. However, it stresses that there will be no genuine solution of the problems unless, together with technology, science and investment, there is a commitment to man’s integral development.

Man is the protagonist of the struggle against poverty and the aid to development. The poor are not mere clients who must be turned into consumers. Human growth is beneficial for the whole world. This is the reason the Church proposes evangelization and human development both of rich as well as of poor countries.

Q: During the summit, Clare Short, the United Kingdom’s secretary of state of international development and financing for development, proposed free abortion and contraception as a basic health measure, triggering a debate that divided the delegations.

Bishop Crepaldi: At present, concerns over the alleged «demographic bomb» have been surmounted. Reality shows that all the predictions about demographic growth must be reformulated and that the programs adopted for the reduction of births do not bring any benefit. What is more, they have seriously violated the right to life and the fundamental rights of millions of women and men.

It is interesting to note that, on this occasion, the Vatican’s position was shared by the United States and by a very numerous group of developing countries. However, on this point, the European Union was disappointing, which, with the exception of the Italian delegation, supported anti-life positions.

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