Canceling Debt of Poor Nations Isn't Enough, Says Cardinal Martino

Addresses Seminar on “Poverty and Globalization”

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 13, 2004 ( Resolving the problem of development in poor countries takes more than just canceling debts — it also takes a sharing of opportunities and duties, contends a Vatican official.

So said Cardinal Renato Martino at an international seminar held at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, of which he is president.

The struggle against poverty and the funding of development programs in cooperation with international institutions was the focus of the seminar last Friday. Its theme was “Poverty and Globalization: Funding Development and the Millennium’s Development Objectives.”

The cardinal opened the sessions warning that “the cancellation of the debt of poor countries is not enough to resolve the real problem of their development,” although “it can be an occasion of reflection and lasting involvement between the present creditors and debtors.”

Cardinal Martino, who toured Uganda just over a month ago, explained how the crisis of poor, heavily indebted countries involves Africa above all.

In that continent, he said, “a spiral of poverty” has been fueled “which is self-nurturing” with “bloody conflicts, enormous health emergencies, fragile economic structures, often totally dependent on the export of a few primary materials with falling prices.” Hence the need to find a solution for the funding of development.

Cardinal Martino referred to the Monterrey Conference of March 2002, which “marked the appearance of a significant consensus around the consolidation of an ‘association’ between developed and developing countries based on sharing opportunities and responsibilities.”

He lamented, however, that the most recent data indicate that “the commitment of advanced countries to allocate a specific percentage of their gross national product for cooperation in development has not been all together respected.”

The Vatican official also noted that “it is not just a problem of quantity of financial resources available,” but of quality.

Cooperative action for development “suffers from bureaucratic slowness, [and] imposes on beneficiary countries heavy burdens to respond to the requests for supervision and the valuation of donors,” the cardinal said.

In the context of the issue of public aid for development, Cardinal Martino mentioned the International Finance Facility of the British government, “for whose realization the Holy Father has promised on numerous occasions the moral support of the Holy See.”

The project seeks to collect, over 10 years, $50 billion annually for development assistance. The funds would be allocated to improve hospitals and schools in poor countries.

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