[Source: FAO, November 1995]
The FAO Conference, at its 28th Session in October 1995, called for the convening of a World Food Summit at the level of Heads of State or Government, in Rome in November 1996. The Summit is aimed at renewing the commitment of world leaders at the highest level to the eradication of hunger and malnutrition and the achievement of food security for all, through the adoption of concerted policies and actions at global, regional and national level.
At the 1974 World Food Conference, governments examined the global problem of food production and consumption, and solemnly proclaimed that "every man, woman and child has the inalienable right to be free from hunger and malnutrition in order to develop their physical and mental faculties". However, more than twenty years later the goal of eradicating hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition "within a decade", as expressed by that Conference, has not been reached. Since the World Food Conference, a number of major conferences have addressed certain aspects related to food security in the context of their particular agendas; but world leaders at the highest level have not had the opportunity to assess the state of global food security and focus their attention specifically on securing the most basic of human needs: food.
Almost 800 million people in developing countries today face chronic malnutrition and 199 million children under the age of five suffer from acute or chronic protein and energy deficiencies. At present, as many as 88 nations fall into the category of low-income food-deficit countries (LIFDCs): 42 in Sub-Saharan Africa, 19 in Asia and the Pacific, 9 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 6 in the Near East/North Africa and 12 in Europe/Commonwealth of Independent States. At the same time, commitments of external assistance (bilateral and multilateral) to developing country agriculture are declining: they dropped from US$ 10 billion in 1982 to US$ 7.2 billion in 1992 (in constant 1985 US dollars).
Agriculture's share in total official development finance also fell from 24 percent to 16 percent over the same period. To make matters worse, fisheries resources are being overexploited and forests are being destroyed, with available arable land per caput currently at 0.25 hectare.
According to current estimates, by the year 2030 world population will rise from the present 5.7 billion to 8.7 billion. As population grows, per caput availability of arable land will decrease even further, thus heightening the need to intensify agricultural production and making greater demands on finite natural resources. If no action is taken to reverse the present trend, the number of chronically undernourished people may still be some 730 million by the year 2010, over 300 million of them in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Serious concern at this dismal situation has been expressed internationally on many occasions in recent years. In particular, at the 27th Session of the FAO Conference in November 1993, which met at the Ministerial level, Member Nations expressed "deep concern" at the present situation and the future prospect, and stressed that "the world's major problems in food, nutrition and sustainability require immediate action at national and international levels in order to attack the root causes of persistent food insecurity, notably the inadequate overall development and, particularly, agricultural and rural development".
Why a Summit?
Against this background, during 1994 the Director-General of FAO consulted a large number of Heads of State and Government and delegations from all regions, and found an emerging consensus on the need to convene a World Food Summit as early as possible in order to renew the commitment to achieving food security for all and agree upon effective policies and strategies dealing with the root causes of hunger and malnutrition in the 1990s and beyond the year 2000. The issue was considered serious and complex enough to be dealt with, for the first time in fifty years of existence of FAO, by the highest leaders of Member States, who have the authority, capacity and wisdom to provide guidance to face this daunting challenge.
The personal participation of Heads of State and Government in the Summit will mobilize all the government departments required to provide a comprehensive vision of the multifaceted dimensions of the food issue: not only the Ministers of Agriculture (who meet regularly every two years at the FAO Conference) and related technical departments (fisheries, forestry, environment, water resources, rural development), but also the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Trade, Economy, Development Cooperation.
The high visibility of a Summit will also be more effective in raising awareness at the level of policy and decision making in the public and private sectors, as well as among the media and the public at large.
What Is Expected From the Summit
The Summit is intended to provide a forum at the highest political level to address the need for global commitment and action to redress the most basic problem of mankind: food insecurity. It is expected to lead to the adoption of appropriate policies and strategies at international and national levels, as well as a plan of action for implementation by all parties concerned: governments, international institutions, and all sectors of civil society.
Since it will be a world summit, it will have a global perspective in dealing with all aspects of food security and will address the root causes of hunger and malnutrition in all parts of the world, while at the same time incorporating the specific regional dimensions of the problems and their solutions.
What the Summit Is Not
The Summit is not a pledging conference, nor is it aiming to create new financial mechanisms, institutions or bureaucracy. Each participating nation will consider independently how and what it might wish to contribute to the implementation of the policies, strategies and the plan of action that will be adopted by the Summit.
At the FAO Conference in October 1995, Members of FAO gave their unanimous approval to the proposal of the Director-General to convene the Summit. During the preceding months, growing support for the Summit had been confirmed by discussions at the 106th, 107th and 108th Sessions of the FAO Council and the FAO Regional Conferences, and by resolutions and recommendations adopted at numerous other intergovernmental meetings.
By November 1995, Heads of State or Government from 80 countries in all regions of the world had personally expressed to the Director-General, on the occasion of his official visits to their countries or during their visits to FAO and at high-level international meetings, their commitment to support the Summit. Resolutions or statements of support have been adopted in numerous fora.
More commitments of support are expected to follow. It is particularly important to add that the Government of Italy has confirmed its readiness to cooperate fully with FAO in organizing the World Food Summit and has pledged its material and diplomatic support to the Organization in this regard.
Dates of the Summit
The World Food Summit will take place in Rome from 13 to 17 November 1996. The Summit's format will allow for sequential statements by observers and government delegations, culminating in its second half with the interventions by Heads of State or Government. The Summit will be preceded by a meeting of senior officials on 11 and 12 November.
Summit With a Difference: Sound Preparation at a Reduced Cost
The Summit is being planned with the utmost care with a view to keeping the costs to a minimum while, at the same time, ensuring a sound preparation in terms of physical arrangements and logistics, technical and policy documents, and consultation with governments, NGOs, private sector as well as other inter-governmental organizations including the UN system organizations and the Bretton Woods institutions. Some of the steps taken in this direction are highlighted below:
(1) The preparatory work will be conducted through the normal scheduled sessions of FAO's Governing Bodies, Regional Conferences and other meetings. No special inter-governmental preparatory meetings are envisaged, in order to avoid the major expenses usually associated with them.
(2) The Summit will be held in Rome, FAO's Headquarters, using existing conference facilities and services, and avoiding costs (to both the Organization and Member Nations) resulting from holding such a meeting away from Headquarters.
(3) The organizational work has been entrusted to a small Secretariat of Professionals seconded from other FAO departments, who will return to their normal work after the Summit. Under the overall guidance of a Joint Committee, chaired by the Director-General, the Secretariat is working in liaison with other FAO units, with other organizations including NGOs, and with national secretaries appointed by member countries. Permanent Representatives of governments to FAO are participating fully in the process.
(4) Maximum use is being made of FAO's own expertise to prepare the comprehensive set of technical documents required by the Summit, and the cooperation of other organizations is being sought in their preparation.
(5) While the basic costs of holding the Summit, to be kept to a minimum, will be financed by FAO's Regular Programme, voluntary contributions in cash and kind will be used to cover other costs, in particular to encourage wide participation from developing countries and for related NGO activities.
(6) All participants will be encouraged to avoid holding receptions and dinners and to donate any funds which would have been used for hospitality to the financing of the "Special Programme for Food Production in Support of Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries".
The preparatory process will involve broad-based consultations with governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, and the private sector. All preparatory meetings will be held taking advantage of normal sessions of existing bodies and other events already scheduled to take place. The sequence and timing have been changed in some cases to accommodate Summit preparations. The calendar, as currently envisaged, is built upon the regularly scheduled meetings of FAO governing bodies, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) and the FAO Regional Conferences.
In addition, an International Symposium, organized by the Federal Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec in October 1995 in Quebec, preceded the Ministerial Meeting on World Food Security convened in Quebec on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of FAO. NGO and private sector representatives attending the Symposium made a significant early input to the Summit preparatory process when a spokesperson for the Symposium communicated participants' perspectives on food security to the Ministerial Meeting.
Member Nations are being encouraged to use other meetings already scheduled within their region to discuss the specific implications of food security issues, in addition to the consultations which will take place at FAO Regional Conferences.
Sound Technical Basis for Policy Decisions
A key aspect of the World Food Summit is the solid analytical foundation on which preparations will be based. In addition to draft policy and plan of action documents to be submitted for the direct consideration of the Heads of State and Government, the major issues of relevance will be presented through a series of analytical background papers covering past development, the present situation and future trends.
These technical papers will highlight issues and options to be considered by national governments, civil society and the international community, and address the major issues alluded to in the Summit's policy and plan of action documents.
The preparation of technical background papers is one of the areas in which the Summit is involving important FAO partners, such as the World Bank, Regional Development Banks, IFAD and WFP. Cooperation has been established with UNFPA, UNEP, WHO, UNICEF, WTO and CGIAR for the preparation of papers on food production and population growth, food production and environmental impact, food production and nutrition, food and international trade, etc. All documents will be subject to scientific peer review, and the drafts will be sent for comments to member countries during 1995 and in the early part of 1996. FAO is actively encouraging non-governmental and private sector entities to comment on all Summit documentation.
The Organization is fully committed to exploring all appropriate avenues that can help make the World Food Summit a true milestone in pursuit of the most fundamental of human rights for all people at all times: the right of sufficient access to food.
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