Rome meeting has right focus

The Australian EDITORIALS January 16, 2017

The United Nations’ 17 “sustainable development goals” are overly ambitious, if not utopian. They include no poverty, zero hunger, clean water, reduced inequalities, climate action, and major infrastructure. But if substantial progress is to be made, co-operation between business, governments, organisations such as the G20, academia and faith and community groups will be essential.

It is a measure of the credibility of the Australian-based Global Foundation that the group’s Rome round table on the weekend was addressed by the Catholic Church’s three most senior leaders — Pope Francis, Vatican secretary of state Pietro Parolin and Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell. Other Christian and faith leaders also made valuable contributions.

The round table was not about faith. And it went far beyond the green-Left agenda that Francis has pushed so hard. Indeed, the Pope adopted a more centrist position, encouraging a co-operative globalisation as opposed to “the globalisation of indifference’’.

Many of those present lead companies and investment institutions worth collectively, hundreds of millions of dollars. Their organisations have thrived on free trade and recognise the limits of protectionism. Others, including Kevin Rudd, Indonesia’s former trade minister Mari Pangestu, former Italian labour minister Enrico Giovannini, former British Labour leader and cabinet minister Ed Miliband and former Liberal Party federal director Brian Loughnane brought vast experience to the table.

The world does not need another think tank. Mr Rudd was right to say that Europe, in particular, seemed to be engaged in a “rolling seminar with itself’’, inside a cocoon of gloom and pessimism. Ageing populations, budgetary pressures and stagnant wages in some countries are a brake on Western nations’ efforts to assist developing nations.

The strength of the Global Foundation, however, is that it is attempting to act as well as debate the issues, and that its main focus is to help the poorest nations to help themselves.

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