"Fight poverty, but don’t eliminate the poor!"

on Saturday, 01 January 2011. Posted in UN

Address of Cardinal Turkson to the United Nations

Here are large excerpts from an address given on September 20, 2010 at the United Nations headquarters in New York City by Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and head of the Holy See delegation to the summit of heads of state and government on the Millennium Development Goals :

Cardinal Peter Turkson

Cardinal Peter Turkson at the UN headquarters in New York (UN Photo/Ky Chung)

In addition to providing the financial means to redress the problems associated with the international financial system, hard work is still needed to eradicate the debts of poor countries and to prevent the recurrence of certain situations of international usury that have marked the last decades of the 20th century. We need constant low-cost cash flows for the less developed countries, specifically destined to create structures for sustainable local productivity and stable high-level employment. Developed countries and emerging economies should also generously keep their markets open, without excessive demands for trade reciprocity, in order to help poor countries grow towards the economic independence necessary to promote their socio-economic development. A constant sharing of knowledge in the areas of science and technology has to be offered to poorer countries so that they can generate, on a local level, the capacities necessary to solve effectively, by themselves, their health-care problems and their need to diversify agricultural and industrial production. (…)

Countless innocent victims, whole populations, have been left in the wake of the international financial crisis. The unethical and irresponsible conduct of large private financial operators, together with the lack of foresight and control by Governments and the international community, have all played a role. Excessive nationalism and corporate self-interest, as well as old and new ideologies, fomenting wars and conflicts, are all obstacles to development. Illicit trafficking of persons, drugs and precious raw materials linked to the situation of war and extreme poverty, on the one hand, and the lack of scruples of certain economic and social contractors from more developed regions, on the other hand, continue to be serious impediments to development. (…)

All Governments, both of developed and developing countries, must accept their responsibility to fight corruption against reckless and sometimes immoral behavior in the areas of business and finances…in order to guarantee the «rule of law» and to promote the human aspects of development (…)

Any attempt to use the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) to spread and impose egoistic lifestyles or, worse still, population policies as a cheap means to reduce the number of poor people, would be malevolent and short-sighted. I say this, not just as a religious leader, but also as an African and a man coming from a poor family. I urge the international community not to be afraid of the poor. MDGs should be used to fight poverty, and not to eliminate the poor! Instead, give poor countries a friendly financial and trade mainframe, and help them to promote good governance and the participation of civil society, and Africa and the other poor regions of the world will effectively contribute to the welfare of all.

The inherent and equal dignity, the individuality, and the transcendence of each human being must be the foundation of each and every policy on development. Morally responsible openness to life represents a rich social and economic resource (Caritas in Veritate, 44). Reverence for human life, from conception until natural death, and respect for the capacity of men and women to live upstanding moral lives, affirms their personal transcendence, even if they live in poverty. Controlling one’s passions and overcoming hedonistic impulses, constitute the starting point for building a harmonious society. Such respect is also the necessary and essential condition for sustainable economic development and integral human development. Hence, the Holy See reaffirms its conviction that great benefits will accrue to all men and women now living in poverty, only if the MDGs are understood and pursued in harmony with objective moral standards and human nature (cf. Caritas in Veritate, nos. 44, 68- 70 and 75).