THAT WE ALL MIGHT HAVE LIFE, IN ABUNDANCE

 

Pastoral Statement on the occasion of

the G-8 Summit, Kananaskis, Alberta

 

By the Permanent Council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

 

1.                  The Permanent Council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) joins the citizens and government of our country in welcoming the heads of state and ministers of the G-8 countries to the incomparable beauty of Kananaskis, Alberta. Leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States will discuss crucially important matters. We pray that as the summit decisions unfold, all the nations of the world, and especially those weaker economies, will be able to attest that the G-8 acted in order that the world might have life, and have it in abundance.[1]

 

2.                  We also welcome those many members of civil society who will arrive from around the globe, attracted to this unique area of the Diocese of Calgary for encounters designed to foster the growth of social and environmental justice, peace and democracy. We are encouraged by the arduous efforts of those selfless persons who commit themselves to the development of international networks designed to confront such serious global challenges. We appreciate the worldwide movements of so many thoughtful people, especially youth, who participate in the development of a planetary social conscience through means as varied as educational meetings or colourful and creative street demonstrations.

 

3.                  To all must be respectfully accorded the ability to participate in discussions and actions for social justice and beneficial change. Everyone has a role to play, every contribution is needed, if such massive challenges are to be met with success. The search for alternative development strategies may be drowned out by violence from any source, which cannot serve the cause of justice. We must constantly remain attentive to the words of Jesus, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”[2]

 

4.                  As leaders of a Church that is actively involved in the work of global social change, we feel a special responsibility to continue to bring elements of moral and ethical reflection to the important questions that the Kananaskis summit will address. Before the meetings of the G-7 in the past, we have regularly intervened with our Prime Minister to request change to the unequal structures of the international economy, to increase development assistance and to cancel international debts.[3] The Bishops of the region of Liguria (Genoa), Italy, the location of the 2001 G-8 summit, affirmed that “the first priority on the G-8’s agenda should be the battle against poverty.”[4] We share this opinion. The leaders of the G-8 should always have before them in Kananaskis the Millennium Development Goals which they have committed themselves to realize by 2015, including:

 

C        halving the proportion of people whose income is less than US$1 a day

C        halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger

C        ensuring that all children will be able to complete primary schooling

C        reducing by two-thirds the under-five mortality rate

C        reducing the maternal mortality rate by three-quarters.

 

5.                  This is the fourth such summit that Canada has hosted; Canadians expect their leaders to provide inspired leadership toward the achievement of these goals. But the Kananaskis meeting is taking place in a context where increased concerns over security could drown out the other stated items of the agenda, namely strengthening global economic growth and building a new partnership for Africa’s development. There can be no security without justice, however. As the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations has said, “We must recognize that global disparity is fundamentally incompatible with global security.[5] If the governments of the richest countries spend more on their own increased security measures than on the development needs of the world’s poorest peoples, they will frustrate the aspirations of the poor majorities and avoid the major economic changes required of the North to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

 

The G-8 Efforts to Strengthen Global Economic Growth

 

6.                  One important moral measure of economic growth must be how well it is shared, especially among the most needy populations. Current strategies for economic growth, led by increasingly unfettered markets, have failed to meet this measure. According to the United Nations, there are still 1.2 billion people in the world who subsist on less than US$1 a day. The Church continues to express grave doubts and criticism whenever the economic agenda heightens the polarization between rich and poor, or excludes the latter from their due benefits.[6] Canadians have recently experienced the fact that a rising tide does not necessarily lift all boats, since our country’s poverty rates have risen in times of economic growth.[7] It is a limited strategy simply to acknowledge the growing gap between rich and poor, to renew appeals for charity from the global North and to call for the political will to share from one’s surplus. The current situation also demands fundamental changes to an economic system that maintains and furthers poverty. We challenge the leaders of the G-8 to commit to such change and to adopt wealth distribution as an important and crucial goal of global economic policy.

 

7.                  Indeed, strengthening economic growth among those who already have too many of the earth’s goods is morally unsound. A more laudable goal should be to raise the living standards of the poorest people in developed countries, along with the majorities in the countries of the global South, while encouraging a more restrained style of living among the planet’s well-to-do.

 

8.                  Further, in terms of the environmental load on a finite planet, it is not clear that raising living standards of the wealthiest sector of G-8 countries through market strategies represents a sustainable model. Already, a child born in the industrial world can leave an “ecological footprint” over his or her lifetime greater than 30-50 children born in the global South.[8] In an increasingly inter-dependent world, economic decisions affect distant ecological systems, consumption patterns and the health and well-being of millions of people and creatures. The challenge is to develop a more profound consciousness of the global common good.

 

9.                  The Kananaskis summit should rally support for crucially important environmental measures, in particular a commitment to ratify the Kyoto Accord on climate change. The realization that the poorest countries of the global South are least able to protect themselves from the negative effects of climate change should enhance the Government of Canada’s support for Kyoto. Lack of support from all the leaders of the G-8 for this accord will endanger progress at the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, in September 2002.

 

10.             Since G-8 economies account for 48 percent of the global economy,[9] the policies that these leaders adopt have a huge impact on the economies, ecologies and societies of all countries. But perhaps nowhere more than in Africa, the continent that Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has laudably worked hard to keep front and centre on the Kananaskis summit agenda.

 

 

 

The G-8’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development

 

11.             Perhaps the most ambitious element of the G-8 agenda is the focus on African development. Certainly, the need for action here is undeniable. Africa is the only continent where both poverty and the number of children out of school are on the rise. Life expectancy in Africa is the lowest in the world, and will continue to fall in some countries where HIV/AIDS incidence rates are over 25 percent; the disease has become the leading cause of death. Over 40 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s 659 million people live on less than US$1 a day, where the average income per capita is lower than in the late 1960s.[10] Despite “the mainly negative picture which today characterizes numerous parts of Africa, and despite the sad situations being experienced in many countries, the Church has the duty to affirm vigorously that these difficulties can be overcome. It must strengthen in all Africans hope of genuine liberation.”[11]

 

12.             African Christians have demanded greater justice between North and South. In a spirit of collegiality with the African bishops, we want to relay their message: “There should be an end to presenting us in a ridiculous and insignificant light on the world scene, after having brought about and maintained a structural inequality and while upholding unjust terms of trade! The unjust price system brings in its wake an accumulation of the external debt which humiliates our nations and gives them a regrettable sense of inferiority and indigence. In the name of our people we reject this sense of culpability which is imposed on us.”[12]

 

13.             The Bishops of Canada have responded with efforts to forge deeper links of solidarity with Africa. In 2001, Bishop Donald Thériault traveled on a fact-finding mission to Kenya and southern Sudan, where the ecumenical delegation experienced first-hand how a Canadian oil company’s activities are exacerbating human suffering.[13] In 2002, Bishop Jean-Guy Hamelin traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and reported that without peace in the Congo, where six countries are involved in an ongoing war, there can be no peace in Africa.[14] Each year Canadian bishops make funds available for dozens of projects that assist the Church in Africa to carry out its ministry, as well as encouraging the work of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP).[15]

 

14.             At the 2001 Genoa summit, African leaders presented a development plan that has become the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). This plan, which has had the salutary effect of focusing G-8 attention on Africa, will be the basis of further discussions at Kananaskis. While African experts are in agreement with NEPAD’s worthy goals of poverty eradication, democratization and human rights promotion, concerns have been raised about the proposed extension of market-based solutions.

 

15.             NEPAD has been questioned for its treatment of the HIV/AIDS pandemic as well as its lack of attention to African women and basic human needs.[16] But perhaps the most serious issues to be brought up are by Church leaders who question the very process that has led to NEPAD, “because there has been no consultation with Africa’s citizenry, without whose active participation there can be no real partnership and no real development.”[17] Surely more profound and coordinated action should accompany the development planning process.

 

16.             A traditional instrument to encourage economic growth is the elimination of tariff barriers and quotas. Currently, Canada applies higher duties on more products exported by Least Developed Countries than most industrialized states.[18] At the same time, Canada seems poised to assist 48 of the world’s poorest countries by reducing tariffs on footwear, textiles, apparel and sugar.[19] While such action could help Africa, it should be noted that only two percent of world trade originates here. Freer trade might help some sectors of African society under certain circumstances, but in societies where 60 percent of the population is excluded from the formal economy, information technologies and access to finance, only limited positive results can be initially expected.

 

17.             Who benefits from policies that develop exports for international markets rather than strengthening the internal African markets? NEPAD’s siren call for inserting Africa more deeply into the already unfair global economic system of increased competition and privatization cannot succeed without accompanying structural reform of international trade, investment and political regimes. The G-8 could look to other measures suggested by Africans, from ending arms sales in areas of conflict, to controls over negative environmental and labour standards effects of resource extraction industries, for example, so that African development could be enhanced.

 

18.             Pope John Paul II has urged the Episcopal Conferences of the industrialized countries to press the issue of the burden of the international debt with their governments and with international financial organizations.[20] The Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative requested that international financial institutions cancel the multilateral debts of over 50 poor nations and avoid structural adjustment conditionalities. But debt relief has been provided to only about one-half this number of countries,[21] while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has attached an average of 114 conditions to loans to Sub-Saharan Africa in 1999 alone. As well, two-thirds of countries now receiving debt relief still spend more on debt servicing payments than on health, and half spend more on debt than on primary education and health combined.[22] Such progress is far too limited. Cancellation of onerous debt burdens remains a fundamental condition for African development as well as for G-8 credibility.

 

19.             The Global Fund for AIDS and Health was launched at the 2001 G-8 summit, with the goal of collecting US$10 billion. While we can rejoice that almost $2 billion has been committed so far, the extent of Africa’s need calls upon all for greater generosity. Twenty-eight million Africans are now living with the AIDS virus. The Sub-Saharan Africa region alone reports 1.5 million cases of tuberculosis. Yet overall aid to Sub-Saharan Africa over the last four years has been lower than any year since 1984. NGOs are calling for G-8 countries to commit to specific multi-year steps in donor aid budgets to achieve, minimally, the United Nations target of 0.7 percent of GNP.[23] Drug companies need to provide necessary prescription medications at affordable prices so that lives may be saved. As Pope John Paul II has stated, “The battle against AIDS ought to be everyone’s battle.”[24]

 

Conclusion

 

20.             The challenges before the leaders of the G-8 may seem massive. Yet these are not only the responsibility of the eight leaders, but of all citizens of their countries. The challenges are recognizable: to discover new strategies to eradicate poverty, to create just economic relations, to defend the global environment, and to share the abundant life that God meant to be available to all.

 

21.       Our prayer for the Kananaskis summit is that the powerful leaders of the G-8 will be guided to make decisions that will mark a new beginning in international relations, a time of hope for the poor. We hope for Canadian government leadership. We ask for special solidarity with members of the Churches and civil society in Africa, beginning with new willingness to listen to their guidance for developing policies that will affect their own countries. We look forward to African involvement becoming the key factor in G-8 development policies for that continent. We yearn for this Canadian meeting of the G-8 to show determination to work for the global common good, rather than end in the frustration of silenced aspirations of billions of people. May the Lord bless all those whose sincere efforts make it possible to bring justice, development and peace to our expectant world. In the words of Jesus, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”[25]

 

12 June 2002

 

 

Members of the Permanent Council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops:

 

Most Reverend Jacques Berthelet, C.S.V., Bishop of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, President

Most Reverend Brendan O’Brien, Archbishop of St. John’s, Vice President

Most Reverend André Gaumond, Archbishop of Sherbrooke, Co-Treasurer

Most Reverend Anthony Tonnos, Bishop of Hamilton, Co-Treasurer

 

Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, Archbishop of Toronto

Most Reverend Michael Bzdel, C.Ss.R., Ukrainian Archeparch of Winnipeg and  Metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics of Canada

Most Reverend Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Edmonton

Most Reverend Maurice Couture, S.V., Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada

Most Reverend Roger Ébacher, Archbishop of Gatineau-Hull

Most Reverend Clément Fecteau, Bishop of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière

Most Reverend Frederick B. Henry, Bishop of Calgary

Most Reverend Paul Marchand, S.M.M., Bishop of Timmins

Most Reverend Terrence Prendergast, S.J., Archbishop of Halifax

Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, Archbishop of Montreal

Most Reverend James Weisgerber, Archbishop of Winnipeg

 

                                  



[1]   See John 10.10.

[2]   Matthew 5.9.

[3]  For example, see the letters of CCCB Presidents Archbishop Francis J. Spence, 24 June 1996, and Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, 14 May 1998 and 10 June 1999, to the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien.

[4]   “Bishops want G8 summit to address imbalances, L’Osservatore Romano, 18 July 2001, p. 2.

[5]   Archbishop Renato R. Martino, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, 15 October  2001.

[6]   The Struggle against Poverty: A Sign of Hope for Our World, CCCB Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs, 17 October 1996, p. 5.

[7]  Statement of the CCCB Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs concerning the Eradication of Poverty, 17 October 1998, no. 3.

[8]  United Nations Human Development Report, New York, 1998, p. 4.

[9]  World Economic Outlook, IMF, October 2001, p. 187.

[10] See the Canadian government’s website on the G-8 summit: http://www.g8.gc.ca/summitafrica-e.asp.

[11]  John Paul II, Ecclesia in Africa, 14 September 1995, no. 14.

[12]  Final Declaration of the Synod of Bishops for Africa, 6 May 1994, no. 32.

[13]  See http://www.web.ca/~iccaf/humanrights/sudaninfo/cdnmission0401.htm for the full report of this mission, and www.kairoscanada.org for information on current ecumenical campaigns for peace with justice in Sudan.

[14]  Bishop Jean-Guy Hamelin, “Report on Mission to the DRC”, 7-16 January 2002, p.3.

[15] In 2001 the CCCB supported 48 projects in 16 countries for over $96,000 from its Pastoral Fund for Evangelization, as well as supporting another 15 small projects for $23,000 from its Bishops’ Fund. For its part, in 2001 CCODP financed 60 social development projects in Africa for over $4,726,000.

[16]   Guy Taillefer, “Le projet de partenariat proposé par le G8 souffre de graves lacunes”, 6 May 2002, and “Le NEPAD souffre d’un manque de crédibilité,” 2 May 2002, in Le Devoir.

[17]   Neville Gabriel, Director of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference Justice and Peace Department, press release, 1 March 2002.

[18]   John Wiebe, “Put your tariffs where your mouth is,” Globe and Mail, 3 April 2002, p. A15.

[19]  Heather Scoffield, “Plan to drop trade restrictions on poorest countries criticized”, Globe and Mail, 28 March 2002, p. B1.

[20]  John Paul II, Ecclesia in Africa, 14 September 1995, no. 120.

[21]  According to the IMF and World Bank report, “Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative: Status of Implementation”, dated 12 April 2002, and found at http://www.imf.org/external/np/hipc/2002/status/041202.pdf, “As of late March 2002, 26 countries are benefiting from HIPC relief.” It goes on to note this number is “fewer than expected.”

[22]  “The Reality of Aid 2002, http://www.ccic.ca/reality_aid_2002_key_messages_19_03_2002.htm.

[23] “The Reality of Aid 2002”. It should also be noted that Canada’s overseas development assistance budget has fallen to 0.25 percent of GNP.

[24]  John Paul II, Ecclesia in Africa, 14 September 1995, no. 116.

[25]   Matthew 5.6.