Delia Chatoor, Pax Christi Scotland’s ear to the UN in Trinidad and Tobago and member of the Caribbean Climate Change Network, reflects on the World Day of Social Justice
World Day of Social Justice, February 20, 2023 –
Impact on International Peace and Security
On November 26, 2007, the United Nations declared that February 20 should be celebrated annually as the World Day of Social Justice. Even before this, the international community had recognised its commitment “to promote national and global economic systems based on the principles of justice, equity, democracy, participation, transparency, accountability and inclusion.” It was further noted that “social development and social justice are indispensable for the achievement and maintenance of peace and security within and among nations”
Our reality, however, is that peace and security may seem illusory with ongoing armed conflicts and threats to the peace and good order between states. Such was the concern that on January 24, 2023, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists “set the Doomsday Clock to 90 seconds to midnight, the closest it has ever been.” The message was that we are being called upon to protect humanity from nuclear war.
Prior to this announcement on January 09, 2023, Pope Francis in his address to members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See sounded the alarm of a nuclear threat which has unfortunately raised “fear and anguish” within the international community. How then can there be social development and social justice when certain states continue to divert billions of dollars in revamping, remodeling and expanding weapons systems? Are the nuclear weapon states which provide Official Development Assistance (ODA) to certain developing countries able to maintain such commitments and so ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are achievable by 2030?
It is in this regard that when we consider “social justice” we must acknowledge the respect for the human person and the rights which emanate therefrom. The international community has made valiant attempts over the years through the adoption of international instruments, resolutions and policies. Many of them call on States to enact domestic legislation which could give effect to the elements and so facilitate the realisation of social justice which in turn could facilitate peace and security.
The Church has paid great attention to the subject of Social Justice as can be gleaned from the Conciliary Document of Vatican Council 11 “Gaudium et Spes” where at paragraph 29.3 stated that “Excessive economic and social disparity between individuals and peoples of one human race is a source of scandal and militates against social justice, equity, human dignity, as well as social and international peace.”
It is, therefore, unconscionable to accept that in one developed nuclear weapon possessing state USD 746,677 million was made available to nuclear weapons producing companies between January and July 2022, a USD 61.5 million more from 2021.This was happening at a time when the international community was grappling with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other global challenges-armed conflicts, unprecedented natural disasters, global warming, increased migration, shortages of basic food items and high unemployment. This has been compounded by the news that in December 2022,one country had its Parliament grant approval for its Defence Department to spend USD 858.4 billion dollars in Fiscal Year 2023,that is, USD 80 billion higher than the previous year.
In the midst of such developments and the one year anniversary of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the President of Russia announced that he was suspending his country’s participation in the new START nuclear arms reduction treaty with the United States. Such action would negatively impact moves towards nuclear weapons controls.
Increased expenditure on armaments and heightened disquiet over a nuclear threat do not augur well for peaceful coexistence. We are, therefore, all being called upon to address the variety of injustices which continue to bedevil the international community. Threats of nuclear war, environmental mismanagement and the evidence-based reality of increasing poverty all impede the initiation of meaningful and long-lasting policies. The most vulnerable in our communities continue to clamour for national development programmes which would achieve the growth, peace, social and environmental justice needed. This would enable them to realise the call contained in the Resolution of the United Nations (UNGA Res.A/RES/62/10).