17 April 2009


Since world food prices began to soar in 2007, an additional 100 million people have been dragged into extreme poverty. The situation has been exacerbated by the global financial crisis, to the point where the United Nations now warns that for the first time ever, up to 1 billion people are at risk of starvation.

Caritas Australia has recently released a report examining food shortages around the world. The report advocates a clear focus on the right to food and looks at the complex and interrelated environmental, social and economic factors of the food crisis and what can be done. Copies of the report can be downloaded at the above website.

In a related statement Caritas CEO Jack de Groot pointed out that "International bailouts from the financial crisis have exceed $4 trillion USD, yet an increase of about $50 billion per year would ensure we meet the Millennium Development Goals

Nevertheless despite the global economic crisis, soaring food prices and reports that millions more people joined the ranks of the undernourished in 2008, key experts at a major food aid conference earlier this month shared a tangible optimism that both the will and means are now at hand to attack and even possibly conquer world hunger.

According to an article in the National Catholic Reporter grounds for this cautious optimism can be found in an improved efficiency in collaboration and communication, advances in technology, greater expertise in understanding the roots of hunger within funding agencies and the emerging will to combat global hunger as exhibited by leading nations, including those who gathered early this month in London for the G-20 summit.


Earlier this month the Australian government endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples thereby reversing the position adopted by the previous government.

Representatives of the three United Nations Mechanisms with specific mandates regarding the rights of indigenous peoples welcomed Australia’s decision in a joint statement which said in part:

"The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the UN General Assembly by an overwhelming majority of Member States in September 2007, with only four States voting against. We are pleased that Australia, as one of the four States originally voting against the adoption of the Declaration, today joins the ranks of States supporting the principles and rights enshrined in the Declaration.

The rights recognized in the Declaration constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world."


The recent celebration of Romani culture on International Roma day (8th April) again drew attention to the discrimination directed at Roma and Gypsy communities globally, but in Europe in particular.

According to Amnesty International Roma are often victims of forced evictions, racist attacks and police ill-treatment and are denied their rights to housing, employment, healthcare and education.

Living predominantly on the margins of society, Roma are among the most deprived communities in Europe. In some countries, they are prevented from obtaining citizenship and personal documents required for social insurance, health care and other benefits.

Romani children are frequently unjustifiably placed in 'special schools' where curtailed curricula limit their possibilities for fulfilling their potential.

The Presentation Brothers have recently commenced an outreach to the Roma community in eastern Slovakia.


The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva has once again passed a resolution proposed by Islamic countries which urges the creation of laws in member states to prevent criticism of religion (namely, Islam).

Members of the Human Rights Council voted 23 in favour of a resolution recently to combat "defamation of religion." Eleven nations, mostly from the West, opposed the resolution and 13 countries abstained.

The resolution is not binding, but versions of it have been passed repeatedly by the Council, at which Muslim countries and their supporters have a built-in majority.

The head of the Vatican permanent observer mission of the Holy See to the UN Archbishop Silvano Tomasi explained the opposition of the Holy See to the resolution, noting that this seemingly good initiative can bring negative consequences.

He stated that the concept of "defamation of religion" must be clarified, as "it can be used to justify laws against blasphemy that, as we well know, are used in some States to attack religious minorities, including violently." The archbishop further asserted that at present the Christian community is the most discriminated against in the world.(see the latest "Report on Religious Liberty in the World" published by Aid to the Church in Need.

In speaking of the struggle against religious defamation Archbishop Tomasi stated "the challenge consists in finding a healthy balance, which harmonizes one's liberty with respect for others' feelings, and the path to attain this objective begins with acceptance of the fundamental principles of liberty, which are inscribed in international treaties."

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