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Card Turkson on the need for ethical trade and development

Card Turkson on the need for ethical trade and development

(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Peter Turkson said Wednesday that trade and development must aim at the fullest human flourishing if we are ever to have real peace. 

Speaking at the launch of 2014 Trade and Development Report drawn up by UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) in Geneva, the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace pointed out that our societies need to find ways of exercising greater corporate, financial and governmental responsibility for the economy and the environment.

Please find below the full text of Cardinal Turkson’s address:
The launch of the 2014 Trade and Development Report, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of UNCTAD, is a meaningful and hopeful occasion. I am happy to be invited, as President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, because of the significant resonance between the Council and UNCTAD.

Ours is the younger of the two bodies, founded in 1967 at the request of the II Vatican Council. The Council was deeply concerned with “the immensity of the hardships which still afflict the greater part of mankind today.” Therefore Vatican II wanted a Church body “to stimulate the Catholic community to promote progress in needy regions and international social justice.”  And everyone would surely agree, that such development should help to overcome the immense hardships of humankind; and that such development should promote progress. 

Three years earlier, in 1964, the United Nations established UNCTAD to deal with development issues, particularly international trade. The Holy See was present at the founding meeting, and Pope Paul VI identified the ultimate horizon towards which UNCTAD at its best would always be working, when he declared: “Development [is] the new name of peace.”  

Over the subsequent 50 years, new technologies have broken down traditional borders between nations and opened up new areas of economic opportunity. Moreover, a less polarized political landscape has provided new possibilities for worldwide trade. In addition, economic power has become more dispersed, mostly due to industrialization and rapid growth in East Asia, with corresponding changes in the workings of the international trading system. 

But the basic question remains: what kind of trade and development are going to meet the pervasive challenges of hardships and poverty, of inequality and lack of progress?

Pope Paul VI defined true development with perfect clarity: true development must foster the development of each man and of the whole man (la promozione di ogni uomo e di tutto l’uomo) … in other words, each individual person (man, woman and child), each human group, and humanity as a whole.  But in our own era, Pope Francis felt obliged to comment, “The dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies. At times, however, they seem to be a mere addendum imported from without in order to fill out a political discourse lacking in perspectives or plans for true and integral development.” 

Human leadership or governance still seems to have a lot to learn about how to order economic affairs for the welfare of everyone and for the safeguarding of the environment. In the words of Pope Francis: 
“With due respect for the autonomy and culture of every nation, we must never forget that the planet belongs to all mankind and is meant for all mankind; the mere fact that some people are born in places with fewer resources or less development does not justify the fact that they are living with less dignity.”  
And world governance, including institutions of the U.N. family, need to appreciate the poor, as St John Paul II put it, “not as a problem, but as people who can become the principal builders of a new and more human future for everyone.”  

The 50th anniversary of UNCTAD and the launching of the 2014 Trade and Development Report take place under the long shadow of the current financial and monetary crisis. It results from a combination of ethical and technical breakdowns. Have the right lessons been learned yet? It is not evident that the organizations, institutions and decision-makers responsible for ethical and technical breakdowns have acknowledged their role, much less made the necessary repairs. We must do better. Our societies need to find ways of exercising greater corporate, financial and governmental responsibility for the economy and the environment.  The world economy has been marooned in growth doldrums for the past six years, and this state of affairs is in growing danger of becoming accepted as the “new normal”. 

For example, the 2014 Report analyses practices of tax avoidance and the unfair distribution of revenues from natural resource. Unfortunately, offshore financial centres and the secrecy jurisdictions that host them are fully integrated into the global financial system, and large shares of trade and capital movements (including foreign direct investment) are channelled through them. Many Governments – of both developed and developing countries – are trying to improve tax collection. But the Report recognizes with regret that the international tax architecture has failed to adapt – has not been equipped – to deal effectively with many systemic forms of corruption.

Dialogue and cooperation are not easy. But the ‘old normal’ of isolated sectors and competing institutions will not meet the challenges. 
“A fair globalization will not come about only through disjointed decisions on trade, or finance, or labour, or education or health policies, conceived and applied independently. It is an integrated phenomenon: it takes integrated solutions and, obviously, integrated policies.”  
Integrated policies will require persistence and generosity, with quite different voices being heard: banking, finance, commerce, business, politics … as well as workers, the unemployed and migrants, youth and the old, and indeed the natural environment. 

Nearly 50 years ago, Pope Paul VI enshrined the link between development and peace. Peace is not the mere absence of violence. It bespeaks human fulfilment, integral in all its aspects – material, social, spiritual. Trade and development must aim at the fullest human flourishing if we are ever to have real peace. 

Our world is abundant with riches, thanks first of all to the generous Creator. Human survival and prosperity are also thanks to the coordinated human efforts to produce and to trade down through history and around the globe. Trade is certainly a key important driver of development, and fair trade will do much to promote authentic human development. 

Let us join in congratulating UNCTAD on its 50th anniversary, in encouraging UNCTAD to fulfil its mission, in taking the 2014 Trade and Development Report on board, and in joining UNCTAD and other components of international governance in facing the great challenges of the coming 50 years


(From archive of Vatican Radio)