UN secretary general asked to 'step up to the plate' on right to food

By Ecumenical News International
May 14, 2009

A group of Christian leaders who campaign for justice in the fight against hunger are calling on the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, to 'step up to the plate' and seek tangible results in realising the right to food - writes Peter Kenny.

The Geneva-based Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance sent the letter to Ban as the first of a series of actions in a global campaign on food launched on the same day the World Council of Churches and its donors discussed the issue after being addressed by EAA members.

"Churches have always helped people in need of food, but now we want to tackle the root causes of hunger as a structural problem," the Rev Malcolm Damon, chairperson of the EAA's Food Strategy Group, told Ecumenical News International on 13 May 2009.

Damon, who is executive director of an economic justice network in Southern Africa, said, "The economic crisis and the climate crisis alone will lead to even more hunger problems, so we need to engage actively with the systems, policies and practices that are at the heart of the problem."

Citing statistics put out by international organizations, the EAA said that nearly one billion people are facing chronic hunger "in a world that currently produces enough nutritious food to feed everyone".

Damon, a South African theologian added, "The production, distribution and access to culturally appropriate nourishment is a fundamental matter of justice and we want people all over the world through their churches to advocate for just food production systems and trade distribution systems."

The letter to the UN secretary-general applauds his recent call to include the Right to Food as a third pillar in the Comprehensive Framework for Action at the High Level Meeting on Food Security for All in Madrid. The EAA letter, however, urges him go further by taking "practical and tangible action".

The four-year EAA campaign will also mobilise people all over the world through Christian organizations to advocate for just and sustainable consumption. This will be done with the realisation that the right to food for all means people having access to nutritious food, without sacrificing other fundamental rights such as housing, education or health.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Food, Olivier De Schutter, has welcomed the EAA campaign and noted, "Producing more food will not reduce hunger if we neglect to think about the political economy of the food systems and if we do not produce and consume in ways which are both more equitable and more sustainable."

De Schutter added, "Nor will increased production suffice if we do not ground our policies on the right to food - as a means to ensure adequate targeting, monitoring and accountability."

The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is an international network of more than 50 churches and Christian organizations committed to joint action on critical global issues.

Its members include, the Lutheran World Federation, World Alliance of YMCAs, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Tearfund, Catholic Relief Services, Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in West Africa, World Vision International, Norwegian Church Aid, the World YWCA, and Churches Health Association of Zambia.

For more information go to: EAA: http://www.e-alliance.ch/

The full text of the letter to the UN Secretary General, with signatures, can be found here: http://www.e-alliance.ch/en/s/food/unsgsignonletter/

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]

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