Sunday, June 03, 2007

Bishops to G8: "The World Can't Wait"

In advance of the annual G8 Summit -- coming later this week in Germany -- an international group of senior prelates recently advanced a set of proposals they'd like to see the world's richest nations tackle.

Led by three cardinals -- Rodriguez of Honduras, Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster and the now-famous Keith O'Brien -- the group's statement issued a firm call for more intense development, accountability and anti-poverty efforts, noting in the process that "poverty goes hand in hand with bad governance. And bad governance goes hand in hand with corruption."
There are many issues of relevance to development that we could raise – the role of remittances as source of development finance, foreign direct investment, intellectual property and the lack of progress on trade resulting from entrenched interests in the United States and the European Union – but we focus here on a narrow range of issues in which, given the necessary political will, the G8 can make a real difference.

We witness children dying as a result of malnutrition and lack of basic healthcare. We witness families torn apart because mothers and fathers, unable to provide for their children at home, have become illegal and undocumented migrants in a desperate quest for a basic income. We witness small scale farmers and fisherfolk who stand by helpless as they see their land eroded, their forests cut down and their fishing grounds emptied of fish by industrial fleets. We witness growing slum areas in mega-cities breeding desperation, violence and unrest. We witness whole communities being displaced for the sake of economic gain.

On the other hand, in other regions we see record rates of economic growth and multinational corporations which operate beyond control of national legislation and which themselves have become major power brokers in the global community. We see wealth and material fortune at the same time as abject poverty. While the number of millionaires and billionaires is growing fast in some parts of the world, the numbers of the extreme poor remain stubbornly high. We must also mention the vast gulf between military expenditure which reached $824 billion in 2006 compared with global aid of $75 billion.

As Christian leaders we believe that “God intended the earth with everything contained in it for the use of all human beings and peoples. Thus, under the leadership of justice and in the company of charity, created goods should be in abundance for all in like manner.” (Vat II, [Gaudium et Spes] 69).

This leads us to question the prevalent model of economic growth which operates without reference to the common good and the well-being of the human beings it is intended to serve. If growth is not guided by deliberate policy choices based on clear ethical values, we will face an increasingly polarised world in which humanity is divided into “winners” and “losers”. Our perspective leads us to call for a model of economic growth and of globalisation that incorporates the value of solidarity based on mutual respect and mutual support.
The statement continues the Vatican-led push by church brass on questions of the environment and climate change -- which, it says, "has made us all too aware of the fragile limits of our environment and of the threat to development and to human life itself posed by uncontrolled, business-as-usual economic growth."

The bishops quoted Pope John Paul II, who in his 2003 World Day of Peace (1 January) message said that "If at all times commitments ought to be kept, promises made to the poor should be considered particularly binding. Especially frustrating for them is any breach of faith regarding promises which they see as vital to their well-being. In this respect, the failure to keep commitments in the sphere of aid to developing nations is a serious moral question and further highlights the injustice of the imbalances existing in the world. The suffering caused by poverty is compounded by the loss of trust. The end result is hopelessness. The existence of trust in international relations is a social capital of fundamental value."

Saying that "both as citizens and as Christian leaders we are aware of the share of responsibility that properly belongs to us," the impromptu group -- comprising bishops from developed and developing nations -- recommended several measures to the leaders of the eight wealthiest countries. Among these were a stepped up implementation of pledged contributions for global development efforts; a "fundament reform" of international lending bodies, and a closer G8 eye on the accountability new regimes in the developing world have toward their citizens in terms of political freedoms and the people's role in government.

Alongside the three cardinals, other signatories of the group's statement included Archbishops John Onaiyekan of the Nigerian capital Abuja, Vincent Concessao of Delhi, the German Werner Thissen of Hamburg, and the heads of major Catholic humanitarian and relief organizations. Representing the US was Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, a former undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

SVILUPPO: In what's been called an unprecedented move, another letter has been sent to the G8 leaders by the presidents of the episcopal conferences of the industrialized nations.

...well, seven of the eight -- conspicuous by his absence from what could be called the "C8" is Archbishop Angelo Comastri, the newly-appointed head of the Italian conference, the CEI.