By Robin Gomes
The Holy See is urging policies that benefit life, the family and the material and moral development of society to build a world of genuine equality, fraternity and peace.
“Governments and society ought to promote social policies that have the family as their principal object, assisting it by providing adequate resources and efficient means of support, both for bringing up children and looking after the elderly, to strengthen relations between generations and avoid distancing the elderly from the family unit,” said Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York.
He was speaking at a meeting evaluating the progress made since the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, in view of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that UN members vowed to achieve by 2030.
Population and development
The Vatican diplomat pointed out that for the first time a link between population and development was established by the ICPD. The conference rejected all forms of coercion in the implementation of population policies. The family, based on marriage, was recognized as the fundamental unit of society, entitled to comprehensive support and protection. Improvement of the status of women received a strong impetus, especially regarding their health, and their full and equal participation in development. The growing phenomenon of migration was considered along with its impact on development.
Speaking about transmitting and nurturing of human life, Arch. Auza said that suggesting reproductive health as a right to abortion explicitly violates the language of the ICPD, defies moral and legal standards and divides efforts to address the real needs of mothers and children, especially the unborn.
The Filipino archbishop explained that questions about transmitting and nurturing of life cannot be adequate without taking into account the good of the family which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights defines as “the natural and fundamental group unit of society.”
Another link that the ICPD established was between migration and development. Migration is a global phenomenon that is linked to development and poverty, as well as to financial and health security. Despite the fact that migrants are now seen as proactive agents of development, negative stereotypes are, at times, exploited to promote policies detrimental to their rights and dignity, and migrants, especially children and women, are often victims of trafficking.
Arch. Auza pointed out that population growth is often wrongfully blamed for environmental problems. Rather, it is wasteful patterns of consumption, growing inequalities, the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources and the absence of restrictions or safeguards in industries that endanger the natural environment.
In this regard, he pointed to stark inequalities in consumptions in the world. The 20% of the world’s highest-income people account for 86% of total consumption, while the poorest 20% consume a mere 1.3%.
In the face of such inequalities, Arch. Auza offered the “ecological conversion” of Pope Francis as a solution, that calls for a change to a more modest lifestyle and responsible consumption, and for greater awareness of the universal destination of the world’s resources.