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Cardinal Addresses Seminar on Poverty and Globalisation, Rome, 9 July 2004

posted on 09 July 2004
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor delivered the following message at a seminar organised by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace:

'All those of us who work in the churches, government or the NGOs or in the developed world know something of poverty at first hand. In the richest countries there are pockets of poverty and distress and we apply our compassion, our ingenuity and our resources to try to bring a basic minimum standard to our people.

The poverty we know is as nothing compared with the extreme deprivation in the developing world, Africa in particular.

We are talking of more than 300 million people living in extreme poverty. We are talking of 26 million people living with HIV/AIDS. Of ten million displaced people. Of 28 countries involved in conflict in the last quarter of a century. The total wealth of the whole of Africa is less than that of the Netherlands. A country of less than 20 million people produces more wealth than a continent of nearly 700 million.

Those statistics should shake the complacency of our societies. The human suffering which they represent has to be a call to action more radical, more consistent and more sustained than anything we have done before.

That is what today's conference is about. Four years ago, the world set itself a whole series of millennium development goals with 15 years in which to reach them. These were specific commitments on education, on health, on reducing child deaths and on improving the lot of the one billion people who live on less than one dollar a day. But at the present rate we will have succeeded in halving poverty in Africa, not in the next ten years, but only in the next 100. That is not something any of us can accept.

This conference is not just about renewing our commitment. We have all done that time and again. It is about seeing if we can find new ways to deliver on our promises.

We who are not governments will continue to urge governments to set a timescale within which to meet their long-standing commitment to commit 0.7% of their gross national income to development. Almost all, including most of the governments of the European Union, fall well short of that target. But the fact that we will continue to call on governments to do more, and bring pressure on them to do more, does not mean that we should be grudging about what has been done.

I welcome the fact that slowly, painfully the European Union is getting its own house in order so that it can make a serious contribution to the successful completion of the Doha development round. Previous trade negotiations have been about mutual compromise to try and improve the global trading environment. This development round has a much more radical agenda: it is about giving developing countries access to our markets. It is about denying ourselves the subsidies and the perks which for us are about our relative prosperity, but for the poor countries of the world are almost literally matters of life and death. These are highly technical, specialised issues but beneath them is a simple truth: either we have the generosity to lift the poor of the world out of the mire, or we face a crisis of huge proportions.

If our consciences do not jolt us into action, then self-interest alone should do so. There can be no greater threat to long-term global peace and stability than massive poverty and deprivation.

The Church is already fully engaged inthe effort, not least through the work of Catholic development agencies such as CAFOD, working alongside its partner organisations here and in the developing world. In the Gospel of St Matthew Christ assures us, 'Insofar as you did it to the least of my little ones, you did it to me'. We believe that in caring for the poor and the sick we embody and witness to God's love of all people and our own love for God. It is this faith that mobilises us to action.

Everyone knows the old Chinese proverb that if you give someone a fish you give them food for a day. If you teach them how to fish you give them food for a lifetime. The Church's role is like that. Yes, an important part of our mission is to give food for a day, for a week, for a year, for a decade. But it is also about bringing people a message of hope and about creating that sense of 'communio' where shared Christian values can help transform the community, government and entire societies.

Faced with some of the most appalling atrocities in recent history, that may seem a simplistic message. But the tasks laid on us as Christians are nearly always simple to understand, even if they challenge us to the utmost commitment. Today's task for leaders of governments, of churches and of other non-governmental organisations is to help turn a vicious circle into a virtuous one. That is why we are here

A few months ago, I met Gordon Brown, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer and, after talking to him, I decided to give my support to a novel way of raising development finance that he has proposed. I support it because it is imaginative and bold . If enough countries support it, it will help to turn the promises of four years ago into action and results.'

Contact Details:
Austen Ivereigh
Telephone: 020 7798 9045 or 07905 224860
posted on 09 July 2004

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