The Holy See
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Bamako, Mali
Tuesday, 31 January 2006


Mr Chairman,
Mr Director General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. In addressing this 24th FAO Regional Conference for Africa, I wish first of all to express to you, Mr Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Mali, the congratulations of the Holy See Delegation on your election as Chairman, accompanied by gratitude for the kind hospitality which your Government has extended to our meeting.

I should also like to avail myself of this opportunity to renew to the Director General, Mr Jacques Diouf, the expression of our respectful and sincere support in his responsibilities. In so doing I confirm the attention of the Holy See to his efforts aimed at an ever greater effectiveness in the activities of the FAO, also through a special attention to the African situation, particularly with reference to the African less-developed Countries.

My presence in this high-level meeting wishes to confirm the interest which the Holy See takes in all the FAO's initiatives, including those at the regional level. The participation, in fact, permits the Holy See not only to know more directly the different agricultural problems and the livelihoods of rural communities, but also to encourage the member Countries of the Region and the FAO staff in the fulfilment of the responsibilities aimed at guaranteeing appropriate food security. This is undoubtedly important for the fundamental objectives of freeing individuals and communities from hunger and malnutrition.

2. The Delegation of the Holy See, with reference to the main items of the agenda, desires to offer her own contribution of ideas.

In her international presence, the Holy See is motivated exclusively by the desire to render a service to the human family as a whole. Therefore, she wishes to confirm a constructive interest in the cause of the human person, the attention to his or her fundamental needs, beginning with the primary right to nourishment that is an essential component of the right to life.

The protection of life, in all circumstances, reflects the goal of protecting the most defenceless, as well as those who cannot protect themselves. In this sense the Holy See encourages all actions - at internal or international level - oriented to safeguarding life by rules and programmes. At the same time she exhorts all men and women to loyally uphold the positive respect for life as a main assumption of the natural order in which everyone fully realizes his or her fundamental dignity in a spiritual and material perspective.

The great importance of this comprehensive dimension of human life is based, today as well, on specific African values and cultures. Therefore, intergovernmental cooperation, including the cooperation implemented across the African continent, is requested to grant traditional heritage and not to implement, through rules or programmes, explicit affirmation and practices against life.

3. An inclusive approach to international cooperation is necessary for development and growth of peoples and countries. In this perspective, the necessity which seems to emerge from the agenda of this Conference is that of giving to the FAO's activities in Africa an even more consistent motivation, which does not stop at the technical data, but is able to reinvigorate it through an ethical standpoint. The African Countries, in closely cooperation with FAO, are called to develop strategies capable to build sustainable livelihoods, environment, income growth, food security and agricultural production, but reflecting first of all on how people can move out and remain outside of underdevelopment.

In this regard we consider of great relevance the attainment in the Region of the Millennium Development Goals in order to eradicate poverty and malnutrition, an objective which seems to manifest the essential necessity that every action in the agricultural and food sector be reinforced, and above all be re-thought, in the light of the real imbalances which the situation presents. This is accomplished by taking into account the different experiences and customary systems or practices that come from authentic African values.

4. Particularly FAO has invited us to consider the importance of African seeds for increasing agricultural production and the nutritional programmes in the Region. This is to be done while considering the challenges represented by seed industries with their legal and technical protection which restrict access to biodiversity supply. Many traditional food-crops generally have high importance in the food traditions and in the economic processes, as indicated by the farming system, methods of cultivation, production, trade and consumption. Moreover, today we can recognize the role of the strategy of seed conservation and management wisely proposed by FAO with the special African See and Biotechnology Programme, involved in the common action to alleviate poverty and malnutrition.

In fact, it seems to us that the situation of food insecurity is becoming more serious. This is due to the growth of systems of production that are more and more linked to the land tenure and policy, large-scale methods, and environmental degradation, which for agriculture concerns Inter alia the land degradation and the water scarcity. In the perspective of these challenges, it becomes always more necessary to develop convergent action through the Platform of the next International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development, as well as with the strategies planned by New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) in providing technical assistance for capacity building to promote the development of farmers' communities.

Mr Chairman,

5. In realizing this particular effort, I should like to confirm the availability of the Catholic Church, in its various sectors and institutions to cooperate in the activities of humanization in the realities of hunger, underdevelopment and poverty. Allow me here to recall the much appreciated work of men and women, religious and laity, who devote their lives not only to the announcement of our doctrine, but also to a patient and perseverant work of social and educational assistance. A support which would be considered not only as logistical, but also a source of ideal and programmatic inspiration.

In fact, in guaranteeing to every person the possibility of having an adequate and qualitative standard of food security, each of us becomes a participant in the great design of Creation and has the opportunity to plant values before interests, according the fundamental principles of humanity and justice.

Thank you.

*L’Osservatore Romano, 9.2.2006 p.2.