MILAN (AP) — Pope Francis emphasized the right to food as fundamental in a video address Saturday to 500 experts starting work on a wide-ranging document aimed at raising awareness and proposing solutions to issues including hunger, obesity and food waste.
Francis said the paradox of abundance described by Pope John Paul II -- whereby there is food for everyone yet not everyone can eat -- continues to be an issue despite efforts by the international community.
The pope addressed a session of experts drafting the so-called Milan Charter that seeks commitments from governments, organizations and individuals during the Expo 2015 world fair to resolve such issues as ensuring food security, decreasing food waste and combatting both hunger and obesity. Italy is hosting the Expo 2015 from May 1-Oct. 31.
Francis urged the delegates to focus on resolving "the structural causes of poverty," not just emergencies, and to maintain the dignity of the individual at the heart of economic policy.
The Italian government intends the Milan charter to be the legacy of Expo 2015, increasing awareness of the universal right to a "healthy, safe and sufficient" food supply, Italian agriculture minister Maurizio Martina told the Associated Press.
The document will be presented to 145 agriculture ministers meeting in Milan in June for their contributions, and then presented in October, at the end of the Expo, to the U.N. secretary general.
"It should be very tight, with clear and precise commitments," Martina said.
The Milan Charter is not an intergovernmental protocol, like the Kyoto protocol on global warming, but participants said its reach beyond governments gives it potentially more power, by inspiring individuals to contribute to resolving issues surrounding food and nutrition.
"Done well, this is a good opportunity to get something done," to ensure everyone has access to a stable food supply, said Arif Husain, chief economist at the World Food Program. "It is about time we solved this."