Caritas says the Charter of Milan doesn’t hear the poor

The Charter of Milan will be presented to the United Nations secretary general on World Food Day, but Caritas says that the charter lacks teeth and offers a limited approach to solving global hunger.

The Charter of Milan is a manifesto developed during the EXPO 2015 – the World’s Fair on Food which opened in Milan in May this year. The document calls on all citizens, companies and institutions who sign it to assume their responsibility in ensuring that future generations can enjoy the right to food.

Caritas says that the charter would be a more effective document in mobilising the world against hunger if it included a call to focus on issues which directly affect people experiencing hunger, especially in low-income countries. Some of these issues include market speculation, land grabbing, GMOs, seed patents and the loss of biodiversity.

Pope Francis highlighted the impact of big business, GMOs, waste and consumerism on hunger in his encyclical Laudato Si’. The letter calls on every person on the planet to care for the world and ensure that its fruits are destined for everyone.

“Food is a fundamental human right which isn’t protected for millions of people,” says Michel Roy, secretary general of Caritas Internationals. “Efforts to solving hunger need to be based on fixing unjust economic and social structures. The Charter of Milan doesn’t seem to address the fundamental role that a lack of justice plays in perpetuating hunger in many countries. It reflects the views of wealthy countries rather than representing the world’s poor.”

“The Charter of Milan, recognizing the right to food as a fundamental right, has without a doubt the merit of putting the fight against hunger at the centre of public debate. This is an issue that the Church, with its participation in Expo, has underlined during its time with various initiatives. However, the Charter is an inadequate document: it only represents a starting point, not a goal,” said Luciano Gualzetti, deputy director of Caritas Ambrosiana and Deputy Commissioner of the Pavilion of the Holy See.

A Caritas survey, conducted as part of Caritas’ global One Human Family, Food for All campaign, said that the top three causes of food insecurity are lack of resources such as land, seeds, loans, access to markets for small-scale farmers, low agricultural productivity and the impact of climate change.

The survey concluded that the best way to beat hunger on a global scale is help small-scale farmers – especially in adapting to climate change.

Around the world, Caritas organisations are partnering with communities to support small-scale farmers, to help them improve access to agricultural resources such as seeds, tools, adequate land and markets.

In Nithi County in Kenya, Mugendi is a farmer who had seen changes to the climate in his region for many years. “The amount of rainfall received is less than usual. The weather is hotter than usual, and the patterns are unpredictable,” he said. These changes forced him to abandon his land several years ago and seek employment elsewhere. However two years ago, he was able to return to his land when he joined the Caritas Meru programme which helps farmers in the community improve their food supply by adapting to the changing climate.

Caritas’ campaign on ending hunger, One Human Family, Food for All will come to a close this year with a global vigil on 10 December. “Although the campaign is coming to an end, the global vigil will be a statement of continuing solidarity with brothers and sisters around the world who still struggle to have enough food to eat,” said Martina Liebsch, Policy and Advocacy Director for Caritas Internationalis. “Local communities from around the world are invited to join voices in prayer for an end to unjust structures, and an end to the scandal of hunger.”

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