By Martina Liebsch, Caritas Internationalis Policy and Advocacy Director
I start with a loaf of bread: Our daily bread. We need to share it and more importantly provide people the seeds, knowledge and resources to grow it in an often hostile environment. At Mass following the opening day of the Future without Hunger Congress in Vienna, we were reminded by Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez that we should be bringing light to people. This light might be still small but if enough people share it, it will become bright.
At the Rio+20 Conference 20-22 June, world leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups, will come together to shape how we can reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection on an ever more crowded planet to get to the future we want.
Caritas will send a message to Rio+20 based on the Future without Hunger Congress in Vienna. Our slogan for Rio will be about hunger in the future: “We all hunger for justice, equality, environmental sustainability and co-responsibility”. And no surprise that the first point in our message will be that we want a future without hunger.
Cardinal Schönborn asked for the planned cuts in bilateral development aid not to be implemented by the Austrian Government, and this is what we would fully subscribe and ask for other governments to do the same.
Michael Hauser, Head of the Institute for Development Research in Vienna University and Marcela Villareal of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) highlighted how little of development aid, just a bit more than 4 percent, is spent on agriculture. It became clear that if we want to fight hunger more has to be invested in agriculture.
Kristalina Georgieva, EU Commissioner for International said we can only do it together, supra national bodies, governments and civil society. And I would say we have to overcome some walls to engage in true dialogue.
We want to have a future with a vision. The UN’s anti-poverty targets the Millennium Development Goals (MDG s) were such a vision in the year 2000. We do not want them just to be substituted by a new set of goals, they must be upheld and enhanced by innovation. More importantly we want to have a participatory process to design a new framework after 2015, where the voice of those concerned are listened to. This was underlined by Marina Ponti, European Director of the UN Millennium Campaign.
Third point on our Rio agenda: We need a new global social contract, which takes into account our interdependence and different needs of men and women. In this contract, people would accept and subscribe to their social responsibility for their neighbours, their brothers and sisters in the world, as Fr. Ambroise Tine from Caritas Senegal said.
We realise that women are a power and need to be empowered. Investment in rural women especially is paramount. If we invest in education, in knowledge about their rights, in improving their rights and in access to tools and resources we could have 117 million less hungry people in this world. Mobilise them, provide them with equal opportunities were the messages coming from Shimray Mungreiphy of Caritas India and Jane Magigita of Equality for Growth, Tanzania. And the cases they shared perfectly echo what was highlighted by Tesfai Tecle special advisor to Kofi Annan. A multidimensional approach is needed and we have to invest in people.
We also heard that building capacity and creating opportunities for small scale farmers are key to fight hunger and a good development strategy.
In one of the panels a person stood up and asked: How many people from the finance or business sector were attending the Congress. Very few showed their hands. Thank you, she said, that is nice that you are here. We need to engage more people and we need to talk to those we usually do not talk to.
‘Political will’ and ‘change of mindsets’ and ‘mobilisation’ were other key words or phrases. We should not leave the future only up to political leaders , but we should built the future we want ourselves. Let’s take the bread and share it and let’s take the light and spread it, with our colleagues, volunteers, like minded defenders, brothers and sisters around the world.
We don’t have time for ‘business as usual’. Let’s start doing.