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Director-General meets with Civil Society Organizations

©FAO/Giulio Napolitano
FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva meeting with members of the Coordination Committee of the Civil Society Mechanism, King Faisal Room, FAO headquarters

12 October 2012, Rome, Italy - FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva met today with members of the Coordination Committee of the Civil Society Mechanism for relations with the Committee on World Food Security. 

The Coordination Committee of the CSM comprises  41 organizations representing smallholder family farmers, fisher folks, herders, landless, urban poor, agricultural and food workers, women, youth, consumers and indigenous people and 17 sub-regions.

Welcoming Civil Society representatives, the Director-General stressed that, “Civil Society is playing an increasing important role in the work of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), which will definitely contribute to the overall common goal of ending hunger.”

The high- level political discussion between the Director-General and the representatives of civil society took place just a day before the Annual Civil Society Forum at FAO headquarters. Over 200 Civil Society representatives from across the globe will come together to prepare to take part in the CFS.

The Director-General, pointing to the achievements of Civil Society in the work of the CFS, with particular reference to the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security said, “Civil Society played a crucial role in the endorsement of the Voluntary Guidelines and that is a commendable achievement.” On the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines at the local and national levels, he requested civil society’s involvement and support.

Turning to ongoing discussions on some key  issues on the agenda of the CFS such as Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment (RAI Principles), the Director-General said, “We want a multi-stakeholder dialogue on responsible investments in agriculture and Civil Society’s engagement in this process is of paramount importance.”

FAO’s just-published  State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI) report shows that nearly 870 million people suffered from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012 while  childhood malnutrition was a cause  of death for more than 2.5 million children every year.

The Director-General stressed that “870 million people, or one out of eight, is too much; it is unacceptable to have so many hungry and malnourished people in the 21st century, “all the more so as there are enough resources to feed the world population.

“We need to expand dialogue and cooperation with civil society and social movements towards the development of new models of production, distribution and consumption of food to relieve the pressure on natural resources and eradicate hunger and malnutrition,” the Director-General added.

In a subsequent debate  representative of civil society raised  a number of important issues such as Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment, support to the urban poor and indigenous peoples, implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of  Land Tenure and suggested ways to enhance FAO’s cooperation with civil society at the local and national levels.

Mr George Dixon Fernandez from India, representing the youth constituency, noted the importance of smallholder farmers in food security, declaring: “Mahatma Gandhi said we don’t want massive production but what we want is production done by the masses.”

“Today I am very happy that you talked about the smallholders and food producers that feed the world,” said Mr Lalji Desai, for  the pastoralist constituency.

Mr Davinder Lamba of Kenya ,speaking for  the urban poor constituency, said, “Despite rising food prices in 2008 affecting the urban poor their problems are not on the global agenda and I appeal to you to work with us on this.“

The magnitude of the challenges the world faces to guarantee food security to a growing population requires the collaboration of all the stakeholders including the Governments, international organizations, academia, private sector, unions and civil society organizations.

“FAO is committed to enhancing its collaboration with all stakeholders to defeat hunger and poverty,” concluded the Director-General.