February 1998

FAO of the UN


Tallinn, Estonia, 25 - 29 May 1998



1. The World Food Summit was convened in Rome from 13 to 17 November 1996 at the level of Heads of State and Government. The FAO Conference decided to call the Summit in response to widespread undernutrition and growing concern about the capacity of agriculture to meet future food needs. The Summit subsequently received the unanimous endorsement of the United Nations General Assembly. Its objective was to renew global commitment at the highest political level to the task of eliminating hunger and malnutrition and to the achievement of sustainable food security for all people.


2. Preparations for the Summit involved broad-based consultations among governments, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations and the private sector. In Resolution 2/95 adopted at the 28th Session of the FAO Conference, the Conference entrusted the role of focal point for World Food Summit preparation to the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), which is open not only to Member Nations of FAO, but also to all Member States of the United Nations who have expressed interest in participating in the work of the Committee. Through a special Inter-sessional Working Group of the CFS, substantial progress was made in preparing a draft for the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and World Food Summit Plan of Action. Discussions at FAO regional conferences provided a major input into the preparation of the Summit documents.

3. Numerous other fora contributed to raising awareness and formulating viewpoints and proposals to address the Summit's objectives, starting with the Global Assembly on Food Security, an international symposium organized by the Federal Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec in October 1995 in Quebec and the Ministerial Meeting on World Food Security convened in Quebec on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of FAO.

4. FAO Member Nations and organizations were encouraged to use other meetings already scheduled to discuss specific aspects of food security. National position papers on food security were elaborated by a large number of countries as part of their own preparations for the Summit debate. Numerous inter-governmental organizations (IGOs) lent their formal support to the World Food Summit and called for top-level participation. Resolutions or statements of support were adopted by the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Group of Rio, the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and many others.

5. NGOs and the private sector, in addition to participating in national-level activities and in consultations organized by FAO prior to each regional conference and the 22nd Session of the Committee on World Food Security, also held their own meetings to discuss the Summit. Several important NGO Declarations for the World Food Summit were submitted and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) adopted a resolution of support.

6. Many organizations of the United Nations System participated in the development, refinement and negotiation of the draft Rome Declaration on World Food Security and World Food Summit Plan of Action. Involvement occurred either through the meetings of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), its Inter-sessional Working Group and the FAO regional conferences, or in the form of substantive comments on the documentation submitted to the Summit Secretariat.

7. Taking all inputs into account, the negotiation of the documents was completed during the 22nd Session of the CFS meeting in September-October 1996. The texts for the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and World Food Summit Plan of Action were thus approved two weeks in advance of the Summit for consideration by Heads of State and Government or their representatives.


8. Fourteen technical background documents plus a technical atlas formed the analytical underpinning for the political decisions and actions approved at the Summit. These were prepared by the FAO Secretariat, often in collaboration with other UN agencies and other inter-governmental organizations, academic institutions, NGOs and civil society at large. The documents were distributed in provisional form, starting in early 1995 and comments were invited and received through an extensive review process involving experts from governments, sister UN agencies, development banks, selected centres of excellence, NGOs, the private sector and eminent persons, among others. In their revised final form, the background documents and the technical atlas were published by FAO in three volumes shortly before the Summit. The titles of the documents are shown in the Box.

Technical background documents prepared for the World Food Summit

1. Food, agriculture and food security: developments since the World Food Conference and prospects

2. Success stories in food security

3. Socio-political and economic environment for food security

4. Food requirements and population growth

5. Food security and nutrition

6. Lessons from the green revolution: towards a new green revolution

7. Food production: the critical role of water

8. Food for consumers: marketing, processing and distribution

9. Role of research in global food security and agricultural development

10. Investment in agriculture: evolution and prospects

11. Food production and environmental impact

12. Food and international trade

13. Food security and food assistance

14. Assessment of feasible progress in food security

15. Technical atlas


9. One hundred and eighty-five countries and the European Community were accredited to the Summit. Heads of delegations included 41 Heads of State, 15 Vice-Presidents, 41 Prime Ministers, 15 Vice-Prime Ministers, and 74 other Heads of delegations. Some 450 Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and 80 United Nations System (UN) and inter-governmental organizations (IGOs) were represented.

10. The documents (the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and World Food Summit Plan of Action) were adopted by the 186 Heads of delegation attending the Summit at the opening of its proceedings, following a welcome address by His Holiness Pope John Paul II and the Inaugural Ceremony, during which statements were made by the President of the Italian Republic, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Director-General. Fifteen countries filed "reservations or interpretative statements" on specific aspects of the Rome Declaration and Plan of Action. (The full texts of the Declaration and Plan of Action are contained as an Appendix to the Report of the World Food Summit, Part One. The statements by delegations to the Summit are reproduced in Part Two of the Summit report.).

11. An NGO Forum, an International Youth Forum and a Parliamentarians' Day were held in parallel to the Summit proper, along with additional events such as a seminar by private sector associations and a series of panel discussions on the themes treated in the technical background documents.

12. The resonance of the event and the intense media attention, ensured that the World Food Summit was successful in increasing public awareness of the extent of hunger and malnutrition worldwide, of their causes and of prospects for the future. Most importantly, it resulted in a strong political commitment necessary to promote effective strategies and activities to reach its targets of reducing the number of undernourished people to half the present level by no later than the year 2015 and eventually achieving food security for all.

13. Heads of State and Government at the Summit took a common stand that the prevalence of hunger and malnutrition on its present scale in our world is intolerable and unacceptable. They pledged their political will and their common and national commitment to an on-going effort to eradicate hunger in all countries.

14. These collective and individual commitments by world leaders no doubt represent a major step forward for advancing world food security. The challenge now is to see that the strategies and measures set out by the Summit in the Plan of Action are translated into practical actions, so that the number of hungry and undernourished is progressively reduced in line with, or faster than, the goal agreed at the Summit.


15. Conference Resolution 2/95 requested that the Committee on World Food Security report, through the Council, to the Twenty-ninth Session of the Conference in 1997, on all aspects of the World Food Summit and its follow-up. The report prepared by the CFS in April 1997, together with the comments of the Council, was submitted to the Conference in November 1997. In endorsing the report, the Conference expressed appreciation for the contribution of all concerned, to making the Summit a success and stressing the importance of maintaining the momentum generated in order to permit achievement of the Summit's goals and welcomed the information provided on action already undertaken to ensure follow-up at country, regional and international levels.

16. A summary is given below of the major headings under which the CFS, Council and Conference considered specific aspects of Summit follow-up.


17. The Rome Declaration sets forth seven commitments which lay the basis for achieving sustainable food security for all and the Plan of Action spells out the objectives and actions relevant for practical implementation of these seven commitments.

18. Commitment Seven of the Plan of Action stresses that the main focus of action lies at country level, where governments have the primary responsibility for creating an economic and political environment that assures the food security of their citizens, involving for this purpose all elements of civil society. The importance of strong international cooperation in the effective implementation of the World Food Summit Plan of Action is also underlined. It is emphasised that this will require effective coordination and cooperation within the UN System, including the Bretton Woods institutions, taking into account the mandate of FAO and other relevant organizations. The active monitoring of implementation of the Plan of Action is to be assured by governments through the CFS.

19. At its 29th Session in November 1997, the FAO Conference underlined the primary responsibility of national governments for implementing the WFS Plan of Action and supported arrangements already made by the CFS for monitoring implementation, drawing mainly on national reports. Noting that the June 1998 session of the CFS would be crucial to establish a benchmark against which future progress would be measured, the Conference urged all countries to submit their reports on the first year of implementation of the Plan of Action by 31 January 1998, and subsequent reports in an equally timely fashion, to enable the CFS to fulfil the crucial role assigned to it by the Summit.

20. The Conference recalled that reporting on follow-up to the International Conference on Nutrition (ICN), should be continued as part of the monitoring of implementation of the WFS Plan of Action. Considering the scope of the Plan of Action and its coverage of the goals and issues covered by the Programme of Action of the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (WCARRD), the Conference considered that progress reporting could be covered in the CFS process and therefore decided to discontinue separate progress reporting on WCARRD. It recommended that the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which would be receiving reports on WFS follow-up, adopt the same approach.

21. The Conference underlined the importance of coordination and cooperation within the UN System in the follow-up to the World Food Summit. In view of the multi-disciplinary nature of food security, the Conference encouraged other organizations, in particular those of the UN System, to participate actively in supporting follow-up efforts and to provide information on their activities to the CFS. Bearing in mind the calendar of meetings in the forthcoming biennium, the Conference requested the CFS to provide to ECOSOC in 1999, through the Council, a first report on implementation of the WFS Plan of Action. It further decided to examine the progress in follow-up to the World Food Summit at its Thirtieth Session in the same year.

22. During the debate many Member Nations reported on actions taken or underway at national level to implement the Summit commitments, including the preparation of national reports and action plans. Several countries also indicated that in preparing their plans or their reports to the CFS, they were making active efforts to involve all stakeholders, including civil society organizations. In this connection, it was recalled that the CFS would be considering ways of facilitating broader participation by non-governmental observers in its work. It was also noted that at the 1998 session of the CFS, the original reports to the CFS from all countries and organizations would be made available for reference. The Secretariat would provide a synthesis of these reports to facilitate the work of the Committee.

23. With regard to the regional and sub-regional dimensions of the Plan of Action, the Conference noted that one full day would be devoted by each FAO regional conference in 1998, to the question of Summit follow-up, and that the results of these debates would be reported in due course to the CFS and to the Council. Mention was also made of the need to give special attention to the particular problems of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), if possible by convening a special conference at an early date.


24. The Conference appreciated the initiative taken by FAO to play a catalytic role in elaboration and definition of a Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping System (FIVIMS) in collaboration with concerned UN System organizations, competent national institutions and non-governmental organizations, and supported plans for its further development. It considered that accurate and timely data were fundamental to national and international response to the problem of hunger and malnutrition and stressed the need for full participation by developing countries in the establishment of national FIVIMS to be linked within the decentralized international system. The Conference was informed that arrangements envisaged reliance to the maximum extent possible on existing databases and mechanisms. The suggestion was made that the range of partners could be broadened to include other large-scale databases covering themes related to food security.


25. The priority accorded to stimulating and supporting action at the country level is one of the fundamental principles underlying the arrangements for inter-agency cooperation in follow-up to the World Food Summit. After the Summit, a proposal for inter-agency coordination of Summit follow-up, through a Network on Rural Development and Food Security, was made to ACC by FAO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) with a view to ensuring maximum cost-effectiveness, country level focus, flexibility and efficiency, avoiding institutional expansion at a time of shrinking budgets within and outside the UN System. ACC approved the proposal, which was implemented progressively during 1997 by FAO and IFAD, working closely with the World Food Programme (WFP).

26. The Conference welcomed the establishment of the ACC Network on Rural Development and Food Security as an important means of ensuring a multi-disciplinary input by the UN System to support national efforts to implement the Plan of Action. It was noted that the Network was conceived as a two-tiered mechanism, with a focus on action at the country level undertaken by inter-agency thematic groups on rural development and food security operating within the UN Resident Coordinator System. At headquarters level, the Network was to provide support for country level action and obtain feedback on experience which could be shared, as well as to facilitate dialogue between participating organizations mainly through electronic means. It would also serve as a channel to mobilise reporting on follow-up to the WFS by UN System organizations, as required by the CFS, to monitor progress on the Plan of Action.


27. A Memorandum of Understanding was formally concluded between the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the FAO Director-General on 29 May 1997. This provides for a framework of cooperation between the two offices on issues related to the right to food as contained in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in line with Objective 7.4 of the Plan of Action.

28. In welcoming the conclusion of the Memorandum of Understanding, the Conference adopted Resolution 2/97, in which, inter alia, it recalled that the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights would be celebrated on 10 December 1998, welcomed the work already undertaken by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the right to food and cooperation in this respect with FAO and urged the High Commissioner to give priority in her on-going work to a better definition of the rights related to food in Article 11 of the Covenant and to propose ways to implement and realize these rights as a means of achieving the commitments and objectives of the World Food Summit, taking into account the possibility of formulating voluntary guidelines for food security for all. In the Resolution, the Conference also urged all governments, in partnership with all actors of civil society and relevant organizations and appropriate specialized agencies of the UN, including FAO, to cooperate actively with the UN High Commissioner.


29. The commitments made by the Summit continue to influence substantive priorities and activities across the entire spectrum of FAO's programmes, as already evidenced by the approved Programme of Work and Budget for 1998-99 and by progress in implementation of the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) on which a detailed report on the status of the Programme in the six low-income food-deficit countries (LIFDCs) in the Region is given below, as well as in other field activities. During the Conference debate, several Member Nations made particular reference to the FAO initiative to prepare draft documents on national strategies for agriculture and food security towards the year 2010. A number of Member Nations supported the SPFS, some mentioning its positive roles such as the replicability of the modules and its role as a catalyst for mobilising investment resources and triggering policy reforms. A number also welcomed the South-South Cooperation Scheme.

30. The Summit documents and the series of technical background papers, have constituted a major output for information/documentation dissemination efforts, using both traditional and electronic means. The cooperation established with partner organizations (inter-governmental and non-governmental) during the preparations for the Summit, continues on its follow-up and implementation of the Plan of Action also serves as a major focus for FAO's advocacy work through public information programmes, World Food Day and TeleFood.

31. The Conference welcomed the information provided on the first TeleFood (TeleFood 1997) which took place on 19 October 1997, in connection with World Food Day, with the main aim of raising awareness and mobilising support around the globe for the fight against hunger and malnutrition. By adopting Resolution 3/97, it endorsed the Director-General's decision to allocate in their entirety, the proceeds collected through the TeleFood appeal to the financing of concrete grassroot-level projects, none of these proceeds being diverted to administrative or other costs and to rely on sponsorship and other private and public voluntary contributions to meet the costs of promoting and coordinating the operation. The Resolution also endorsed the Director-General's decision to establish under Financial Regulation 6.7, a Trust Fund to receive sponsorship and other private and public voluntary contributions for financing the costs relating to the promotion and coordination of the TeleFood operation worldwide. Finally, the Conference invited FAO Member Nations to take all measures deemed appropriate to promote the TeleFood initiative.

32. Servicing and supporting inter-governmental discussions constitutes an important contribution by the Organization to follow-up. In addition to the CFS and Council debates, aspects of Summit follow-up have been discussed in 1997 by all of FAO's technical committees, and may be expected to be the subject of further debate in those bodies during the coming biennium.

33. Regional committees and commissions have also addressed aspects of follow-up falling within their mandates and the relevant regional conferences may take their conclusions into account in addressing the regional and sub-regional dimensions of implementation of the Plan of Action.


34. By the end of 1997, the Pilot Phase of the SPFS was operational in two LIFDCs in the Region, i.e. Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The programme's objective in Albania is to support the establishment of Farmers' Interest Groups, with particular gender focus, in three or more districts to promote improved marketing of output, water management and access to improved seeds. The project will also support the establishment of an information management system at regional level, based on the experiences of on-going efforts made so far, and at farm level. Assistance will include reform of the seed sector.

35. With regard to Bosnia and Herzegovina, facing a challenging transition period for its economy and its agriculture in particular, agricultural sectoral priorities will have to be formulated and small-scale farmers organizations set up and input and market services organized. In this context, during its pilot phase, the SPFS will provide an opportunity to rapidly test new approaches and organizations in addition to improved technologies in support of long-term agricultural development and food security and at the same time, it will provide an opportunity to test new approaches and services to farmers, assess their performances, analyse the social, economical and policy constraints to their adoption or full efficiency before they can be expanded in connection with policy reforms.

36. The Pilot Phase of the SPFS is under formulation in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and the FYR of Macedonia. The programme in all four countries will focus on irrigation and drainage with a view to halting the sub-sectors' decline due to lack of institutional capacity to operate and maintain infrastructure and to create Water Users' Associations capable of taking over investment management and operation and maintenance of infrastructure.


37. FAO, through the EMPRES Livestock component, has been active in promoting improvements in the standards of veterinary services and emergency disease preparedness in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, by the provision of the services of experts and making possible visits to other countries for training and gaining experience. During 1996-97 through TCP/RER/4551, FAO organized and mounted five workshops for the benefit of veterinary workers in CEECs covering the most important transmissible diseases of cattle, pigs and poultry, the application of the latest developments in molecular biology to diagnosis and vaccine production and management of appropriate scientific projects. Study tours to the most advanced Western European Research Centres were arranged and preparation of the first multimedia manual on modern methods at laboratory diagnosis (molecular techniques, ELISA, monoclonal antibodies) initiated. The computerised Veterinary Biotechnology Network for Central and Eastern Europe (CENTAUR), which includes some 160 scientists, connected through e-mail, was established. Furthermore, the Animal Production and Health Division (AGA)/EMPRES co-sponsored the EUFMD/FAO/EC Workshop on Emergency Preparedness and Contingency Planning for Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD), Classical Swine Fever (CSF) and other exotic diseases (March 1998 in Pulawy, Poland) the purpose of which was to train key veterinary, disease control specialists and epidemiologists involved in livestock disease control and prevention.

38. Through the EMPRES Desert Locust component, emergency assistance has been provided to two countries in the Central and Eastern European Sub-region to control grasshopper infestations, provide training in pesticides application techniques and assist government authorities in the preparation and formulation of control plans.


39. On the basis of experience during the first year after the World Food Summit, Member Nations may wish to:

  • report on progress made and constraints encountered in implementing the World Food Summit Plan of Action, and
  • highlight those priority activities of the Organization which contribute directly to the achievement of the Summit's objectives, in particular, the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS), the Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES) and the finalization of national strategies for agricultural development. In this connection, only three countries of the Central and Eastern European Sub-region have so far reacted to these strategy papers prepared by FAO and others may be encouraged to do so, in such a manner that these documents, once approved by the highest national authorities, become the basis for future national and international action for agricultural development.

40. Bearing in mind the strong emphasis placed in the Plan of Action, on inter-country cooperation at the regional and sub-regional levels, the Regional Conference may wish to:

  • advise on ways of promoting and strengthening such cooperation in the areas of FAO's mandate, and
  • call on regional and sub-regional organizations to contribute actively to the implementation of the Plan of Action and to report thereon in time for the meeting of the Committee on World Food Security in 1999.