Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are among FAO’s principal partners outside government. CSOs have grown progressively in size, scope, number and geographical distribution since the 1980s with major local, national, regional and international impact. The UN Summits of the 1990s – from Rio to Rome (the Earth Summit in 1992 and the World Food Summit in 1996) – paved the way for mass participation of civil society and their influence in global governance.
Their role in advocacy, communication, policy formulation and field operations has become important, indeed essential, to achieve sustainable development and food security. They have proven a strong ally of the global agenda on food and agriculture issues, notably participating enthusiastically and convincingly in the World Food Summit in 1996, the successful negotiations culminating in the adoption of the Voluntary Guidelines to the Right to Food in 2004 and the reform of the Committee on World Food Security in 2009 and 2010.