The Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC) is pleased this year to join the national, regional and international community in the observance of World Food Day and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
Households here in the Caribbean and throughout most of the world are living with the reality of high food prices. Food, a basic necessity for life, is becoming more costly to obtain.
This situation is likely to place many families in the difficult position of having to make choices and compromises in ways they would not have had to do previously. It goes without saying that, in such circumstances, low income households will feel the severity of the impact the greatest.
The current assessment globally is that around 100 million people or more are likely to be pushed deeper into poverty as a result of the rising food prices. Moreover, it is anticipated that high prices will persist into the foreseeable future in spite of measures which are being put in place to address the situation.
It is without doubt a very disturbing phenomenon and should be taken as a call to heightened action at all levels.
The Caribbean Conference of Churches has noted that observance of World Food Day this year centres around the theme “World Food Security: The Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy”.
It is a focus which seeks to draw the attention of the global community to the impact of global warming - with its potential for more frequent and intense floods, storms, droughts and hurricanes - on farming, crop yields and agricultural production.
According to the Human Development Report 2007/2008, poor countries are particularly at risk, since climate disasters are heavily concentrated in those areas where most of the impoverished countries are located.
The Report points out that over 98 percent of the people affected by climate disasters annually between 2000 and 2004 lived in the developing world and that on average one in 19 persons from developing countries would likely have felt the impact of a climate disaster compared with one in 1,500 from the countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – a group which is also better able to adapt to some of the impact of climate change.
The situation is compounded by the increasing use of food crops, land and water to serve not the basic human need for nutrition and sustenance, but rather for use in the production of biofuels to meet changing energy demands primarily in industrialised countries. While the emergence of this market presents certain opportunities, from an ethical perspective something is clearly out of order when it is at the expense of food for human consumption.
The Caribbean Conference of Churches fully supports the various initiatives being taken at the community, national, regional and international levels to achieve food security.
We urge the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) to redouble their efforts to implement the measures agreed at the Twelfth Special Meeting on December 7, 2007 on Poverty and the Rising Cost of Living and at the 29th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government held from 1-4 July 2008, as well as the commitments expressed at the High Level Conference on World Food Security held in Rome in June of this year.
The situation of rising food prices draws attention in a special way to the circumstances of people who live in conditions of poverty.
The observance of International Day for the Eradication of Poverty assumes even greater importance this year which marks the midpoint in the implementation of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
According to the Millennium Development Goals Report 2008, Latin America and the Caribbean have advanced in a number of areas but there is still much work to be done if the overall goal of reducing poverty by half by 2015 is to be achieved.
In recognition of the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the theme for the commemoration this year is “Human Rights and Dignity of People Living in Poverty” and is an acknowledgement that in addition to being a development issue, poverty reduction is an ethical issue, one
that is closely linked to the promotion and protection of human rights and human security. Taken together with the very fundamental issue of the dignity of the human person, these questions of rights, security and quality of life constitute a profound moral challenge which, if ignored, can only serve to perpetuate the insidious erosion of the moral fabric of our societies already so advanced in many instances.
International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is a reminder to all of their obligation to help meet the material needs of people living in conditions of poverty.
These conditions drastically diminish the quality of life of such persons and are an affront to human dignity. For its part, the Caribbean Conference of Churches wishes to thank those individuals and agencies who have supported our work over the years.
In keeping with our mandate to promote social change in obedience to the Gospel and in solidarity with the poor, we have undertaken to intensify our programmatic initiatives in the areas of food security and poverty reduction. We salute all men and women of goodwill in our region – at all levels – who are working in the service of the poor.
International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is also an opportunity to reflect upon the special witness that people living in poverty offer by the very simplicity of their lifestyle.
Moderation, cooperation, generosity and the acknowledgement that certain fundamental aspects of life exceed control by our own efforts alone are enduring values of which we are reminded. It is an occasion to reconsider our attitudes to the excessive accumulation of wealth, greed and individualism.
It is also an opportunity for us to recall that while there have been advances, women still constitute the majority of the world’s poor.
In addition, according to the Millennium Development Goals Report 2008, almost two thirds of employed women in the developing world are in vulnerable jobs as own-account or unpaid family workers.
May the observance of World Food Day and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty reignite in our hearts a burning desire to strive for greater food security in the Caribbean. May these celebrations fire us with the inspiration to make the eradication of poverty in our region a reality.
Gerard A. J. Granado
Caribbean Conference of Churches
October 15, 2008