Frank Turner sj
Development & Justice
Development policy cannot be effective without just international trade rules. The EU’s development policy should be complemented by its commitment to good regulation.
In its relationship with Africa, in particular with Sub-Saharan Africa, the EU faces the challenge of achieving policy coherence between its altruistic development policy and its highly competitive trade policy. This is crucial since the sums involved in international trade are far larger than any development aid, however generous: ‘Trade relations can no longer be based solely on the principle of free, unchecked competition, for it very often creates an economic dictatorship. Free trade can be called just only when it conforms to the demands of social justice.’ (Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, 1967, § 59).
This lack of coherence is most vividly apparent in the matter of natural resources. Despite mineral wealth, southern countries often remain trapped in poverty: ‘All her people groan as they search for bread; they trade their treasures for food to revive their strength. Look, O Lord, and see how worthless I have become.’ (Lamentations, 1: 11)
Far from enabling prosperity, the exploitation of their natural resources causes economic instability, social conflict and lasting environmental damage. Here, the role of international business is crucial; and of the largest 100 non-financial transnational corporations, more than half have their headquarters in the European Union.
The EU and the African Union are committed to ‘strengthen cooperation and support capacity building in the management of natural resources’. Yet some practices of European corporations, for example in Africa, amount to ‘anti-development’. Such companies observe far lower environmental and social standards than those accepted in Europe, while some host countries lack sufficient judicial and regulatory capacity to challenge major companies: ‘There exists a kind of international division of labour, whereby the low-cost products of certain countries which lack effective labour laws or which are too weak to apply them are sold in other parts of the world at considerable profit for the companies engaged in this form of production, which knows no frontiers.’ (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 1987, § 43). Yet the EU continues to insist on a voluntary model of corporate social responsibility, so that companies remain ultimately unaccountable to those they harm.
Frank Turner sj,
Jesuit European Social Centre
"The international trade system today frequently discriminates against the products of the young industries of the developing countries and discourages the producers of raw materials". Pope John Paul II. (Sollicitudo rei socialis, 43)
"... trade relations can no longer be based solely on the principle of free, unchecked competition, for it very often creates an economic dictatorship. Free trade can be called just only when it conforms to the demands of social justice..." Pope Paul VI. (Populorum progressio, 59)