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Paper of the Holy See To the IV Preparatory Committee Meeting for the World Summit for Sustainable Development
Bali, May 27 – June 7, 2002
1. The World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD), meeting 10 years after the Rio Earth Summit, provides the nations of the world with an opportunity to assess the progress made in the last decade, to reinforce the positive gains made while reducing the negative elements that still persist.
Addressing the three pillars of sustainable development — the economic, the social and the environmental — the WSSD endeavors to safeguard and improve the material conditions that will be passed on to future generations of all societies. This endeavor will be even more praiseworthy if it is a true sign of human solidarity, bridging important national, cultural, generational, and other differences, on behalf of the common good, which obviously includes the preservation and cultivation of the earth´s resources. To achieve this, any society must be rooted in solid ethical values or it is without direction and lacks the necessary foundations upon which the sought-after development can be built and sustained. These efforts are best directed in finding ways to better order human society by guaranteeing basic requirements of justice, human rights, peace and freedom. The WSSD will prove to be a worthy contribution to an improved state of the world if it can successfully balance and indeed prioritize its efforts to improve the living conditions of all.
Sustainable Development as a part of Integral Human Development
2. The concept of sustainable development is taken to mean the process of meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This concept has to be understood from the perspective of integral human development. “The development we speak of cannot be restricted to economic growth alone. To be authentic, it must be well rounded; it must foster the development of each human being and of the whole human being.” The WSSD must take care to ensure that sustainable development efforts explicitly serve the integral development of the human person.
All institutions, especially those of an international scope, may be tempted to place their own preservation above all else and at the expense of serving those they were meant to serve. Once an institution does this, it loses its primary objective and purpose. The principle to follow is not that of allowing economic, social and political factors to prevail over the human being, but for the dignity of the human person to be put above everything else.
Recognizing Human Dignity as a Basis for Sustainable Development
3. The first principle of the Rio Declaration states: “Human beings are at the center of sustainable development concerns”; as such it is the starting point for the discussion of sustainable development and must be recognized as the basis for the work of the WSSD. It helps focus the special responsibility human beings have not only to each other but for the environment.
Following the principle of human dignity is the complete notion of human ecology, which rests primarily on ensuring and safeguarding moral conditions in the action of the human being in the environment. It must also be noted that the “first and fundamental structure for ´human ecology´ is the family, in which man receives his first formative ideas about truth and goodness, and learns what it means to love and to be loved, and thus what it actually means to be a person.” In this context, particular attention should be given to a “social ecology” of work.
Globalization, Cultural Identity and Sustainable Development
4. The setting of the WSSD is that of a globalizing world, characterized by the growing integration of economies and societies. Here, it is necessary to recall that “globalization, a priori, is neither good nor bad. It will be what people make of it. No system is an end in itself, and it is necessary to insist that globalization, like any other system, must be at the service of the human person; it must serve solidarity and the common good.”
There are concerns that globalization has also become a cultural phenomenon, where the individual has begun to doubt his own ability and aptitude to really shape the milieu in which he lives, and the things he has created. Accordingly, sustainable development must be based on a solid ethical basis that respects the diversity and importance of cultures, which are “life´s interpretative keys. In particular, it must not deprive the poor of what remains most precious to them, including their religious beliefs and practices, since genuine religious convictions are the clearest manifestations of human freedom.”
It is also possible that greater integration brings cultures closer together, more in the form of mutual exchange rather than a clash, and often promotes greater understanding and interdependence among cultures. While the sudden intermingling of cultures may bring out social tensions and antagonisms, a more complete understanding of the role of culture in human development and a more sincere “dialogue among cultures and civilizations” may help lessen these difficulties.