A written statement from the Anglican Consultative Council has been listed as one of the official documents of the 54th Session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development. The session commences on Monday 19th April and has a special focus on population, food security, nutrition and sustainable development. Only twenty civil society statements submitted by accredited NGOs are accepted, indicating the value the ACC statement is felt to have to the international community.
The statement, which was written by the Anglican Communion Office at the UN team (ACOUN) with input from the Anglican Alliance, gives examples from across the Communion of how food security is being impacted by both climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic. It describes the myriad ways Anglicans are responding to these challenges, with examples from every region of the Communion. The statement also highlights the Anglican Alliance’s Resilience course, run in collaboration with Episcopal Relief & Development, which is proving extremely popular and effective.
The statement is reproduced below and can also be found here.
Jillian Abballe, the Advocacy Manager and Head of New York Office of the ACOUN, said, “The Commission on Population and Development (CPD) is an important space for governments, UN agencies and other stakeholders to discuss the impact of population dynamics on development. It is also an opportunity for civil society organizations to be involved in population and development policy and follow-up, through their advocacy at the UN and with their national governments.
“Sadly, governments have failed to reach consensus on an outcome document at the CPD for several years now, signalling a breakdown in global solidarity on some of the most pressing issues we face. We truly hope that the devastating impact of COVID 19 on food security and sustainable development will compel UN member states to sustain their efforts, diligently work towards an agreement, and signal to all countries and stakeholders that these issues deserve urgent attention–if not now, then when?”
Elizabeth Perry, the Anglican Alliance’s Advocacy and Communication Manager, said, “As the Alliance we connect with churches and Anglican agencies working in humanitarian response and development across the Communion. We know the grass roots stories. The UN team has been able to share some of those stories in this statement, which is an important piece of advocacy into the highest levels of global governance. I love that, as a Communion, as a body, we connect across the whole world with reach from local communities to the United Nations – and that we have so much good news to share! Let’s pray that the statement will inspire its recipients to urgent, focused action.”
Written Statement from the Anglican Consultative Council, April 2021
The Anglican Communion is the world’s third largest Christian communion, comprised of 41 provinces across 165 countries representing 85 million members, all working in various capacities to transform unjust structures of society, challenge violence, pursue peace and reconciliation, safeguard creation and act in loving service. The Anglican Consultative Council welcomes the theme of the 54th Session of the Commission on Population and Development.
A 2019 United Nations report stated that 821 million people suffered from hunger, while also facing increasing income inequality and economic downturns. In addition to ending hunger, achieving food security is critical to reducing vulnerabilities and promoting the health and sustainability of communities. Unfortunately, climate change, conflict, and socioeconomic shocks related to the COVID-19 pandemic have destabilised communities and threaten our ability to ensure food accessibility and proper nutrition for many around the world. Sustainable, adaptable and resilient forms of agriculture and farming must be implemented more widely, intentionally and urgently, so that communities can adapt to potential shocks and stressors, avoid impoverishment, and lead healthy lives.
Called to respond to human need by loving service, Anglicans and churches across the world are enabling sustainable nutrition and food security, supporting Agenda 2030 and the vision to leave no one behind. Based on experiences of churches rooted in communities and Anglican agencies working in humanitarian response and development, the Anglican Consultative Council submits the following priorities and recommendations to the Commission:
Impact of climate change on food security
Building resilience is vital to combating food insecurity in a world deeply affected by climate change. While climate change affects all countries and people, low-lying island states are disproportionately impacted. They are often doubly vulnerable, relying on agriculture for both sustenance and economic security. Increases in climate-related natural disasters and rising sea levels have damaged the homes and crops of the most vulnerable, leaving them at high risk of food insecurity and poverty. This also leads them to be dependent on imported goods, shifting them away from their traditionally nutritious diets and towards a diet of largely processed food. As a result, communities have seen unprecedented health complications like obesity, diabetes and childhood malnutrition.
Local populations must be connected to resources, strategies, and food sources that fulfil their nutritional requirements and mitigate the impact of climate- and health-related disasters. Churches are responding to this need. For example, the Anglican Church of Melanesia (covering the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia), launched a food security initiative in 2010 in response to devastation to the region’s crops caused by coastal inundation, floods and cyclones. The initiative distributes salt-water tolerant seedlings to various parts of Melanesia, educates farmers on the effects of climate change on their crops, and establishes protected and elevated nurseries that can withstand storms. The Anglican Consultative Council urges investment in climate resilient sustainable agriculture that reduces disaster risk, withstands climate-related changes, and ensures proper nutrition for a country’s population.
The consequences of COVID-19 on population and nutrition
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted the poorest and most vulnerable and exacerbated hunger and food insecurity across the world. Mandatory lockdowns have delayed harvest, leaving many seasonal workers without livelihoods, with rural women and indigenous people particularly affected. COVID-19 is stretching the capacity of health care systems and hospitals, often shifting resources and care away from those suffering from other illnesses like malnutrition. Initiatives led by faith communities such as food banks and distribution as well as other forms of aid have provided sustenance and relief for those in crisis, addressing the exacerbated vulnerabilities left in the wake of the pandemic.
Examples of responses from across the Anglican Communion abound as churches and faith communities seek to address the risk of growing food insecurity. In South Africa, the Anglican Church has worked with the government in the poorest communities to identify and deliver food to those most in need. In Brazil, the Diocese of the Amazon has supported indigenous communities especially vulnerable to COVID-19. In Jordan, churches have connected with shop keepers to obtain and distribute food parcels for Iraqi refugees. In Malaysia, churches have supported feeding programmes for migrant communities with no access to government provisions. Churches in the United States, India, Uganda, and the Middle East, among other places, launched a range of initiatives to support vulnerable people with feeding programmes, including the homeless. In the Philippines, churches commissioned out-of-work garment workers to sew Personal Protective Equipment for health workers. Following the principles of asset-based community development, churches are connecting farmers with unsold produce to cooperatives running community kitchens. Church buildings are also being used for processing food packs from the government and other aid organisations.
In these ways and more, churches have creatively and compassionately mobilised to meet the needs of communities affected by COVID-19 and its consequences, especially those out of reach of state and civic organisations, and should be key partners in ongoing recovery efforts. It is recognized that the devastating impact of the pandemic on livelihoods and food security, especially in those countries facing compounding challenges of changed weather patterns and failed harvests, will need a massive, multi-sectoral response.
Supporting resilience to end food insecurity
The Anglican Consultative Council praises efforts across the United Nations system to enhance the resilience of vulnerable communities to food insecurity, particularly in less-developed countries. Achieving enduring food security requires us to go beyond addressing hunger. It depends heavily on the construction of resilient, self-sustaining infrastructure. Populations should be supported to develop resilient and sustainable farming methods to grow their own food and support their livelihood. Churches serve as safe spaces to share experiences and knowledge; thus, they play an important role in providing education and resources to create this infrastructure.
The Anglican Alliance, an umbrella organisation that brings together Anglican agencies and churches working in relief, development, and advocacy across the world, has developed the “Partners in Resilience and Response” initiative to share experience and best practice on resilience across the Anglican Communion. For example, Anglican churches across Zimbabwe, using a range of participatory processes, are enabling their communities to be more resilient to climate and socio-economic shocks and stressors. In January 2018, church leaders from across Zimbabwe participated in a Church and Community Mobilisation Process led by the Mothers’ Union. Participants gathered to explore and share experiences on what it means for individuals and communities to be resilient. The process has catalyzed individual and group projects that have increased household income, improved nutrition and self-reliance, decreased gender-based violence by supporting female income-earners, and strengthened relationships within the community. Decreased financial concerns have led to the spiritual growth of communities as they contribute to their collective well-being.
The Anglican Alliance has recently launched the Resilience Course, an online course for churches and communities across the Anglican Communion. The course offers an opportunity for clergy, lay, and practitioners to share learning, gain skills and exchange best practices for building resilience and to enhance their churches and communities’ ability to respond to a disaster. Church leaders from different parts of the world are thus enabled to build solutions together, while strengthening relationships and networks.
In light of the experiences of Anglican churches and agencies working across humanitarian response and development to address food insecurity, hunger, and malnutrition, and our contributions to sustainable development and Agenda 2030, the Anglican Consultative Council urges Member States, UN agencies, and civil society to:
- Renew commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals and accelerate action to fully achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 by 2030, with an immediate focus on the devastating impact of COVID-19 and providing food aid to the most vulnerable.
- Recognise the positive role of faith communities in contributing to food security and ensuring balanced nutrition of communities, and consider them key stakeholders and partners in humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding efforts, achieving Agenda 2030, as well as in combating the multi-faceted impacts of COVID-19.
- Include Agenda 2030 and food security in national development plans, encouraging the reduction of food waste and loss, as well as supporting farming and agriculture as economically and environmentally sustainable practices, paying increased attention to the needs of women and girls, especially indigenous women and women living in poverty.
- Commit to combating food insecurity in collaboration with other stakeholders which should include support for small farmers, investments in sustainable agricultural infrastructure, social protections for workers, and providing education for farmers on climate- and disaster-resilient, sustainable agricultural practices.
- Incentivise sustainable farming as an economically viable livelihood, especially for young people whose livelihoods have been severely impacted by the pandemic, by encouraging young people to enter agriculture through rural financing options, creating opportunities in the sector, and ensuring the accessibility and affordability of healthy food.
The Anglican Alliance exists to connect, equip and inspire the worldwide Anglican family of churches and agencies to work for a world free of poverty and injustice and to safeguard creation. Food security and sustainable livelihoods are key parts of our three priorities, which are:
- Responding to the most vulnerable –working to end modern slavery & human trafficking; responding to refugees and migrants; supporting people affected by disasters and conflict, including the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Promoting equality – supporting the empowerment of women and youth, including sustainable livelihoods and gender justice and ending gender-based violence.
- Building a just and sustainable world – advocating for climate justice, sharing strategies to mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change and to ensure food security.