Intervention of Msgr. Martin at Habitat II Conference June 13, 1996

Author: PCJP


Monsignor Diarmuid Martin

Vatican City, June 13, 1996 (VIS)—Following is the text of the intervention made today in Istanbul, Turkey, by Monsignor Diarmuid Martin, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, joint head of the Holy See's Delegation to the UN Habitat II Conference on Human Settlements:

"My delegation has stressed on various occasions that it is fitting that the final Conference of the current series of International Conferences of the United Nations should be dedicated to the theme of Adequate Shelter for All and Sustainable Human Settlements Development. The very first principle of the Rio Declaration, at the first Conference of this series, states that the 'Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development'. At the end of the series, after all the complexities and controversies of our negotiations, after all the agreements and at times disagreements, we have come back once again concretely to those same human beings, in the place where they live and work, suffer and flourish: the home.

"The Holy See has continuously stressed the equal importance of the two themes of this Conference: Adequate Shelter for all and Sustainable Human Settlements. Seen from the point of view of the individuals, family and the communities of our world, these two themes cannot be separated. Every child, woman and man needs both the intimacy of the home and the possibility of human enrichment and growth which the community in which they live offer them. Adequate shelter is not simply a roof over one's head. It is a much broader, richer notion which permits all persons to live in dignity and to realize themselves fully, in individual achievement, in their family life at home, at school, at work, in recreation and the enjoyment of creation, in worship, and in working and living together in safety and harmony."

"One of the principal achievements for which this Conference will be remembered is the outcome of its negotiations on the Right to adequate housing for all persons and their families. The Universal Declaration on Human Rights recognized this Right clearly within the fundamental vocabulary of Human Rights language. At Istanbul we have taken this Right from the textbooks and have given it a new concrete embodiment. Governments have committed themselves to the promotion and protection of this Right and to its application. And they have recognized this as a specific obligation. This action of our Conference will give new hope and confidence to many people concerning what the United Nations Organization can do in its mandate to serve the good of humankind.

"Now it is up to the governments of the participating States, to their partners, especially local authorities, and also to all the elements of civil society to make sure that our actions become reality. We must never allow the term 'progressive realization', which we use, to hold us back from the obligation to achieve the 'full realization' of this Right.

"The Holy See wishes to play its part, consistent with its own nature and mission, to give concrete realization to this Right, and to lead to a broad- based commitment of society in this regard. Pope John Paul II, in the light of this Conference, has already announced that his Annual message at the beginning of the forthcoming Lent 1997, a period in which Christians fast and dedicate themselves to renewed commitment to those living in poverty, will be dedicated to the theme of homelessness. The aim is to mobilize the Church and especially all Church aid organizations to examine and commit themselves to seeking solutions to this ubiquitous crisis of our contemporary world.

"To mark the occasion of this Conference and its aims, the Holy See wishes to recognize two significant housing initiatives, each of which embodies the aims and objectives of the Habitat Agenda:

"The first is the 'Fundacion de Viviendas del Hogar de Cristo', whose aim is to help in the design and construction of housing for families living in poverty. A contribution will be made to the programme of the Foundation, a Catholic voluntary organization, which has already built 7 million square meters of housing in Chile, Ecuador and Colombia. In this way, the Holy See wishes to show its recognition of all those community organizations which have taken a lead in providing concrete and durable solutions to the problems of the homeless;

"The second award will be given to the Head of the Catholic Diocese of Byumba in Rwanda, Bishop Servilien Nzakamwita, to achieve a programme of building or rehabilitating houses for refugees who have returned home. In this way the Holy See wishes to draw attention to the special needs of all those, who for various reasons, have been uprooted from their homes and who, upon returning, need assistance in reestablishing themselves and their families in security and harmony.

"These awards, each of the modest amount of US$50,000, are but small symbols of recognition for concrete service for the homeless already begun, and are signposts for the type of community-based services which can ensure adequate shelter and more human and sustainable human settlements today.

"The Holy See will accompany these gestures with a renewal of its commitment throughout the wide range of educational services with which it is associated to promote a greater awareness of the needs of the homeless and of the challenge of constructing settlements which truly reflect the dignity of the men and women who live in them.

"Our Conference has recognized that the dramatic number of homeless persons in all parts of today's world and the critical situation regarding the living conditions of people in cities require urgent intervention at various levels. This effort involves special responsibilities for the international community. All of us are well aware of the financial restraints which governments are experiencing in today's global economy. The dilemma that thus arises can only be broken by the creation of a new climate of solidarity and a recognition that the fruits of creation are destined for the good of the whole human family. The fundamental global community is the human family itself. The process of economic globalization in general, and the continued growth of cities in particular, which is underway, will only serve the human family if accompanied by a global process of concern and solidarity. A new 'political will' must be constructed, especially in the wealthier countries, which will recognise solidarity as more than just self interest, but as a moral imperative for all.

"This was also the message of Pope John Paul II, speaking about this conference, when he stressed that today 'every city should feel committed to becoming a city for everyone' so that 'our "habitats" may more and more take on the face of solidarity'."