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Holy See Address at U.N. Food Conference

"Put Common Values Before Individual Interests"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 27, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is the text of a speech given by Monsignor Renato Volante, the Holy See's permanent observer to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, during the 28th session of the FAO Conference for the Near East. The conference was held March 12-16 in Sana, Yemen.

* * *

Mr. Chairman,

1. I wish first of all to thank you for giving me this opportunity to address this session and also to congratulate you on your election. In particular I would like to thank the Yemen government for the kind hospitality of this conference called to intensify the response to the development challenges in the Near East, first of all in rural growth and food production.

The Holy See, as you know, is particularly sensitive to the question of fighting poverty, hunger and malnutrition. She makes herself available with help in consultation and action, but also she encourages the member countries of the region and the FAO to fulfill the task to guarantee the basic needs of peoples.

In fact the engagement of the international community in reaching the Millennium Development Goals calls on this session to propose specific guidelines in order to guarantee effective and consistent agricultural development in the different countries of the Near East region. This can be done concretely through the realization of one specific objective, that is, appropriate food security.

2. In this regard the delegation of the Holy See suggests some points for reflection which may be of support in making adequate political choices and selecting concrete actions to correspond to today's necessities.

Among the causes of lack of agricultural development we observe that it fell to FAO to "constitute" the concept of food insecurity, making it gradually evolve from a mere consideration of a technical order, with reference, that is to the availability of foodstuffs in stock, to a situation which denies a real and true human right. These data are for us a source of profound disappointment, especially considering that our world is enjoying, in general, a progress and a development without precedents in history.

The meaning of nutrition should be specified especially in respect to the role that the state should play, in guaranteeing its implementation and thereby its enjoyment by the people. The question directly touches the duties of the FAO Summit and therefore urges for their confirmation. In fact, to guarantee the right of persons and peoples to nutrition, in the absence or lack of the capacity of the single state to do so, other states and the intergovernmental institutions are called upon to come to its aid.

The duty assumed by the different countries concretizes precisely this aspect in the concept of food security, foreseeing an effort of solidarity to guarantee the nutrition of all, and at least to reduce by half the number of the undernourished or starving people by 2015, through the integrated efforts of states and international organizations.

Moreover, comprehensive methods of intervention to struggle against hunger, should certainly pay due attention to all factors of poverty. But it is important to bear in mind that to link food security to other situations, although important, due to their different aims and principles, might however prevent us from mobilizing all the forces required for such a struggle. Now, this approach should also be considered in reference to the impact of recent development in the Near East region regarding trading environment and its implication for food security and agricultural development.

The delegation of the Holy See points out that also in this issue, the adoption of measures in order to achieve sustainable livelihoods, rural and economic growth linked to a concrete social equity and special attention to the vulnerable groups, is an essential imperative. To establish strategies it is necessary to take into account not only the fundamental rights of peoples or communities, but also the respect of everyone's conscience as far as different tradition and cultures are concerned in the Near East. The action should, therefore, involve the education, the training and a comprehensive approach regarding the fundamental values.

Mr. Chairman,

3. In realizing this effort, required today in the engagement endorsed by FAO member countries, the delegation of the Holy See confirms the availability of the Catholic Church, and her various sectors and institutions, to cooperate in the activities of humanization in the realities of hunger, underdevelopment and poverty, a support that would be considered not only as a possibility of logistical support, but also as a source of ideal and programmatic inspiration.

In guaranteeing to every person the possibility of having a qualitative standard of life and adequate food security, we participate in the great design of creation and we have the chance to put common values before individual interests. The international relations today, following the desire of every people to peaceful coexistence, require new forms of solidarity and communion in the implementation of programs and action, according to the fundamental principles of humanity and justice.

Thank You, Mr. Chairman

[Original text: English]


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