Letter to President Bush from Bishop Skylstad Prior to G8 Summit, June 28, 2005
June 28, 2005
The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
As you prepare to attend the G8 Summit in Scotland, I write on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to urge you to take bold action on global poverty, international trade, climate change and the arms trade.
Our Conference is deeply engaged with the Catholic Church and people of Africa. Our experience leads us to welcome the Summit’s special focus on Africa. We commend you, Mr. President, for the commitment your Administration has demonstrated to improve the well-being the people of Africa, but we know there is still an enormous task ahead. We urge you to build on your strong record by working with your G8 colleagues to adopt new initiatives in support of African efforts to break the cycle of poverty and achieve integral human development. We urge your continued leadership in this effort primarily because of the moral obligation which we all share for the well-being of every human person, but also because replacing despair with hope in the African continent will lead to a more secure world for us all.
Africa will be a major beneficiary of your new programs for combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis and the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). These programs have placed our country at the forefront of efforts to combat devastating disease and to design new approaches for more effective foreign aid. We commend you for the recent agreement for poor country debt cancellation that should provide the kind of fresh start for many poor countries that our Conference has long advocated.
As you know, many African countries will not benefit from the HIV/AIDS and MCA programs. Outside of these initiatives most U.S. development and humanitarian aid has not increased in recent years. Some of the non-MCA countries face enormous challenges. Much of what needs to be done must come from within the countries themselves, and in countries with weak governance and a lack of accountability and transparency, strengthening civil society is especially important. However, the needs of these countries are too great and their resources too few to enable them to address these problems effectively without substantial external support.
There are several areas that merit priority consideration for new initiatives. We would encourage the G8 to strengthen peacekeeping efforts in countries affected by conflict as well as support peace building and reconstruction efforts in countries emerging from conflict. Also, a substantial number of African countries have been working to introduce reforms in basic education. A G8 commitment to intensify efforts to bring a quality basic education within the reach of all African children would make an enormous difference to the future of the people of Africa.
Aid and debt relief form part of a broader development agenda that must include progress toward a more just international trading system. New international trading arrangements should be structured in ways that unleash the true potential for economic growth, poverty alleviation and integral human development. We are encouraged by the recent G8 Finance Ministers’ statement that gives priority to the Doha development agenda. A successful outcome will require substantial increases in market access and effective special and differential treatment for developing countries. The Summit should be an occasion for the G8 members to take concrete steps toward eliminating trade-distorting agricultural subsidies and targeting farm support to small and medium-sized farmers.
The Summit agenda includes global climate change, an issue of particular concern to us. Because of where they live and their limited resources, the poor will experience most directly the possible harmful effects of climate change and any measures to address it, including potential escalating energy costs, work displacement and health problems. This is true here in the United States as well as abroad. While there are many technical aspects that need to be considered in addressing global climate change, we recognize our moral responsibility of stewardship. Our actions and decisions, particularly those regarding our use of energy resources, have a profound effect today and for future generations. While there may not be full scientific consensus or complete certainty as to the consequences of climate change, there seems to be a sufficient scientific consensus that prudence would dictate taking preventive and mitigating action now.
When you and your G8 colleagues take up climate change at the Summit, we urge that you give priority to further research on the possible impact of climate change on the poor, and the need for programs to help the poor adapt and mitigate the worst effects. An agreement on even modest efforts could help send a signal that the time has come to move forward.
In addition, the proliferation of conventional weapons has been a matter of concern to us for many years and was the subject of a major statement by the Conference in 1995 that condemned the arms trade as “a serious moral disorder in today’s world.” We commend your recent action with respect to the European Union’s arms embargo on China. This Summit provides the United States with a unique opportunity to effect positive change by leading the effort to enact strong life-saving arms control measures.
The G8 Summit will explore many issues of critical importance to human life and dignity. We pray that your meeting will be blessed by a spirit of collaboration that enables the G8 leaders to advance the universal common good by adopting concrete measures on global poverty, trade, climate change and the arms trade.
Most Reverend William S. Skylstad
Bishop of Spokane