By ZENIT Staff

On October 16, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York, gave a statement before the Second Committee of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Agenda Item 26, dedicated to “Agricultural Development, Food Security and Nutrition.”

In his statement, Archbishop Caccia spoke within the context of the beginning of the Decade of Action for sustainable development and the half-way mark on the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition. He said that ending hunger, achieving food insecurity, improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture must remain high priorities for the international community. Poverty and hunger, he said, must be tackled together, combining economic inclusion, social protection and support for sustainable livelihoods. The scandal of people dying of hunger while so much food is going to waste must be addressed, he said, through equitable distribution. The question of the quality of food, he said, is also important, so that people with access to food are genuinely nourished with a healthy diet. He described how the pandemic has made more dramatic the situation of malnutrition and food insecurity in multiple ways and reaffirmed the Holy See’s commitment to work toward ensuring that everyone has access to one’s “daily bread.”

Following is the full intervention:

Mr. Chair,

In this Decade of Action for sustainable development, ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture must remain key priorities. To ensure that all people, in particular the poor, have access every day to safe, nutritious and sufficient food, the international community must make the effective elimination of hunger “one of its foremost and imperative goals.”[1]

Poverty is the principal cause of hunger and malnutrition worldwide. In turn, hunger and malnutrition spawn even greater poverty, as the health impacts associated with inadequate quantity and quality of food affect peoples’ ability to learn and work. Therefore, poverty and hunger must be tackled together, through a holistic approach that combines economic inclusion, support for sustainable and resilient livelihoods, and social protection. Efforts to eradicate poverty and end hunger must ultimately be grounded in the recognition that “the right of every person to be free of poverty and hunger depends on the duty of the entire human family to provide practical assistance to those in need.”[2]

Since we are already at the half-way mark of the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition, it remains as urgent as ever to tackle the “distorted relationship between food and nutrition”[3] that characterizes our world. While millions of people suffer and die from hunger across the globe, tons of food are thrown away every day. Although current levels of food production are more than sufficient to feed the world’s population, food is not where it should be and one in nine lacks access to daily meals.

Especially in the poorest countries, the inequitable distribution of food, which is a major driver of hunger and food insecurity, has severe effects on human health and well-being, particularly that of women and children. Not meeting nutritional requirements during critical phases of the life cycle, including childhood and adolescence, as well as before and during pregnancy and lactation, have lifelong consequences. In this regard, food programs should give special attention to the nutritional needs of pregnant and nursing women and of children, especially during the first thousand days.

In addition to hunger, a growing number of people, even in developing countries, has access mainly, if not exclusively, to lower-quality food, the consumption of which often leads to weight gain, obesity and nutrition-related non-communicable diseases. Reducing the cost of nutritious food and making healthy diets affordable for everyone are vital to ending malnutrition and supporting public health.

The vulnerable situation of those already suffering from hunger and malnutrition is made even more dramatic by the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.[4] Declines in agricultural productivity and export restrictions have increased the likelihood of exacerbating the poverty and food insecurity of the rural poor and those who rely on the agri-food economy. The pandemic has also worsened the food insecurity of those living in countries that depend on food imports, tourism and remittances. Seasonal migrant workers, who are no longer able to secure seasonal work, cannot support their families. Family farmers and other small-scale producers have been severely affected by the significant changes in demand and excessive price volatility. Millions of children, as a result of school closures, do not have access to school meals that, in particular for low-income families, constitute a significant part of the daily nutrient requirement. Ensuring the continuous functioning of the critical aspects of food systems, designing specific measure for the agriculture sector, developing emergency labor measures for people working in agriculture, and establishing tailored social protection programs and food and nutrition assistance are essential to responding to the food crisis induced by the pandemic.

While improvements in food production remain an important goal, food security will be achieved only when social structures respond to the needs of justice and respect for the inherent dignity of every person. To stop the paradoxical reality that there is food for everyone while starvation remains the daily reality of so many as food is discarded, wasted and consumed in excess, we need to do more than produce more food. A new mindset is needed.[5] We need to design development policies that have at their center the human person and that, instead of incentivizing the “throwaway culture,”  promote social justice, solidarity and respect for the fruits of the earth and of human work.[6] We need to ensure equitable access to those essential goods and resources indispensable for sustaining life and promoting the integral development and well-being of every person. Supporting human health through adequate nutrition cannot be separated from supporting the health of our planet. The transformation of our food systems toward more sustainable pathways that reduce climate effects and protect and restore the environment and biodiversity is vital to preserving the natural resources without which the achievement of food goals would become impossible. The words of Pope Francis on natural and non-renewable resources apply here as well: “A circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations”[7] is needed, while moderating their consumption and maximizing their efficient use.

The Holy See reaffirms its commitment both to the protection of our common home and to the care for our brothers and sisters, and will continue to work toward ensuring that all men, women and children have access to their “daily bread.”[8]

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

[1] Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter, Fratelli Tutti. On fraternity and social friendship, 189.
[2] Pope Francis, Message to the Participants in the 40th General Conference of FAO, 3 July 2017.
[3] Pope Francis, Message for the World Food Day, 16 October 2019.
[4] FAO, State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020: Transforming Food Systems for Affordable Healthy Diets, 2020.
[5] Cf., Pope Francis, Message for the World Food Day, 16 October 2019.
[6] Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter, Fratelli Tutti. On fraternity and social friendship, 188.
[7] Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si’On Care for Our Common Home, 22.
[8] Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter, Fratelli Tutti. On fraternity and social friendship, 162.

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