Cardinal Sodano's Address to U.N. Summit

«Much Work Remains to Be Done»

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NEW YORK, SEPT. 18, 2005 ( Here is the address Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, delivered Friday during 60th General Assembly of the United Nations.

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Mr. President,

It is my honor to convey the most cordial greetings of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to you and to the heads of state and government here assembled, and to the other representatives of the organization’s member states.

My voice also echoes the sentiments of Catholics throughout the world who look to the United Nations as an institution that is ever more necessary for the peace and progress of the whole of humanity.

Sixty years have passed since that day, 26 June 1945, when this organization was born, with a view to implementing the four great goals listed in the preamble of its statute. Much has been achieved in the service of humanity during these years. Nevertheless, time has taken its toll upon this agency, as upon every human undertaking. It is now widely believed that the United Nations needs to be renewed, in response to the great challenges of the present day.

1. Contemporary relevance of the United Nations

It is true that the United Nations is not a super-government. Rather, it is the result of the political will of individual member countries. Yet ordinary men and women, the many millions who constitute the «we the people» of the U.N. Charter, are saying to the leaders of nations: Give us a modern institution, capable of taking resolutions and then enforcing them. This is an insistent appeal issued to us by men and women who are disheartened by promises made and not kept, resolutions adopted and not enforced. Their cry must instill in us the determination necessary to undertake an institutional reform of the United Nations, a reform that is attentive to the real demands of our peoples rather than to the balance of power.

In this regard, it must be said that the mechanisms established in Chapters VI and VII of the Statute of the United Nations retain all their value and contain the criteria necessary for pre-empting the threats to peace and for guaranteeing collective security. Today, however, this juridical framework must be complemented by the necessary international juridical instruments for disarmament and the control of arms, for the fight against terrorism and international crime and for effective cooperation between the United Nations and regional agencies, in order to resolve situations of conflict.

2. The responsibilities of the United Nations

The long history of peacekeeping operations, with their successes and failures, offers a rich reservoir of experience from which to develop parameters for future action in conflict resolution. To this end, the Holy See is in favor of the creation of an agency to restore peace to countries that have suffered armed conflicts. The Holy See, in other words, is in favor of the Peace-building Commission, intended to design and implement an ambitious strategy to overcome those elements of ethnic rivalry which give rise to conflicts and which could reignite them in the future.

The tragedies that have occurred in the Balkans, in the Middle East and in Africa should cause us to reflect. What is important now is the commitment we make to foster a culture of conflict prevention, but we must also explore thoroughly the problem of the use of force to disarm the aggressor. The «Responsibility to protect» arises from a very important political and juridical concept, developed progressively in the 60 years of the United Nation’s existence. In essence, it refers to the pre-eminent dignity of every single man and woman over the state and over every ideological system.

In connection with the reform of the United Nations, the Holy See asks member states to have the courage to continue their discussions on the application and practical consequences of the «Responsibility to protect,» in order to find the most opportune solution, through the Security Council and in accordance with the indications given in Chapter VII of the U.N. Statute, to those situations in which national authorities either cannot or will not protect their own populations, in the face of internal or external threats. The Statute of the United Nations, in its Preamble, says specifically that the United Nations organization was created «in order to save future generations from the scourge of war.»

For this purpose, it remains an obligation in justice in the service of human dignity to attain and even to surpass the Millennium Development Goals, thereby establishing an essential pre-condition for peace and collective security, and for the elimination or substantial reduction of the threat from terrorism and international crime.

3. Commitment to development

Focusing our attention now on the great theme of development, we must acknowledge that recent years have witnessed a number of promising gestures on the part of governments. For example, the proposal for new mechanisms to finance development (the U.S. Millennium Challenge Account, the International Finance Facility, the «Nouveaux mécanismes de taxation internationale» recently proposed by the French government and other states, etc.), and especially the recent decisions of the G8 summit at Gleneagles, are greatly appreciated by the Holy See. However, much work remains to be done in order to achieve greater economic and financial solidarity. This must include a solution to the debt problem of the poorest countries and of average-income countries with serious foreign debt problems, together with the re-launching of public development aid (ODA, Official Development Assistance) and a generous opening of markets to assist poor countries.

It is true that such actions by developed countries must be accompanied by a renewed commitment on the part of the governments of developing countries, who have a duty to combat corruption, to guarantee the rule of law and above all to take responsibility for the social aspects of development, such as education, job security and basic health care for all. To a world already exposed to pandemics, while others are at risk of breaking out, to the millions without access to basic healthcare, medicine and drinking water, we cannot offer an ambiguous, reductive or even ideological vision of health. For example, would it not be better to speak clearly of the «health of women and children» instead of using the term «reproductive health?» Could there be a desire to return to the language of a «right to abortion?»

4. The contribution of the Holy See

Mr. President, the Holy See has a spiritual mission first and foremost, but in consequence of this it has a duty to be present in the life of nations and a commitment to promote justice and solidarity among peoples. Armed with this conviction, the Holy See reaffirms its full support for the objectives of this Summit and undertakes to do what it can to help the summit produce the desired fruits rapidly so that an era of peace and social justice may quickly follow. The words spoken by the late Pope John Paul II on his famous journey to Chile in 1987 have lost none of their relevance: «Los pobres no pueden esperar» — the poor cannot wait! Thank you!

[Original text in French; translation issued by the Holy See mission]

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