Papal Representative to UN Calls for Debt Forgiveness

Archbishop Tomasi Addresses Session of Human Rights Council

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By Junno Arocho

GENEVA, Switzerland, JUNE 25, 2012 ( Addressing the 20th Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, permanent observer to the U.N. offices in Geneva, called for ethical responsibility in the handling of foreign debts. 

The address was in response to an independent report on foreign debt and other related international financial obligations. The Holy See supported the «Report’s assertion that human rights as well as the rules of justice and ethics apply to all economic and social relations, including foreign debt obligations.»

«Human rights criteria for evaluating foreign debt can be an important tool for moving development from the narrow economic or material understanding to one based on integral human development, one that promotes the development of each man and of the whole man,» he said. Archbishop Tomasi also acknowledged the role corruption has and continues to play in less developed countries. 

The Italian archbishop stressed the importance of a «people-centered ethics» that is based on the dignity of the human person as crucial to the handling of foreign debt. If not, he warned, «wealth and debt become instruments of exploitation, especially of the poor and marginalized.»

«The debt question is part of a vaster problem: that of the persistence of poverty, sometimes even extreme, and the emergence of new inequalities which are accompanying the globalization process. If the aim is globalization without marginalization, we can no longer tolerate a world in which there live side by side the immensely rich and the miserably poor, the have-nots deprived even of essentials and people who thoughtlessly waste what others so desperately need. Such contrasts are an affront to the dignity of the human person,» he said. 

The Holy See’s Permanent Observer also agreed with the report’s finding that changes in currency values has resulted and even promoted inequality in loans to developing countries. Such loans, he asserted promote inequality and hinders development in those regions. 

Archbishop Tomasi supported the call for transparency in foreign loans to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, which allowed for corrupt leaders to take loans for «dubious purposes.» He also suggested debt forgiveness as a way to correct the injustices of past loans to developing countries. 

«The Holy See supports the Human Rights Council’s call to end conditionality in debt forgiveness and renegotiation, and supports its call to respect the sovereignty and right of each country to independently plan its own development strategies and not be forced by outside agencies or governments to pursue policies which are more in the interest of the lending nations than the common good of the developing nations,» he said. 

«Furthermore, programs for debt cancellation or relief should not result in insurmountable obstacles to future responsible borrowing that may be critically necessary for the long-term development and prosperity of the country at risk.»

Archbishop Tomasi concluded his address by stressing that the problem of sovereign debt cannot be viewed as solely economic. «It affects future generations a well as the social conditions that allow the enjoyment of human rights of vast numbers of people entitled to the solidarity of the whole human family.»

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