5.1 The Centre Lebret

A focus on international networks: The Centre Lebret 1994-2007

The Centre Lebret-Irfed

The Institute for research and training for development (IRFED) was founded by Louis-Joseph Lebret in 1958 to provide training for development at a time when many economists believed that development required rules and practices different from those that prevailed in the economies regarded as developed. Development economics was distinguished from economics as such. Moreover, IRFED had to carry out advisory missions to countries that wished to follow the line that Lebret himself had traced. Roland Colin was the director, seconded by Vincent Cosmao1, who directed a network of intellectuals who were close to the thought of Lebret.

The Centre Lebret can be defined both as a network of development agents with many cultural and spiritual backgrounds and as a centre of applied research on human economy. In its monthly magazine, Foi et Développement, it has given voice to men and women from around the world and from every culture and religious confession.

Sergio took over the direction of the Centre in 1994. His competency, his international experience and most of all his sensitivity and his charism were particularly precious to the Centre in strengthening the conviction that the participation of people and peoples in their economic, social and cultural future was absolutely necessary.

In 2005, he negotiated a coming together of the Centre Lebret and IRFED, which was henceforth known as Development and civilisations Lebret-Irfed (DCLI).

Following his arrival at the Centre, Sergio and Eric Sottas, who was then the president, set themselves the objective of updating the thought of Louis-Joseph Lebret whose originality and strength was incontested, but which remained marked by a vision of the 1960s and which had not led to any genuine emulators either on the economic level or in theological research.

Searching for a second wind

Here, Eric Sottas retraces the historical process within which he and Sergio were asked to take on responsibility for the Centre Lebret as president and director respectively. He also explains the reasons that led to the search for the new orientations that were believed indispensable for updating the thought of Fr Lebret.

In 1994, Fred Martinache and André Schafter, who were respectively director and president of the Centre Lebret decided together to leave their positions and to look for a new tandem to take over the direction of the Centre.

If they called on Sergio Regazzoni and myself to take on these responsibilities, this is based, I am convinced, on the fact that despite our different routes, we both had a certain number of common points of experience and a complementary approach.

In effect, both Sergio and I had been active since our youth in the Catholic Action movements at a time of strong institutional, theological and ecclesiological questioning. As we have seen in many testimonies on the years Sergio spent in the YCW, he always maintained a clear position in spite of the pressures, conflicts and difficulties of all kinds.

This was contrary to a tendency that turned towards the radicalisation of social struggles. Sergio never confused trade union or political activity with the reflection necessary to all faith commitment that is embodied in those fields. For him, the YCW, as a movement of Christians, could neither be transformed into a confessionalised social movement nor could it forget the transcendental dimension of the “review of life”. In other words, he clearly distinguished the two strongly linked aspects of action but did not confuse the sociopolitical struggles and strategies with a reading of Revelation in the midst of these battles.

Vatican II: An advance in question

At the structural level, Sergio also worked for recognition for the YCW of its double character as a non-governmental, i.e. an organisation that unlike political or a trade union organisations was not involved in the struggle for power or at least in negotiating with government authorities, but as a group of young workers active in social struggles, and which maintained its political autonomy with respect to other organisations. Moreover, while recognising itself as a movement of the Catholic Church, the YCW also intended to maintain its independence with respect to church “policy” that may have guided the Magisterium and claimed the right to play a critical role within the same Christian community with which it remained in total solidarity.

The convictions do not flow from a catechism or from applying a framework of theoretical doctrines but were issued from a practice that combined action and reflection, one nourishing the other in a perpetual movement of questioning and reaching a better understanding both with respect to the battles to be undertaken and on the meaning of the Gospel message in that context.

This fidelity and rigour could at certain times provoke conflicts, sometimes with comrades who chose other orientations or with a hierarchy that considered such a way of living and proclaiming the faith as endangering purity of doctrine. The result was a series of ruptures with longstanding friends as well as sanctions, particularly at the end of the pontificate of Paul VI and at the beginning of that of John Paul II with the conservative current, hostile to the opening of Vatican II, feeling strengthened and supported from the highest levels, undertaking to contest and combat the line followed by certain Catholic Action movements.

In fact, the change in orientation of the Holy See, while it was mostly seen in the public eye through the condemnations of liberation theologians and through the obstacles and difficulties created for Catholic Action movements, was also perceptible in a more discreet manner through the loss of influence of those prelates whose action was inspired by and indeed based on Fr Lebret.

The influence of Lebret's thought

Even though most Catholic Action movements never directly organised training seminars to work on the writings of Fr Lebret, the influence of his thought and methodology influenced their work in a particularly striking manner, particularly after the promulgation of the encyclical Populorum Progressio, of which he had drafted most of the text at the request of Pope Paul VI. It was a text that would have a major impact on young Christians from Sergio's generation. In effect, he emphasised the injustices of the liberal system, the North-South conflict that was flowed from it, and underlined the enormous responsibilities of the West for the under-development of the South. Nominated as head o f the Holy See delegation to the first United Nations Conferences on Commerce and Development, Fr Lebret, symbolically refused to sit with Group B (representing the industrialised countries of Western Europe and the United States), thus marking a rupture with the close relations that the Holy See had maintained throughout the Cold war with the western market economy countries known as the “Free World”.

Beyond this significant adoption of a position at the level of the message to other delegations, Fr Lebret articulated the diplomacy of the Holy See around the promotion of a New International Economic Order (NIEO) that was understood to be based on a right to development2. After the first sessions of UNCTAD, he did not hide his bitterness before the failure of the strategy that he tried to promote, a failure due not only, as he noted, to certain short term interests of actors from the North, but also the defence of privilege by a small elite from countries of the South, claiming to proclaim its support for popular initiatives, but in practice following practices unfavourable to the vast majority of its citizens.

The Justice and Peace commission, which he had dreamed would become a place for radically new reflection integrating the socio-economic causes of injustice and violence that flowed from them, would after his death be transformed into an instance for closely examining whether this or that practice was in conformity with the social doctrine of the Church. In other words, the spirit and opening that the thought of Lebret and other engaged theologians and Christians had launched at the time of the Second Vatican Council, was placed in question by a return to a doctrine denying not only the aims of this thought but also contesting the methodology that had enabled it to develop.

Most engaged Christians do not know of the socio-economic studies carried out in Brittany, Lebanon, Colombia and Senegal by Fr Lebret. Nor do they have any real knowledge of the methodology developed by Lebret to analyse the mechanisms explaining the marginalisation of the poorest and establishing signposts towards a policy breaking down the injustice of which they were victims.

On the other hand, these Christians were involved in a dynamic made possible thanks particularly to the work and reflection of Lebret that had been vulgarised and transmitted by Pope Paul VI's encyclical. Their methods of analysis of reality, moreover, were close and in a way less complex than the Lebret methodology based on lived reality and analysing starting from concrete fact in order to propose solutions that action would validate.

Both Sergio and I had through our involvement in Catholic Action movements taken part in this dynamic and through fidelity both to the Church and to reality followed the same path in the various positions that we had occupied within Catholic organisations, even though this line was clearly in question. It is not useless to recall that these suspicions of Marxist deviation and contestation of doctrinal fundamentals led the Holy See to eliminate candidates from the leadership of several International Catholic Organisations (ICOs) who would never find out the reasons for which they were denied a nihil obstat.

Thus, while both Sergio and myself were called, it was not because we were particularly “Lebretist” but because both of our experience was based on that current that we considered to have a continuing relevance. And that we attempted to keep alive this reflection in spite of its abandonment by the Magisterium3, while still recognising ourselves as full members of the Church.

Strategy, hope and limits

From the time we began our tasks, Sergio and myself undertook to do a stocktaking of the relevance of the thought of Lebret some thirty years after his death and on the contribution that he could still offer to reflection by committed Christians.

The meeting held in Brittany and the pilgrimage effected on that occasion to Minihic-sur-Rance near Saint Malo where Lebret is buried as well as the UNESCO4 meeting were an opportunity for deep exchanges with all the components of the “Lebret family” concerning social issues at the end of the 20th century and the correctness of the insights of Fr Lebret in this context. It also seemed necessary to update reflection that we observed maintained all the value drawn from specific historical elements that had led to its birth but which also foreshadowed solutions of which the implementation was no longer possible in the form envisaged in a context that was several decades old. Moreover, the Lebret methodology, the scientificity of which had been subject to criticism, now appeared on the contrary as a fruitful source enabling an approach to realities that Lebret had been one of the first to analyse under this angle, and that, both in their globality as well as in situations specific to each group, he had studied in countries as diverse as Lebanon or Colombia.

On these occasions, Sergio showed one of the main strengths of the ten years that we worked together, namely an extraordinary capacity for dialogue with extremely divers actors. The fact that he spoke several languages is not enough to explain the finesse with which he understood others despite cultural, social or economic differences. His capacity to listen, as I was able to witness, owed much to his capacity to perceive the other in a solidarity enabling him to “place himself in the other's place”. A man of conviction, he knew how to affirm the truths in which he believed and that he tried to practice while admitting the cultural otherness of his interlocutor. He never fell into the trap of the missionary bringing good news, nor that which was even more dangerous of a miming of the culture of the other under the false notion of respect. This in my eyes explains his capacity for dialogue with his Asian, African and Eastern European partners.

It was quite remarkable to see the confidence and opening that Buddhists, Hindus, and non-believers from various geographic zones had for him. Moreover, as he showed us during a session organised at UNESCO in November 1998 with the UNCED Secretary General Rubens Ricupero, he was equally at ease in local meetings with grassroots activists as in international institutions with specialists in charge of analysing development issues and conceiving coherent policies at a planetary level. Without ever moving away from a modesty of tone that made him doubt fiery speeches, he had a keen sense of the essential.

While at the end of these seminars the thought of Lebret seemed capable of responding to the expectations of many committed people, it was equally evident that it did not provide ready made solutions but rather it provided tools for better understanding the realities in which each person found themselves, discerning lines of analysis and developing trial responses. Moreover, it was also necessary that these efforts not be spread too thinly in poorly structured and isolated activities.

A gathering of effort

This observation should lead to a new look at the functioning of the three institutions that in France claim the heritage of Fr Lebret: Economie et Humanisme, IRFED and the Centre Lebret. These three entities which were not only relatively modest in their permanent structure but also had different tasks and methods of work. For example, Economie et Humanisme had mainly positioned itself as a research centre on development issues and concrete industrial projects in countries of the South whereas IRFED preferred to work with the reflection by actors in the world of development as well as with base communities in which the great Catholic foundations that had invested millions of euros for thousands of projects in the South. As well as this work based on its international network, the Centre Lebret had established several regional or thematic antennas that in France and Switzerland in particular had developed programs more linked to local developments.

The fact that all these instances worked largely thanks to volunteers or with very limited paid workforces illustrated the need for a concentration of effort and a clarification of priorities.

To meet the first objective a dialogue was established with other partners in view of a greater exchange of information, sharing of experiences that could lead to a structure, certainly still decentralised, but having acquired a critical mass enabling it to implement projects on a larger scale based on ad hoc financing. While everyone agreed to recognise the solid foundation of this option, this does not mean to say that the cause was won. Those who have had to accompany or direct a fusion between organisations, particularly of a small size and based largely on voluntary work, can imagine the difficulties that had to be faced. Sergio showed his dexterity here, succeeding in promoting dialogue, not always easy, to bring the partners concretley to envisage a closer collaboration, while avoiding – not without tension – the least blockage in maintaining the goals that we had fixed.

The second objective linked to the first implied a stronger structure that would better respond to the various theoretical and practical difficulties that engaged Christians faced. Since this emerged from the exchanges that Sergio and the team maintained regularly with the ensemble of the network, these Christians found themselves confronted with various practical and theoretical difficulties. The New International Economic Order desired by Lebret and the right to development of which he had outlined the contours had slowly dissolved in an increasingly sterile ideological confrontation. Moreover, the collapse of the socialist systems had deeply changed the landscape, both at the national and international levels.

Henceforth, only one model seemed likely to regulate either international relations or the internal structure of the various states. In this context, reflection on the available options enabled us to correct the errors identified and to fight social injustices that had become increasingly urgent. All the same, this was incomparably more difficult during the 1960s because of the rule of a single way of thinking.

Betting on the capacity of local experiences to generate a response from their dynamic that without generalising at international level could constitute elements for a new social reflection and for a new model of “living together”, a decision was taken to make an effort to support, reflection, analysis and conceptual exchange between these groups and actors susceptible to enable them to emerge from the impasses in which they were too often trapped. The absence of epistemological support often led to the abandonment and sometimes to the definitive loss of experiences that were rich in promise for the future but the decrypting of which (to use a fashionable term) proved impossible within the framework of reflection of these groups.

Three circles of actors

It was agreed to distinguish three circles of actors within the network. Grassroots activists involved in daily struggles and seeking to respond to the difficulties of development of their communities, difficulties both on the level of the social model to invent, as on the transcendental values that they presuppose. International experts, whose formation and daily analysis of the macro-economic issues allowed to relocate efforts and research within a larger framework and above all more relevant thanks to a measurable global vision. Finally, the relays, i.e. those able to synthesise the issues emerging from field work, to select those which required deepening in order to enable difficulties to be overcome and above all capable of bringing together the various partners at international and local level, and which needed to meet in order to enable advances in the struggle for a more just world and for an updated reading of Revelation.

The first objective was only partially achieved. Certainly the Centre Lebret and IRFED combined but the particular dynamic of Economie et Humanisme never allowed it to go beyond the stage of exchanges, no doubt structured within a stable (overlapping participation in the boards of each organisation) and fruitful (organised common meetings) framework. However, this did not necessarily lead to a convergence of action. In terms of achieving the planned strategy, conclusions need to be nuanced.

Strengthening and extending the network

From 1994 to 2005, a period during which health problems obliged him to reduce his activities, Sergio accomplished an enormous work whose dynamic remains with us today. Thanks to a very large network of partners and an intensive dialogue that he maintained with them, he succeeded in promoting exchanges between the various actors and in organising several promising meetings in Africa, Asia, the Near East, Latin America and Europe.

By way of example, I remember that exchange in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia between the mayor of Lubumbushi and partners from India, the Near East and Europe reflecting on the role of the state not based on a global concept as is frequently the case in academic milieux but on the basis of concrete experience of management by civil society of one of the tasks relevant to the public sphere5.

The disorganisation of the former Zaire following conflicts that caused many deaths the number of which is not clear but certainly in the millions, making this war the most murderous since the Second World War, had placed local authorities before apparently insoluble challenges. The reconstruction of the country, and particularly the problems of daily management of cities and villages seemed totally insoluble at a time when international aid flows tended to go towards the states of the former Soviet bloc while those allocated to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) focused on financing military peacekeeping operations. Local authorities without resources saw the practical impossibility of meeting the most basic needs. The response of the mayor of Lubumbashi consisting of calling upon the local population to ensure the essential tasks themselves voluntarily seemed crazy at first sight. All the same, he succeeded in mobilising a population whose awareness had been raised concerning the issues at stake for its future, the re-establishment of indispensable service and to lead them to assume the voluntary provision of services normally the province of the state.

This experience facilitated a return to normality opening u p perspectives that were certainly not applicable as such in other contexts but which indicated hitherto unexploited possibilities for mobilising civil society to take on essential tasks for the functioning of the community and to take in charge their own collective destiny, outside of classical schemas. Moreover, this experience raised interesting questions concerning the structure of the state and the organisation of power. Who decided the framework of such operations, how to determine the objectives to be achieved, how is the community will formed, etc.? These are questions that ought to be analysed with precision and if necessary to determine work paths that would allow people to think of alternatives within societies that are infinitely more complex and where the technicality of the responses could be the object of sharing and consensus of the same kind. The participation and orientation of civil society in its community future will remain words empty of means as long as we remain incapable of imagining how to transpose the learning gained from a field experience into a regulated way of functioning with a state system.

These meetings enabled a strengthening of the exchange between partners of the South on one hand and to develop or strengthen international solidarity with institutions from the North. In this sense, thanks to Sergio, movements and actions that would have been isolated and marginalised were strengthened and through the exchange of experiences between partners led to the improvement of development models at the local level. One also noted for example that for Timor, Madagascar, Haiti, China or the DR Congo, the Centre Lebret not only enabled people to bring together actions of grassroots activists working in extremely difficult circumstances but also promoted reflection based on communication in action that Sergio ensured.

Field experience

Moreover, and this is an aspect that Sergio's modesty has not always allowed to be placed in evidence, information was able to be shared because of the field experience that enabled him to act as a genuine bridge between very different social actors both at the conceptual level as well as within the framework of the most banal practices.

An anecdote comes back to me in this context. At a time when western media sought to cover the conflict in East Timor that they had somewhat neglected in favour of other more media friendly situations, Sergio, who had decided to share all the experience that he had acquired on that country, not only prepared itineraries for journalists by opening doors for them with privileged contacts, but in helping them to better understand the issues in play, and moreover to guide them by phone from Paris. At that time, Gerard Rolland who worked closely with the Centre Lebret told me how he had been fascinated to hear Sergio from his Paris office indicate to a journalist lost somewhere in Dili the importance of interviewing a key person in order to understand the political issues of the struggle under way, and also to indicate to him what route to take and the precautions that were advisable in that particular zone in order to find the house he was looking for.

The testimonies of those who benefited from his support in this field are revelatory of the very discreet role that he played in very many groups.

We should also mention his extraordinary activity in terms of communication. Even though Sergio was not a man given to drafting long documents, he did pay particular attention to the development to and maintenance of the Centre's publication, the review Foi et Développement which later became Développement et civilisations, ensuring that it reflected preoccupations, contributions and reflections that could be useful to members of the network. In parallel with this, he kept up an intense correspondence with partners from all parts of the world right up until his last days0

This attention to the network and above all to those who comprise it, this work of exchange, of taking root and strengthening the very divers movements in the field are the essential elements of Sergio's contribution to the Centre Lebret, a contribution which dynamised the work, not only of the Centre's partners, but also of a much larger circle of people involved in development activities and the promotion of human rights.

Updating the thought of Lebret: An incomplete project

While the defined strategy was largely achieved as far as strengthening the network was concerned, it did not lead to an overall updating of Lebret's concepts based on the experiences gathered. We had hope that based on the diversity of action to open up dialogue allowing those who had the necessary theoretical tools to develop a new global strategy responding to the challenges of society at the start of the 21st century based on the model that Lebret had undertaken during the 1940s. The reasons for this semi-failure are both practical and conceptual.

Certainly, the lack of means that obliged Sergio as director of the Centre Lebret to devote effort and considerable time to the search for too limited finance in order to implement the envisaged projects explains in large measure that the results achieved were lower than we had hoped for. However, the financial aspect should not hide the more fundamental reasons that failed to allow him to achieve the ambitions that we had set in the middle of the 1990s.

Certainly, these exchanges allow us to compare the results of action in situations that present certain analogies and where the responses, all the same, were very different. On the other hand, it is difficult to go past the observation that exchange as such, even if it opened up interesting perspectives, particularly in enabling people to get to know and to share what English speakers describe as “good practices”, did not respond to the fundamental needs to the extent that it was not possible simply to move from a remarkable micro-initiative, like many of those that we valued, to a more complex social model, indispensable to the functioning of a modern society. It would have been better, based on the elements gathered from in the context of these meetings, to develop a deeper reflection with international experts that would imagine how to capitalise such practices and to build a viable response for the whole of a given society, structuring a new economic and social world order.

After all, this is how Fr Lebret worked with his field studies, particularly with Breton fisherfolk. Starting from a rigorous analysis of the causes of pauperisation of this profession in this particular region of the French coast, and by studying the mechanisms of solidarity that field actors had invented to try to provide a response to their situation, he had drawn out the elements likely to enrich a more general reflection.

His conception of a new international economic order based on a legal framework including a right to development had its roots in this experience. The answer that he proposed did not consist in a solution that would take the form of a recipe responding to and generalising a particular response to a specific response to a given community. It sought to orient dynamism to promote the emergence of the necessary conditions for development of the “whole person and all people” within a society regulated by world solidarity.

To achieve this, he proposed not a conceptually perfect model, but oriented, starting from observations and community actions a reflection on the need to modify certain parameters of economic production at local, national and international level. Changes of structure were not pre-determined but flowed from this action whose effectiveness needed to be measured on the yardstick of the situation of the most marginalised of a given society and human society overall.

An extremely valuable advisor

Our task consisted of updating the dynamic conceived by Lebret based on the new observations made by the groups with which we worked. Unfortunately the Centre Lebret did not have the internal capacity to respond in an adequate manner to all the questions raised nor to deal in depth with all the elements arising from the practice that members of our network were involved in. The ambition to become a place for developing alternative reflection capable of providing not only grassroots actors but also our international partners tools likely to help them understand and change reality also played a role in a certain, partial failure in the strategy adopted. When CCFD called on the Centre Lebret as an external antenna capable of assisting orientation to manage several million euros worth of projects on every continent, it appeared clearly that the expertise of the Centre Lebret could assist certain researchers in their concrete activities but it was not able to provide a global response to the questions posed.

In this respect, one notes that whether it was Timor or China, Sergio was, thanks to his vast experience and reflection, a very valued adviser not only for CCFD itself but also for other interested parties to better understand a reality that he knew and understood extremely well. All the same, this contribution was linked more to Sergio's own qualities than to the experience and reflection gathered by the Centre Lebret. Certainly, one notes that Sergio, as director of the Centre Lebret, had depended considerably on the network in order to refine his understanding of issues in this part of the world and to help many decision makers to benefit and who were indebted to him in this regard.. But it is also incontestable that the Centre Lebret was able to institutionalise this process which remained too limited to the experience of one man in various regions.

Does this mean that the goals that we fixed ourselves were erroneous and flowed from a mistaken appreciation of the problems posed? Personally, I don't think so. I think rather that the problem that Sergio as director and myself as present had to face was linked to the very wealth of the Centre Lebret and its network. This network, through its diversity but also, we need to recognise it, through the fragility of the little teams spread throughout the countries of the world raised a multitude of questions based on extremely diverse experiences.

The list of questions coming from the network was too vast. It covered the issues of economic development models; problems linked to emerging world culture and particular cultures of threatened communities claiming their own specificity; the end of the state system created during the 18th and 19th centuries and the need for world regulation; questions linked to ecology and the eventual limit to the growth of the planet; the place of the Catholic Church in a world where its role was less and less clear, leading to a turning in reflex and increasingly conservative and hardly relevant positions. A range of questions, concerns and efforts at response became so wide that it would have been necessary to considerably limit the field of action.

There was a strong temptation to try to answer several partners whose preoccupations, although apparently convergent, raised lines of reflection that each required considerable investment going beyond the capacity of the Centre as such.

Perhaps we should have found the means to involve other partners (institutes, researchers, academic milieux...) but all that presupposes the financial means and human resources that were so cruelly lacking at the Centre Lebret. Certainly, some efforts were made in this direction but very soon it became clear that they required a management framework that we did not possess.

What to retain from all these years of Sergio's contribution?

If our ambition to update the thought of Fr Lebret based on the current experience of the network was too complex an objective, the follow up, the dynamisation of activities in various continents, the maintenance of a fruitful dialogue and the organisation of meetings between grassroots actors at least ensured the survival of action and research experiences threatened by the allegedly unique scientific thought6. Moreover, the Lebret teams in the world have affirmed through their actions and their faith in their members the possibility, the value and the will to ensure that the model of Church adopted at Vatican II survives even though it has been strongly placed in question since then.

To my way of thinking this result constitutes an essential basis for the future of the activity that we have wanted to support so that it could continue within the framework of the Centre Lebret or other instances. In effect, within a dynamic where thought responds to action which serves both as the revelator of the questions that remain to be resolved as well as the verificator of the hypotheses presented, what is important is that mobilisation continues and that it enables the changing of reality little by little. And this, if possible, to go back to Lebret's idea for the benefit of all, as quickly as possible and with as little suffering.

In such an approach what is important to save is precisely the dynamic that moves those people to action who could rightly feel crushed, marginalised, with no power over their own future or that of the world. Sergio's action not only prevented such a rout but it also ensured the sustainability of commitment founded on hope for a more just and peaceful world.

The model of society to build can always be rethought as long as the action continues and today the testimonies gathered in these pages shows that such is indeed the case. On the other hand, abstract thought alone has never led to evolution of the situation as long as the men and women who are the true actors do not take part in what appear to them as unreal concepts as just as they might be.

For all these reasons, Sergio's action within the Centre Lebret needs to be understood not just in the light of the sustainability of the structure that we have made an effort to consolidate without much success it's true, nor that of the social model that we would have loved to be able to extract, but the irrigation of a network of partners whose action continues today and which stills bears another vision of the world and the Church.


1 Dominican, former director of IRFED, he founded the Centre Lebret in 1971 as well as the review Foi et développement (Faith and Development).

2 See the declarations of Fr Lebret during the United Nations conferences that preceded the creation of UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) and at UNCTAD itself.

3 It may seem excessive to claim that the reflections of Fr Lebret have been abandoned, indeed rejected by the Magisterium since there was never any condemnation that placed in cause the thought that had nourished the essential of one of the most important encyclicals of the 20thcentury. However, one notes that many of the positions flowing directly from Fr Lebret's reflection and taken up the Catholic Action movement were often the object of suspicion of not being in conformity with the social doctrine of the Church by the Justice and Peace Commission. Moreover, in 1982, when the Secretary General of  UNCTAD met Pope John Paul II in the framework of preparing that conference, the leaders responsible for drafting the Pope's speeches asked me to help them in their task since, following the departure of Fr Lebret, these issues were no longer at the heart of the concerns of their commission.

4In 1999, the Centre Lebret organised an International Day of Reflection at UNESCO on the occasion of the centenary of the birth of  Louis-Joseph Lebret.

5 See the Chapter on “Access to water”.

6 The first two issues of Développement et civilisations, namely Développement et recherche-action : Stratégies et pratiques du global au local (2007) and Refonder un développement intégral et solidaire - Relectures actualisées de l’encyclique Populorum Progressio par un réseau d’acteurs du développement (2008), show that the Centre Lebret-Irfed is continuing on its longstanding path and is producing useful documents for reflection. The various ideas presented above are all based on sharing with the people Sergio met in Timor between 2000 and 2003.