By Funmi Ajumobi, reporting from United States
His Holiness Pope Francis has said the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the World Summit, which opens today, is an important sign of hope.
His Holiness said the work of the United Nations, according to the principles set forth in the Preamble-and the first Articles of its founding Charter, can be seen as the development and promotion of the rule of law, based on the realization that justice is an essential condition for achieving the ideal of universal fraternity.
In this context, it is helpful to recall that the limitation of power is an idea implicit in the concept of law itself’. He said to give to each his own, to cite the classic definition of justice, means that no human individual or group can consider itself absolute, permitted to bypass the dignity and the rights of other individuals or their social groupings, saying that the effective distribution of power (political, economic, defense-related,technological, etc.) among a plurality of subjects, and the creation of a juridical system for regulating claims and interests, are one concrete way of limiting power. Yet today’s world presents us with manyfalse rights and – at the same time – broad sectors which are vulnerable, victims of power badly exercised: for example, the natural environment and the vast ranks of the excluded. These sectors areclosely interconnected and made increasingly fragile by dominant political and economic relationships.That is why their rights must be forcefully affirmed, by working to protect the environment and by putting an end to exclusion.
He said, ‘ it must be stated that a true “right of the environment” does exist, for two reasons. First,because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Man, for allhis remarkable gifts, which “are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology”, is at the same time a part of these spheres. He possesses a body shaped byphysical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecologicalenvironment is favourable. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity’.
‘Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, itslife, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures. We Christians, together with the othermonotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, whopermits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of tlne Creator;he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it. In all religions, the environment is a fundamentalgood’.
‘The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to tlnemisuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weal< and disadvantaged, either becausethey are differently abled (handicapped), or because they lack adequate information and technicalexpel-rise, or are incapable of decisive political action. Economic and social exclusion is a completedenial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment. The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society,forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today's widespread and quietly growing culture of waste,, saying the dramatic reality this whole situation of exclusion and inequality, with its evident effects, has led him, in union with the entire Christian people and many others, to take stock of his grave responsibility in this regard and to speak out, together with all those who are seeking urgently-needed and effective solutions'. Pope however said solemn commitments are not enough even though they are a necessary step toward solutions but our world demands of all government leaders a will which is effective, practical and constant, concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment and thus putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its baneful consequences: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labour, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime. He added that it must never be forgotten that political and econornic activity is only effective when it is understood as a prudential activity, guided by a perennial concept of justice and constantly conscious of the fact that, above and beyond our plans and programmes, we are dealing with real men and women who live, struggle and suffer, and are often forced to live in great poverty, deprived of all rights. To enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny. "Integral human development and the full exercise of human dignity cannot be imposed. They must be built up and allowed to unfold for each individual, for every family, in communion with others, and in a right relationship with all those areas in which human social life develops - friends, communities, towns and cities, schools, businesses and unions, provinces, nations, etc. This presupposes and requires the right to education - also for girls (excluded in certain places) - which is ensured first and foremost by respecting and reinforcing tlne primary right of the family to educate its children, as well as the right of churches and social groups to support and assist families in the education of their children. Education conceived in this way is the basis for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and for reclaiming tlne environment". Pope said government leaders must do everything possible to ensure that all can have the minimum spiritual and material means needed to live in dignity and to create and support a family, which is the primary cell of any social development. He said for all these, the simplest and best measure and indicator of the implementation of the new agenda for development will be effective, practical and immediate access, on the part of all, to essential material and spiritual goods: housing, dignified and properly remunerated employment, adequate food and drinking water; religious freedom and, more generally, spiritual freedom and education. On war, Pope Francis said war is the negation of all rights and a dramatic assault on the environment. If we want true integral human development for all, we must work tirelessly to avoid war between nations and between peoples. To this end, there is a need to ensure the uncontested rule of law and tireless recourse to negotiation, mediation and arbitration, as proposed by the Charter of the United Nations, which constitutes truly a fundamental juridical norm. He said the experience of these seventy years since tlne founding of te United Nations in general, and in particular the experience of these first fifteen years of the third millennium, reveal both the effectiveness of the full application of international norms and the ineffectiveness of their lack of enforcement adding that when the Charter of the United Nations is respected and applied witln transparency and sincerity, and without ulterior motives, as an obligatory reference point of justice and not as a means of masking spurious intentions, peaceful results will be obtained. When, on the other hand, the norm is considered simply as an instrument to be used whenever it proves favourable, and to be avoided when it is not, a true Pandora's box is opened, releasing uncontrollable forces. Pope concluded in saying that the contemporary world, so apparently connected, is experiencing a growing and steady social fragmentation, which places at risk the foundations of social life and consequently leads to battles over conflicting interests. He said the present time invites world leaders to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society, so as to bear fruit in significant and positive historical events. "We cannot permit ourselves to postpone certain agendas for the future. The future demands of us criti.cal and global decisions in the face of world-wide conflicts which increase the number of the excluded and those in need. The praiseworthy international juridical framework of the United Nations Organization and of all its activities, like any other human endeavour, can be improved, yet it remains necessary; at the same time it can be the pledge of a secure and happy future for future generations. And so it will, if the representatives of the States can set aside partisan and ideological interests, and sincerely strive to serve the common good In his earlier remarks to the General Assembly on the occasion of the visit by His Holiness Pope Francis, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said never in United Nations 70 year history has the organisation been honoured to welcome a Pope for the opening of the General Assembly and never in Papal history has the Head of the Catholic Church addressed such an array of world leaders. Describing His Holiness as a resounding voice of conscience who has cried out for compassion for the world’s refugees and migrants… and solidarity with people trapped in conflict and poverty who believes in building roads of opportunity for young people – and bridges between communities, Banki Moon applauds Him for demonstrating yet again his remarkable global stature as a man of faith for all faiths. Saying," your motto is Miserando atque eligendo, or lowly but chosen and you strive every day to include the excluded. You are at home not in palaces, but among the poor – not with the famous, but with the forgotten – not in official portraits, but in “selfies” with young people". He added