From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 12:54:55


                      ELIMINATION OF POVERTY 
                      by Jerry L. Van Marter 
                         and Carol Fouke 
             National Council of Churches News Office 
COPENHAGEN, Denmark--Representatives of 118 governments attending an 
historic United Nations global summit here March 6-12 agreed for the first 
time that abject poverty in the world should not simply be reduced or 
alleviated, but eliminated. 
     "That is a theological, not a sociological, issue," said the Rev. Joan 
Brown Campbell, general secretary of the National Council of Churches 
(NCC), who was among the summit's participants. She served as an adviser to 
the U.S. government delegation, representing nongovernmental organizations' 
interests in the conference. 
     "Christians and other people of faith understand that poverty results 
from a failure to share resources, and that it is impossible to avoid the 
call to eradicate hunger and poverty," Campbell said. "The resources are 
not ours, but God's, and we are the stewards." 
     In addition to the NCC and its relief, development and refugee 
assistance arm, Church World Service, the conference, "World Summit for 
Social Development," drew delegations from many other religious groups, 
including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). 
     The summit was historic, Campbell said, in that for the first time 
heads of state agreed that "our security as nations depends not on whether 
we can control our arms but on whether we can feed our people." 
     According to statistics often cited during the summit, more than 1 
billion people worldwide live in absolute poverty, a condition 
characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs including food, 
safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and 
     The summit's commitments to eradicate absolute poverty, reduce 
unemployment and foster social integration apply to all nations, including 
the United States. 
     "This is not just a question of how we deal with the poorest in 
Africa, Asia and Latin America but also the poorest in Appalachia and on 
our city streets," Campbell said. 
     "This summit is taking the side of the weakest," added Juan Somavia, a 
summit organizer and Chile's ambassador to the United Nations.  "We are 
facing a moral crisis in the world.  The idea that poverty is the fault of 
the poor is prevailing and the summit breaks that mode of thinking." 
     Referring to it as "a cry of alarm," Somavia said, "The summit is a 
point of departure.  Now we have to run with the ball." 
                             # # # 

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