Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See
Seventy-second Session of the United Nations General Assembly,
Agenda Item 25: Agriculture development, food security and nutrition
New York, 16 October 2017
The Secretary-General’s report on agricultural development, food security and nutrition carries with it a clear but severely disappointing message for us all: based on current trends, “the world is not on track to eradicate hunger and malnutrition by 2030.”
The report highlights the magnitude of the challenge that still lies ahead: almost 800 million inhabitants, or one in nine of the world’s population, lack access to adequate amounts of basic food while more than 150 million children continue to suffer from severe malnutrition. It reminds us of the particular vulnerability of people living in war and conflict areas, where the number of hungry people has increased sharply in just one year: from 80 to 108 million. The report warns that, at the “current pace of implementation, the objectives of Sustainable Development Goal 2 will not be realized and its targets will not be achieved in many parts of the world;” that large segments of the world’s population, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, will remain undernourished or malnourished by 2030; and that, despite great progress in alleviating poverty in many regions of the world, hunger and malnutrition will continue to be major barriers to achieving sustainable development.
What is needed to turn around this gloomy prognosis? In his recent message to the Food and Agricultural Organization, after reiterating the Holy See’s commitment to collaborate in continuing global efforts to eliminate hunger and malnutrition, Pope Francis identified the problem as the absence of a global solidarity to achieve this goal.
“All of us realize,” he said, “that the intention to provide everyone with his or her daily bread is not enough. Rather, there is a need to recognize that all have a right to it and they must therefore benefit from it. If the goals we continue to propose still remain distant, that is largely due to the lack of a culture of solidarity, which fails to make headway amid other international activities, which often remain bound only to the pragmatism of statistics or the desire for efficiency that lacks the idea of sharing.”
Such solidarity is so important, especially for the least developed countries. The Pope said: “The commitment of each country to increase its own level of nutrition to improve agricultural activity and the living conditions of the rural population is embodied in the encouragement of increased agricultural production or in the promotion of an effective distribution of food supplies. Yet this is not enough. In effect, what those goals demand is a constant acknowledgment 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.”
In his address this morning in Rome to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, on the occasion of the World Food Day, Pope Francis brought the concept of solidarity to another level, to that of the category of love. Referring to violent conflicts and wastefulness as some of the major causes of hunger, the Pope mused: “For this reason, I ask myself — and also you —: Would it be too much to introduce in the language of international cooperation the category of love, conjugated as gratitude, equality of treatment, solidarity, the culture of gift, fraternity, mercy?” After all, these words express the practical meaning of the word “humanitarian” used in the international community.
Diplomacy and multilateral institutions, the Pope further said, need to “nurture and organize this capacity to love,” because it is the path that guarantees not only food security but also human security. “Diplomatic engagement has shown us that, even in recent events, it is possible to stop the recourse to weapons of mass destruction. We are all aware of the destructive capacity of such arms. But are we equally aware of the effects of poverty and exclusion.” “To love translates into thinking about new models of development and consumption, and to adopt policies that do not worsen the situation of the least developed populations or their external dependence. To love means not to continue dividing the human family among those who enjoy the superfluous and those who lack what is necessary.”
Consequently, when a country is incapable of responding adequately to its pressing development needs – whether due to its low level of development, conditions of poverty, vulnerability to natural disasters, or situations of insecurity – then there is an international obligation to support these countries in meeting their population’s basic needs. Thus, we should be conscientious of the fact that hunger and malnutrition are not only natural or structural phenomena in determined geographical areas, but the result of a complex of conditions of underdevelopment caused also, and inter alia, by the indifference of many and the selfishness of some.
My Delegation acknowledges that the current world situation is not an encouraging environment for global cooperation, but we must resist the temptation of resigning ourselves to such a situation. The Holy See, thus, reiterates its commitment to Sustainable Development Goal 2 on ending hunger and eliminating malnutrition by 2030. For it to be achieved, we must continue to monitor progress closely, in particular, in regions and countries where their persistence is well known. While there will always be a need for the world’s best technical expertise to increase agricultural productivity and better food security, we must also find ways to summon the finest human qualities of solidarity and compassion, so that we may better respond to the needs of those countries – and to our fellow brothers and sisters – those who are most vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
1. A/72/303, 4.
2. A/72/303, 6.
3. Pope Francis, Message to the Participants in the 40th General Conference of FAO, 3 July 2017.
5. Pope Francis, Address to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization on the occasion of World Food Day, Rome, 16 October 2017.