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Statement of Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt
Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in the Ad Hoc Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals “Interactive exchange of views on “poverty eradication”
New York, 18 April 2013
The centrality of poverty eradication to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is not only a requirement of the Rio +20 Outcome but is essentially a moral imperative if we are to address the many forms of poverty present in the human family and contribute to “the growth of fraternity and peace.”[ This preferential option for the poor in sustainable development should determine the fundamental moral measure of our society.
The eradication of poverty must be understood first in the context of the equality in dignity of each and every human person. Further, poverty eradication should be guided by the principles of natural law which “inspire political and juridical and economic choices and approaches in international law.”
Placing the integral development of the human person at the center of all efforts to eradicate poverty underscores a correct understanding of poverty and of what the best pathways out of poverty are. The development of sustainable development goals, therefore, requires that the centrality of the human person be prioritized, in accordance with its recognition as first principle of sustainable development by the 1992 Rio Conference, so as to inspire meaningful programmes which are responsive to the needs of each person and community. In order to adopt such action-oriented and human-centered goals, people – particularly the poor and those on the margins of society, who are most directly affected and should benefit most – must be given a voice in their planning and implementation.
Poverty constitutes a vicious circle of which exclusion is both its cause and consequence. Poverty results from people and communities being excluded from participating in the economic, social, political and cultural life of the societies in which they live as one human family, as they are unable to develop their capacities and are denied the opportunities necessary to provide for themselves, their families and their communities. Exclusion effectively impoverishes the whole human family, since the potential contributions of the poor to our collective well-being are lost through the goods and services that are left unrealized, political perspectives and values left unharnessed, and the art, stories and songs for the collective human history left uncomposed.
Excluding the poor means denying them from their rightful share in the life of the human family, in its hopes and dreams, its successes and its accomplishments, all of which are rooted in our common humanity, and to which no one country, people or culture can claim exclusive ownership. All people have, on account of their membership in the human family, the birthright to benefit from this common heritage as well as a right and a duty to participate in enriching this tremendous legacy.
Since exclusion is the central cause of poverty, eradicating poverty can only come through inclusion of the poor. Economic, social, political and cultural inclusion means first to break down all barriers to inclusion, all exclusionary privileges that benefit the few at the expense of the many, that generate artificial and unsustainable wealth for some while creating poverty for others. Exclusion promotes the monopolization of the collective human intellectual and natural heritage, unfair trade regimes, chronic economic and political dependence, to name but a few instances.
Inclusion, on the other hand, means inviting the poor to participate in the world’s economic, social, political and cultural systems as full partners, building up their capabilities so that they can take their deserved seat at the table for all, as equals, so that economic exchanges will be mutually beneficial and that politics will involve real partnerships.
This model of inclusion constitutes a truly human-centered bottom-up approach to poverty eradication and will help to ensure that sustainable development goals become a model for fostering partnerships which capitalize on the vast experience and wisdom of those who daily face the harsh realities and challenges of poverty with courage and forbearance.
Thank you, Mr. Co-Chair.