Home > Archives > 04 - 2004 > Pacta sunt servanda
from issue no. 04 - 2004

Pacta sunt servanda

While all the attention at the UN is concentrated on the drafting of the resolution which will formalize the exit strategy of the United States from the tragic quicksand of Iraq, a delegate from the Holy See (Monsignor Frank Dewane, Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace) addressed the members of the Commission for the Sustainable Development of the United Nations on 28 April. A suitable platform for repeating the need to prevent the discontent by giving aid to the poorest, even if there are those who contest the thesis that living in extreme need and without hope facilitates terrorist recruiting.
The Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD) was set up in 1992 – after a hundred heads of State met in Rio de Janeiro to discuss the environment and development at the so called “Earth Summit” – and is an organ of the ECOSOC, the Economic and Social Council of the UN which a group of member countries would today like to have become a real and proper Council of socio-economic security to combat poverty and underdevelopment globally.
Water crisis in Angola. 
A woman buying black-market water in Luanda.

Water crisis in Angola. A woman buying black-market water in Luanda.

In 2004 the CSD inaugurated its new program of work which, in biennial cycles, will confront all the subjects on the agenda of world underdevelopment. It began, from 14 to 30 April, with the problem of the planetary management of water, hygiene, and human settlements, attempting to give more substance to a norm which formally sanctions the right of the poorest to drinkable water in the same way as health, food and a home.
The Vatican delegate – defining water as an essential vital element which can paradoxically become, for too many peoples, a reason for loss of human life – reiterated that there is “a dramatic situation characterized by incalculable and unacceptable injustices”.
The value of the discussions held during CSD sessions – between member states and interest groups which include social and work categories, businessmen and NGOs – is summarized in the document which the rotating president drafts and sends to the UN heads. The direct confrontation which takes place in the Commission between rich and poor nations says a lot about the way in which important subjects are dealt with at a multilateral level, on the basis, that is, of good governance, whereby the assumption of “Western” democratic and economic standards is demanded of the underdeveloped Country in the first place, then the World Bank and/or donors open the credit lines. (And the choice of donors who employ and set in place their own consultants to coordinate the projects approved, always raises strong criticism, and weighs in a consistent manner on the assigned budget…). But it is also useful for individual underdeveloped countries to be a rotating member of the CSD and meet donors bilaterally, asking them to take on a project, in the context of discussions which take place behind the scenes. It is also interesting to know that, in the strategic programs for the reduction of poverty which the underdeveloped countries present to the financers, the problem of water management, in the way in which it is technologically imposed by the rich countries, is often not mentioned among the priorities, because to find a source is simpler than to have the food or sanitary structures needed by their people.
A note on the Middle East: almost at the closing of the session the Palestinian delegate attacked his Israeli counterpart complaining of the insufficient water supplies to the ANP. If not resolved in time, the water question will furnish new motives for tension in the region.
The final text of the CSD showed confidence that the goal of reducing world poverty by 2015, set out in the Millennium Declaration of the UN, will be achieved. The Vatican delegate, quoting the message of the Pope for World Peace Day 2003, further said that “special care must be taken in fulfilling the obligations assumed towards the poor. Particularly frustrating in fact for them is failure to maintain the promises they feel to be of vital interest… The existence of confidence in international relations is social capital of fundamental value”. For the Pope pacta sunt servanda.

Italiano Español Français Deutsch Português