Sunday, 24 April 2011

POVERTY: 'Fertility, reproductive health and development'

Archbishop Francis Chullikatt
 A woman carries her baby on a potato farm in Cotani Alto, Bolivia, in 2006. CNS file photo/Paul Jeffrey

Here is the statement delivered April 12 by Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations, to the 44th Session of the Commission on Population and Development. He spoke on the topic "Fertility, Reproductive Health and Development."

As we consider the theme of "fertility, reproductive health and development", my delegation takes this opportunity to focus on the paramount importance of respect for the inherent dignity of the human person in all development efforts. At the outset, it will become clear that the theme for this Session mandates a careful scrutiny in order to attain, rather than frustrate, the noble goals of the United Nations that are ordered to preserving the "dignity and worth of the human person."
Unfortunately many discussions in the present day continue to be led by a false notion that, in the context of population growth, the very act of giving life is something to be feared rather than affirmed. Such thinking is based on a radical individualism which sees human reproduction as a commodity that must be regulated and improved in order to encourage greater market efficiency and development. How can such a view be consistent with the objectives of the United Nations? Put most candidly, it cannot.
This flawed understanding leads to the distorted view that population growth, especially among the poor, must be decreased in order to address poverty, illiteracy and malnutrition. It is also based upon the consistently disproven theory that population increase will devastate the environment, lead to global competition and confrontation for resources and undermine the ability of women to interact fully with society. These apprehensions contribute to the advancement of forms of reproductive technology which denigrate the nature of human sexuality. The combination of these misconceptions have led some national governments to adopt laws and policies which discourage parents from exercising their fundamental and non-derogable right to have children free of coercion and which even make it illegal for mothers to give birth in some cases or for a child to have one's own brothers and sisters.
As the Secretary General's report notes, reproduction rates vary in many places in the world. However, the report improperly suggests that the rates of reproduction in developing countries are an area of primary concern which demands urgent action. The report, furthermore, promotes the tragic theory that if there were fewer poor children there would be less need to provide education; that if there were fewer poor women giving birth then there would be less maternal mortality; and, that if there were fewer people needed to be fed then malnutrition would be more easily addressed and that greater resources could be allocated to development. In order to combat legitimate problems, the increasingly discredited concept of population control must be discarded.
This distorted world-view regards the poor as a problem to be commoditized and managed as if they were inconsequential objects rather than as unique persons with innate dignity and worth who require the full commitment of the international community to provide assistance so that they can realize their full potential.
Instead of focusing political and financial resources on efforts to reduce the number of poor persons through methods which trivialize marriage and the family and deny the very right to life of unborn children, let us instead focus these resources on providing the promised development assistance to the approximately 920 million people living on less than $1.25 per day. Let us feed the nearly 1 billion people who are malnourished, and let us provide skilled birth attendants at every birth to reduce the incidents of maternal and child mortality. Let us achieve our promise of providing primary education to the 69 million children who risk becoming another generation without such basic assistance. These children of today will be the citizens of tomorrow who have much to contribute to the welfare and common good of all.
Through the pursuit of the common good and integral human development -- which necessarily takes into account political, cultural and spiritual aspects of individuals, families and societies -- the international community can respect the dignity of each and every person and thus foster a new ethic for development. This ethic is precisely the tonic that our world desperately needs in order to promote enduring peace and the authentic flourishing for all.

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