Vatican to UN: pandemic makes 2030 poverty elimination goal even harder to achieve

CNA 547e2cf840942 42813 Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, pictured in Lebanon on Dec. 2, 2014. | Kevin Jones.

The coronavirus crisis has made the international community's goal of eradicating poverty by 2030 even harder to achieve, a Vatican representative told the United Nations Tuesday.

In a statement Oct. 13, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said that, despite the pledge made in 2015, poverty remained "one of the greatest global challenges of our time."

Speaking during the 75th session of the UN General Assembly in New York, he said: "In June 2020, the World Bank estimated that the COVID-19 pandemic could push as many as 100 million people into extreme poverty within this year, leading, for the first time in decades, to an increase in the poverty rates globally."

"More than 200 million people have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. Those who were already in vulnerable situations -- including the unemployed, those in 'informal' or precarious employment, seasonal and migrant workers -- are at risk of falling into poverty." 

Caccia argued that education was critical to lifting families out of poverty, but the pandemic had deprived many children around the world of access to schooling. He also highlighted what Pope Francis has called "pharmaceutical poverty": unequal access to medicine and healthcare. 

Citing this year's papal message for the World Day of the Poor, he said: "Poverty is about so much more than the amount of financial resources on which people rely for their survival. It 'appears in a variety of guises' and thus eliminating it requires an integral approach that unites monetary measures with comprehensive policies addressing the non-monetary deprivations that millions of people face at the educational, social, political, cultural, and spiritual levels."

He continued: "If we are to succeed in our shared commitment to eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions by 2030, development policies must give priority to those most in need and foster an economy and a model of development where the human person, especially the poor, is at the center."

Caccia made another intervention the same day. In a statement on sustainable development, he urged countries to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, minimize the damage inflicted by climate change, and engage in "disaster risk reduction."

"The fight against climate change is a question of justice and a moral imperative. It should combine protecting the environment with advancing the dignity of the human person, eradicating poverty and promoting integral human development, and caring for both present and future generations," he said.

In an intervention the day before, Oct. 12, Caccia called for multilateral cooperation to defeat international terrorism.

He said: "Violence and extremism are often driven by economic, political, and socio-cultural factors, which foment the grievances of marginalized groups. Greater attention must thus be given to the remedies for the root causes of terrorism, such as educating youth, not marginalizing individuals or groups, resolving severe economic disparity, promoting dialogue and respect for diversity and inclusiveness."

He urged authorities to respect religious freedom while combating terrorism.

"Greater efforts are also needed to foster tolerance and inclusivity towards minorities through a robust promotion of the right to freedom of conscience, religion and belief, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In fact, failure to respect those freedoms may nurture an environment prone to violence and extremism," he said.

"It is therefore indispensable to promote a positive and respectful distinction between the political sphere and that of religion, so as to preserve both the religious freedom of all persons and the irreplaceable role of religion in the formation of consciences and the creation of a basic ethical consensus in society."

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