Catholic Church Engagement Before, During and After the Conference
The Rio+20 Conference (the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development), was held June 20-22 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The conference brought together world leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups to discuss the future of environmental sustainability. EcoJesuit offered extensive coverage of the Conference, and all are encouraged to visit their website.
Before the Conference
Catholic News Service reported how the Catholic Church was preparing to be a strong advocate at the conference and will bring in to focus key themes of Catholic social teaching and backed by the Church’s vast experience serving those most in need around the globe. From Archbishop Francis Chullikatt the Vatican's apostolic nuncio and permanent observer to the United Nations, to Bernd Nilles, secretary-general of CIDSE, the international alliance of Catholic agencies, Catholic representatives were clear that sustainable development and economic progress must be characterized by a world of social and environmental justice, in which human rights are respected, in which policy and decision-making are transparent and inclusive, in which the economy serves people and respects the planet.’
Archbishop Chullikatt said if a new economic model is to be created at Rio+20, then it must be based on such principles as responsible production and consumption; promotion and sharing of the common good; access to primary goods (food, water, sanitation, education, health care); and the unity of the family.
Caritas Internationalis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew added their voices as well. You are urged to read the Patriarch’s statement in full, as it is quite powerful. His conclusion: For many people, these issues [of environmental sustainability] are now a matter of life and death. Unless those who represent the nations of the world can see beyond ideology and the surface of issues in order to make the necessary changes or corrections, nothing will happen. The health and future of millions of people hangs in the balance.
During the Conference
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the Commission of the Bishops Conference of the European Union (COMECE), urged world leaders to place the human person as the basis for sustainable development during the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development.
EcoJesuit reports that one of the Conference’s side panels was organized by the Holy See Mission to the United Nations, Caritas Internationalis, Franciscans International, Catholic Relief Services, the Association of Volunteers in International Service and CIDSE (Catholic International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity) … The panel was preceded by the intervention of Cardinal Scherer, Special Envoy of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development and Archbishop of São Paulo.
Twenty international Catholic bishops joined dozens of CIDSE personnel and partners and signed a statement calling on nations and world leaders to recommit to sustainable development.
The statement particularly addressed climate change, saying Climate change is rapidly advancing and we will not be able to undo it unless we act now. The poorest and most vulnerable people around the world are most affected, even though they are least responsible for its causes…More ambitious action must be taken, based on the principles at the core of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Learn more about CIDSE’s Climate Justice program here.
After the Conference
The final document produced by the Conference is entitled The Future We Want. In response, the Caritas Internationalis Director of Policy and Advocacy said, Caritas welcomes that the fight against poverty is put at the forefront of all concerns for achieving sustainable development and that a ‘Common Vision’ starts with the commitment to free humanity from hunger and poverty. However, many of the important points mentioned throughout the document, related to poverty, remain declaratory in nature.
Progressio, the UK-based Catholic overseas development agency, sent a delegation to the Conference and Daniel Hale, head of the delegation, told Vatican Radio the document we have at the moment, to be fair, makes some good strides forward…but from my view and the Progressio point of view it really doesn’t do enough in terms of implementation.
According to Fr. Jose Ignacio Garcia, SJ of EcoJesuit, It’s a long 49-page text and will require more time to make a more detailed analysis. Fr. Garcia offers a first glimpse of this document, highlighting some of the controversial points, and his analysis is available here.