Holy See on Food Insecurity

"Fighting Against Hunger Is Conditioned by Multiple Factors"

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ROME, NOV. 28, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address given by Monsignor Renato Volante, permanent observer of the Holy See at the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), at the group's 35th special session, held last week.

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Mr. Chairman,

1. Thank you for giving me the floor, I wish first of all to congratulate you on your election as chair this Conference, called in particular to consider the results of the evaluation of FAO management, and the proposals to make it possible for the Organization to deal more effectively with the problems related to the rural world situation and food prospects. As we can easily understand, it is not only about specific indications on results so far reached, but also about the criteria to face the ever increasing needs.

In effect, as indicated by the High Level Conference on Food Security last June, the responsibilities of FAO are those of its member States, which are called on to face a recurring food insecurity that has recently seen a significant increase in the number of people suffering from hunger. This has occurred in spite of the earlier consideration of the production data and the food supply in different areas. It is paradoxical that on the one hand the fundamental and irreplaceable role of the Organization, with its true mission among the intergovernmental Institutions working in the development and cooperation sector, was shown; on the other the responsibilities of Governments, structures and people concerned in international action would seem to have surrendered in the face of the increasing volume of hunger and malnutrition.

2. Following the agenda of this Conference, the Delegation of the Holy See does not want to offer technical solutions, but rather to suggest an ideal orientation which may help in making concrete choices, focusing on the needs of each human person, especially when they are limited by conditions of life which compromise a dignified human life.

If we consider the data regarding FAO activities, they show a constant and active engagement, more and more responding to the needs of the member States, in particular of those whose economic system require new paths for the development of the agricultural sector and to satisfy the growing needs for food. As we well know, these requirements are determined by a more general economically unfavourable situation, by natural conditions, but also by human interventions which often pursue partial interests or even show signs of indifference towards the fight against malnutrition. This is a situation that stirs up a certain preoccupation in every corner of the earth, even where there is a high level of development.

At the same time, just looking at the future of FAO, it becomes clear that there are "new" situations involving the agricultural sector which demand efforts by the Organization and its member States. Among these, as underlined by the recent food crisis, the judgement about the central role of agriculture seems to stand out with a particular emphasis in the wider reality of economic activity and its important contribution to a realistic, sustainable development. It is here that we can find the essential role of FAO; a role which is complementary and harmonious, by means of an agile structure, to the action by Governments in favour of the hungry.

To bring about a reform of FAO, it is necessary to recognize that fighting against hunger is conditioned by multiple factors and by the motives inspiring it. But too often strategies are adopted which pursue particular goals rather then a holistic vision which ranks the human needs first. Such an attitude produces negative effects in the rural sector, especially where poverty, underdevelopment, malnutrition and environmental degradation are more evident.

This is why the Delegation of the Holy See is firmly convinced that the FAO structure and its activities must underline the essential importance of agriculture in the development processes, not promoting the mere management but those far-sighted management criteria and interventions which will really respond to the needs.

If, in fact, the use of certain words may indicate and prove the importance paid to particular topics, and that programs are important for the ordered course of the activities - which obviously have to respect rules and regulations - it is also true that the effectiveness of the work of an Organization comes mainly from the generous and motivated service carried out by the Organization staff. The more it is done with a serving spirit and enthusiasm in a mood of sincere cooperation, keeping well in mind - especially in our case - the target of the work itself, i.e. helping the poor to overcome hunger, the more fruitful it will be. Therefore, FAO must be an Organization made up of people serving other people and their fundamental needs which we all know are fundamental rights.

3. It is clear that the future, or the "new", of the rural world will contain two main aspects.

First, the protection of the different agricultural ecosystems which are conditioned by climatic change causing floods or desertification even in areas that had never known such phenomena before.

Second, the growing role of new processing techniques and the support that they receive both in their production process and in the food trade and use.

We often know, and thanks to FAO, the causes of these situations for which we see remedies, but the rush toward more immediate objectives causes a postponement of their feasibility, which should start from those possible and urgent recovering interventions in consumption standards and in the respect for creation. The reform of FAO, also in light of the objectives indicated by the recent High Level Conference of last June, must be supported. The reform will be the more meritorious the more concrete it is.

It does not mean to be closed to new and perhaps better results made possible by scientific and technological research and new production systems, but what it does propose is an ordered balance between those systems and a proper prevention of the risks for people and the ecosystems.

This means that an ordered research aimed at improving agricultural production so as to meet the growing food demand, must not forget the reasons of food security which is the consumers' health, nor crop sustainability, i.e. the environmental protection. For these objectives invoked - in different ways - by every State as a "priority", it is necessary that FAO must continue to have the resources and the necessary trust of the international Community as a whole.

Mr. Chairman,

The attention of the member States, as well as that of the civil society and its precious forms of organization, must be focused on the engagements that FAO is called to assume now and in the future toward the different regions of the world. Engagements that demand further effort to cope with problems by paying proper attention to the needs of the least, in our case of those who suffer from hunger and malnutrition and more generally those who draw their living, employment and income from rural work. Our thought goes to rural families and to their natural reality that, moreover, characterizes it as an economic subject, able to take part in the decision making of the production processes and choices.

Meanwhile, we ask for a better commitment in giving the Organization an accrued momentum that allows it to be always that "gathering point" for the study and distribution of agricultural data, production techniques and regulations as required by its own Constitution and as we all wish.

The Holy See, for its part, wants to reaffirm the availability of the Catholic Church, Its structure and organizational bodies, to contribute to this effort so that everybody can receive his "daily bread", as the motto of FAO itself reminds us: "Fiat panis"!.

Thank you.