After weeks of turmoil on financial markets forced Silvio Berlusconi to resign, Italy has a new government. The man who will lead the economy that Time magazine described as “the world’s most dangerous” is Mario Monti, an economist, former European commissioner and president of Bocconi University.
Among the seventeen ministries of the Italian “caretaker” government, there will be a new Ministry for International Cooperation and Integration, a ministry without portfolio headed by Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio.
Until now, Italian international cooperation was managed by a department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, its policies governed by a law enacted in 1987. In 2007, an attempt to reform this policy framework and to establish a specialized agency failed.
“The commitment for social cohesion, national integration and international cooperation are part of my culture and the experience acquired over the years,” Riccardi said in an official note accepting the appointment as minister for international cooperation. “I am convinced they are crucial elements for a country to regain its strength and come through the crisis.”
Riccardi is a professor of history, an expert on the Catholic Church’s contemporary history, an author whose work has been translated in several languages. Time honored him in 2003 as a hero for fighting hate among warring peoples in conflict zone from Mozambique to Cote d’Ivoire and Guatemala.
He established the Community of Sant’Egidio in 1968. The organisation, called the U.N. of Trastevere after the Roman neighbourhood where it is headquartered, has approximately 50.000 members and operates in 73 countries through different programs and projects such as DREAM — the Drug Resource Enhancement against AIDS and Malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa — and BRAVO! Birth Registration for All versus Oblivion. The Community promotes interreligious dialogue and organizes regular Assisi meeting of religious leaders.
The creation of a new aid ministry could invigorate Italy’s international cooperation, although it is doubtful that the country — with its recent history of financial woes and aid cuts - will boost aid spending.
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