ICN2: Where a Pope, a Queen, a King, a Princess and Melinda Gates Come Together
ICN2 is not a new disease, it’s the bizarre acronym for the Second International Conference on Nutrition, held in Rome, 19-21 November 2014, at FAO Headquarters. Anyone familiar with the United Nations “alphabet soup” won’t be surprised. And in spite of this unpromising name, it drew over 2,200 participants, many from civil society, and delegations from over 170 countries, most of them headed by Ministers of Health – again, no surprise as the Conference was organized jointly by FAO and the World Health Organization.
It also drew the Pope, Queen Letizia of Spain, King Letsie III of Lesotho, Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein from the United Arab Emirates and Melinda Gates.
In the photo: Queen Letizia of Spain - ©FAO/Alessandra Benedetti
Pope Francis made a memorable address (he spoke in Spanish) and was interrupted by applause several times. He told the Conference that access to food is a basic human right that shouldn’t be subject to market speculation. “We ask for dignity, not charity” he said, drawing applause. A little later, possibly deviating from his written text as he raised his eyes and spoke ex-tempore, he said, “God always forgives.” Then he paused, adding with a knowing smile, “Man forgives sometimes.” He paused again, looked around and finished, “but the Earth never forgives!”. He made it very clear: the Earth will not forgive the abuse of its resources for profit. This was also a dramatic and entirely new way to draw attention to an increasing issue and potentially a devastating one – the impact of Climate Change on nutrition - if we do nothing to “respect the Earth”.
No doubt about it, International Conferences on Nutrition seem to inspire Popes. At the first Conference, held in 1992, also in Rome and in FAO, another Pope made History: this was Pope John Paul II who used a phrase that became famous, the “paradox of plenty”, to decry a world of food abundance where the poor were denied access to food and died of hunger. And in that respect, as Pope Francis noted, little has changed. The poor are still denied access.
In the photo: Address by His Holiness Pope Francis. Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), FAO Headquarters (Plenary Hall) ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano
The Conference also inspired princess Haya Bint Al Hussein to share her experience of visiting a hospital ward in Malawi and coming face to face with the drama of hunger. There, she witnessed the harrowing death of...
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