Americans, Europeans and Church Analyze Johannesburg Summit

Conference Views Balance of Development, Environment and Economics

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ROME, OCT. 11, 2002 ( What happened at the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in South Africa? What were the conclusions?

To answer these questions, the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum of Rome, together with the Italian Ministry of the Environment, organized a conference Wednesday on the topic: «Unsustainability of Underdevelopment: Human Progress and Protection of the Environment after Johannesburg.»

One speaker was Giorgio Salina, consultant of the Justice and Solidarity Foundation, which, with the support of the Italian bishops’ conference, works for the cancellation of the foreign debt of the poorest countries.

«It is necessary to have a meeting among persons, to guarantee a genuine and integral development of poor countries,» Salina said. «The problem does not consist so much in finding funds and technologies, but rather in engaging in a stable human dynamic to guarantee a development that will increase people’s freedom.»

James Nicholson, U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, stressed that «the main task of the present U.S. administration is to offer opportunities, dignity and hope to the poorest peoples.»

The ambassador explained that, for this reason, the United States has increased its development aid.

In regard to the United States’ refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climatic change, Nicholson justified the decision by explaining that «the majority of U.S. scientists are not convinced by the hypothesis of ‘global warming.’ Moreover, the protocol would cost the U.S. economy $400 billion and 5 million unemployed.»

«President Bush said he was willing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with investments to make energy technologies and transport cleaner, but he has no intention to penalize the national economy,» Nicholson said.

Corrado Clini, director of the Department of Sustainable Development of the Italian Ministry of the Environment, criticized «those who continue to propose programs of birth control to safeguard the environment.»

Illustrating the Johannesburg debates, Clini explained that «the developing countries said that they do not want to depend on foreign aid. On the contrary, they want to increase their economic activities, and in order to do this, they asked specifically for the cancellation of customs barriers and agricultural subsidies that rich countries receive.»

«It might seem paradoxical, but a conservative alliance was formed in Johannesburg between anti-globalization organizations and some rich countries,» Clini added. «In fact, it is some rich countries that want to maintain a policy of subsidies instead of opening to the market.»

Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said that «history has demonstrated that any alternative to the market economy has failed.» But at the same time, he added that the Church «does not agree with the idea that the market is everything.»

«The Church is not against the market, but everything cannot be bought and sold, this is why we propose the integral and cooperative development of man,» Bishop Crepaldi added.

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