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Conference on Humanizing the Global Economy


Keynote Address by His Excellency, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin
Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations Office and Specialized Agencies in Geneva
and to the World Trade Organization

Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, Washington D.C.
28th January 2002

The family of nations is a dysfunctional family. This is one of the chief challenges we have to address when we talk about humanizing the global economy. The family of nations is a dysfunctional family in so many differing ways.

For over seven years, I had the privilege and the interesting task of working as Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and to take part in a series of World Summits and Conferences which set out those priorities for international cooperation in favor of development, which were then more firmly established in the United Nations Millennium Declaration. I also had the privilege of seeing at first hand the work of the local Churches in favor of the development of their people.

In my new assignment, I now act the Vatican's representative at the various United Nations Agencies in Geneva, such, as the International Labor Office, the World Health Organization, the Offices of the High Commissioners for Human Rights and for Refugees, the Conference on Trade and Development, the World Intellectual Property Organization, as well as the World Trade Organization, which is not part of the United Nations Family. The United Nations Human Rights Commission meets in Geneva for five weeks each year and the Economic and Social Commission also meets in Geneva every second year, alternating with New York. Much of my time is devoted to questions of disarmament and humanitarian law.

I make this introduction not just to let you know how busy I am. I want rather, together with you, in the context of the title of our Conference, to look at the broad horizon of the activities of the family of nations today and their interrelation.

Let me give you one example of interrelationship. Human rights activity is not just a specialized sphere. Issues of trade, of development, of intellectual property, of health, of refugees all have human rights dimensions. The question of human rights is linked with-every aspect of the activities of the international organizations and of governments around the world. This is so because human rights activity is essentially linked with the dignity and the aspirations of each individual human person and with the destiny of the entire human family, with the global common good. Human rights must be fostered and protected in every aspect of human activity. Human rights policy must also be coherent. Human rights conventions must be respected by all. Pacta sunt observanda.

And human rights cannot be implemented today just by government decree. The full realization of human rights will only be achieved by a process of close collaboration between many actors: governments, international organizations, religious groups, nongovernment organizations as well as business. It is only by establishing new networks of cooperation that it will be possible to humanize globalization.

Much of the discussion on humanizing globalization is focused on global governance, on structures and on the role of international institutions and international cooperation.

In following the work of different institutions, I have seen many useful proposals concerning new networks and new structures for global governance. I have seen new initiatives for the fight against poverty and for the protection of workers. We have heard about some of them today and we will be hearing more about them in the coming days.

I do not wish to pass judgment on these proposals, much less on those who have established them. But I do wish to stress that most of these initiatives are doomed to produce very modest results if they are not accompanied by a parallel and massive new investment in the capacities of people.

Let me explain what I mean by giving you some examples.

There is no need here to remind people about debt relief and the benefits it can bring to the poorest countries. It is something we have all worked on. I have even got my photo standing between the Pope and Bono!

It is good to see how a question like debt relief fostered an extraordinary synergy of thought and action, linking grass roots communities, development agencies, governments, religious leaders and international financial institutions. Some of you were possibly at that meeting organized by the United States Bishops at Seton Hall some years ago which was a pivotal point in that process

But the real effects of debt relief on poverty reduction will depend on the way its benefits really reach the poor: the effectiveness of debt relief depends on how far the resources that are freed are then invested in the creative capacities of the people of the poorest countries, so that they become the agents of their own economic and social progress.

We speak of the protection and the promotion of human rights. But there will be no protection of human rights in countries where there are only a few trained lawyers, only inexperienced judges, a poorly paid police force, and where corruption may be endemic. Human rights protection is not just about rights texts and legislation. It is about qualified people.

We speak of the right to education, but we have to remember that in many countries there are not nearly enough teachers, teaching is not a high-profile profession and often there are no classrooms.

We speak about health for all. But we have not been able to establish a network of primary health-care institutions in the poorest countries. People die from preventable diseases or from lack of basic education concerning hygiene. Life expectancy in many African countries has dropped to below 40. We need not so much highly qualified doctors, we need to invest in local birth attendants, local health workers. Even access to cheap medicines will not attain the desired results if there is not a back-up network of health education. Again it is a question of investing in personnel locally

We speak about financing for development and increased development assistance. But we do not need assistance just to reinforce current bureaucracies or to sell the development model of the day, before it changes. We have to learn to spend differently and make sure that the funds reach the poor. As development assistance declines there is a certain rush to grasp a share in the resources which come from philanthropy, often with the risk of financing "pet projects" of donor driven concerns, rather than real needs.

We speak of open markets, but we see the difficulties placed on the free movement of people. Migration must become a normal, connatural dimension of open markets. The countries of the north need new workers, both skilled and unskilled: and yet we find political parties mounting new anti-immigrant campaigns.

Today we speak of access to the markets of the wealthier countries for the products of the poorest countries, just trading policies, which could in fact generate economic benefits which exceed all international development aid put together. But do the poorer countries have the supplyside technical capacity to produce goods suitable to those markets and the ability to get them there effectively? Without massive investment in people and in basic infrastructures the progress made, for example, at the Doha World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference - if it is finally realized will be greatly hampered.

I recently found myself sitting at dinner next to a man who explained to me that his firm had the major market share in fish in a major European city. And he surprised me. He said that he had realized early one in his career that the success of his business depended primarily on the ability of a group of fisher folk in Western Africa to be able to deliver promptly, dependably and efficiently a good quality catch. He realized that his very sophisticated business depended on the type of investment he could make in this African fishing cooperative. He got involved in helping them to improve their fleet, their refrigeration systems, their ability to get their products quickly to his market, he even taught them how to deal with local bureaucracies to avoid delays.

The old story of giving a man a fish or a fishing rod, in today's global world, means enabling men and women to have access to the infrastructures needed to make their fishing sustainable. It is a question of enhancing human capacities.

I come back to my litany of examples.

We talk about the contribution of business and the private sector as a fundamental driving force for economic development. But in developing countries there is often dramatic lack of a business culture. And paradoxically, where business culture exists, it has been misread. The classical example is the success of the micro-credit system. The success is a massive indictment of the traditional banking system which misread the ability of poor people to carry on sustainable economic enterprise - if only on a micro scale -, and to pay back loans. Funds went to the wrong persons.

Business is good for poor countries. Yes. But provided that business itself observe it's own rules of honesty, fairness and transparency. We have only to look at our television screens in these days to see that this is not always the case.

Less government/more private sector? It is never an either or. We need the correct mix of both. It's amusing to hear how those who most favor the role of the private sector and market forces in development, respond, when you ask them about investment in poorer countries: They immediately point to the lack of effective and transparent government! Indeed very often they require such protection from risk for their investment that they actually distort the market. The market needs the dynamism and creativity of enterprise, but it also needs a strong ethical and juridical framework, and the means to enforce the law - and not just in developing countries.

We speak about global governance and rules-based systems. But when the starting points of the different protagonists are so different, the rigid application of the same rules, in a one size fits all manner, will only increase asymmetries and inequalities. The fact, for example, that many poor countries do not even have a permanent mission at the WTO in Geneva, even though they are members, is a symbol of the unequal negotiating powers of different countries in so many different organizations. The family of nations is a dysfunctional family. But the WTO does provide rules for a multilateral trading system, and is better than a certain type of regionalism would be controlled by a dominant economic power, with very little space for the weakest economies

When I see these various examples, I have come to the conclusion that there is a sense in which secular society requires its own form of a "preferential option for the poor", namely a principle which not only speaks about equity, but which aggressively addresses the causes of inequalities and exclusion and works to ensure that all countries, especially the weakest, can become protagonists of a new world order, and why not, also effective competitors in trade, in culture and in -41 recalling us all to certain values which go beyond simple economic advantage.

Poverty is the inability of people to realize their God-given potential. Fighting poverty is not about policies or theories. It is about enabling people so that the can realize their God given potential. It is people who are at the center of development policy. It is people who are at the center of economic policy, especially in a knowledge based economy.

Pope John Paul II noted this situation in his Encyclical Centesimus Annus, where he writes: "Whereas at one time the decisive factor of production was the land, and later capital - understood a total complex of the instruments of production - today the decisive factor is increasingly man himself, that is his knowledge, especially his scientific knowledge, as well as his ability to perceive the needs of others and satisfy them" (n. 32). Humanizing globalization means bringing all our policies closer to the real life situations of people in any part of the world.

Catholic social teaching has always stressed the principle of subsidiarity. It is a principle that will be all the more important when we speak of governance at the global level. Global governance is not necessarily a top down model. It must be an inclusive model, which considers the place of the local communities as an essential dimension of a global human common good. The humanizing of the global economy must begin at the local level, through the establishment of strong local communities.

When we place people at the center of our reflection then we must also take clear note of a fundamental danger in reflection about globalization. Pope John Paul recall in Centesimus Annus that: 'Economic freedom is only one element of human freedom. When it becomes autonomous, when man is seen more as a producer or consumer of goods than as a subject, who produces and consumes in order to live, then economic freedom loses its necessary relationship to the human person and ends up by alienating and oppressing him" (CA, n.39).

Rarely have economic issues so dominate global reflection. It seems that it is no longer possible to enjoy one's breakfast without knowing first how the Hong Kong stock-exchange closed! Why so much anxiety and protest around meetings of economic actors. At times the protest only reinforces a concept of the superiority of economic values in society. Even the title of our Conference could be interpreted as thinking that a more "humanized" economy would answer the challenges posed by our global society.

For Catholic social thought development policy is about integral development: "each person and the whole person". "The economy is only one aspect and one dimension of the whole of human activity" (Centesimus Annus, 39). The Church must day by day attempt to bring that wide agenda for the good of individuals and the human family.

Let me say that progress has been made in this area in international life. Jim Wolfensohn's Comprehensive Development Framework is a good example. But alongside a certain opening to a people centered economic policy, there is today also the risk of a backlash in economic theory which tends to reduce the human dimensions of development policy and again to stress rather onesidedly the importance of sustained economic growth. The human family is a dysfunctional family! Certainly it has never been possible to attain sustainable development without sustained economic growth. But growth on its own cannot achieve wide social progress.

The contribution of the Church must be that of bringing back a people centered and holistic vision of development to counter the dysfunctional and incoherence of the current system.

This overall economic driven environment is so strong that we do not always realize it ourselves. We very easily transfer all blame and all responsibility onto structures. If the right structures are in place, then things will begin to change. If there are problems it is primarily due to unjust structures.

This has at times negatively affected the work of the Church. In the past the principle work done by the Church in the fight against poverty was through being with the poor. I think of the great dynamism of the founders of religious congregations in the nineteenth century, who brought schooling, health care and social services to the poor in Europe and very often came with their emigrant communities here to the United States and established one of the most effective school and hospital services in the history of the world: primarily aimed at the poor.

This great movement of service towards the poor was a characteristic of many religious congregations, especially of women. The crisis in vocations to religious life is already having its effects on the dehumanization of globalization. When a school or an health care institute passes out of the direct control of a religious congregation, for example, what is at risk is not just maintaining a strong ethical policy on life-issues. What can happen is that an entire system which was fundamentally inspired by gratuity, by self giving, changes to one in which the humanitarian goal is managed primarily in business terms.

The competitive global economy needs to be confronted by another values system: that of gratuitous service.

The contribution of the Church to humanizing the global economy and the global human family needs a new movement of solidarity, the creation of a new generation of generous young people, religious and lay, women and men, prepared to witness the gratuitous love of Jesus Christ, through recognizing in the poor, their brother and sisters. In their gratuitous self giving they will then be able to rejoice that they had the opportunity of having been alongside the poor, helping them to realize more fully the God-given potential they possess.

The role of the Church in humanizing globalization is to be present through her members everywhere where human potential can be enhanced. In doing this it becomes more fully the global actor the Church is: not simply a worldwide Church territorially. But, as Lumen Gentium points out, as a sign, a sacrament of our unity in Christ with God and thus of the unity of all humankind.

Globalization is a priori neither good nor bad. It is what people make of it. What is at stake is the quality of globalization. Likewise what is at stake is the quality of the contribution we bring.


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