BY STAFF REPORTER
THE PAPAL nuncio to the United Nations has challenged the international community to unite against global poverty, which he called “an insult to our common humanity”.
Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, who leads the permanent observer mission of the Holy See at UN headquarters in New York, said: “We have the means to bring an end to poverty. Do we have the will? That is the question.” The archbishop was speaking before the UN General Assembly’s Second Committee, which deals with economic and financial matters, on its agenda item 24, “eradication of poverty”.
Citing the Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger by 2015, he said: “The combined food, fuel and financial crises since 2008 have slowed down, and even reversed, progress toward eradication of poverty in many developing countries around the world.” According to statistics released at 2010 meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, 64 million more people are estimated to be living in extreme poverty and 40 million more went hungry because of the global economic crisis, he said.
In addition, it is estimated that by 2015 “1.2 million more children under five may die, 350,000 more students may not complete primary school, and some 100 million more people may remain without access to safe water,” he said.
“Now, more than ever, is the time to re-commit efforts toward such poverty eradication,” the archbishop added.
Archbishop Chullikatt said many countries “have reduced the already small percentage of GDP [gross domestic product] contributed as official development aid, and instead are devoting such resources to stabilising their own financial systems.
“It is therefore necessary that development assistance to the poorest countries be driven by a principle of global solidarity between rich and poor countries, triggered by a common recognition of belonging to one human family,” he said.
But solidarity should not be seen as “a feeling of vague compassion”, he said, quoting the late Pope John Paul II, nor should it be merely a handout.
“The poor should be helped to take their own initiatives to improve their living conditions and become champions of their own development,” the archbishop said. “Otherwise we run the risk that the place of creative initiative will be replaced by passivity, dependence and submission to a bureaucratic system.” He called on the UN to provide the poor with “the medicines and treatments needed to fight pandemic diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, tetanus and HIV/Aids”.