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UN Vatican Rep Calls for Action on MDGs

April 7th, 2008

NEW YORK, APRIL 4, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Address delivered by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, at the 62nd session of the U.N. General Assembly. The statement was given during the debate on “Recognizing the Achievements, Addressing the Challenges and Getting Back on Track to Achieve the MDGs by 2015.”

“For a Better Future and a Better World Fit for All”

Mr. President,

In the year 2000, in this very Hall, Heads of State and of Government agreed on an ambitious, yet needed, set of global development goals to be achieved by 2015. At halfway point, while much has been done towards achieving the goals, abject poverty, hunger, illiteracy and lack of even the most basic healthcare are still rampant, indeed worsening in some regions. Tackling these challenges that continue to afflict hundreds of millions remains, therefore, at the very centre of our concerns.

Authoritative studies tell us that in spite of the remarkable economic growth in many developing countries, the overall goal of reducing hunger and poverty has remained elusive.

My delegation believes that greater international solidarity is necessary if we are to succeed in narrowing the ever-increasing gap between rich and poor countries and between individuals within countries. While international aid is important, a fairer international trade environment — including addressing market-distorting practices which disadvantage weaker economies – is even more decisive. In this regard, the importance of the upcoming Doha Review Conference cannot be stressed enough. The combined efforts to meet the 0.7% of ODA and to review trade and financing mechanisms on the one hand, and to end bad governance and internecine conflicts in recipient States on the other, will go a long way in lifting millions out of extreme poverty and hunger.

My delegation wishes to assure that the Holy See remains actively engaged in alleviating poverty and hunger, which are an offense against human dignity. It will not cease to highlight these basic needs, so that they remain at the centre of international attention and are addressed as a matter of social justice.

The Holy See is very pleased of the good progress towards achieving universal access to primary education, with some of the poorest regions seeing a dramatic increase in enrollment. However, without redoubled efforts, 58 countries may not achieve the goal of universal primary schooling by 2015.

Education underpins all the MDGs. It is the most effective tool to empower men and women to achieve greater social, economic and political freedom. Governments and civil society, public and private sectors, parents and teachers must invest in the education of future generations to prepare them to face the challenges of an increasingly globalised society. In particular, utmost efforts must be made to give equal educational opportunities to boys and girls, and to ensure that no child is left behind for purely economic and social reasons.

Precisely with this end in view, thousands of educational institutions of the Catholic Church are located in degraded inner cities and in far-flung villages, in the peripheries of huge cities and in places where children are constrained to work to survive.

The health-related MDGs also require our collective action. While progress has been made in reducing child mortality, there has been slower progress in addressing maternal health, HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. The overriding cause of the slow progress has been the lack of resources at the most basic levels of healthcare and the continued lack of access to even basic health services. It has been long demonstrated that investing in primary healthcare, rather than in selective, culturally divisive and ideologically driven forms of health services, which camouflage the destruction of life among medical and social services, is one of the most cost effective and successful ways to improve the overall quality of life and the stability of families and communities.

Moreover, the lack of progress on the health-related goals demonstrates the interconnected and mutually reinforcing nature of the MDGs. The significant correlation between poverty and the persistent high levels of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and maternal mortality is evident. My delegation wishes to assure that the Holy See, through its institutions, will continue to provide basic healthcare, with a preferential option for the most underserved and marginalized sectors of society.

This thematic debate halfway towards 2015 comes at this rather poignant time of the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At the heart of both the UDHR and the MDGs is the goal of a better future for all. More than talks and summits, the achievement of this goal requires commitment and concrete action. Our common fight against extreme poverty, hunger, illiteracy and illnesses is not merely an act of generosity and altruism: it is a “conditio sine qua non” for a better future and a better world fit for all.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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