Achieving Social Development for All

Author: Bishop Diarmuid Martin


Bishop Diarmuid Martin, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

A Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly was held from 26 June to 1 July in Geneva, Switzerland. Known as "Copenhagen +5", the Session examined the goals that had been achieved by the international community since the 1995 World Summit for Social Development. The Holy See Delegation was headed by Bishop Diarmuid Martin, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, who spoke at the plenary session on 30 June. Here is the text of his address, which was given in English.

Mr President,

The Copenhagen Social Summit stands out among all the recent summits and world conferences because it addressed the concerns of the human person in a global manner, rather than stressing specific sectorial aspects of the development process. The documents of the Summit thus contributed to the emergence of important goals and targets for the community of nations.

1. An integral vision

The Copenhagen Summit embraced "a political, economic, ethical and spiritual vision for social development" (n. 25). This mirrors what the documents of the Holy See have traditionally called "integral human development", a development approach which addresses the human person in his or her entirety, and addresses at the same time the needs of the entire human family.

This vision led the Summit to note the multidimensional aspect of poverty in today's world. A multidimensional phenomenon can only be addressed by a multidimensional response. Indeed, in the five years since Copenhagen, we have learned still more clearly that there is no single answer to the challenges posed by poverty and exclusion: no single ideology, no single economic model contains a totally adequate response. No one sector of society can by itself satisfactorily address the question. In the five years since Copenhagen, we have also come to realize that no single nation or economic bloc can hope to resolve questions which have assumed a global dimension. A truly international community must be created, in which each sector and each nation assumes its appropriate role and responsibility, within a framework of solidarity and respect for the rights and dignity of each person.

2. A comprehensive response

Commitment 1(h) of the Copenhagen Declaration noted the importance of dynamic, open and free markets as a means to help people attain social development. But the same paragraph also notes the important role of governments in intervening, to the extent necessary, to promote stability, to ensure fair competition and ethical conduct and to harmonize economic and social development. It also stressed the need to entitle people living in poverty to participate fully and productively in the economy and in society.

Pope John Paul II, in his Encyclical Centesimus annus (n. 34), stressed the importance of the free market as "the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs". But likewise he also immediately noted that "there are many human needs which find no place on the market" and that "it is a strict duty of justice and truth not to allow such fundamental human needs to remain unsatisfied".

In the past years, the need for an integral or comprehensive approach to social development has been reconfirmed. There has been a renewed sense of the importance of economic growth and of markets. But there is now also an increased understanding of which policies of social investment are most likely to generate a sustainable combination of economic growth and social progress. Growth must be integrated with other economic and human values so that it becomes "quality growth", that is, growth with equity, stability and ecological sustainability. Economic growth, especially in a knowledge-based economy, cannot be separated from investment in people, in the creative and innovative capacities of the human person, the primary resource of any economy and of any society.

Economic growth will foster social development above all if it is set in a framework not only of functioning governance structures, but also a public administration at the service of the community, infrastructures which facilitate the contribution of citizens and a private sector with a focused social orientation. Social development flourishes in those societies which are participatory and democratic, in which human rights are fostered and in which citizens can become the true protagonists of the decisions which affect their lives.

3. Commitments must be honoured

Alongside the emergence of new models of fostering economic and social development, there have been a number of unsettling developments in the past five years.

The first is the inability of the community of nations to provide the necessary means—both financial and in terms of political will—to achieve certain goals and targets solemnly proclaimed and recognized as being both attainable and desirable. This applies to the commitments assumed at Copenhagen as well, as to many of those related to current debt relief initiatives. A prerequisite of a true community of nations is that promises be honoured by both the powerful and the weak. More than ever in human history we need an international order in which relations between States are based on the rule of law and respect for internationally agreed norms and commitments and which are based on trust and solidarity. All States, rich and poor, must have equitable access to the decision making process of the globalizing world.

The failure of nations to live up to their solemnly proclaimed commitments weakens the confidence of the citizens of the world in international norms and instruments, just at the very moment that their importance for peaceful world cooperation is growing day by day.

In a world where the resources for development are limited, we must examine ways of making maximal use of ODA, debt relief and private investment, while not excluding the examination of innovative forms of resource generation appropriate to the new international financial structure. The poorest countries must have fair and open access to the markets of the developed countries, particularly for the products in which they enjoy advantage.

4. A culture of solidarity

We have lived, in recent years, through an unprecedented era of scientific growth, which has produced great benefits for humankind, but in which we have not yet found the science of adequately sharing, of ensuring that the benefits of progress are equitably made available to all the citizens of the world. Today we still have the opportunity to lay the foundations for equitable long term access by the poorest countries to knowledge, especially that knowledge essential for human survival and development. But we must act rapidly if we wish to avoid a consolidation of the current divide. Our generation will be judged by history perhaps above all on this one question: did we or did we not success fully address the challenge of placing the extraordinary fruits of human genius in the field of information technology truly at the service of all of humankind?

Achieving such sharing will require a process of awareness-raising among citizens and decision-makers alike in order to create a consciousness of the need for a new international culture of solidarity. A world which leaves millions of its citizens on the margins of progress has no right to claim for itself the title "global". The term "global" must become synonymous with "inclusive"! To use Pope John Paul's words, we need "globalization with solidarity, globalization without marginalization". There is, in fact, no sustainable alternative to solidarity. The other option would be a world based on relations of protectionism, founded however on fear, suspicion and exclusion.

5. The world of work

The Copenhagen Summit addressed the question of productive work. Work, in its various manifestations, is an essential dimension of being human. Since people are the primary resource of a modern economy, their rights and dignity must be given a new priority, both as regards access to work and the quality of the workplace. Investment in education and skills-training are important keys along the path towards a society in which all people can bring the contribution of their work more effectively to the benefit of all.

The concept of "decent work" which is currently being promoted by the International Labour Office is a logical development of the reflection which emerged at the Copenhagen Summit. It is a surprisingly simple concept which looks at the basic aspirations of millions of men and women and their families in today's world. But unfortunately for so many of them, it is far from being a reality. Indeed human labour could run the risk of becoming the primary victim of an economic model which should prize human capacity. The creation of jobs can contribute both to the fight against poverty and enhance human dignity and fulfilment. Guaranteeing decent conditions of work can enhance the lives of so many women and men, with important social and economic consequences.

A renewed cooperation between governments, the business community, workers' representatives and the world of education can help to find ways of overcoming the worst forms of abuse in the workplace, including child labour, while at the same time improving those human capacities of workers which is so important for development.

6. A world of peace

In too many parts of the world today, the primary causes of poverty are linked to war and conflict. War and conflict impede all forms of social stability and progress. They cause disastrous human consequences in terms of loss of life and injury, even to children and the innocent. The natural environment and basic human infrastructures are damaged, thus setting back the progress even of decades. The possibility of attracting productive investment is eliminated.

We can no longer afford the luxury of living-with the illusion that the social and the security agendas of international order can be separated. The security of a nation is sustainable only when its citizens can live in security and flourish in their God-given talents. We all know well the costs of insecurity and conflict. It is surely not beyond the ability of the community of nations to finds ways of effectively addressing issues such as economic exploitation of conflict situations or massive disproportionate arms spending. They are questions which affect the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.

Peace is a rich concept which in its biblical roots sums up what we today would call social development. It is a relationship between people and peoples in which they live in harmony among each other and in harmony with their own environment. It is a concept in which each person can realize his or her talents fully and in which the goods of creation - both material and spiritual - are equitably shared.

Our meeting, five years after Copenhagen, is. a recognition that as we begin a new century and a new millennium there are many who aspire to such a vision of humankind living in peace, a world in which nations, rich and poor, can share the wealth which each possesses, not just wealth as an economic resource, but in its full human, cultural and spiritual sense. May God bless our common effort.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
12 July 2000, page 6

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