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Papal Message to U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization

A New Appeal for "Alliance Against Hunger"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 17, 2003 (Zenit) - Here is the message John Paul II sent on Thursday to Jacques Diouf, director general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, for World Food Day 2003.


To Mr. Jacques Diouf

Director General
of the Food and Agriculture Organization
of the United Nations (FAO)

The celebration of World Food Day invites us to reflect on the fact that hunger and malnutrition threaten the survival of many of our brothers and sisters daily. This harsh reality is a cause of division between individuals, social groups, communities and countries; indeed, it epitomizes the gap existing between levels of development and life expectancy in different regions of the world.

The choice of this year’s theme, International Alliance against Hunger, is significant, for hunger and the tensions arising from it can only be overcome by rapid and effective interventions brought about by a common will and joint efforts. This is moreover required by the objectives proclaimed at the beginning of the Millennium by the International Community and is the substance of the commitments made by the States taking part in the World Food Summit -- 5 years later, which considered such an "Alliance" among the different parties working together in this endeavor a guarantee of concrete results.

People are becoming increasingly aware of the need to unify aims and actions, as is the Church, which shares the hopes and sufferings of humanity. She is anxious to make her contribution to a solution that meets the expectations of each person. This prompts me, on the occasion of this World Food Day, to make a new appeal on behalf of the "Alliance against Hunger," an "Alliance" that must draw strength from a renewed understanding of multilateralism. And if this multilateralism is to be effective, it must be founded on the idea of the international community as a "family of nations" committed to pursuing the universal common good. As such, bringing about this "Alliance" requires the exercise of solidarity on the part of Governments, international organizations, and the men and women of every Continent; its foundation may be seen in the collective and shared responsibility for the common good and for the development of those who are poorest, so that every human being may become more a human being.

The work of the FAO, well known to the member countries, shows that the distressing phenomenon of poverty and hunger cannot be attributed solely to environmental conditions, to economic processes or to the consequences of past situations. Natural events and environmental conditions do play a role in this tragedy. Nevertheless we must acknowledge that the lack of management, the expansion of ideological and political systems far removed from the concept of solidarity, and the increase of wars and conflicts, in contradiction of the fundamental principles of international coexistence, create and aggravate socio-economic injustices.

Without overlooking other parts of the world, my thoughts go especially to Africa, where the situation continues to be quite alarming: people there are not only suffering from an imbalance of food production and a consequent food shortage but are also burdened by conflicts, epidemics and constant displacements that in many cases could be prevented by implementing appropriate strategies and programs based on the respect of human life and dignity. One of the most evident effects of all this is the reduction of cultivated areas. Moreover, so many of those countries afflicted by chronic political and institutional instability appear increasingly dependent on aid and on the importation of food from economically more developed nations, thus creating a truly unsustainable situation. Further forms of violence against life are not needed to resolve this distressing situation; what is required is the establishment of an international order inspired by justice and enlivened by a sense of brotherhood.

The economically poorest countries -- facing the constant worry of decreasing levels of food production and availability, and affected by the deterioration of agricultural and forest ecosystems -- are often forced to give priority to the intensive cultivation of lands. In this way, they can at least sell their native products in the hope that they will thus be able to keep up with the pace set by the global market. As a result, agricultural techniques based on the relation between production and need, between the variety of species and the protection of the environment, are abandoned and the "circle of poverty," aptly described by the FAO as the principal cause of malnutrition and hunger, grows ever larger. In order to avoid this vicious circle of poverty, it is necessary to appeal to all the resources of science, ...

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