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Holy See to UN: Extreme Poverty Is a Troubling Reality Not an Inevitable Statistic

“While there is more than enough food for everyone, yet not all can eat”

Here is the statement given Monday by Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, at the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Agriculture development, food security and nutrition.

Mr. Chair,

The Secretary General’s report (A/71/283) on agricultural development, food security and nutrition provides both a timely and candid account of progress being made on the two fundamental global concerns of ending hunger and eliminating malnutrition for all.

The Secretary General’s report serves as a stark reminder of the magnitude of the challenges that still lie ahead if we are to end hunger, improve nutrition, and achieve food security by 2030. Despite progress made since 1990 in reducing hunger, nearly 800 million people are still undernourished, at a time when global challenges to reducing malnutrition are becoming increasingly more complex. An equally troubling fact is that more than two billion suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, among whom are some of the most vulnerable members of the world’s population, including more than 200million children under the age of five years, who are either stunted or wasted.[1]

The challenges to increase agricultural productivity, to address the effects of climate changes, and to reduce food losses are compounded by mass migrations of peoples, both within and between countries, and by war and violence that have uprooted large populations from productive areas. Consequently, as the Secretary General’s report observes, it is already clear that without a “firm political and societal commitment, large segments of the world’s population will remain undernourished by 2030.”

This “political and societal commitment” is fundamental if we are to reach the second sustainable development goal “to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” by 2030.

In his June 2016 Address to the World Food Programme in Rome, Pope Francis warned of the dangers of seeing hunger and poverty purely as statistics and of slowly becoming immune to other people’s tragedies, viewing them almost as something “natural” and thus inevitable in the world in which we live. We must thus “denaturalize” extreme poverty by seeing it as a troubling reality and not as an inevitable statistic, “because” – as the Pope affirmed – “poverty has a face: it has the face of a child; it has the face of a family; it has the face of people, young and old; it has the face of widespread unemployment; it has the face of forced migrations, and of empty and destroyed homes.”

The Pope also asked to “debureaucratize” hunger. In his Address to the Second International Conference on Nutrition of the Food and Agricultural Administration in November 2015, Pope Francis spoke of the paradox that, while there is more than enough food for everyone, yet not all can eat, even as we witness “waste, excessive consumption and the use of food for other purposes.” The “bureaucratization” of hunger also finds expression in the paradox that whereas various forms of aid and development projects are obstructed by political decisions and policies, by skewed ideologies and by impenetrable customs’ barriers, the trade in weaponry is not. The Pope lamented the fact that “it makes no difference where arms come from; they circulate with brazen and virtually absolute freedom in many parts of the world. As a result, wars are fed, not persons. In some cases, hunger itself is used as a weapon of war.”

In closing, my delegation reiterates its commitment to the goal of ending hunger and eliminating malnutrition for all by 2030. For it to become a reality, however, we will need not only increased food production and better food distribution: we must also summon the finest human qualities of peace, social justice, solidarity, compassion and empathy, so that we may be aware of the hungry and thirsty around us and around the world.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

1. Stunted: Low height for their age;Wasted: Low weight for their height.

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