Development goals must advance amid economic crisis, archbishop tells U.N. council

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi


The present economic crisis may jeopardize development goals in other countries and could undermine human rights, Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi told the Human Rights Council at the United Nations on Tuesday.

Archbishop Tomasi, the Holy See’s permanent representative to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations in Geneva, said the financial crisis shows the degree of global interdependence.

He added that the Human Rights Council’s current debate on the right to development is an opportunity both to strengthen international commitment on the right to development and to transform political will into “concrete action.”

Risks of deteriorating economies and social situations, even in wealthy countries, are resulting in increasing numbers of people suffering new forms of poverty, social exclusion and marginalization, he said.

Archbishop Tomasi said the Holy See’s delegation is interested in the U.N. task force which is creating a list of “right-to-development” criteria around the three components of “human-centered development,” an “enabling environment,” and social justice and equity.

Agreement on these criteria could be a “fundamental step” to place consideration for the human person and his inherent rights and dignity in development policies at all levels.

In development, the archbishop explained, the human person is not only a receiver of aid but also the real actor in his or her development and relationships among peoples.

He cited Pope Benedict XVI’s recent encyclical Caritas In Veritate, which taught that man is “the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life.”

Further, he said the Holy See’s delegation believes the cultural component of the right to development must include the “ethical and spiritual dimensions” of the human person. The archbishop encouraged the endorsement of an “enabling environment” for the right to development and said states should remove obstacles to that development, such as human rights violations.

Archbishop Tomasi also discussed the Catholic social principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, saying they are “complementary.”

Subsidiarity “allows the participation of the beneficiaries of aid in the process of development through the responsible use of their freedom and talents,” he explained.

The archbishop closed with an expression of support for standards of social justice and equity that emphasize the moral dimension of protecting human rights and sharing development benefits such as access to food, housing, health care and employment.

He also endorsed dialogue with poverty reduction, debt transfer, technology transfer and other global partnerships.

“We believe that such work is laying the ground work for States and the international community to concretely reduce economic and social disparities, too often a cause of violations of human dignity and human rights,” he said.

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