What the Holy See Is Telling the UN (Part 1)

Archbishop Chullikatt Explains Rio+20

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RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, JUNE 27, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the permanent observer of the Holy See’s Mission to the United Nations, participated last week in a major UN conference in Brazil, Rio+20. 

He explained to us both the conference itself, and the message the Holy See tried to promote there.

Part 2 of this interview will be published Thursday.

ZENIT: What is Rio+20?

Archbishop Chullikatt: It is the short name for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 20-22 June 2012. It marks the 20th Anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), which also was held in Rio de Janeiro (the so-called Earth Summit). The scope of Rio+20 was to foster truly sustainable social, economic and environmental development for our planet and for present and future generations. 

ZENIT: How was it organized?

Archbishop Chullikatt: It was organized within the United Nations system pursuant to General Assembly Resolutions 64/236 and 66/197 and was envisaged as a UN Conference which would bring together world leaders along with thousands of participants from governments, with a view to reducing poverty, advancing social equity and ensuring environmental protection. The Conference was attended by many Heads of State/Government, several intergovernmental organizations, such as the European Union, the African Union, the Group of Latin American Countries, the private sector and numerous Non-Governmental Organizations. Also present at the Conference were a good number of Catholic non-governmental organizations active in civil society, both in Brazil and internationally, who support the Holy See and work at the grass-roots level with communities in need.

Prior to the commencement of the Conference, there were a series of three preparatory meetings and a number of informal meetings where the final Outcome Document was negotiated and ultimately agreed upon (A/CONF.216/L.1, dated 19 June 2012). 

ZENIT: What is the nature and structure of the Outcome Document and what themes were discussed?

Archbishop Chullikatt: The Outcome Document was formally adopted by the Conference on Friday night, 22 June 2012. It is a non-binding document entitled “The Future We Want”. It is 49 pages long with 283 paragraphs divided into six parts. Part I: Our Common Vision; Part II: Renewing Political Commitment; Part III: Green Economy in the Context of Sustainable Development and Poverty eradication; Part IV: Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development; Part V: Framework for Action and Follow-up; VI Means of Implementation. 

Rio+20 focused on issues mentioned above and various priority areas including, among others, decent jobs, energy, sustainable cities, food security and sustainable agriculture, water, oceans and disaster readiness.

ZENIT: What is the Holy See’s Position on these themes? 

Archbishop Chullikatt: The Holy See underlined its key priorities for the Rio+ 20 Conference in two “Position Papers” which were presented to the first and third Preparatory Committees of the Conference for its consideration:

http://www.holyseemission.org/statements/statement.aspx?id=385; http://www.holyseemission.org/statements/statement.aspx?id=383

In addition, the Holy See further outlined its vision for sustainable development during a Side-Event held during the Conference and in its formal intervention to the Plenary of the Conference. 



Q: Which were the issues of particular concern raised by the Holy See?

Archbishop Chullikatt: The Centrality of Human Beings in Sustainable Development

The Holy See underscored the many threats to the human family and its earthly home. It emphasized that the human person stands at the centre of the created world, and therefore, at the centre of sustainable development. In this way, it reaffirmed the first principle of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.   

The rights to water and sanitation, food, basic health care and education are intrinsically linked to the right to life, survival and development. These rights are at the service of the human person and the family.

The Need for a Profound and Farsighted Review of Development

From this perspective, the key principles which must permeate sustainable development policies include: responsibility, promotion and sharing in the common good, access to primary goods, universal solidarity capable of acknowledging the unity of the human family, protection of creation linked to intergenerational equity and solidarity, universal destination of goods as well as the fruits of human enterprise, and finally, subsidiarity, which enables public authorities from the local level to the highest institutions, to operate effectively for the enhancement of each person and family, the protection of resources and the promotion of the common good. 

When such principles are applied at the international level, especially in relation to the transfer of technology to developing countries, the promotion of a more just global financial system and increasing aid-for-development, they should place inherent human dignity, integral human development, the family, the common good, the solidarity and safeguarding of the environment at the centre of economic activity. 

The Need for an Integrally Human Model of Development with Ethical and Moral Dimensions

The ongoing economic and financial crisis must also take into consideration the moral and cultural crisis. Admittedly, it is a complex challenge to move from a merely technological model of development to an integrally human model, which takes as its point of departure the inherent dignity and worth of the human person and his/her fundamental social dimension which is the family. In the end, it is people who are charged with stewardship over nature; but as with everything human, this stewardship necessarily possesses an ethical dimension.

The Green Economy, Human Dignity, Integral Human Development and the Family

The Conference sought to place the notion of the so-called “green economy” primarily at the intersection between environment and development. A good number of the developing countries, especially from Africa, while sometimes suspicious of so-called “environment-friendly green economic policy” and the challenges it may place on developing countries which lack access to more environmentally friendly technologies and sources of energy, demanded that such a policy be accompanied by an enhanced and more coordinated support from the developed countries. These developing countries sought capacity building, technology transfer, funding and technical support, as well as closing of technology-gaps between developed and developing countries. 

In the end, for a green economy to succeed it must be applied in an inclusive manner, directing it clearly to the promotion of the common good and the eradication of poverty on the local level, an element which is essential to the attainment of sustainable development. In other words, we need to forge an alliance between environment and development, which should benefit each and every human person. Therefore, in order to put this green economy in its right perspective, the Holy See emphasized that the “green economy” must be anchored in principles that are essential in effectively promoting respect for the inherent dignity of every human person, for integral human development and for the institution of the family, based on the
marriage of one man and one woman, the natural and fundamental group unit of society (cf. UDHR, art. 16, ICCPR, art. 23, ICESCR, art. 10). 

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