5.2.9 MM chap. III: CST addresses international development

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Unit 5 Contents

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In study of MM so far, our focus has been on three principles and one pragmatic point.  The principles are solidarity, social justice and subsidiarity, and the pragmatic point is that state provision may be necessary for the common good.  (They happen to alliterate!)

Together these form the backdrop as the encyclical goes on to address more concrete issues in chapter III.  The first section of this is about agriculture (##123-149), concluding that it “should be thought of as a vocation, a God-given mission” (#149).

In the next part of Chapter III, we come to an important point in the whole body of CST documents since Rerum Novarum. For the first time in a papal encyclical, the agenda expands to include international development.

In the next reading, the first few paragraphs remain focused on the domestic political context, calling for both governments and businesses to act to overcome economic and social inequality within their own countries (##150, 152).  Then attention turns to the international setting (##154-177).  It is striking how solidarity is presented as of fundamental importance:

Probably the most difficult problem today concerns the relationship between political communities that are economically advanced and those in the process of development. Whereas the standard of living is high in the former, the latter are subject to extreme poverty. The solidarity which binds all men together as members of a common family makes it impossible for wealthy nations to look with indifference upon the hunger, misery and poverty of other nations whose citizens are unable to enjoy even elementary human rights. (#157; cf. #155)

Before you do the next reading, it is worth appreciating that the concept of ‘development’ employed here was relatively new at that time.  Broadly speaking, the idea that there can be a ‘process’ by which relatively poor countries can ‘develop’ and become more like economically wealthier countries was novel in the post-World War Two period.  Donal Dorr puts it this way:

During the 1950s, the new idea of economic development brought about an enormous change in the thinking of government leaders [and many others].  Essentially this… was the widespread acceptance of the belief that each individual country, and the world as a whole, can ‘grow’ out of poverty.1

From early on, the concept of ‘development’ has been subject to controversy.  One reason for this is that it can suggest that all countries should pursue a goal that Western ones have set, and in this way seem to be a form of neo-colonialism.  Another is that it risks assuming that the goal itself is to be like Western countries. The quotation from MM above shows clearly that John XXIII accepts the idea of development, although, as you will see, he already warns against certain distortions of it.

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Reading (5pp)

Mater et Magistra, ##150-174

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EXERCISE

Reflect on what this reading says and doesn’t say, and identify three or four points that strike you as especially significant.

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RESPONSE TO EXERCISE

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The issue of giving aid in order for the donor state to gain control over the recipient country – as referred to in the model journal entry – has remained a live one since the end of the Cold War in 1989.  The term ‘tied aid’ refers to where aid is given with a condition attached that the recipient uses it in a way that also benefits the donor.  This can be overtly for economic reasons, or to secure political influence.  MM doesn’t speak about tying aid for economic reasons, but its clear-cut repudiation of doing so for political reasons implies rejection of that as well.

Thanks to an initiative of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), several major Western countries committed themselves in 2001 not to tie aid.2. In 2002 the British government made it illegal for UK aid to be tied.  However the issue remains controversial in public debate, including in Britain where some argue that the aid budget should be used in ways that benefit the UK.  In contrast to this view, MM’s point is straightforward: aid should be given “for the purpose of helping the less developed nations to achieve their own economic and social growth” (#174).  The clue is in the word: aid.

This completes our readings from MM.  We now turn to Populorum Progressio, which goes much further in addressing international development than the few pages we have just studied.

 

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End of 5.2.9

Go to 5.2.10 Questions for discussion half way through the unit

 

Module B outline

 

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  1. Donal Dorr, Option for the Poor: A Hundred Years of Catholic Social Teaching (Revised edition, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1992) p. 179 

  2. The OECD’s Development Assistance Committee’s 2001 ‘Recommendation on Untying ODA to Least Developed Countries’ was accepted by all member countries.  See Clay, Edward J., Matthew Geddes and Luisa Natali, Untying Aid: Is it working? An Evaluation of the Implementation of the Paris Declaration and of the 2001 DAC Recommendation of Untying ODA to the LDCs (Copenhagen: Danish Institute for International Studies, 2009). 

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