9 August 2013
The Rio summits of 1992 and 2012 have raised global consciousness about our predicament. The human-earth relationship must change if succeeding generations are to enjoy a just and safe existence. We have a clear path of moral responsibility towards our fellow creatures and those that will follow us as stewards of the planet.
For those in the Edmund Rice Network the Catholic social justice tradition rings clear in this area. Solidarity, common good, and participation have been touchstones for measuring good outcomes. Solidarity rejects rampant individualism. Solidarity means we are dependent upon each other; we must be committed to the well-being of others. We know that the common good, which seeks the benefit of all, and participation, meaning both the right and obligation, are part of our social life. Catholic social teaching says government is the privileged agent of the common good.
Disturbing inequities between rich and poor in the world prompt the church to offer two important teachings. First, the church says we have a moral obligation to care deeply about world poverty and then to act to address this issue.
The scale of the global sustainable development challenge is unprecedented. The fight against extreme poverty has made great progress under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but more than 1 billion people continue to live in extreme poverty. Inequality and social exclusion are widening within most countries.
Humanity must now follow up the successes of the MDGs (2000-2015) with a comprehensive plan for development beyond 2015. The challenge now is to formulate Sustainable Development Goals for the post-2015 era. While the MDGs were aimed primarily at the developing countries in order to lift more people out of abject poverty, the SDGs must necessarily include all member states, those with strong economies as well as those made poor by the imbalances in world economic arrangements.
The process of arriving at this new framework is Member State-led with broad participation from external stakeholders such as civil society organisations, the private sector and businesses, academia and scientists. The United Nations has played a facilitating role in this global conversation.
Four post-2015 reports have recently been submitted to the UN Secretary General.
1) High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (Post-2015 HLP)
2) UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN)
3) UN Global Compact (UNGC)
4) UN Development Group (UNDG): The Global Conversation Begins
Meanwhile the New York based NGO Committee for Sustainable Development and other civil society actors continue to press for more direct participation by those made poor. Concern is growing that corporate and business interests may garner significant control of the deliberations if civil society does not remain active, diligent and vigilant. The priorities of developing states and those states with full and thriving economies show sharp differences in the level of concern for eradicating poverty.
In the meantime there is still an opportunity for our voices, priorities and views to be heard by global leaders as they begin the process of defining the new development agenda for the world through the UN ‘my world’ global survey for a better world.