Pope Francis hails FAO role in new Mediterranean migration initiative

José Graziano da Silva briefs pontiff on the Blue Hope Initiative, impact of El Niño

23 June 2016, Rome - Pope Francis in a meeting today with FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva praised the agency's efforts to address migration in the Mediterranean region as well as its work to promote the strong links between peace and food security, climate change and sustainable development.

Graziano da Silva briefed the pontiff on FAO's Blue Hope Initiative which seeks to transform Southern Mediterranean coastal zone communities into engines of stability and growth, in particular by supporting the activities of small-scale fisheries.

 "Migration is an issue which is very close to Pope Francis' heart. Much more needs to be done to tackle what is happening in the Mediterranean where more than 2,500 people are estimated to have died so far this year in attempts to reach Europe by sea," the FAO Director-General said after today's meeting.

The pontiff and Graziano da Silva also discussed the current peace efforts underway in Colombia and in the Central African Republic and the hope that lasting solutions will be found for the conflict in the two countries.

Boosting rural development to counter migration

In his discussion with the pontiff, Graziano da Silva outlined FAO's belief that increasing investments in food security, sustainable rural development and in efforts to adapt agriculture to climate change, will help create the conditions whereby people, especially the youth, will no longer be forced to abandon their lands in order to seek a better life elsewhere.

He described to Pope Francis FAO's position on the issue of migration and the agency's role in efforts aimed at achieving the international community's Sustainable Development Goals, including the eradication of hunger by 2030.

Graziano da Silva also informed Pope Francis of his concern over the impact that the El Niño climate event is having on large swathes of the globe, such as severe drought and flooding. The UN's High Level Task Force on Global Food and Nutrition Security, of which Graziano da Silva is Vice-Chair, on Wednesday held a special discussion on El Niño.

The FAO Director-General informed the pontiff that FAO will be hosting two high-level meetings to examine the extent of El Niño on Central America's Dry Corridor and in Africa, Asia and the Pacific on 30 June and 6 July 2016 respectively.

The FAO Director-General noted how around the world, climate change is putting at risk the livelihoods of millions of small-scale family farmers, many of whom are heavily dependent on subsistence agriculture.

Graziano da Silva stressed that responding to the impacts climate change requires investing in improving poor rural communities' ability to access land, credit and other resources while also ensuring they are provided with basic services like water, sanitation, health, education, transport infrastructure and electricity.

Pope Francis, for his part, expressed concern with the current bureaucracy in international organizations and said that within the UN system they should work more for the benefit of their member states.

Photo: © L
Pope Francis meets FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva