Pope John Paul II
Selection from
World Day of Peace Message
1 January 1998

The heavy burden of external debt

4. Nations and whole regions of the world, on account of their fragile financial or economic potential, risk being excluded from an economy which is becoming globalized. Others have greater resources, but unfortunately cannot take advantage of them for various reasons: unrest, internal conflicts, a lack of adequate structures, environmental degradation, widespread corruption, criminality and other reasons as well. Globalization has to be linked with solidarity. Special aid must be forthcoming so that countries which are unable to enter the market successfully on their own strength alone can in fact overcome their present situation of disadvantage.

This is something owed to them in justice. In a true "family of nations" no one can be excluded; on the contrary, it is the weakest, the most fragile which must be supported, so that they too can develop their full potential.

My thoughts go here to one of the greatest difficulties which the poorer nations have to face today. I refer to the heavy burden of external debt, which compromises the economies of whole peoples and hinders their social and political progress. In this regard, the international financial institutions have recently initiated significant attempts to secure a coordinated reduction of this debt. I earnestly hope that progress will continue to be made in this direction by applying conditions in a flexible way, so that all eligible nations can benefit before the year 2000. The wealthier nations can do much in this respect, by supporting the implementation of such measures.

The debt question is part of a vaster problem: that of the persistence of poverty, sometimes even extreme, and the emergence of new inequalities which are accompanying the globalization process. If the aim is globalization without marginalization, we can no longer tolerate a world in which there live side by side the immensely rich and the miserably poor, the have-nots deprived even of essentials and people who thoughtlessly waste what others so desperately need. Such contrasts are an affront to the dignity of the human person. Certainly there is no lack of appropriate means for eliminating poverty, including the promotion of consistent social and productive investments on the part of world economic bodies. This presupposes that the international community intends to act with the necessary political determination. Praiseworthy steps in that direction have already been taken, but a lasting solution requires a concerted effort by everyone, including the States concerned.