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Cardinal's Address at Global Poverty Seminar

posted on 17 February 2004
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales and Archbishop of Westminster, today (Monday, February 16) told a Treasury summit on globalization, including the Chancellor, the Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, that poverty is as big a scourge as terrorism.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor told the key meeting, which was also addressed by Mr Brown, World Bank President James Wolfensohn, Brazil’s President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva and Catholic aid agency CAFOD’s director Chris Bain, that “we may be at risk of getting our definitions and our priorities wrong”.


The Treasury Development Conference involved senior representatives of Government, international financial institutions, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and faith communities.


The Cardinal said: “States fail when they are incapable of lifting people out of poverty, or when they pay insufficient heed to the importance of ensuring that wealth is adequately distributed so that the whole of the population can flourish; or, indeed, when they fail to take seriously the obligation to ensure that wealth is not created for the few and at the expense of the many.


“The greatest scandal and scourge of humankind is, in fact, dire poverty and the misery and exploitation that accompanies and exacerbates it. That is the real scandal, and we are together in this room because there is a genuine recognition that this is the big issue for our times. I think we recognise that there is no excuse for failing to face up to the enormous, indeed the truly global, responsibility that we bear for the well-being of the whole of humankind. Our actions really do affect other people, including people in far away places.”



He added: “I am here to express my wholehearted support for one specific initiative, the International Finance Facility. I believe that the IFF is a bold and exciting opportunity to make a very big difference between now and 2015, and thereafter. The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, came to see me last summer, as I am sure he has been to see many of you! We have an opportunity to begin something profoundly radical, and I do not think we should pass up that opportunity.


“In November of last year, the Holy Father, Pope John Paul, endorsed the IFF and the Vatican offered to host a seminar this year - rather like this one, but with a more international flavour to see whether we can contribute to forging a common and global moral and political consensus behind the IFF as a means to the ends which the UN set for the international community in 2000.


“Last week I was in Rome discussing dates with Cardinal Martinom, head of the Vatican Council for Justice and Peace. I hope that within a matter of days we will be discussing with the Treasury the details of a seminar in the first week of July which will bring together representatives of donor and recipient countries, international financial institutions, NGOs and faith communities.”


Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor concluded: “Our greatest challenge at the beginning of the 21st century is poverty. Our greatest debt is the debt to our brothers and sisters in the poorest parts of the world. Our greatest hope is our common humanity and solidarity. And our greatest strength is our commitment to work together. I would like to think we can all take that message back to our communities, our institutions and our Governments and get the backing we need, especially, and in particular, for the IFF.”


Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor’s full address is below:


We live in a time in which a new kind of discourse is growing up. It is a discourse about a scourge which has the power to frighten people, and to cause them to look at the world in a new way. That scourge is terrorism. Now I do not want to belittle the terrible scourge of terrorism, or the truth that it is more dangerous today than it has ever been.


There is increasing talk of so-called “failed states” - by which it is meant states within which the kinds of controls and regulations which allow for an orderly and secure environment are not present. Failed states are states which don’t work properly. We point the finger at such states because we fear that it is there that terrorism is allowed to flourish.


This worries me somewhat, not because it is not true, but because we may be at risk of getting our definitions and our priorities wrong. States fail when they are incapable of lifting people out of poverty, or when they pay insufficient heed to the importance of ensuring that wealth is adequately distributed so that the whole of the population can flourish; or, indeed, when they fail to take seriously the obligation to ensure that wealth is not created for the few and at the expense of the many.


The greatest scandal and scourge of humankind is, in fact, dire poverty and the misery and exploitation that accompanies and exacerbates it. That is the real scandal, and we are together in this room because there is a genuine recognition that this is the big issue for our times. I think we recognise that there is no excuse for failing to face up to the enormous, indeed the truly global responsibility that we bear for the well-being of the whole of humankind. Our actions really do affect other people, including people in far away places.


It is worth adding that another of the challenges facing governments and civil society alike is how to help and work with those populations that have the misfortune to live under governments which fail for whatever reasons to qualify for the massive assistance that is a precondition for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.


I am here today, and speaking to you now, because these things concern me greatly, just as they concern you. Many, indeed most, of you are actively engaged and working in your own way, in your different organisations - with varying levels of influence, financial muscle and human resources - in the huge task we face to achieve the Millennium Development goals, and to eradicate world poverty.


But I am also here for a more specific reason – which is to express my wholehearted support for one specific initiative, the International Finance Facility. I believe that the IFF is a bold and exciting opportunity to make a very big difference between now and 2015, and thereafter.


The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, came to see me last summer, as I am sure he has been to see many of you! We have an opportunity to begin something profoundly radical, and I do not think we should pass up that opportunity.


In November of last year the Holy Father, Pope John Paul, endorsed the IFF and the Vatican offered to host a seminar this year - rather like this one, but with a more international flavour to see whether we can contribute to forging a common and global moral and political consensus behind the IFF as a means to the ends which the UN set for the international community in 2000. Last week I was in Rome discussing dates with Cardinal Martinom, head of the Vatican Council for Justice and Peace. I hope that within a matter of days we will be discussing with the Treasury the details of a seminar in the first week of July which will bring together representatives of donor and recipient countries, international financial institutions, NGOs and faith communities.


Later this afternoon we will be hearing from a number of NGOs how they see the task in hand. I would simply like to say how important I believe it is for us all to work together. I am greatly encouraged by the various initiatives which have been taken by the Government, with the cooperation of the NGO community to bring Government, Major Donor institutions and NGOs together to talk, to share ideas and expertise and to plot the course ahead from a common standpoint, with a common vision, and wherever possible sharing resourc
Contact Details:
Austen Ivereigh
Telephone: 020 7798 9045 or 07905 224860
posted on 17 February 2004

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