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In 1996 the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) hosted a World Food Summit. The Heads of State and Government issued the Rome Declaration reaffirming, "the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free of hunger". In return, there was a pledge of political will and commitment, "to eradicate hunger in all countries, with an immediate view to reducing the number of undernourished people by half their present level no later than 2015". Since the World Food Summit, estimates reveal that in the first half of this decade, only 37 countries achieved a reduction in the number of undernourished people while the number of hungry people worldwide has actually increased.

Objective 3.4 of Commitment Three in the Summit's Plan of Action stated that "governments, in collaboration with the international and scientific community, in both private and public sectors, as appropriate, will strengthen national research systems in order to develop coordinated programmes in support of research to promote food security". National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) were identified as one of the key mechanisms for responding to the Rome Declaration mandate to enhance sustainable food security.

Thus, the mandate to develop these guidelines, entitled "Integrating food security issues into agricultural research" resulted from the World Food Summit Plan of Action. In identifying how this might be done, FAO, the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Collaborative Research Support Program (SANREM CRSP) of the University of Georgia, USA and the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) facilitated a dialogue among members of the international research and development community. An electronic consultation was hosted among a core group of about 30 experts representing a diversity of stakeholders to identify expected outcomes, a conceptual framework, key issues and organizational aspects. The electronic consultation was followed by an electronic conference that brought together 400 individuals from 50 countries representing NARS researchers, policy-makers, administrators, non-governmental organizations, scientists, producer groups and representatives of regional and international organizations and the donor community.

These guidelines include general principles and references to address sustainable food security and are targeted specifically for research decision-makers and scientists in the National Agriculture Research Systems along with their institutional partners. They are intended to provide input for strategic planning efforts, both short- and long-term, for institutions wishing to enhance their research programme. The approaches and principles presented here should be tried, tested and validated in several pilot areas and the lessons learned from these studies could be used to introduce sustainable food security dimensions into the NARS agenda under the different conditions of various regions.

The electronic events were organized under the professional leadership of Abubaker Maddur, Agricultural Research Officer, FAO and were facilitated by Constance Neely, Deputy Program Director, SANREM CRSP.

Dietrich E. Leihner
Research, Extension and Training Division
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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