DAILY CATHOLIC    FRI-SAT-SUN     December 3-5, 1999     vol. 10, no. 230

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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Statements by Secretary of Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

        VATICAN CITY, DEC 2 (ZENIT-FIDES).- Bishop Diarmuid Martin, secretary of the Pontifical Council "Justice and Peace" has expressed concerns about the World Trade Organization in the wake of the violent protests that have accompanied the "Millenium Round" summit. "The powerful of the world in Seattle want to adopt international policies on business without listening to civil society," he told the "Fides" agency.

        The problem with the WTO is that it is concerned with attending to its accounts without paying attention to civil society, according to the Bishop. "The protest is an obvious sign of unrest. Although violence, which never produces the desired effect, must be condemned, we must consider the reasons for the unrest. The WTO cannot continue giving orders and speeches from the top without the support of civil society. Civil society must participate. Citizens are the owners of the great plans for development," Bishop Martin said.

        According to the Vatican representative, the limited functions relegated to NGOs only exacerbate the problem. "They have a right to participate and have greater influence. The presence of NGO's should be institutionalized in the WTO's Secretariat." In addition, Bishop Martin believes it is necessary to launch a publicity campaign in all countries, so that citizens become aware of global questions.

        In referring to the WTO's work, Bishop Martin spoke about the usefulness of "a multilateral organization to develop the rules of international business." However, he said, "the rules are not sufficient. Even in a common juridical framework, poor countries do not have ready access to resources and benefits, and their capacity to negotiate is not in proportion with the strength of the rich countries." Because of this, these countries must be given guarantees, eliminating protection measures for Western States in the agricultural and textile sectors.

        "Fides" explained that that in the past, the industrialized countries established import quotas on textile products of Third World countries. In the Uruguay Round (1986-1993) they promised a significant reduction of protective measures. Despite this, the European Union and the United States have only reduced these measures by 5% in the textile sector, which translates into unemployment and poverty for countries like India and Bangladesh.

        In agriculture, observers speak of "hypocrisy wearing the make-up of credibility": rich countries invest $350 billion a year to protect their own industry destined for export. As a result, agricultural products invade the markets of poor countries and destroy the local agricultural economy. According to U.N. data, such protectionism causes losses in the vicinity of $700 billion a year to developing countries. "Because of this, unless markets open to the products of the poor countries, even the cancellation of foreign debt is useless," Bishop Martin explained.

        Finally, the secretary of the Pontifical Council "Justice and Peace" said that there is a certain imbalance among the various international organizations, since they tend to concentrate on particular aspects of their sector: business, labor, environment, family, etc. "What is needed is greater cohesion in international policies," he asserted. "The only thing these organizations have in common is absolute economic growth. Although this is important, it must go hand in hand with justice, safeguarding of the environment, stability, and human and social benefits. The 'global good' must be taken into account, including protection of workers and their families, social cohesion, and respect for the environment. Businesses in the private sector must also assume responsibilty to improve human capacities and social infrastructures. We cannot forget man in the name of profit."

        "The Jubilee is a unique opportunity to raise awareness of the idea of humanity considered as a 'big family,' and the need to create just and harmonious relations among people and with nature," Bishop Martin concluded. ZE99120206

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

December 3-5, 1999       volume 10, no. 230


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