Monday, April 28, 2008

Human-Centered Development: Vatican Secretary of State

Holy See Calls for Human-Centered Development
Offers Analysis of Trade Situation

ACCRA, Ghana, APRIL 25, 2008 ( The principles of solidarity and subsidiarity are the key to designing international rules and institutions that sustain development, the Holy See is proposing.

This idea was affirmed in a note for discussion sent by the Vatican Secretariat of State as part of the preparations of the 12th U.N. Conference on Trade and Development in Accra, which ended today.

The Holy See paper mentioned a "crisis of multilateralism," noting in particular two criticisms of international organizations.

"The first is the problem of representation, according to which the decision making power within these institutions is not allocated in an equitable way," it said. "The second criticism refers to the lack of grassroots involvement of the society in development-oriented initiatives undertaken by multilateral institutions. Such an approach presents the risk of formulating policy strategy that is not centered on the poor but rather on governments of poor countries."

After an analysis of the problems involved in trade and development, the Holy See took a look at "what can be done."

The first proposal was recalling what the paper called the "true objective," that is, development centered on the human being.

The true goal is development, the Holy See proposed, and "trade represents a significant opportunity for developing countries. However, it is not an end itself but rather is a means to achieve development and poverty reduction."

Next, the paper advised "a change in perspective": The goal of development, it said, is the common good.

The Holy See explained: "It must be clear that development is not only about the growth of the economy in general; it is about the development of the human being with his/her capabilities and relationships with intermediary social groups -- family, social, political, cultural groups etc. -- within which he/she lives.

"This requires a change in perspective that recognizes peoples as united by a common factor, their humanity being created with the imprint of the common God creator. Only by starting from this premise can we aim, within pluralist institutions, toward the achievement of the common good, which needs to be the primary objective of any society.

"The common good is neither an abstract goal nor a simple list of targets. It is simply the realization of the primary needs of the person: the need of truth, love, and justice."

In progress
The Secretariat of State further proposed that man is "always in development."

"In fact, development is not a target to reach; it is rather a path to follow," it said. "We can say that there is true development when persons are put in a position to follow their most important desires and needs."

The paper then offered two principles to sustain and not hamper the different paths for development: solidarity and subsidiarity.

"Solidarity is the responsibility of developed nations to favor economic growth [...] by helping less fortunate individuals to create their opportunities for development," it said. "Solidarity should be the guiding principle, not only in the definition of foreign aid, but also in the economic relationship between developed and developing countries and within regional or multilateral agreements."

But, the paper continued, "while solidarity should be the spark that generates the definition of development-oriented policies both at national and at international level, subsidiarity should be the guiding principle in their design and implementation."

It explained: "Subsidiarity not only preserves and promotes originality in the development of social life, but also implies an act of freedom by individuals who try to follow their vocations. [...] Participation is a duty to be fulfilled consciously by all, with responsibility and with a view to the common good.

"In other words, at international level, solidarity and subsidiarity imply a double responsibility: by developed countries in helping [least developed countries] to find their path for development and by least developed countries in implementing all the necessary policies that would allow them to take the opportunities that are offered."

5 Keys

If development it centered on the human person, the Holy See concluded, there are some key issues to be taken into account. The paper mentioned five.

The first is education, "the essence of development. Only an educated person can be fully aware of the worth and dignity of the human being. Then educated people can more easily establish among themselves social relations not based on force and abuse, but on respect and friendship. In such an environment, it is easier to reduce corruption and to develop virtuous institutions that help to achieve the common good."

Health and decent work were also included.

The Holy See said that economic freedom is key: "Without the institutional setting that provides a stable economic environment where the rule of law is enforced and property rights are respected, economic development inevitably is repressed."
Finally, the paper proposed the importance of entrepreneurship, calling it the first step toward economic development.

"The task faced by international institutions in sustaining the development of poor countries is enormous," the Holy See concluded. "The first decisive step toward achieving this goal is to implement policies that recognize and place the value of the human person at their center."

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