Holy See's U.N. Address on Struggle Against Poverty

«That the Goals of 2015 Will Not Remain a Simple Wish List»

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NEW YORK, NOV. 24, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations, prepared this text for his address delivered Tuesday before the General Assembly on the «Follow-up to the Outcome of the Millennium Summit.» This summit took place in September 2000.

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Mr. President,

My delegation would like to thank you and the bureau not only for facilitating this follow-up of everyone’s commitment to the internationally agreed goals of the Millennium Summit, but also for providing a venue where the much needed political will for this can be fostered.

Let me also salute those countries which have already submitted performance reports that reflect their national and global policies and programs with regard to poverty reduction, and attest in the process their accountability and transparency. These policies, geared up to the target-bound and specific road map of the MDGs [millennium development goals], give reassurance that the goals of 2015 will not remain a simple wish list.

It is encouraging to hear from previous delegations of their commitment to development that has a human face. Indeed, forging links between human rights and development, and recognizing basic freedoms and equality before the law, eliminate many violent conflicts that threaten hopes for the realization of economic and social rights.

Progress in the accomplishment of the MDGs has been achieved in countries which have been able to set up a significant process of economic growth, allowing them to pay by themselves the economic cost of the MDGs. Having said that, scarce economic aid and international economic conditions have not allowed the poorest countries to achieve the most important targets in education, health and access to water and sanitation.

Last year, total official aid was $68.5 billion, meaning it stood at 0.25% of the donor countries’ aggregated national income and far from the long-agreed aid goal of 0.7% of national income. In fact, much of the aid actually forthcoming is not targeted at the fundamental needs of the poorest countries. The ability of the poorest countries, mostly found in Africa, to obtain export and fiscal revenues is dwarfed by rich countries’ export subsidies and by tariffs levied on African exports, sometimes ten times higher than those levied on goods traded within OECD countries.

Thus the success of the global efforts towards peace and development, which Goal 8 underlines, is inevitably correlated to a precise vision of the role of the UN and to the ultimate responsibilities of governments.

The U.N. accomplishes an important part of its mission when it provides advocacy and catalytic support to countries, enabling them to implement better the commitments they have made in international forums. At the same time, it seems evident that developed countries have a key role in empowering the poorest countries to reach the MDGs. If this is to be achieved correctly, national leaders will have to reinterpret the idea of sovereignty with a view to a new global responsibility. Thus sovereignty will embrace the concept that developing countries must always participate fully in decisions taken about projects destined for their respective territories.

Moreover, enlightened leadership is expected from the United Nations. This will consist in building up strong collaboration and playing down unproductive rivalries and competitions between agencies, shifting focus instead to shared goals.

Another important role of the U.N. is to help ensure that important new ideas see the light of day, rather than being sidelined. Strong leadership within the U.N. must also mean that steps will be taken to make national and international governance more consistent. In other words, good national governance must be backed up and supported by good international governance.

The ECOSOC high-level meetings with the organizations of Bretton Woods and the WTO should continue to work towards an ever greater coordination in favor of the poorest, the results of which must not be seen as an intellectual exercise but as a true and irreversible obligation.

Mr. President,

When 171 governments from the North and South signed up to the Millennium Declaration in the General Assembly of September 2000, there was a feeling of urgency in the air. The Holy See allied itself with these goals in terms of the Jubilee challenge. Subsequently, the momentum was kept alive worldwide by benchmarks, deadlines, campaigns, measured targets and pledges made in the series of subsequent conferences. Performance will be reviewed next year to see how pledges towards the attainment of the goals are proceeding. Nevertheless, these summits will promote the cause of peace only if the commitments made during them are truly honored.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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