Food is a human right, Vatican archbishop tells UN

Villagers in Rwanda tend a community garden October 23 2013 Credit Michelle Bauman CNA CNA 10 31 13 Villagers in Rwanda tend a garden. | Michelle Bauman/CNA.

The archbishop leading the Holy See's delegation to the United Nations has praised international efforts to combat hunger, malnutrition and poverty, urging that more be done to secure "the human right to food."

"While improvements in food production remain an important goal, food security will be achieved by all only when we change social structures and when we learn to show greater solidarity towards the poor and the hungry," Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the apostolic nuncio leading the Vatican's permanent observer mission to the United Nations, said Oct. 29.

"Hunger is not just a technical problem awaiting technological solutions," he added. "Hunger is a human problem that demands solutions based on our common humanity."

The archbishop addressed the second committee of the 68th session of the U.N. General Assembly on agriculture development, food security and nutrition.

Archbishop Chullikatt said that hunger is not caused by the lack of sufficient food, noting that an estimated 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted each year. He cited Pope Francis' words that it is "truly scandalous" for millions to be suffering and dying of starvation.

"A way has to be found to enable everyone to benefit from the fruits of the earth, and not simply to close the gap between the affluent and those who must be satisfied with the crumbs falling from the table, but above all to satisfy the demands of justice, fairness and respect for every human being," the Pope said June 20 in a speech to participants in a conference run by the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization.

"Whenever food is thrown out, it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor, from the hungry!" the Pope insisted.

Archbishop Chullikatt told the U.N. committee that wasting food is sometimes tolerated because it can be more financially profitable than providing it to those in extreme need.

Hunger is caused by "exclusion," he explained. Agriculture policies must promote inclusion and "respect for the dignity and rights of those still on the margins of today's society" as well as respect for the well-being of future generations.

He also warned that food access can become a "weapon" for controlling or subjugating populations instead of "a tool for building peaceful and prosperous communities."

The archbishop invoked subsidiarity, the principle of Catholic social teaching that human activities be carried out at "the most local and immediate level possible." This principle encourages helping people become self-sufficient in food or helping them earn a livelihood whose products they can exchange for food.

Food security should be a singular goal, the archbishop said, "so that there will be ever fewer people suffering from poverty and hunger in our world."

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