Archbishop Luigi Travaglino´s Address to the 38th Session of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization Conference

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Here is a translation of the address of the Apostolic Nuncio and head of the Holy See Delegation, H.E. Archbishop Luigi Travaglino, which he gave yesterday during the 38th Session of the United Nation´s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on the “The State of Food Insecurity in the World.”

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Mister President,

Mister Director General,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all I wish to thank you, Mister President, for giving me the floor and, at the same time, I address a deferent greeting to you, which I extend to the distinguished Delegations gathered here.

On this occasion the Holy See Delegation wishes to confirm its appreciation of FAO’s activity, geared to fostering agricultural development and to guaranteeing food security, as well as to reaffirming its willingness to support this task which concerns a fundamental aspect of the life of individual persons and communities.

At this time of particular difficulty for the world economy, our encouragement is addressed to all the interested parties so that they further the implementation of programs of the Organization in the different sectors of agriculture, forests and fishing, especially in view of the objective of food security, which is becoming indispensable. However, we must pass from words to facts, putting at FAO’s disposition the necessary resources. This implies solidarity to be rendered concrete through a contribution to the budget, proportional to the capacity and needs of each one. This will enable FAO to work in a profitable, coherent and transparent way, and will enable all to look at the future with greater serenity and confidence.

From the examination of the Program of work for the past two years, the validity emerges of the action carried out in continuity by FAO, as well as the willingness of Member States, though in different positions as contributors to the resources and of beneficiaries of aid. It is a positive sign in the face of the endemic and recurrent food crises that, not only impede the integral development of every human being, but constitute an evident violation of his fundamental rights; a sign that enables so many countries to re-launch their production, to reconsider the food needs of their inhabitants and to plan a less uncertain future. In fact, it is increasingly evident that agricultural activity is an essential factor to determine the general productive capacity of a country. The resources of agriculture, of breeding, of fishing and of related sectors are an important contribution for work, employment and conditions of economic development, in addition to contributing to the nutritional need. Moreover their willingness is essential for forms of aid which have become increasingly important  for the most diverse emergency situations caused by conflicts, forced displacements of populations and, not least, climate changes.

In regard to planning for the next two-year period, the Holy See Delegation hopes that the forms of support will be increased for the activities and practices of craftsmanship, that are the basic economic reality for the greater part of developing countries, which have in monoculture, in forest resources, in the exploitation of marine resources or in aquaculture, an essential reference – and often unfortunately the only one – for their economies and for their food availability. This could be a specific way to give coherent implementation to some of the Objectives of the Revised Strategic Cadre on which it is hoped to direct the future activity of the Organization. The reduction of rural poverty and the improvement of the capacity of resilience in case of crisis can be facilitated by agriculture on a small scale, especially by family agricultural enterprise, in whose interior the transmission takes place of fundamental values, the safeguarding of traditional knowledge, the relation between generations and the irreplaceable role of woman.

For the Holy See it is a priority which will certainly be valued in the next year dedicated by FAO to the rural family, towards which the Catholic Church also manifests her attention and constant availability to collaborate with her resources and structures, as well as through the experience of associations and cooperatives of farmers, fishermen and craftsmen.

The agenda of this Conference offers a further reason for reflection attracting attention on the ways of implementing the policies of agricultural development, combining them with the international action of cooperation and aid. The integral growth of different countries, of communities and of persons calls for the adoption of specific instruments to guarantee the effective responsible conduct of States, first of all to ensure an adequate level of food security to the respective populations, as well as to foster a change in lifestyles linked to excessive consumption, to the waste of food or to the use of agricultural products other than for food. In particular, for the Holy See Delegation the reference to the sustainability of food systems cannot be limited to work techniques, to the conservation of resources or to the exchange of information. The goal of agricultural and food sustainability  could be more effective if it is linked also  to a full participation of the rural populations in the elaboration of plans of action and strategy, as well as in the effort  of carrying them out in keeping with the imperatives of the integral development of individuals and of communities. It seems that this approach to sustainability linked to the human person might contribute to give meaning to the responsibility we all have in regard to future generations.

The responsibility itself is translated into the various aspects that interest different sectors of agriculture, of forests and of fishing, not only for questions linked to the ecology, but also to the management of the resources which is, in the end, also attention to the so-called ecological responsibility.

In this phase of rethinking of the whole strategy of development by the System of the United Nations, the responsibility concerns the sustainable use of the agro-food resources in relation to the growing demand for foods. These, in fact, although produced at the world level in quantities clearly superior to the real requirements of the present world population, do not succeed in eliminating or at least reducing drastically the number of the hungry. The necessity seems evident to specify the distinction between resources that are not immediately renewable, such as the case of water and soils, or those which instead have the possibility of being renewed if adequately managed, as is the case of bio-diversities. The question then is posed on the plane of the political will and responsibility in regard to future strategies of development.

Responsibility requires greater coherence and fidelity to the rules on which FAO bases its action. The reference goes in the first place to the diverse guidelines that from the right to food are completed with the questions regarding access to land, the question of land regimes to those regarding the environmental compatibility of the agricultural activity. All realms that have so much weight  in the action for development, but whose binding force resides not only in the formal aspect but in ever more tangible sharing. What is hoped for, therefore, is a work of elaboration of apposite guidelines that specify the objective of sustainability for the various sectors based on the indicators of food insecurity, of malnutrition, if only with a particular consideration for the regional and sub-regional peculiarities. This could favor a greater level of responsible connection between the activities of cooperation and aid for food security, the elimination of poverty, the safeguarding of the resources and the protection of different ecosystems of the agricultural world.

The preservation of the genetic patrimony calls, therefore, for responsibility in supervising the activities that cause damages, often irreparable , reducing the multiplicity of species and, consequently, modifying or limiting be it the food regimes of entire populations be it the possibility of employment. In this realm the lack of reference to an although minimal regulation risks excluding from the productive cycles the countries that do not have the possibility to protect their resources, and, therefore, can lose consistent contributions in nutritional terms. The responsibility in regard to such a problem cannot but be limited to propose systems of control, although necessary, but must find solutions that are, first of all, to the advantage of the rural communities and of groups of natives that remain, in many cases, the only custodians of the resources of Creation.

The strong concerns over the global economic crisis cannot allow one to forget its repercussion on the trade of products from agriculture, from the forests and from fishing. These, in addition to constituting an essential food component, are linked directly to the multilateral rules of the commercial sector. In FAO’s activity, in fact, the concern is not lacking for the reinforcement of commercialization, and this makes one understand how necessary it is to move in a just direction in the realm of negotiations on trade, above all to provide a regulation that takes into account some essential aspects. I am referring to the criteria of management of the production that, if directed only to profit, risks determining a greater volatility of prices with negative consequences for food security  and nutritional regimes. It is not only a question of favoring an increase of productivity or of providing the greatest possible access to the food market, but of reviewing those policies of support thought out only to guarantee particular areas or interests  and which in practice are transformed into more or less obvious forms of  protection. To be considered and prepared instead are measures that allow all countries  -- in particular those that are developing – to have the necessary foods and to place their own production on the international market, above all when it represents the only source  of income, in addition to being the natural source of revenue  and of economic activity for the population.

Mister President,

In the light of these reflections, the Holy See Delegation recalls the need of an essentially ethical perspective, within which every decision and consequent action is the fruit of the principle of solidarity, which is the basis of a just and peaceful coexistence between nations. Thus the effective development of each and all will be able to be promoted concretely, also through  the complex decisions of a political, economic and financial order which will have to be taken in relation to FAO’s activity.

Given that, to respect the limits of time, I have limited myself  to present only some points of my address, I ask you, Mister President, to make it possible for the full text to be published in the Proces-Verbaux.

Finally permit me to remind the numerous Delegations present of the meeting that tomorrow, June 20, the Conference will have with His Holiness Pope Francis, in keeping with a long tradition, initiated exactly 60 years ago with the advent of FAO in Rome.

Thank you.

[Original text: Italian]


[Translation by ZENIT]