The World Food Summit and its follow-up

Source : D.E.EP. (Development Education Exchange Papers) December 1997

Governments are requested under Commitment Seven of the Summit Plan of Action to launch national Food for All Campaigns in co-operation with civil society. A unit in FAO - the Office for Liaison with National Committees (GIDN) - is offering advice and assistance to all member countries, partners and players wishing to constitute a national forum for enhancing public awareness and political will and for mobilizing adequate actions and resources to achieve food security for all. It is expected that broad consultations will initiate at the national level and be reflected at regional and global levels in order to set up the status, role, composition and main objectives of the national fora which should be based on the priorities emerging in the national strategy papers for implementing the World Food Summit Plan of Action.

A national eminent person, preferably no longer active in politics or administration and well known for his or her competence in rural development and/or dedication to alleviate hunger and malnutrition, could be identified in each country to spearhead the campaign and, more particularly, the forum. NGOs that participated in the preparation of the World Food Summit and the NGO Forum in Rome in November 1996 are expected to play a key role in the establishment of national fora and in helping to create an international enabling environment for achieving universal food security. They are therefore welcome to provide FAO (GIDN) with their views and suggestions in this regard.

1998, Moroccan experts are likely to assist farmers in Burkina Faso and the Niger. An increasing number of governments and financial institutions are offering soft loans for the pilot activities. The ball is rolling and TeleFood has given it a push.

Review of FAO's policy of co-operation with NGOs
One important strand of the reform of FAO undertaken since 1994 has been a recognition of the need to concentrate on those roles and functions which FAO is best placed to perform, and to broaden links and build co-operation with others. The creation of the Unit for Co-operation with the Private Sector and NGOs (TCDN) was one institutional reflection of the policy orientation towards outreach. In 1996 the Director-General requested TCDN to undertake a thorough review of FAO's policy and strategy of co-operation with NGOs, building on past and current experience in order to provide a solid, Organization-wide bases for harnessing the renewed energy and interest on the part of civil society organizations (CSOs) that the World Food Summit was expected to stimulate.

The review has ben carried out in close consultation with a broad variety of NGOs in all regions. Their views and expectations have been synthesized in a paper entitled FAO's Co-operation with NGOs, which was widely distributed at the NGO focal points has been established to share experience and stimulate reflection. Input has been sought from field offices and each technical department has undertaken its own policy issues requiring attention at the Organization-wide level and to identifying priorities and concrete opportunities for working with NGOs in the medium term in the specific technical areas of concern to them.

The results of these separate exercises are now being brought together and the output is expected to be available early in 1998. This will include a policy statement to be issued by the FAO Director-General and a programme document to be discussed with civil society organizations in the course of 1998, which will propose co-operation in four areas: field programmes, policy dialogue, exchange of information and promoting public awareness, and mobilization of resources. Underlying all of these is the fundamental issue of FAO's role in helping to define appropriate divisions of responsibilities and to promote dialogue and collaboration among governments, CSOs and other actors.

NGOs, organise for action
NGOs, regionally and globally, made 1997 a year to consolidate the networking begun at the NGO Forum and the FAO Regional Conferences in 1996. They came together in meetings, strengthened their food security networks and identified the major events of the next three years where the civil society voice for food security needs to be heard.

The Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ANGOC) held a regional meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, from 5 to 8 August 1997, which drew up a plan of action for World Food Summit follow-up on the part of Southeast Asian NGOs. This included calling for a food security clause in the review of the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, joining the campaign for reform of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a focus on regional institutions (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation Council and the Asian Development Bank), supporting national policies of food self-reliance (to reduce "food kilometres" - the distance between where food is produced and where it is consumed) and a baseline survey in 200 villages in ten countries in order to compare food security indicators after five and ten years.

More than 50 women and men attended a five-day meeting of the South Asian Network on Food, Ecology and Culture (SANFEC) held in Tangail, Bangladesh, from 18 to 22 August 1997). The meeting saw the pursuit of ecological agriculture as the only way out of the hunger still suffered by 500 million people in South Asia, despite the claims of the green revolution. It underlinedthe importance of culture for food security - food items are not simply commodities or consumer goods - and looked forward to the day when "culture will become our currency". The rights to common property resources must be ensured, including the rights of women, indigenous peopleand other marginal groups to land and resources. The meeting reiterated that food production and command over the market must remain in the hands of small farmers.

During the NGO Forum, 112 African NGO participants from 25 countries came together to set up an African NGO continental platform. The provisional bureau of this platform, known as the African Organisations Coalition for Food Security - Sovereignty and Sustainable Development (COASAD), met in Tunis in June 1997 to devise an initial workplan, centred on a launch meeting expected to take place in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, in January 1998. NGOs from all African Countries, as well as existing networks specialising in food security, ar to be invited. Noting that Africa is the only region where poverty is increasing and per caput food availability is falling, COASAD is calling for a more favourable policy environment and increased budgetary resources for agriculture so that an agricultural strategy built on the grassroots experience of farmers, including women, can become the motor of economic growth. The Coalition aims to fill the gap created by the lack of communication and information among African NGOs and public opinion.

In a subregional initiative, the Forum of Sahelian Societies met in Banjul, the Gambia, in September 1997. It presented to the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS) Council of Ministers a confident vision of the future for the promotion of human resources and access by all to basic rights, reinforcement of institutional capacities, rapid and sustainable development of food production, economic integration open to Africa and the world. The Forum called on Sahelian governments to recognize the growing role of social and economic actors, co-operating with a state fulfilling its essential functions and delegating other tasks to local and professional groups : "The positioning of economic and social actors at national and regional level and through platforms of women, young people, parliamentarians, NGOs, rural producers, economic operators and journalists must allow them to become responsible partners, capable of dialogue with the state."

The Food Security Group of the Liaison Committee of Development NGOs to the European Union (EU) renewed its membership in 1997 and began work on the follow-up to the World Food Summit, implementation of the 1996 EU food security regulation and coherence between the EU's development, agriculture and trade policies. It is keeping in touch with the co-ordination of NGOs in Central and Eastern Europe which was active during the Summit. In the United States, the World Food Day Committee marked 16 October with its 14th annual televised conference featuring participants from overseas NGOs and FAO; United States and Canadian NGOs continued to work together on the Summit follow-up.

Representatives from the International Youth Forum for the World Food Summit, held in November 1996 with 500 participants from 130 countries, took part in a follow-up meeting in Rome in October 1997 and agreed to set up a permanent secretariat as well as appointing official representatives at the national level. The Popular Coalition against Hunger and Poverty, created at the World Conference on Hunger and Poverty in Brussels in November 1995, will hold on assembly in Rome in February 1998, in parallel with the 20th anniversay meeting of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

The NGO Forum at the World Summit did not agree on any global follow-up. It was observed that any new global network might need to arise from the points of energy identified at the Forum, in particular the regional and sectoral caucuses of NGOs. A regional meeting of Latin American and Caribbean food security networks was convened in Brasilia in August 1997, and, in the same week, a global meeting of networks of the South took place with the participation of some Northern partners. The 14 people's movements and networks at the Latin American and Caribbean assembly agreed that the focus of their co-operation would be to prepare civil society participation in the revision of the WTO agreements, integrated with follow-up of the World Food Summit and related international conferences. They agreed to establish a Latin American and Caribbean Forum on Nutrition and Food Security.

The 26 representatives of regional networks from five continents gathered at the global meeting decided to create the Global Forum on Sustainable Food and Nutritional Security - with a strong Southern perspective. Its three central themes are the achievement of sustainable food security at the national level, participation in the review on the WTO agreements and the follow-up of the food security commitments made by governments at international conferences, especially the World Food Summit. The Global Forum is essentially a collection of tasks (and task forces) held together by a light superstructure. In addition to fund-raising, the key tasks are :

  • compilation of case studies demonstrating the effects of WTO norms on food security;

  • elaboration of alternative global proposals;

  • compilation of a calendar of international activities affecting food security;

  • mapping of international initiatives (who is doing what?) in order to identify partners;

  • Increased participation and networking within the Forum.