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Vatican’s UN observer condemns multinational companies

Jonathan Luxmoore

THE VATICAN’S representative at the United Nations in Geneva has delivered a dramatic attack on multinational companies, accusing them of flouting local laws and violating human rights. “Transnational corporations bear a signif-

icant responsibility to respect and promote human rights, and support integral develop- ment that enhances the quality of life,” said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s permanent observer. “Regrettably, they have failed to measure up to this standard on numerous occasions, violating established rules and regulations, and thus causing excep- tional damage.” The archbishop cited particular failures in the manufacturing sector, where workers “have been deprived of a living wage, safety and security measures have not been observed, and forced or child labour has been tolerated”. Addressing the UN’s Human Rights

Council, the 70-year-old archbishop said the Vatican had welcomed the new UN guiding principles on business and human rights, believing they would promote dialogue and common efforts among “all relevant stake- holders”. However, he added that the energy

Pope urges more respect for Gypsies

POPE BENEDICT XVI has called on Europe to show greater civility to Gypsies, while inviting the traditionally nomadic people to earn such respect by being law-abiding citizens, settling in homes and sending their children to school, writes Robert Mickens. “I invite you, dear friends, to write

together a new page of history for your people and Europe,” the Pope said on Saturday to some 2,000 Roma and other Gypsies from various parts of the continent who gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall. “The search for housing and dignified

work and instruction for your children are the bases on which to construct that integration from which you and all of society will benefit,” he said at a gathering that included talks by Gypsies and several songs and dances. Some 150,000 Gypsies live in Italy, many in unofficial camps.

28 | THE TABLET | 18 June 2011

and mining sectors in the least developed countries remained susceptible to a “corporate culture” which ignored the rights of indige- nous and local communities, often depriving them of safe water, food and livelihoods. Some transnational corporations, he said, had tried to circumvent social and environmental laws by subcontracting work without monitoring their partners’ policies and practices. “In view of the size and reach of multi -

national and global corporations … the recognition of this multilayered and multi- dimensional responsibility becomes ever more urgent,” said Archbishop Tomasi, who has held the post since 2003. The archbishop welcomed the new UN framework for “cre- ating a standard whereby companies are expected to adopt comprehensive human rights policies, assess the potential and current impact on human rights of their operations and throughout their supply chains, and inte- grate their analysis and findings into respective company policies and culture”. The address was one of several outspoken

recent statements by the Italian archbishop, who last week told the Geneva-based International Labour Organisation that cur- rent government austerity programmes were cutting “basic services that citizens, especially

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi,

pictured in 2003.

Photo: CNS

the elderly, children and the poor have come to rely on”. He added that “old formulas” for recovery

and economic growth had done little to help the worst affected, including young people, women and domestic workers, and said both public and private sectors should help ensure the global economic system “adheres to fun- damental principles of justice which prioritise the needs of the most vulnerable”. In his Human Rights Council address,

Archbishop Tomasi said the need to prevent human rights violations by large companies had been outlined by the Pope in his June 2009 social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate. He added that the UN’s guidelines would

help clarify the state’s duty “to establish policies and mechanisms to hold companies account- able for human rights violations”, as well as establish the need for more effective enforce- ment and surveillance.

Call for radical rethink on environment

POPE BENEDICT XVIhas called for a world- wide “change of mentality” regarding the environment, saying humanity risked extinc- tion if it did not act quickly and modify the way it treated the planet, writes Robert Mickens. “All governments must commit to protecting nature and helping it fulfil its essen- tial role for the survival of humanity,” the Pope said on 9 June in an address to six new ambassadors to the Holy See. “It appears necessary to rethink totally our

approach towards nature … It is not just a playground or a space to be exploited,” the Pope told ambassadors from Moldova, Equatorial Guinea, Belize, Syria, Ghana and New Zealand. He called for “precise and sus- tainable solutions” to help humanity better live its “covenant” with the created world. “The United Nations seems to be the natural framework for such a reflection, which should not be overshadowed by blindly partisan polit- ical and economic interests,” he said. Pope Benedict, 84, said the tragedies con-

nected to nature and technology of the past six months alone should cause people to reflect on how harm to the environment threatens human existence. “Human ecology is a necessary imperative,”

said the Pope, explaining that concept as adopting a way of life that is respectful of the environment and that sustains research and adequate forms of energy that do not pose a threat to creation or human beings. The Pope said that, as vital as technology

was, humanity could not pin all of its hopes on it as the only agent of progress or happiness. “A technology that dominates the person deprives him of his humanity,” he warned, pointing out that it was God’s design that the human person be “the pinnacle and the man- ager of creation”. Pope Benedict’s words had a particularly

poignant resonance in Italy where voters on Sunday and Monday passed a referendum that blocked plans to develop nuclear energy and privatise water.

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