Pope Francis asked world leaders and businesspeople to not forget about the lives affected by the decisions they would make at the G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia, this weekend in a 789-word letter to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who is hosting the meeting.
“There are constant assaults on the natural environment, the result of unbridled consumerism, and this will have serious consequences for the world economy,” wrote Francis. “[I hope] that the assessment of the results of this consensus will not be restricted to global indices but will take into account as well real improvements in the living conditions of poorer families and the reduction of all forms of unacceptable inequality.”
U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and other world leaders will all be in Brisbane. The G-20, short for Group of 20, is a forum for the leaders and the central banking heads of the 20 biggest economies in the world to connect with one another. There have been annual G-20 summits since 2008, when the global financial crisis hit most economies.
This year there’s expected to be some tension between Putin and Western leaders. The G-20 meetings haven't led to many binding, meaningful agreements in the past, so Francis’ calls for action on humanitarian crises may fall on deaf ears.
Francis praised the G20 group for coming together after the 2008 financial crisis and not letting military conflicts get in the way of economic cooperation, but stressed that the G-20 should accomplish more in the realm of human rights.
“More is required. The whole world expects from the G-20 an ever broader agreement which can lead, through the United Nations legal system, to a definitive halt to the unjust aggression directed at different religious and ethnic groups, including minorities, in the Middle East,” he said, adding later that “I take this opportunity to ask the G-20 Member States to be examples of generosity and solidarity in meeting the many needs of the victims of these conflicts, and especially of refugees.”
The letter reads much like his letter to Putin prior to the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg in 2013. Francis asked the G-20 assembly to work to solve the brutal civil war in Syria.
“I make a heartfelt appeal for [G-20 leaders] to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution,” he wrote to Putin. “Moreover, all governments have the moral duty to do everything possible to ensure humanitarian assistance to those suffering because of the conflict, both within and beyond the country’s borders.”
Read Francis’ entire letter below:
The G-20 agenda in Brisbane is highly focused on efforts to relaunch a sustained and sustainable growth of the world economy, thereby banishing the specter of global recession.
One crucial point that has emerged from the preparatory work is the fundamental imperative of creating dignified and stable employment for all. This will call for improvement in the quality of public spending and investment, the promotion of private investment, a fair and adequate system of taxation, concerted efforts to combat tax evasion and a regulation of the financial sector which ensures honesty, security and transparency.
I would ask the G-20 Heads of State and Government not to forget that many lives are at stake behind these political and technical discussions, and it would indeed be regrettable if such discussions were to remain purely on the level of declarations of principle.
Throughout the world, the G-20 countries included, there are far too many women and men suffering from severe malnutrition, a rise in the number of the unemployed, an extremely high percentage of young people without work and an increase in social exclusion which can lead to criminal activity and even the recruitment of terrorists. In addition, there are constant assaults on the natural environment, the result of unbridled consumerism, and this will have serious consequences for the world economy.
It is my hope that a substantial and productive consensus can be achieved regarding the agenda items. I likewise hope that the assessment of the results of this consensus will not be restricted to global indices but will take into account as well real improvements in the living conditions of poorer families and the reduction of all forms of unacceptable inequality.
I express these hopes in light of the post-2015 Development Agenda to be approved by the current session of the United Nations Assembly, which ought to include the vital issues of decent work for all and climate change.
The G-20 Summits, which began with the financial crisis of 2008, have taken place against the terrible backdrop of military conflicts, and this has resulted in disagreements between the Group’s members. It is a reason for gratitude that those disagreements have not prevented genuine dialogue within the G-20, with regard both to the specific agenda items and to global security and peace.
But more is required. The whole world expects from the G-20 an ever broader agreement which can lead, through the United Nations legal system, to a definitive halt to the unjust aggression directed at different religious and ethnic groups, including minorities, in the Middle East. It should also lead to eliminating the root causes of terrorism, which has reached proportions hitherto unimaginable; these include poverty, underdevelopment and exclusion.
It has become more and more evident that the solution to this grave problem cannot be a purely military one, but must also focus on those who in one way or another encourage terrorist groups through political support, the illegal oil trade or the provision of arms and technology. There is also a need for education and a heightened awareness that religion may not be exploited as a means of justifying violence.
These conflicts leave deep scars and result in unbearable humanitarian situations around the world. I take this opportunity to ask the G-20 Member States to be examples of generosity and solidarity in meeting the many needs of the victims of these conflicts, and especially of refugees.
The situation in the Middle East has revived debate about the responsibility of the international community to protect individuals and peoples from extreme attacks on human rights and a total disregard for humanitarian law. The international community, and in particular the G-20 Member States, should also give thought to the need to protect citizens of all countries from forms of aggression that are less evident but equally real and serious.
I am referring specifically to abuses in the financial system such as those transactions that led to the 2008 crisis, and more generally, to speculation lacking political or juridical constraints and the mentality that maximization of profits is the final criterion of all economic activity.
A mind-set in which individuals are ultimately discarded will never achieve peace or justice. Responsibility for the poor and the marginalized must therefore be an essential element of any political decision, whether on the national or the international level.
With this Letter I express my appreciation for your work, Prime Minister, and I offer my prayerful encouragement for the deliberations and outcome of the Summit. I invoke divine blessings on all taking part and on all the citizens of the G-20 countries. In a particular way, I offer you my prayerful best wishes for the successful conclusion of Australia’s presidency and I willingly assure you of my highest consideration.