Statement by H.E. Archbishop Celestino Migliore
Permanent Observer, Head of Delegation of the Holy
At the General Debate
of the 60th Session of the United
Nations General Assembly
New York, 23 September 2005
marking the United Nations’ 60th anniversary is over but, to bring it to
completion, our work here must build upon its Outcome document, so as to fulfil
with vision and determination the agreed package of reforms.
The Holy See,
having followed the Outcome document’s development closely, welcomes much of
what is proposed. However, the lack of consensus on arms control and
non-proliferation issues is regrettable. I should also like to add at the outset
that the Holy See understands the references to both the Cairo and Beijing
International Conferences and to reproductive health found in paragraphs 57 (g)
and 58 (c) in the sense that it set out in its Reservations and statements of
interpretation at those Conferences, that is, as applying to a holistic concept
of health that does not consider abortion or access to abortion as a dimension
of those terms. These caveats aside, the document is a basis for implementation
and ongoing discussions on United Nations reform.
1. Peace and security
Due to the human tragedies of genocide, war crimes,
ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, the responsibility to protect, as
reflected in the Outcome document, has gained more acceptance for humanitarian
reasons. Its definitive legal formulation could greatly contribute to the
enrichment not only of international law but also of sincere solidarity among
nations. To identify carefully and honestly the causes of such man-made
disasters is indispensable in creating more timely prevention measures.
Protection of those in distress and assistance to them goes hand in hand with
lucid analysis and public awareness of the causes of humanitarian crises.
The silence of
the Outcome document regarding disarmament and non-proliferation is worrying.
Nuclear armament is simply devastating for peoples and the environment; it
destroys people's lives and the substratum of every decent economy. We therefore must
insist upon nuclear non-proliferation. Likewise,
we must insist on complete
nuclear disarmament and a strengthened IAEA verification and safeguards system.
No effort should be spared to discourage not only the production of nuclear
weapons but also any trade or exchange in such materials.
Similarly, it is distressing to learn that
estimated global military expenditure for 2004 exceeded $1 trillion and is
projected to keep rising, yet little serious attention is paid to the high death
toll caused by the illicit brokering, traffic and sale of small arms and light
weapons. That more money and intelligence is used for death than for life is a
scandal that should be of the highest concern to all nations.
2. The role of the United Nations
Of course, a secure world will not just be free of the menace of war: it will be
one where sustainable human development is also assured, through sound global
governance. But, while global governance has a logic of its own, it lacks its
own ethics, something which the world’s nations must supply. We live in an
interdependent but fragile society and, in many places, peoples’ best interests
are not served well. I should like to mention here but three specific
areas of ethical challenge in this regard: solidarity with the poor; the
promotion of the common good; and a sustainable environment.
Small gains made
in this last area remain under risk from, among other things, climate change,
new diseases, the irresponsible destruction of forests, water pollution,
depletion of fishing stocks, the destruction of global commons like the oceans,
and so on. It is estimated that 15 out of 24 essential services provided by
ecosystems are being used unsustainably. The enormity of today’s environmental
challenge obliges us to rethink our notions of interdependence, global
cooperation and our common responsibility for the stewardship of the planet.
Differences on how to address challenges should not stop agreement on the
identification of specific environmental threats and common measures to tackle
principle needs to be set out in the shape of the proper devolution of power to
local levels to ensure greater effectiveness and accountability, known also as
application of this principle would foster a genuine respect for the rights of
nations and for the significance of culture, balancing particularism and
universalism. Global governance also has to address the democratic deficit in
order to assure globalisation without marginalisation. Poverty reduction, with
the poor’s participation in decision-making, would be a kind of justice
expressed through participation.
In this context, the United Nations becomes
the projection of the hope for peace and well being in the world. To fulfil
this high calling, proper to its nature and function, will require clear
characteristics of leadership, the courage of the Organisation and those who are
part of it, and a common vision for its leaders, collaborators and interlocutors
at every level, that they may succeed in finding the right road to achieve the
goals in view.
3. Human rights and diversity
On the subject of the Human Rights
Council, a reform that improves upon the present arrangements is to be welcomed.
International law and its institutions are vital for the application and
enforcement of human rights. Likewise, we should not lose sight of the
importance that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights attaches to the
incorporation of its principles into national law and to education in fostering
a rights-respecting culture. Promotion and enforcement of human rights at a
national level and constant attention to education will continue to be
indispensable to allow them to flourish in the new system.
The international community, the happy possessor of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights since 1948, in the meantime however
appears to have forgotten that not only essential human rights but also human
duties underpin the Declaration. These duties establish the framework in which
our rights are contained, so that the latter are not simply exercised upon a
whim. The reference to duties in the Universal Declaration reminds us that
rights usually entail responsibilities; and that if we expect our own rights to
be respected, we must respect the rights of others. It also reminds us that we
are all members of a single human family, and that we are not merely isolated
bearers of rights, but rather bound together in reciprocity. Indeed, the
Declaration's recognition of the interdependence of rights and duties was one of
the key features that enabled it to win consensus from nations East and West,
North and South. Today, when globalisation has rendered us more interdependent
than ever, a greater sense of universal human duties would benefit the
cause of peace, because awareness of our mutual responsibility acknowledges
duties as essential to a social order which does not depend upon the will or
power of any individual or group.
The question has resurfaced of how there can be universal
rights in view of the diversity among cultures. Some maintain that all rights
are culturally relative; others claim that universal rights are just instruments
of a given cultural imperialism; and some believe the gulf between those two
positions cannot be bridged. My delegation, however, shares the
faith of the principal framers of the Universal Declaration, that certain values
are so fundamental that they can find support in the moral and philosophical
traditions of cultures. For that reason, such universal principles or
basic human rights are undeniable. In their essential core they have to be
universally recognised and must be operative “erga omnes”.
To reject the universality of
basic human rights is to deny that the political fate of humanity can be
affected by reason and choice. It is to give the last word in human affairs to
force and accident. That would be contrary to all the principles upon which
this Organisation was founded.
To reject the idea that basic rights are relative, however,
does not require one to reject a legitimate pluralism in their implementation.
Quite the contrary - for pluralism is the only way to move beyond the sterile
relativism-imperialism debate. The Holy See, on the basis of its own long
experience in seeing how a common core of principles can take root and flourish
in vastly different cultures, affirms the wisdom of the drafters of the
Universal Declaration in this respect. The framework they fashioned is flexible
enough to allow for differences in emphasis and implementation, but not so
malleable as to permit any basic human right to be completely eclipsed or
unnecessarily subordinated for the sake of other rights. Regrettably, the
legitimately pluralist approach to basic rights is sometimes forgotten, but it
must be retrieved if we are to avoid a top-down, homogenising vision of human
4. Religions, cultures and civilisations
In the wake of recent acts of terrible violence, calls
have come from various quarters to promote greater understanding among
religions, cultures and civilisations.
The Holy See supports the initiatives in the field of inter-faith cooperation
and dialogue between civilisations especially where, in the spirit of their
reference to and reliance on God, they form consciences, foster common moral
values, and promote inter-cultural understanding and proactive commitments.
These tasks require continued evaluation with regard to motivation, policies,
laws and institutions. It is the mission of civil and religious leaders to be a
source of inspiration, support and guidance for all people of good will who
strive towards sustainable peace.
The Holy See also understands that there is a particular type of interreligious
dialogue where religious representatives and their constituents engage in
discussion on the theological and spiritual tenets of their respective religions
and exchange positive experiences with a view to promoting mutual understanding
and respect among all. This type of dialogue does not appear to be part of the
UN Charter and is therefore better left to religious experts and appropriate
representatives of religions. Nevertheless, the United Nations, as a source of
the gestures of peace that come from its members’ accumulated wisdom, can make a
valid and important contribution to inter-faith cooperation for peace and
Mr President, I should like to add a word of acknowledgement of the important
contribution which the United Nations’ staff makes to the Organisation in its
efforts to promote harmony and solidarity among peoples. Likewise, I would like
to reiterate to you the best wishes and support of my delegation as you look
ahead to an important and fruitful presidency of the General Assembly.
Thank you, Mr