Caritas Oceania
  • Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Name: Caritas Oceania
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Planet (1 hits),

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Caritas Oceania Contribution to Rio +20 conference on Sustainable Development

Caritas Oceania is a region of the Caritas International Confederation with a coordinating function for the various national Caritas organizations of the region (Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tonga). We also work alongside Catholic and other justice and development agencies in the south Pacific.

Both Caritas Internationalis and Caritas Oceania have put on record our concerns about climate change and sustainable development. We base our view of the world on an understanding of human beings, the earth and the universe as gifts of God. From this point of view every human being has an innate dignity and worth from the beginning to the end of life. Likewise the earth is a gift of God that must be valued and respected in itself before it is an object for human use or exploitation. The members of the Caritas network are committed to eradicating poverty, advocating and organising around issues of poverty and development, promoting stewardship of the earth and its resources in the service of all humanity.

Individual members of the network in the South Pacific work in these areas educating, advocating, and supporting projects to sustain communities and mitigate the effects of extreme poverty and climate change. Caritas Oceania has a particular commitment to the issue of climate change as it is already having a devastating impact on the region, particularly for small, low-lying island states.

As a region Caritas Oceania has also worked together on disaster risk reduction and preparedness programmes. The need to cooperate in addressing such issues has become increasingly important due to the seasonal challenges (eg, typhoons) and because some of these disasters (eg, extreme weather events) are predicted to become more frequent and intense as a result of climate change, increasing the vulnerability of the communities we serve.

All the states of the Pacific face unique challenges not only as a result of climate change (to which most of these states have made little contribution in terms of per capita emissions) but also in terms of sustainable development. For smaller, more isolated states the challenge of employment for their people, especially the young, is great. For larger and more economically developed states the challenge can be models of development which may be unsustainable or environmentally damaging.

We have some brief submissions for the compilation document:

What are our expectations for the outcome of Rio+20?

a) We expect a stronger commitment to the development of a green economy, not just in name but in practice. We expect the major economic powers (states and companies) will resist this because it will challenge profits and power. We expect individuals and social groups to resist it because populations have become addicted to consumption in terms of what are seen as desirable lifestyles (eg, consumer items, imported food, etc).

Specific elements:

a) We support strong sectoral priorities being established, developed and launched at Rio+20. We especially look for these initiatives in the fields of energy, food security, oceans and biodiversity. As our region is predominantly a marine environment, so the care of the oceans as a climate regulator and source of food is essential. Likewise energy imports (eg, oil, petrol) are both costly and unsustainable. The dominant model of development elevates the value of imported products and foods at the expense of local produce.

With many small island nations in our area we ask that the human dignity of those living in these threatened states be prioritized on the international agenda. The peoples of these islands may be few in number relative to the total population of the world, but they have had a history of survival, independence and sustainable living in relatively isolated situations.

In more recent times they have often been drawn into a dependency on imported products and values which have drawn them away from their traditional practices and independence. This is not to say everything new is bad and everything ?traditional? is good, however efforts to achieve sustainable development must necessarily attempt to restore some of what has been lost, culturally, economically and socially. Particularly important is developing sustainable employment opportunities which can offer possibilities for young people to stay in their communities and on the land. Projects that bring together care of the earth, indigenous cultural values and employment opportunities for the young are valuable.

c) Institutional framework for sustainable development:

We do not wish to negate the value of the political, economic and social commitments that the conference is working on and which is central to the work of the UN. We applaud that commitment and support it. However, coming as we do from a religious background, we see spiritual and ethical questions which must accompany the other aspects of the debate: What must we do to make the world a better, safer, healthier place? What must I do or not do to ensure that my brothers and sisters do not suffer poverty and exclusion? What can I/we do or not do to ensure that our grandchildren have a livable earth to inhabit?

From that perspective we want to see in the document an acknowledgement that the spiritual and religious traditions of the peoples of our Planet are engaged as partners in the dialogue around sustainable development practices. There are strong religious traditions in the Pacific, many of which have dimensions that tie the local people closely into the environment as the world from which they come. These traditions can give insight into better ways of acting and motivation for change.

The Churches too can be influential in people?s lives. As an organization dedicated to the eradication of poverty and environmental justice without engaging in proselytism we see great possibilities in bringing together environmental awareness, sustainable development and the spiritual traditions of local peoples.

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