Save the Date

Presentation of the joint research

More Women’s Leadership for a Better World:
Care as a Driver for our Common Home

 With the preface by the Holy Father Pope Francis


Friday 10th March 2023

14:30-18:30 | Istituto Maria Bambina, Vatican City


A private audience with the Holy Father Pope Francis will be held on Saturday 11th March


More info at:

“The University saved my life”: SACRU solidarity in action

Ahead of the United Nations Human Solidarity Day and the approach of Christmas, SACRU Universities describe their plans to leave no one behind

Cooperation projects in Africa, more than 1,000 young people who spend their time building houses and chapels in Chile, direct welcome of young people fleeing the war. These are just some of the projects launched in recent years by the partner universities of the Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities (SACRU). The International Day of Human Solidarity on Tuesday, Dec. 20, is an opportunity to recount and share social and solidarity initiatives organized by the eight partner universities in different parts of the world. These projects originate in different contexts but share the same goal: to leave no one behind. Solidarity is often used only in the abstract to describe support for the most vulnerable. With increasing social and economic inequalities, numerous humanitarian crises and conflicts, and climate emergencies, it is necessary to move from words to deeds to help those in need concretely.

Contributions by SACRU Universities

Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Italy)

Improvement strategies for the prevention
and clinical management of HIV, TB and malaria

Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, through its Centre for International Solidarity, participates as a lead partner in the international cooperation intervention The Community Outreach as a model to serve the women of the slum in the urban area of Kampala. Improvement strategies for the prevention and clinical management of HIV, TB and malaria, funded by the Italian Agency for International Development Cooperation (AICS) via The Global Fund. Project partners are Fondazione Italia Uganda Onlus and the Benedict Medical Center, a small health centre near Kampala, Uganda.


The project, started in January 2021 after some suspensions due to the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic, aims to contribute to the fight against the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, TB and malaria, in Uganda, through the promotion of Community Outreaches and, in particular, of pathways for the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases in women in the project’s target communities. Four community outreaches were promoted as part of the project, involving the Kireka and Kisenyi communities in Kampala. Through Community Outreach, the project promotes an agile, innovative model that is fully in line with the social, economic and health conditions of the beneficiary communities, thus providing a contribution, albeit on a small scale, to the fight against the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, TB and Malaria in Uganda, while maintaining a firm focus on the need to promote both treatment and prevention of the diseases covered by the project.


Each CO is organised as follows:

  • Recruitment phase: after registration by the health workers, a questionnaire is administered to the participants to test their awareness of their health status and level of knowledge on the topic of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, TB and malaria;
  • Training: during the CO, health workers organise some training sessions on sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, TB and malaria, during which they inform participants about the main symptoms associated with the diseases as well as the most commonly associated risk factors and illustrate the behaviour to adopt in order to prevent infections and possible treatment paths; during the day, an ad hoc training session is also organised for participating women, who are encouraged to invite other women who may be in particularly risky situations;
  • Diagnostic tests: following the training sessions, the following diagnostic tests will be administered to participants. Some tests will be carried out directly on the CO’s site and the results will be available at the time; others will be carried out at the Benedict Medical Centre and the results will be available within a week.

Thanks to this project, more than 2,000 people benefited from graded screening during community outreach, and of these more than 1,200 were pregnant women.

Universidade Católica Portuguesa (Portugal)

Written by Inês Espada Vieira, Professor of Culture Studies

Universidade Católica Portuguesa saved me from darkness

“Universidade Católica Portuguesa saved me from darkness.” These are the words of Ouwais S., a student of Communication Studies. He wrote them in July 2022, in a non-academic context, after explaining how he felt in 2019, when he arrived in Portugal from Syria: “Could you imagine suddenly finding yourself in a dark tunnel, not knowing where it ends and what you will have to face as you walk through it; forced to walk against your will; you cannot turn back or even stop to look around or give yourself a chance to think? That was my situation when I was in my country, devastated by war.”

Joining the Portuguese national effort in welcoming and integrating refugees, in the week of the International Refugee Day of 2022, Universidade Católica Portuguesa (UCP) opened special applications with tuition waivers: a total of 24 vacancies in 17 B.A. programs in Lisbon, Braga, Porto and Viseu. There are currently 13 refugee students at Católica, comprising six different nationalities. Of these refugees, nine are women, eight are displaced from the war in Ukraine, and two are first-time university students.  UCP welcomed these students, committed to the Sustainable Development Goals and as part of the global effort of 15 by 30, presented by UNHCR, so that by 2030 15% of refugees, that is 500 000 men and women, can be studying in higher education.

Being a university student is not just about academic opportunity. It is also to rediscover one’s vital identity and go beyond the refugee condition. It is about having the opportunity to invest time and dedication into something that, while not immediately important in a present emergency adaptation, is essential for a fulfilling future and integration. We are aware of the difficulties; we accompany our students in their struggles and accomplishments, respecting hesitations and decisions. Promoting and integrating refugee students (cf. Pope Francis message for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 2018) is a long-term commitment for a university fully aware that education can indeed save people from darkness.

Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (Chile)

 Written by Benjamin Cruz, Director of the Pastoral Ministry

Christian solidarity projects of UC Chile will mobilize more than 1,000 young people

Concern for those most in need is at the heart of UC Chile, which is why the university has several solidarity projects and programs that seek to be a contribution to society, either through learning and service courses, as well as projects organized and coordinated by students, such as those of the Pastoral UC that we present below.

Country Mission (Misión País), Country Chapel (Capilla País), Sowing and Housing (Siembra y Viviendas) are projects of the Pastoral of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (UC Chile), whose volunteers will be between January 4 and 14 building chapels and homes, in addition to accompanying people delivering Christ’s message of hope, in 46 locations in 9 regions of Chile, with the youthful energy that characterizes them. On Wednesday, January 4, 1,150 young people will gather in the church of the San Joaquin Campus of UC Chile so that Monsignor Celestino Aós, UC Chile Grand Chancellor and Archbishop of Santiago, will send them on their mission in the Mass of departure. Then, in communities, they will board the buses that will take them to the localities where they will carry out their mission. The missions will last until January 14, when, in addition to the construction, volunteers will carry out activities with the neighbors of different communities and reflective meetings about the contingency and their role as Catholics in society.

A brief history of these initiatives:

Country Mission (Misión País) is a student project that since 2004 has taken more than 30,000 young missionaries to nearly 500 areas from the city of Arica in Northern Chile to Punta Arenas in the south.

Country Chape (Capilla País) was born as an initiative that sought to build new temples for the visit of Pope Francis to Chile. Since its creation in 2015 they have built 101 chapels in the country.

Sowing UC Chile (Siembra UC) is a missionary project where university students lead groups of schoolchildren, generating spaces for formation and vocational exchange, in addition to bringing the word of Christ with the vitality that characterizes them.

After a great work with the families, for the first time “Viviendas” (Housing) will build 7 homes in the communes of Batuco and Lampa, responding to the housing deficit crisis Chile is going through.

Young exchange students or foreigners who want to participate in these projects are always very welcome, which has been seen in the participation of students from different parts of the world. In case other young people from universities outside Chile want to participate, they can register at:

Pontificia Universidade Càtolica do Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)

 Solidarity initiatives

Scholarships for low-income students

PUC-Rio, a philanthropic and community university, is committed to offering scholarships for higher education for low-income students. In 2022, promoting a more inclusive institutional policy aligned with the University’s Identity and Mission has benefit 4805 (~50%) undergraduate students. Besides this, PUC-Rio offered 2072 (~90%) scholarships for graduate students.

Cooperation and Development Projects

PUC-Rio has 117 projects with more than 786 professors and staff directly involved within Cooperation and Development Perspective.

Volunteering initiatives, and charity programs in developing countries

PUC-Rio has more than 139 initiatives, with more than 200 professors and staff directly involved in volunteering initiatives and charity programs in developing countries.

Social entrepreneurship & start-up

The Social and Environmental Impact Entrepreneurship Program 2.0 aims to train and develop entrepreneurs, projects, and businesses that seek to solve a social or environmental problem related to the 17 ODS. In the 2022 edition, it supported 20 socio-environmental projects. The Ideiaz initiative aims to support innovative ideas with socio-environmental impact. Those projects will become startups, generating jobs, innovative products, and services. In 2022, it supported eight ventures from all regions of Brazil.

The Impact Germination Program is a cooperation agreement aiming to foster education programs online and free to support socio-environmental impact businesses. The selection of businesses will highlight eight projects/businesses to be pre-incubated by Genesis PUC-Rio over six months. This project aims to foster the region of Angra dos Reis, contributing to the conservation of flora, fauna, and Brazilian diversity and services ecosystems. Developing Rocinha’s Social Impact Incubator – JUMP aims to support initiatives with a socio-environmental impact, whose purpose is to generate jobs and income to reduce violence and encourage the production of technology in the territory of Rocinha slum.

Universitat Ramon Llull (Spain)

 Written by Isabel Vergara, Communication director of the Pere Tarrés Foundation

Charity projects for children and young people in vulnerable situations

Education in free time is a very valuable educational time, a unique experience that
 contributes to the growth of children and young people throughout people’s lives. Leisure-based education is one of the rights outlined in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. Unfortunately, not all the children in Spain can exercise this right. Currently, 30% of children in Spain live below the poverty line, and leisure time is often when social exclusion is starkly highlighted.

The impact of educational activities in free time is even more positive and necessary for children in vulnerable situations. Children relate to one another and learn through play. It is their language, their way of discovering the world, and, therefore, an essential way of acquiring new knowledge, socializing, growing, and developing in the best possible way. For this reason, at the Pere Tarrés Foundation, we carry out projects so that children from families without resources can take part in activities that provide education through leisure and give them the same opportunity as other children to enjoy a full life. The Pere Tarrés Foundation is one of the Faculties that is part of Ramon Llull University, where it offers two degrees in Social Education and Social Work.

The Pere Tarrés Foundation’s solidarity projects are intended to ensure that more than 12,000 children and young people from Spain who live at risk of poverty have the chance to take part in leisure activities all year round and, at the same time, improve their physical and emotional well-being. The solidarity of companies and individuals helps us make this possible. The social workers and volunteers work every day so that all children, regardless of their origin and social condition, can develop humanly, spiritually, emotionally, and competently so that, in the future, they can enjoy a full life.  We help families in vulnerable situations with weak family networks or none so they feel supported in bringing up their children. The aim is to get them away from the anxiety of their everyday situations and destructured environments.

The right to play is also part of this accompaniment that we carry out. And now that the Christmas dates are approaching, we are launching a solidarity campaign to collect toys and school supplies, in which the Ramon Llull University faculties are also participating so that all children can enjoy the excitement of Christmas.

 Boston College’s Summer Visiting Doctoral Research Fellowship

The summer research fellowships will support graduate students matriculated at a partnering university (e.g., from SACRU partners, Ateneo de Manila University, Pontificia Universidad Católica Javeriana, Université St-Joseph de Beyrouth, etc.) who are seeking to undertake 2 months of research at Boston College

2023 Applicants:

Start Date: June 11, 2023

Time Period: June 11- August 11

•Round-trip, economy-class airfare to Boston
•Housing, provided through University services
•A modest living stipend, to cover living expenses (including fellow’s purchase of health insurance)
•Library privileges
•University internet access

Application Details: The applicant should submit a cover letter and CV. The cover letter should include a description of the intended research project (not to exceed two pages in length), including how the applicant’s time spent at Boston College would contribute to the overall success of the project. Apply here

Deadline: January 20, 2023

Requirements: The fellow must have a major research project. The fellow has the option to deliver one public lecture during their stay.

Sponsor: The Office of Global Engagement

 SACRU and CAPPF published the volume
“More Women’s Leadership”

The book has a Preface by the Holy Father Pope Francis
and is edited by Prof. Anna Maria Tarantola 

The Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities (SACRU) and the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation (CAPPF) released the volume “More Women’s Leadership for a Better World: Care as Driver for our Common Home.” The book has a Preface by the Holy Father Pope Francis and is edited by the President of CAPPF, Prof. Anna Maria Tarantola. It was published by the publishing house Vita e Pensiero in English, Italian, and Spanish, both as an e-book and physically.

Using a multidisciplinary and international perspective, the research involved fifteen academics from ten Universities in eight countries: Italy, Japan, Spain, Portugal, USA, Chile, Brazil, and Australia. Several aspects of overcoming inequalities are considered, along with the causes and evidence of persistent inequalities, the obstacles for women in the world of academia, enterprise and politics, and the positive effects of the presence of women in top positions. The key driver of the research is the consideration of care as the compass for changing thought and action. In the research, “care” is the mutual care among “brothers” and “sisters” in the human family, as emphasized in the encyclical of Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti. The research will be presented next March 10th, 2023, at Istituto Maria Santissima Bambina in the Vatican City.

Download the e-book here: More Women’s Leadership for A Better World 


A delegation of SACRU held a meeting during the UN Climate Change Conference

The SACRU delegation

The Conference of Parties is taking place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Members from Boston College, UC | Chile and PUC Rio met to discuss climate activism 

The Conference of the Parties (COP27), which formally gathers the 198 parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), brings together leaders from all countries to agree on intensifying global action to solve the climate crisis. The Conference is taking place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from 6-18 November 2022.

On Friday, 11th November, a SACRU delegation composed of members of Boston College, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, and Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro met to discuss climate activism. Boston College, an official Observer Organization for the Conference, was represented by Jim West, Assistant Director of Programs for the Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society, David Deese, Professor of Political Science, Dunwei Wang, Professor of Chemistry and BC students: Leon Liu (Environmental Studies), Thalia Chaves (International Studies) and Oluchi Ota (Nursing). Catalina Santelices (Law), Moana Tepano (Sustainable Development and Territorial Plantification), Enerike Carrasco (Archaeology), Gerardo Butron (Engineering), and Tomás Pesce (Anthropology), were present for UC | Chile. Maria Fernanda Lemos, Professor of Urban Planning and Design, was the delegate for PUC Rio.

The group had a wide-ranging discussion about respective schools, climate change activism, teaching, and research. Most of the talks were led by students, while the Faculty members spoke about their work and institutions. Following COP27, the group will reconvene to determine how this newly formed network within SACRU can collectively work toward bold, just climate action.



Climate Crisis and Security

From the SACRU Series
“Integral Ecology and the Future of the Planet: interdisciplinary conversations”

Register for the webinar here: 


Date : November 23, 2022

Suva     7:00-8:30 p.m.
Tokyo   3:00-4:30 p.m.
Sydney 5:00-6:30 p.m.
Rome, Barcelona    7:00-8:30 a.m.
Lisbon   6:00-7:30 a.m.
Boston 1:00-2:30 a.m.
Santiago, Rio de Janeiro 3.00-4:30 a.m.

The changing climate pattern can no longer be understood as simply an environmental problem. It has now become clear that the climate crisis has consequences that inform the security agenda. Increasingly turbulent weather systems causing flooding, disease, famine and large-scale migration have disrupted established codes of conduct and are giving rise to major conflicts. The once narrow and independent question of national security must now give way to the larger issue of collective security in a

This webinar addresses the security implications posed by the climate crisis. Through open dialogue framed by key themes of vulnerability and solidarity, our expert panel explores how the climate crisis can be a stimulus to bring our world closer together rather than allowing it to drive us further apart.

More details on the list of speakers and their sessions can be found in the flyer below

Investing in clean energy technologies now to save the planet and achieve equality and peace: reflections on the eve of COP27

The 27th United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP 27) will be held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from 6 – 18 November 2022. The conference brings together leaders from all countries to agree on intensifying global action to solve the climate crisis

Addressing climate change is the biggest challenge of the 21st century. The recently concluded October has been the warmest ever in Europe, with temperatures 8-10 degrees Celsius above average. The catastrophic effects of global warming such as droughts, the melting of glaciers, and the rising of sea levels have been proved by scientific evidence and hit mainly vulnerable people in developing countries. The Conference of the Parties (COP27), which formally gathers the 198 parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), aims to implement concrete outcomes to address the emergency, particularly the target to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.

Inspired by its mission of global cooperation for the Common Good, the Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities (SACRU) has collected insights from its experts on the topic from a multidisciplinary perspective. SACRU is a network composed of eight Catholic Universities from four different continents. The contributions represent the personal views of individual academics and are not intended as the official positions of SACRU and its partner Universities.

Contributions by experts – SACRU Universities

Boston College (United States of America)

Written by Philip J. Landrigan, Professor of Biology and Director of the Program in Global Public Health

The UN Climate Change Conference of 2022

Climate change is the existential challenge of our age. It threatens the health and well-being of all people and the sustainability of modern societies.  It is rooted in injustice and inimical to the common good. The main driver of climate change is sharp increase in levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the earth’s atmosphere since the start of the industrial revolution. The principal source of this CO2 is combustion of fossil fuels – coal, oil, and gas. CO2 in the atmosphere is a heat insulator, a ‘blanket’ around the earth. It traps the sun’s heat and heat produced by human activity. Increasing CO2 levels have caused the earth’s surface temperature to warm by 1.0 degree centigrade since 1880. The rate of increase has accelerated since 1970.

Warming of the earth’s surface drives climate change. It causes the seas to warm and glaciers to melt. It increases the frequency and intensity of heat waves and hurricanes. It increases the frequency and severity of droughts, floods and wildfires. Climate change and its consequences harm human health.  Heat waves cause deaths from heat shock and dehydration.  Rising sea levels, floods, hurricanes, and wildfires kill people and destroy communities. Droughts cause crop failure, malnutrition, migration and even war. Climate change is deeply inequitable. It disproportionately harms the poor and the vulnerable, the elderly and young children. People in small island nations are especially at risk. Climate scientists warn that we must limit increase in the earth’s temperature to below 2.0, or preferably 1.5 degrees Centigrade to avoid catastrophe. To achieve this goal, 196 nations adopted the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change, on 12 December 2015. Under the Paris Agreement, countries agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to pre-industrial levels by 2050 and to build resilience to adapt to the impacts of rising temperatures.

Implementation of the Paris Agreement will require wide-scale economic and social transformation. Rapid transition to renewable energy – wind and solar – and ending dependence on fossil fuels are key elements of this transformation. To track progress on climate action and mobilize the world’s leaders to fulfil national commitments on CO2 reduction, the United Nations convenes an annual Conference of the Parties, the nations that signed the Paris Agreement. COP 27 will be held this November in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Its goal is to achieve full implementation of the Paris Agreement. The world’s future depends on its success.

Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Italy)

Written by Roberto Zoboli, Full Professor of Economic Policy, and Simone Tagliapietra, Researcher at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences

Europe’s grand energy reshuffle

In energy annuals, 2022 will be remembered as the year of Europe’s great energy crisis. This year, Europe has experienced an energy situation every bit as concerning as the oil shocks of 1973 and 1979, which profoundly impacted the global energy and political order. Over the course of the year, three shocks have rapidly converged, pushing the continent into an energy crisis and upending Europe’s energy market: the effects of Covid-19; Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and related sanctions on oil and gas; and a series of unlucky coincidences.

Public policy has discouraged upstream fossil fuel investment, but has not accelerated sufficiently the deployment of alternative clean energy sources or reductions in fossil fuel demand. This has resulted in a profound energy supply-demand imbalance in the context of the bounce back of global energy demand after the peak COVID-19 crisis. Next came Russia’s weaponization of energy and its invasion of Ukraine. Russia has been manipulating European natural gas markets since summer 2021 by substantially reducing exports and failing to refill Gazprom-owned storage sites in the EU ahead of last winter. This move, initially considered to be part of Russia’s strategy to push Germany towards a quick certification and entry into operation of the newly built Nord Stream 2 pipeline, saw another potential explanation when war began.

Since spring, Russia has used its remaining supplies as a geopolitical weapon to divide the European front in support of Ukraine, notably, by reneging on long-term supply contracts that were considered sacred by European partners. After initial cut-offs to Poland and Bulgaria, Gazprom cut supplies to a dozen additional European countries and substantially reduced flows to its main markets Germany and Italy. By early July, Russia was only sending one-third of previously anticipated volumes of gas overall. As a result, gas prices in the EU have exploded more than tenfold and governments are nervously trying to protect consumers against this price shock by handing out billions in subsidies. Europe managed to compensate for reduced Russian supplies by importing record levels of liquified natural gas (LNG), most notably from the US. At the same time, several new gas deals have been signed by European governments with alternative suppliers, namely in Africa, with additional supplies expected to come online in the next years.

Finally, a series of unlucky coincidences exacerbated an already tight energy situation. Corrosion problems pushed France to temporarily shut down half of its nuclear power plants, increasing the need for gas in power generation. A severe drought in parts of Europe, compromised not only hydropower generation, but also thermal plants that require cooling and coal-fired power plants that rely on waterways to deliver coal. As extreme weather events become more frequent, this situation raises a longer-term issue around the impacts of climatic change in electricity production.

While Europe focuses on the short-term solutions that are necessary to tackle the crisis, it must not delay the deployment of long-term solutions to reduce fossil fuel consumption.  Investment in clean energy technology and the associated infrastructure is an essential part of escaping the energy crisis and meeting the EU’s decarbonisation targets. This crisis is an opportunity to invest in further connecting Europe’s energy grids, which will improve resilience to future shocks and facilitate a cost-efficient transition. One estimate from the green think-tank Ember, is that the EU must double the pace of wind and solar deployment to meet its goals based on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The current permitting process is slow and cited as a major obstacle to rapid renewables deployment; this should be simplified and accelerated. Scaling up deployment of renewables and long duration storage, more rapid electrification for heating, public transport solutions and clean mobility, among many other decarbonisations measures, should all be reinforced. Such long-term investment will improve energy security and decisively eliminate Europe’s dependence on Russian gas. Choices over how to manage limited energy supply will shape the future of Europe’s energy system. If managed correctly, deeper integration and accelerated investment can allow Europe to defeat Putin’s strategy while also pushing the transition toward cleaner and more affordable energy.

Universitat Ramon Llull (Spain)

Written by Núria Llaverías, Climate Action Coordinator

Transforming the way we interact with the planet – Omukisa project

With the latest IPCC reports underlining the seriousness of climate change, governments, the private sector and civil society need to work together to transform the way we interact with our planet. Universities have a crucial role to play here. They collaborate to find new solutions and explore ways to implement them in developing countries. Beyond the contributions in advanced research that universities make to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is important to highlight students’ participation in collaborative projects during the completion of their final undergraduate and master’s degree projects.

As an example, I would like to share with you the Omukisa project, with which we collaborate from IQS. Omukisa is a temporary shelter to guarantee fundamental rights and facilitate the social reintegration of minors who have lived on the street in Iganga, a district of Uganda. It works with local partner PECA Women and Children’s Foundation. This indigenous organisation exists to promote the efforts of women and children to achieve gender equality, equity, and well-being in Uganda. The project aims to create safe spaces for street children through rescue, rehabilitation, family follow-up, education, vocational training, and psychological support.

Thanks to this collaboration, two final degrees and master’s projects have focused on designing, sizing, building, and maintaining a water collection and distribution system. They have built a well with a solar-powered pump and a water tank. In this way, the community can use the water from the well for free and whenever they need it. Access to clean water and sanitation encourages better hygiene and waste management habits. It also ensures that the community can feed themselves all year round, allowing their vegetable plantations to stay alive in the dry seasons. In addition, all the time spent fetching water can be used for study, vocational training, and gainful employment.

Finally, the students have written a technical guide to enable the local team and other people or entities, mainly from underdeveloped countries, to understand these systems and to make these constructions. I believe that the role of the University as an actor in cooperation for Sustainable Development against climate change is to transmit knowledge. We must provide sustainable solutions, work with local labour and resources and generate citizen participation.

 Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (Chile)

 Written by Maryon Urbina, Director of Sustainability

Higher Education Institutions and their role in the fight against climate change

During this month, the twenty-seventh version of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (COP 27) will be held in Egypt. It will discuss the challenges and objectives that humanity faces in the fight against climate change and the ways and commitments that nations are taking to limit global warming to 1.5° above the pre-industrial era. Year after year, evidence is added, and the message of the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the urgency of taking ambitious and immediate action is reinforced, as we have already warmed the planet by 1.1 degrees Celsius. Above 1.5 degrees Celsius, the impacts of climate change will become more intense and more frequent, putting at risk the way of life of humanity and other species as we know it today.

Higher education institutions are called to contribute to the solution, but how? From the generation of new knowledge that allows addressing from science and innovation the challenges in energy, water, mobility, and agriculture, to mention a few; from the training of professionals capable of transforming the development model towards a sustainable one; from the generation of awareness in our society while providing information and ways to take action; from the contribution to public policy; and also from the internal coherence, generating university models capable of exemplifying with their community and daily operation on campus, that a sustainable way of living is possible.

Pope Francis, in his Encyclical Laudato Si’, has made a strong call to contribute to the care of the common home, and as Catholic institutions, we cannot be oblivious to this appeal. The negotiation between countries that will take place in Egypt is of utmost relevance, but let us not forget that all actions count. As institutions, we must be able to keep the issue on our agenda and maintain permanent action to reduce the effects of the climate emergency we are experiencing today.

Australian Catholic University (Australia)

The key to preserving the world’s largest rainforest

In parts of the Amazon, the stark contrast between forested and deforested areas can be seen clearly in aerial images. If this deforestation trend continues, scientists believe the Amazon will reach a tipping point. Meanwhile, illegal logging, mining and forest fires are surging, especially in Brazil, which holds more than 60 per cent of the Amazon within its borders.   ACU’s Dr Kathryn Baragwanath is a political scientist whose work explores the political economy of natural resources and environmental politics, with a focus on Latin America. She believes Brazil’s recent presidential election result is crucial for the future of the Amazon.

“The new president, Lula da Silva, has signalled a strong commitment to preserving the Amazon, protecting Indigenous people’s rights and reaching a zero-deforestation target,” she says.“It’s a welcome shift in the lead-up to the United Nations climate conference, COP27. But Lula still faces stiff challenges in delivering his promise to protect the rainforest.” Dr Baragwanath’s current research looks at whether the country’s system of protected areas and Indigenous territories has helped to curb deforestation. Her analysis of property titles and historical satellite data going back three decades showed that the areas where Indigenous groups had full ownership rights saw a 66 per cent reduction in the rate of deforestation. The landmark study’s findings come with an important caveat. Historically speaking, it is only when the land has gone through the process of homologação, or homologation, that Indigenous peoples can properly safeguard the forest.

Under Brazil’s constitution, homologation is the final step in designating land as Indigenous property and is signed off by the country’s president. Since taking power in January 2019, the Bolsonaro government eroded protections for Indigenous land, it also smoothed the way for deforestation, making it easier for the Amazon to be developed for mining, agriculture and other economic activity. It is almost certain that the refusal to grant full property rights to more Indigenous territories has contributed to the escalation of land-clearing. While there is no single solution to slowing deforestation and ultimately saving the rainforest from collapse, Dr Baragwanath says that the land rights and traditional conservation practices of the Amazon’s Indigenous tribes must be prioritised and respected. “The protection of Indigenous territories serves a human-rights role, recognising these peoples’ original right to land,” she says. “But they are also a cost-effective way for governments to preserve the Amazon rainforest, which is important for the future of Brazil, and the rest of the world in our attempts to mitigate the effects of climate change.”

Universidade Católica Portuguesa (Portugal)

Written by Margarida Silva, Professor of the Faculty of Biotechnology

Countering indifference and selfishness

Every time countries come together for a major event on climate change – such as COP27 – saving the climate seems to be the one goal delegates have in mind. Reasonable, too. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to which this Conference of the Parties belongs, came into force in 1994, but we were already trying to save the climate at the Earth Summit in 1992, at the First World Climate Conference in 1979 or indeed at the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment which sparked it all.

But according to the latest trends, it doesn’t seem to be working. A recent article in The Guardian made it clear right at the title: “Atmospheric levels of all three greenhouse gases hit a record high.” Greta Thunberg, an unlikely hero in international politics, warns we’re “missing the fact we’re running against time.” So, for at least 50 years, countries have known about the climate challenge (scientifically, it’s since 1896), and it is still getting worse. Why? Could it be that we missed something? Are we looking at the wrong target? Let’s entertain that thought for a moment. Climate has always changed throughout the planet’s history, meaning this is nothing new. Nature has seen it all and knows how to deal with it: life adapts and evolves in a tight dance synced with the climate variables.

This effectively means climate is in no danger at all. But we are. As a society and as a species, we may not make it to the other side. Could it be we’re not even trying? After 50 years of addressing a worldwide emergency… failure is all around us. Yet we’re still trying without asking what failed. Truth is, we’re unable to see it’s not working because we don’t really want it to work. Change is uncomfortable, and scary. Unless we see the ocean knocking at our door, we’d rather reschedule for the next COP. Except we are COPping out. So here’s what we really need saving from: greed, selfishness, and indifference. How about we table those to the COP’s agenda?

Sophia University (Japan)

Written by Anne McDonald, Director of the Island Sustainability Institute

Taking Note of Island Voices

Flashback to 1995. 6 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, global leaders met to discuss the first multi-lateral environmental agreement on climate change. Island Nations marshaled the call to action. Led by the voices of Hon Isaac V. Figir of FSM and H.E.T. Neroni Slade of Samoa, island nations rang the warning alarms about the realities of climate change and the urgency for collective global action. Climate change, they argued, was not a future possibility but a living reality. If they were the canary in the coal mine sitting on the frontlines of climate change, what was happening in small island nations, was the beginning of what was yet to come on a larger global scale.

Fast forward to 2022. Scientific evidence of global warming is now unequivocal. Climate scientists say the last eight years were the warmest in recorded human history. As we enter the climate talks in Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt, the recently published 2022 edition of UNEP’s Adaptation Gap Report: Too Little, Too Slow – Climate adaptation failure puts the world at risk underlines the urgency of Island States voices. Darkly put, the current trends are on a dangerous trajectory of too hot, too wet, and too dry. According to the report, extreme heatwaves, devastating flooding, and droughts have adversely impacted millions of people and cost billions. Failure to take action will result in aggregate costs for future generations. Further, the cost of inaction will be far greater than the socio-economic and environmental costs of taking action.

Inaction should not be an option. Not only will inaction increase the vulnerability of the Island States and other vulnerable populations on the frontlines of climate change, but the estimated economic stresses due to climate change project losses of US$63 billion per year starting in 2010. Experts expect this impact will rise by more than 100 percent to US$157 billion annually by 2030. More importantly, if we focus on Island States voices and their call to action to combat climate change since the 1990s, when we think of vulnerability the Average Annual Losses (AAL) as a percentage of GDP is much higher in small island developing states (SIDS) compared with the global average. Take, for example, the Caribbean region). The cost of inaction in the Caribbean alone is projected to amount to over US$22 billion annually by 2050 and US$46 billion by 2100 – equalling 10 percent and 22 percent of the current size of the Caribbean economy.

As island voices gain strength on the global stage, they reverberate about climate change as a “threat multiplier.” Impacts are evolving in a plutonian spider-web-like configuration. As the magnitude of extreme weather events increases, the need for integrative approaches addressing the intertwined natural and human system-related impacts of climate change is all the more evident. In 2015, people were twice as likely to be displaced by a disaster than in the 1970s. According to experts, the sudden and slow onset impacts of climate change are expected to increase people’s internal and cross-border displacement and affect human mobility strategies. It is already happening in island nations. Take, for example, low-lying atoll island countries like Kiribati, Maldives, Seychelles, and the Marshall Islands, where climate migration and related mobility and human security issues top the government climate agenda.

Since COP1, Island Nations have been calling out an SOS for transdisciplinary research knowledge sets. There is an urgent need for the place and context-specific transdisciplinary research that can inform island states, island territory governments, and the international community on the way forward. As Darwin identified, islands are a laboratory for change. Sitting on the frontlines of climate change, in-depth studies of islands – the climate change laboratories – may lead us to develop sustainability solutions for the greater global community.

Pessimists will say the COP26 Glasgow aim to “keep 1.5 alive” alive is dead. Optimists will say, though we’re racing against time, there is still a chance if we stand with the Island States and take responsible collective action.



United for One Health: FAO and SACRU explore means for collaboration to tackle both food security and health threats

FAO, the Food and Agriculture Agency of the United Nations, and SACRU, an international network of Catholic universities, have signed a “letter of intent” to combine the multidisciplinary expertise of their experts in food security, nutrition, and sustainable and resilient food systems and to raise awareness of good One Health policies


October 28, Rome – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities (SACRU) have signed a bilateral collaboration agreement to address the planet’s food and health inequalities. The signing of the “letter of intent” (LoI) took place at the event “Enhancing resilience of food systems to promote food security,” sponsored by the two institutions on Thursday, Oct. 27, at FAO headquarters in Rome.

The agreement was signed by FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo and SACRU Vice President Professor Franco Anelli, Rector of the Università Cattolica, which hosts the SACRU Secretariat. The agreement embodies an integral and sustainable health approach that aims to reduce malnutrition by considering the food system as a whole and work towards important One Health outcomes: to safeguard human, animal, plant and ecosystems health.  COVID 19 has all too clearly demonstrated the need to boost a One Health approach to global health threats. Antimicrobial resistance, food safety, and endemic zoonosis such as rabies are other areas of concern to be addressed holistically through One Health and that requires a strong agrifood systems lens.

The LoI between FAO and SACRU was established to facilitate the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals two, three and ten of the UN 2030 Agenda (Zero Hunger, Health and Well-Being, and Reducing Inequalities) and is in line with the direction recently taken by the International Community. Building on FAO’s new One Health Priority Programme area, last October 17, the new One Health Joint Plan of Action was launched by the Quadripartite – FAO, United Nations Environment Program (Unep), World Health Organization (Who), and World Organization for Animal Health (Woah). The document emphasizes the importance of multisectoral synergy among multiple stakeholders, and the collaboration between FAO and SACRU is a concrete example of this direction.

FAO leads the United Nations’ efforts to protect the food supply chain and prevent diseases from contaminated food, which affect 600 million people worldwide each year. SACRU is a network composed of eight Catholic universities from four continents (Australian Catholic University, Boston College, Universitat Ramon Llull, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro, Sophia University, Universidade Catolica Portuguesa, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore) that cooperate to promote global education for the common good and excellent interdisciplinary research.

FAO and SACRU will explore collaboration on Global Food Security and the One Health approach to integrate different expertise to build capacity in food security, nutrition, and sustainable and resilient food systems at national and regional levels, and to raise awareness of good One Health policies by identifying successful case studies and sharing best practices. In this regard, special attention will be paid to developing countries.

The ceremony was also attended by FAO Assistant Director-General Dr. Maurizio Martina, Italy’s Permanent Representative to FAO Ambassador Bruno Archi, Università Cattolica Vice Rector and Secretary General of SACRU Professor Pier Sandro Cocconcelli, who gave a talk on “Food Safety: Emerging Risks in the One-Health Perspective,” and FAO Senior One-Health Officer and Lead for AMR Junxia Song, who spoke on “Promoting One-Health to enhance food production and address AMR.” A larger delegation of students, Ph.D. candidates, and faculty members from SACRU eight universities participated remotely.

SACRU is launching a collaboration with FAO


Enhancing resilience of food systems to promote food security

27 October 2022
The event will be held in a virtual format  from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Central European Summer Time 

Click here to join the event:
Meeting ID: 972 1479 3442
Passcode: 11934468


The event will kick off the collaboration between the Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities (SACRU) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). They will cooperate to develop capacities on food security, nutrition and sustainable resilient food systems at national and regional level through improving knowledge exchange and research, innovation, data sharing and dissemination, and to raise awareness and ownership of good policies and practices in agri-food systems that lead to progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

During the event, the Signing Ceremony of the Letter of Intent (LoI) between the parties will be held. Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General, and Prof. Franco Anelli, Vice President of SACRU and Rector of Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, will sign the LoI.

More details on the program can be found in the flyer below

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty: the global response lies in expansive and brave welfare policies

The United Nations celebrate the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on Monday, October 17th. Experts from the Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities (SACRU) have provided insights on ensuring dignity for all in practice

The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty dates back to October 17th, 1987, when more than a hundred thousand people gathered in Paris at Trocadéro, where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948, to remember the victims of extreme poverty and violence. Three years later, in 1992, the General Assembly of the United Nations (UNGA) officially declared October 17th as the day to acknowledge the effort and the struggle of people living in poverty. Ending poverty is the first Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in the UN Agenda 2030. Yet, in 2015 more than 700 million people still lived in extreme poverty and struggled to satisfy basic needs in health, education, and access to water. The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated the issue in several parts of the world. The trend also concerns a percentage of employed workers whose salary is not enough to escape extreme poverty.

Inspired by its mission of global cooperation for the Common Good, the Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities (SACRU) has collected some insights from its experts on the topic. SACRU is a network composed of eight Catholic Universities from four different continents. The contributions represent the personal views of individual academics and are not intended as the official positions of SACRU and its partner Universities.

Contributions by experts – SACRU Universities

Boston College (United States of America)

Written by Fr. Kenneth, R. Himes, OFM, Professor of Theological Ethics

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

From the vantage of a wealthy nation like the United States, the Covid-19 pandemic offered an important insight about poverty. It is a public policy choice more than bad luck, happenstance, or fate. During the worst of the pandemic’s effects on the U.S. population, and when the U.S. economy was undergoing significant reversals, the number of Americans living in poverty actually went down, and did so in a fairly dramatic way. The reason for this surprising state of affairs was the major expansion of social spending that was provided by the federal government. Whether it was child tax credits, housing subsidies, unemployment insurance, earned income tax credits or social security payments to the elderly, the cumulative effect was a reduction in the number of people living in poverty, even as the economy was suffering a major downturn.

The United States has never been in the forefront of social welfare spending.  Prior to the pandemic, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development reported that of its twenty-seven richest peer nations, the U.S. ranked twenty-third in the share of government spending as a percentage of GNP. When looking at government spending specifically on family benefits, the U.S. ranked dead last among its twenty-seven peers. The United States spent less on combating child poverty than any of the world’s richest nations. Yet, this changed during the pandemic as millions were prevented from falling into poverty despite the global recession and millions more were actually lifted out of poverty in the U.S. during the pandemic.

Simply put, there is no ironclad economic law of poverty that must doom some to misfortune. Human decisions about taxation, government transfers, and social spending can reduce poverty markedly. Yet, despite this evidence, the U.S. government is beginning to cut back on the programs that did so much good, now that the economic impact of the pandemic is lessening. Eliminating poverty is not a utopian dream, it is a set of strategic policy choices by human agents.

Universitat Ramon Llull (Spain)

 Written by Paco López, Professor from Pere Tarrés Faculty of Social Education and Social Work

 Protecting community life in cities: a key challenge for reducing inequality

In 2018, more than 55% of the world’s population, according to UN data, was concentrated in urban areas. The global population growth forecast increases that percentage to almost 70% by 2050. Urban phenomena are studied, among other reasons, because they clearly represent the inequality that exists in our world. This is reflected in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, whose eleventh goal aims to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. In recent decades, gentrification processes have occurred in certain neighbourhoods of large cities. This term is attributed to Ruth Glass, who described the process by which, in the 1960s, in various working-class neighbourhoods of London, the original population was gradually replaced by one of higher socioeconomic status.

Gentrification reveals a major political conflict that questions our conception of cities and our view of the rights of the people who inhabit or own them. Taking the term proposed by Henri Lefebvre, the “right to the city” is in question: are cities territories to be inhabited, or are they commodities to enrich the owners of the space? The response we give will have an enormous impact, because the phenomenon directly affects the evolution of the social fabric of cities. This social fabric is a fundamental element in people’s lives, so it needs to be flexible, but also stable and consistent. These qualities also make it a protective network for the most disadvantaged.

The analysis of the psychosocial impact of gentrification offers solid reasons to be concerned about the protection of human ecosystems. It is a phenomenon with common roots to environmental deterioration and, probably, the responses may also have shared aspects. The effects of gentrification on human communities are so great that some authors refer to them as acts of “communicide.” Gentrification processes have impact on people’s well-being and health. This impact may be accentuated in those with fewer resources who face a double loss: one caused by changes in their living conditions and the other by the destruction of the social support that could help them cope with the impact of these changes. All this guides the analysis of urban policies from the perspective of social justice and community health. It also makes it necessary to review and strengthen the intervention strategies of professionals whose actions can have an impact on the improvement of community ties. At stake is the quantity and quality of life for all, especially the most vulnerable ones.

 Universidade Católica Portuguesa (Portugal)

Written by Joana Silva, Associate Professor of the Business & Economics School

All else being (un)equal

Over the past three decades, inequality has been falling between countries for the first time since the early nineteen century. Yet, more than 70% of the world population lives in a country with rising inequality. How can we justify this apparent contradiction? The answer lies in the decomposition of overall inequality in between-countries and within-countries inequality. Whereas the gap between countries has been narrowing due to globalization and the growth of emerging economies, the disparities of income within countries have been rising rapidly.

Rising inequality within countries is an important concern as excessive inequality can limit the access to opportunities and, therefore, the potential and prospects of low-income earners within each country. Recent literature has pointed that income inequality has profound effects on welfare and social coherence and hampers economic growth.  But fighting inequality is a two-sided task. First, governments must ensure that ex-post policies act as an effective safety net for the most vulnerable and that the link between income inequality and inequality of opportunities is minimized.

Second, policy should act ex-ante by targeting the real sources of inequality and use the existing data and tools to study the underlying mechanisms and create the right incentives for economic agents. For instance, a recent study of inequality in Portugal found that past changes in wage inequality were mostly driven by changes in differences in pay-premium across firms, uncovering an expected significant role of firms in the dynamics of inequality.  Despite the evidence, very few inequality policies actually target firms. All else being equal, inequality is one of the most prominent social challenges we will face in the near future. Yet, today’s world is better equipped than ever to answer it. Every State (and every firm!) around the globe is still in time to define how inequality will evolve tomorrow, through actions today.

Australian Catholic University (Australia)

Paving an even road out of crisis

In April 2022, just weeks before Australian voters headed to the polls, researchers from ACU released a report titled Scarring Effects of the Pandemic Economy.  Prepared in partnership with Catholic Social Services Victoria and St Mary’s House of Welcome, the report declared that COVID-19 should be seen as “not just a pandemic in public health terms – it is also a pandemic of job loss and job market insecurity”. The measures put in place to cushion the pandemic’s economic impacts “failed to address rising financial pressure or exclusion of the poorest and most marginalised in our community”, lead author Dr Tom Barnes wrote in an accompanying article on The Conversation. The regular citing of low unemployment figures as a sign that the recovery was on track has created a misleading view of social and economic wellbeing, the report found. As the Victorian Council of Social Service noted in its response, “When you dig down beneath the headlines, the reality of our post-COVID recovery looks a lot spottier and more uneven.”

The findings of the Scarring Effects report offer some insights on how to better deal with present and future crises. The report calls for a rise in key welfare transfers like JobSeeker, renewed government investment in public and social housing, and ongoing and expanded funding for social service providers, including those who provide emergency relief and accommodation.  Higher wages for low-paid workers could also play an important role in easing financial pressure on those most vulnerable. As well as his role in preparing the Scarring Effects report, Tom Barnes was a contributing researcher to the Australian Catholic Council for Employment Relations’ submission to the Fair Work Commission’s wage review, which called for a 6.5 per cent increase to the minimum wage amounting to around $50 per week for the lowest-paid workers.

While business groups have long rallied against wage increases, Dr Barnes’ analysis found that a rise of this magnitude was both affordable and necessary to address the growing gap between rich and poor. “I believe it is possible for employers and business groups and political leaders to take an enlightened view, to look at the world beyond profits and growth, and to actually see things through a lens of social justice and the common good.”

A longer version of this article originally appeared in ACU’s Impact.

Sophia University (Japan)

Written by Masamitsu Kurata, Associate Professor of Economics

Child Poverty under Multidimensional Crisis: Lessons from Japan

The Covid-19 pandemic made it clearer that poverty is multidimensional. It does not merely threaten health but spreads to economic crises due to lockdowns and educational disruption due to school closures. In many countries, the pandemic had relatively large negative impacts on the poor. In particular, the children of the poor face the most painful reality under a multidimensional crisis. Osendarp et al. (2021), for example, estimates that by 2022 COVID-19-related disruptions could result in an additional 9.3 million wasted children and 168,000 additional child deaths in low- and middle-income countries.

Child poverty is still a major social issue, even in high-income countries like Japan. Japan’s child poverty rate is higher than the OECD average and appears to have been exacerbated by the pandemic. In response to this situation, the Japanese government released the results of its first national survey on child poverty in 2021. It found that before and after the pandemic, children from poor households skip meals more often, feel anxious and depressed more often, and have a poorer understanding of school classes than those from non-poor households (Cabinet Office of Japan, 2021).

Various measures have been taken to address child poverty in Japan. One prominent measure is “children’s cafeterias,” which is a place that provides free or cheap meals to poor children. According to a national survey by an NPO, the number of children’s cafeterias across Japan has increased significantly from 2,286 in 2018 to 6,007 by 2021 (the National Children’s Cafeteria Support Center Musubie, 2022). Although many of them were temporarily restricted in their activities due to the pandemic, they are now gradually resuming their services with infection control measures.

Children’s cafeterias can offer not only meals, but also opportunities for children to interact with each other, study for schoolwork, and participate in community activities. More interestingly, 52% of the cafeterias are operated by voluntary groups, 21% by NPOs, and 10% by individuals, most of which are non-governmental. Such grassroots activities are considered a promising way to take a multifaceted approach against multidimensional poverty within each community.

Written by Erina Iwasaki, Professor from the Faculty of Foreign Studies

Interconnection of Poverty and Discriminations Under COVID-19 Pandemic

As Amartya Sen had made clear, poverty is not just about the lack of resources and income but access to education and basic health care. It is also about human rights and dignity. Poverty is interconnected with the issue of discrimination, social exclusion, violence, and denial of participation in decision-making. The COVID-19 pandemic shed light on this interconnection between diverse discrimination and poverty. According to the World Bank, the COVID-19 pandemic is reversing the trend of poverty reduction and would have pushed additional 97 million people in the world to extreme poverty in 2020, of which the most vulnerable would be those relying on the informal employment, women, those with disabilities, refugees, those living with disabilities, minorities, etc.. (;

In Japan, “stay home”, telecommuting for work and school, since the first state of emergency was declared in April 2020, led many shops and restaurants to shut down. As a result, poverty increased among female-headed households because a large number of female workers were employed in the service sector, which was the most affected industry by the COVID-19 pandemic. It evidences the insecure and unstable nature of informal employment: the informal workers are first to lose their job when an incident occurs. The COVID-19 pandemic also revealed the problems that have been overlooked, such as domestic violence and poverty among children living in single-parent or female-headed households. Astonishingly about half of the children living in single-parent households, most of whom are headed by females, are poor in Japan. Why do such a large number of female-headed families and children fall into poverty? It mirrors the structural problems and persistent gender inequality that society embraces. The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on October 17 is the day to reconsider the reality of our distorted society.

Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (Chile)

 Written by Jeanne Lafortune and Francisco Gallego, Professors of the Institute of Economics

Today’s poverty versus tomorrow’s?

Our planet is facing urgent environmental challenges.  The scientific community has raised calls for action in important areas linked to our planetary boundaries.  Reports on climate change have highlighted that human activity has severely impacted our planet and, through it, its inhabitants. At the same time, we have managed, over the last 40 years, to reduce world poverty substantially.  The Sustainable Development Goals set up several objectives so that this progress can continue from the end of hunger, the eradication of poverty, decent work, and reduced inequalities.  Is it possible to continue with these objectives and attack environmental challenges at the same time?  Is there a trade-off between reducing today’s poverty and generating more poverty in the future?

Various studies like Dasgupta (2021) or JPAL (2022) emphasize that it may be possible to reduce the impact of human activity on the environment without significant aggregate impacts on economic growth.  This implies that it is possible to attack the urgent environmental situation we are facing without believing that this will negatively affect the most vulnerable of the world’s population.  Furthermore, given that the most important damages in terms of biodiversity are predicted to happen in low-income countries with a growing population, reducing poverty in these zones could also have environmental benefits. However, this does not mean that we should solely focus on environmental problems without worrying about poverty.  Even if aggregate growth is unaffected, this does not imply that policies that are required to slow down climate change and the destruction of biodiversity (which usually involve taxes and/or quotas that can lead to price increases) will not have distributional consequences.  Increasing gas prices can generate more problems for the poor than those rich, and we must be conscious of those effects when designing environmental policies.  However, let us not use this preoccupation to justify our collective inaction in front of environmental challenges.  Solutions that help tomorrow’s poverty without increasing that of today’s are possible.

Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Italy)

Written by Simona Beretta, Full Professor of International Economic Policy

A perspective to address poverty in practice

Climate change, the COVID pandemic, high food and energy prices are adding layers and layers of complexity to the issue of eradicating poverty. Neither pessimism nor optimism are reasonable perspectives for doing something “in practice”, as the title of the 2022 theme recalls. Practice requires realism, that is to say: awareness of the reality of poverty in all its dimensions and awareness of local, national, and global resources that can be mobilized to really affirm “dignity for all”. Nothing less than a passionate intelligence of the situation can do. Poverty is a problem for many, too many of our fellow members of the human family, but the experience of poverty is totally personal for each of them. Awareness of reality comes only with true proximity to those persons that experience poverty – material poverty like hunger, and non-material poverty like the shame of being discarded. Eradicating poverty is thus a matter of humility, in its literal sense: being close to earth (humus), being in touch with reality.

The 2015 statement of Pope Francis at the UN General Assembly keeps coming to my mind: “… we are dealing with real men and women who live, struggle and suffer, and are often forced to live in great poverty, deprived of all rights. To enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny.” In that circumstance, pope Francis repeated the three practical names for dignity to materialize: lodging, labour, and land. In this sense, proximity to the poor, durable relations, and accompaniment are key in allowing the dignified experiences of accessing tierra, techo y trabajo. Governments obviously need to play their part, by carefully respecting and promoting the indispensable role of communities and peoples. Work is key: working out of poverty represents the slow but sustainable path to dignified development. However difficult it may be, this path only makes practical sense: meeting human needs does require a lot of human work.