.- The Vatican made public today, an April 10th speech given by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations in New York, before the 40th session of the Economic and Social Council's Commission on Population and Development, which is considering the theme: "The changing age structures of populations and their implications for development."
Speaking English, the archbishop highlighted how the current session coincided with the 40th anniversary of Paul VI's Encyclical "Populorum Progressio," which places emphasis "on the individual and on societies, both as the primary focus of development policies and as protagonists of their own development," and "even today provides a sure guide for demographic policies to promote a culture respectful of the rights of the least-protected members of our human family, especially before birth and in extreme old age.”
"The reports made to the commission this year," he added, "suggest that dependency ratios are set to soar in some places, where an increasing number of elderly people will lay a heavier burden on the active population. It is to be hoped that States will work to foster respect for human life in all its stages and to find solutions that are right and just, not merely pragmatic. Here in particular, promoting solidarity between generations will be very valuable."
Focusing on the situation in Africa, which "is set to have the lowest dependency ratio in the world," Archbishop Migliore pointed out how "this projection should hand that continent an unprecedented advantage in economic terms, as a young and numerous workforce should be available to it until at least 2050, while the demographic dividend in most other regions will have run out. To assure that Africa does not miss this window of opportunity for economic development, it must be helped, inter alia, to invest in its human capital and infrastructure to underpin economic growth. Because many of this future work force are already born and are already of school age, my delegation believes that the most decisive investment to be made here is in education.”
"The UN Secretariat estimates that to achieve primary education for all by 2015 would cost nine billion dollars estimated in 1998 dollar value. By any estimate, this can hardly be considered a high price to pay for such a prize," said the archbishop. "Moreover, education, especially for girls and young women, can have a notable impact on population growth. As women become better educated, they gain greater respect; they become breadwinners; they acquire maturity in parental responsibility and a greater say in family affairs.”
"Investing in people in this way," he concluded, "especially in education, is surely to be preferred to legal imposition of limits, to artificial corrective measures and drastic policies, and to the unacceptable practice of eliminating fetuses, especially females, in order to limit population growth."