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  • President Juan Santos addresses a plenary meeting of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 at United Nations headquarters in Manhattan, New York, September 25, 2015.

    President Juan Santos addresses a plenary meeting of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 at United Nations headquarters in Manhattan, New York, September 25, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

Published 25 September 2015

“Economic and social exclusion is a total denial of human fraternity and a serious attack against human and environmental rights,” said Pope Francis.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos addressed the U.N. Development Summit Friday, stressing the importance of peace for Colombia’s development. His address comes after his government signed a historic agreement  on justice for the hundreds of thousands of victims of Colombia’s five-decade internal conflict on Wednesday.

On the summit’s new global development aims, Santos said, “My country .. is aware that these objectives are necesary for building peace. Over the next 15 years all the countries in the world, united, need to do three key things: erradicate poverty in all its dimensions, combat inequality and injustice, and confront climate change.” 

The summit, being held over the next three days, will see world leaders discuss a new set of goals to eradicate extreme poverty, combat climate change and address other major global issues. More than 150 world leaders, as well as heads of financial and multilateral bodies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, are expected to attend. The new sustainability goals, which will be presented Friday afternoon, will replace the Millennium Development Goals which were established in 2000 and due to come to an end by 2015.

“Today for the first time in Colombia more people are in the middle class than are living in poverty,” Santos said. “We are the most biodiverse country in the world but we are also very vulnerable to the effects of climate change.”

Pope Francis Address

Pope Francis was the first to address the U.N. Sustainable Development Summit Friday, attacking global inequality, exclusion, and abuse of the environment.

The U.N Secretary General Ban Ki Moon opened the summit, saying, “Never in our 70 year history has the United Nations been honored to welcome a pope to the opening of the assembly, never has a head of the Catholic Church addressed such an array of world leaders.” Ban said the pope was a man of “global stature, a main of faith for all faith” who puts the poor first and is a “resounding voice of conscience.”

Addressing the General Assembly, Pope Francis focused his speech on criticizing social exclusion and inequality, seeing it as inextricably linked to environmental damage. He said, “I pay homage to all the men and women who have been loyal ... to all humanity over the last 60 years, and I want to remember those who have given their life to peace.”

He emphasized the need for countries to have equal participation in global decisions, pointing to the security council. Five countries have veto votes in the U.N. Security Council.

"Economic and social exclusion is a total denial of human fraternity and a serious attack on human and environmental rights," he said, noting that it is the poorest people who suffer the most from the affects of abusing the environment and referring to a "throwaway culture."

"The adoption of the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development in the summit today is an important sign of hope," he said.

He argued that all people in a position of power, have the responsibility to take practical and immediate steps to preserve the environment and erradicate "the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion." He said the scale of problems was such that "declarationism" that calms one should be avoided, also warning against the bureaucracy of "writing long lists of nice aims."

"For men and women to be able to escape extreme poverty, they need to be allowed to be dignified protagonists of their own destiny. Human development ... can't be imposed," the pope said.

He also argued that education is the basis for making the 2030 goals a reality. To have the minimum spiritual and material basis for "dignity and maintaining a family" people need "housing, work, and land," he said. Therefore, "the simplest indicator" of meeting the new goals would be the following "indispensable and material goods: one’s own housing, dignfied and properly paid work, adequate food, drinking water, religious freedom, and more generally, spiritual freedom and freedom of education."

"The terrible consequences of an irresponsible lack of governing of the world economy, guided only by the desire for profit and power, should be cause for reflection," he said.

"Without immediate action ... the ideal of saving future generations from the calamity of war and of promoting social progress and a high level of living runs the risk of becoming an unreachable mirage, or even worse, empty words that serve as an excuse for all sorts of abuse and corruption or for promoting ideological colonization," he stressed.

He said that in order to prevent war, the right to negotiation should be practised and international law respected.

Finally, and importantly, the pope also called for a world "without nuclear arms," joining the voices of many groups globally who have called for nuclear disarmament. He said they should be "totally prohibited."


“International financial organizations … shouldn’t (support) oppressive systems that … subject people to mechanisms which generate greater poverty, exclusion and dependence. The task of the United Nations … can be seen as the development and promotion of the rule of law, based on the idea that justice is an essential condition for … universal fraternity.”

“Today the world presents us with many false rights and at the same time broad sectors which are vulnerable, victims of power which is badly exercised … men and women who are excluded, made increasingly fragile by the dominant political and economic relationships. That is why their rights must be affirmed by working to protect the environment and putting and end to exclusion.”

“It must be stated that the right of the environment does exist,” he said, arguing that human beings are part of the environment. "The abuse and destruction of the environment, at the same time, is accompanied by an irrepressible process of exclusion ... Selfish and unlimited desire for power and material wellbeing leads to so much abuse.”

RELATED: teleSUR indepth coverage of the Pope’s tour of Cuba and the U.S.

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