APRC/04/4


TWENTY-SEVENTH FAO REGIONAL CONFERENCE FOR ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

Beijing, China, 17 - 21 May 2004

FOLLOW-UP TO THE WORLD FOOD SUMMIT AND THE WORLD FOOD SUMMIT: FIVE-YEARS LATER: REGIONAL DIMENSIONS

Table of Contents



I. INTRODUCTION

1. The Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action adopted at the World Food Summit (WFS) of 1996 brought to fore the global commitment to eliminate hunger and malnutrition, and to achieve sustainable food security for all people. This global commitment was further reaffirmed in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) following the Millennium Summit in 2000. MDG-1, calls for eradication of extreme poverty and hunger.

2. The assessment of the progress in the reduction of hunger showed that the progress was too slow to meet the WFS target of halving the number of undernourished by 2015 in Asia and the Pacific and the rest of the world. Likewise, recent studies have shown that the pace of poverty reduction had slowed down in the late 1990s onwards. Given this situation, there is urgent need for concerted actions to eradicate poverty and hunger at global, regional and national levels. In particular, the scope for international cooperation must be fully utilized in addressing common problems, particularly those which can be better tackled at the regional/subregional levels.

3. During the World Food Summit: five years later (WFS: fyl), held in June 2002 in Rome, the international community re-affirmed its commitment to hunger reduction and pledged to address the major causes behind inadequate progress: lack of political will and lack of adequate resources for reducing hunger. The WFS: fyl Declaration renewed the WFS global commitments and resolved to accelerate the implementation of the WFS Plan of Action (PoA).

4. Worldwide, the latest estimates indicate that 798 million people were undernourished in 1999–2001 in the developing world and represent a decrease of just 19 million since 1990–92, the benchmark period used at the WFS. Thus, the average annual decrease since the Summit has been only 2.1 million, far below the level (20 million) required to reach the WFS goal. The rate of reduction in the Asia and Pacific region has also been slow. It is approximately half of the annual requirement of 13 million.

5. But there are a few countries which achieved progress in reducing the number of undernourished. China alone achieved a reduction of 58 million since 1990–92, the highest reduction globally. Indonesia, Viet Nam, Thailand, Brazil, Ghana and Peru have all achieved reductions of at least 3 million, helping to offset an increase of 76 million in 47 countries where progress has stalled. But if China and these six countries are set aside, the number of undernourished people in the rest of the developing world has increased by nearly 60 million since the WFS benchmark period.

6. This document starts with a summary of the global food security outlook, recent FAO and international initiatives to address the hunger issues and the reduction of undernourishment in Asia and the Pacific, identifies likely causes for the differences in performance, and suggests measures to strengthen action plans that will keep the region on track to meet WFS/PoA commitments and targets.

II. GLOBAL FOOD SECURITY OUTLOOK

7. Food consumption,1 in terms of kcal/person/day, is the key variable used for measuring and evaluating the evolution of the world food situation. The world has made significant progress in raising food consumption per person. The levels of average national food consumption per person is likely to increase from 2680 kcal in 1997–99 to 2850 kcal in 2015 and close to 3000 kcal by 2030. This implies that the proportion of the population undernourished in the developing countries as a whole could decline from the 776 million in 1997–99 to 610 million in 2015 and to 440 million in 2030.

8. The latest United Nations assessment of world population prospects indicates that the world population of 5.9 billion of the three-year average 1997–99 is likely to increase to 7.2 billion in 2015, and 8.3 billion in 2030. However, the world population, although growing, is growing at a decreasing rate. It peaked in the second half of the 1960s at 2.04 percent per annum and had fallen to 1.35 percent per annum by the second half of the 1990s. Further deceleration will bring it down to 1.1 percent in 2010–15, and to 0.8 percent in 2025–30. Practically all the increases of circa 70 million people annually on average till 2015 will be in the developing countries.

9. Notwithstanding the slow pace of progress in reducing the absolute numbers of undernourished, the considerable overall improvement implied by the projected numbers should not be downplayed. More and more people will be living in countries with medium to high levels of per capita food consumption. For example, by 2015 81 percent of the world population will be living in countries with values of this variable exceeding 2700 kcal/person/day, up from 61 percent at present and 33 percent in the mid-1970s. Those living in countries with over 3000 kcal will be 48 percent of the world population in 2015 and 53 percent in 2030, up from 42 percent at present.

10. The number of countries with a high incidence of undernourishment (over 25 percent of their population) and most in need of international policy interventions will be reduced considerably: from 35 countries in 1997/99 to 22 in 2015 and to only five in 2030. None of them will be in the most populous class of (over 100 million population in 1997/99). The most populous countries will account for an ever-declining proportion of the undernourished, 72 million out of the 440 million in 2030 (1997–99: 250 million out of the 776 million).

11. There is a strong correlation between economic growth and the reduction of hunger. This effect, of course, does not occur automatically. But it can be seen that countries without economic growth or even a decline of GDP per capita were not able to reduce the number of the malnourished and some even faced a considerable increase. Hence the economic growth rates of several countries that have low food consumption levels and a significant incidence of undernourishment are likely to fall short of what would be required for significant poverty reduction till 2015.

12. According to the latest World Bank assessment for the period 2000–15, slow growth in the first five years of the projection period is expected to be followed by faster growth in the subsequent ten years 2005–15. On average it is expected to reach 1.9 percent per annum in terms of per capita GDP. Higher growth rates are foreseen for all regions and country groups (particularly the reversal of declines in the transition economies) with the exception of East Asia.

13. The exogenous economic growth assumptions used here, together with the growth of population, are the major determinants of projected food consumption, hence also of the incidence of undernourishment.

III. THE WAY AHEAD

14. What are the most efficient instruments and mechanisms to meet the WFS targets and the MDG on hunger reduction? While all of FAO’s actions and programmes contribute, directly or indirectly, to this goal, it has embarked on a number of global initiatives over the past few years to address the problems of hunger and food insecurity. The following gives a brief survey of the more recent ones that have been undertaken as follow-up to the WFS and the WFS: fyl, including some that relate to the MDG process.

15. The WFS process has been instrumental in sharpening thinking on strategies for tackling the problem of chronic hunger in an inclusive manner and reflecting these in programmes at global, regional and national levels. In this regard, the following four significant arguments appear to be gaining acceptance amongst policy makers:

16. FAO analyses have shown convincingly that the slow reduction in the number of undernourished people is not unrelated to the low and declining resources that national governments and the international community at large devote to agriculture and rural development. The immediate need is to move forward as quickly as possible with practical measures to reduce hunger on a scale commensurate with the magnitude of the problem. Above all, this means ensuring that those countries that are fully committed politically to achieving the WFS and MDG goals are able to mobilise the resources required both domestically and from donor sources. The international community, likewise, must commit to support these countries.

IV. REGIONAL DIMENSIONS


Trend and prospects

17. During the last three decades, Asia and the Pacific region achieved significant economic progress. In the 1980s and 1990s, economic growth was fastest in this region (7.5 percent in East Asia and Pacific and 5.5 percent in South Asia). With the fastest agricultural growth in the world, exceeding 3 percent, the region has undergone an unprecedented transformation in food and agricultural production and food security. The Green Revolution process triggered in the mid-1960s was the engine of this transformation. Despite the addition of 1.4 billion people to the region’s population, average per capita food availability has increased from about 2 000 kcal/person/day in 1965–66 to over 2600 kcal/person/day in 1999–2000.

18. Of the five countries with a population of over 100 million (Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia and Pakistan), only one country remains at very low levels of per capita consumption. Only 5 of the 19 developing FAO member countries in the region currently have an average per capita food consumption under 2200 kcal. As the self-sufficiency ratio rose to 102 percent in South Asia and 95 percent in East Asia in 1979–99, the region no longer considers the threat of mass starvation a real possibility, unlike three decades ago. In the 1990s the fastest economic growth and the greatest poverty reduction were in East Asia and the Pacific, where GDP per capita rose by 75 percent while the share of people in extreme poverty fell from 31 percent to 16 percent. Slowing down of the population growth rate in the world’s two largest countries – China and India – also helped raise the per capita availability of food.

19. The population of the developing Asia-Pacific countries is projected to increase from 3 192 million in 1997–99 to 3 890 million in 2015 and 4380 million in 2030. During this period the population growth rate is expected to slow down from 2.1 to 1.1 percent in South Asia and from 1.5 to 0.5 percent in East Asia. Despite the drastic fall in the growth rate, the absolute annual increments continue to be large.

20. The World Bank has estimated that the number and proportion of the population below the US$1/day poverty line will decline in Asia. In South Asia the absolute number of poor people will decline from 488 million in 1999 to 264 million in 2015 and the proportion of the poor will decline from 36.6 to 15.7 percent. During the same period, in East Asia and the Pacific the number will decline from 279 million to 80 million and the proportion of the poor will fall 15.6 to 3.9 percent.

21. Concomitantly, FAO’s recent projections show that per capita food consumption (kcal/person/day) will increase in South Asia from 2403 in 1997–99 to 2700 in 2015 and 2900 in 2030, and in East Asia from 2921 in 1997–99 to 3060 in 2015 and 3190 in 2030. The increase is projected to be of higher magnitude in South Asia (20 percent) than in East Asia (9 percent) as the level of consumption in South Asia is only 80 percent of the level in East Asia in the base year and food consumption rises with income at a decreasing rate. Weighing these figures with the projected population, per capita food consumption in developing Asian countries is expected to increase from 2708 kcal/person/day in 1997–99 to 2902 in 2015 and 3056 in 2030.

22. Gains in poverty reduction and per capita food consumption are expected to translate into a lower incidence of undernutrition in developing Asian countries. The proportion of undernourished will fall in South Asia from 24 percent in 1997–99 to 12 percent in 2015 and 6 percent in 2030. In East Asia it will decline from 11 percent in 1997–99 to 6 percent in 2015 and 4 percent in 2030. The number of undernourished is expected to decline in South Asia from 303 million in 1997–99 to 195 million in 2015 and 119 million in 2030. In East Asia, the corresponding numbers are projected to decline from 193 million in 1997–99 to 135 million in 2015 and 82 million in 2030.

23. The number of undernourished people in 1990–92 for South Asia and East Asia were 289 million and 275 million, respectively. Under business as usual assumptions, the projected figures for 2015 indicate that the WFS goal of reducing the number of undernourished people by half by that year will not be met in South Asia and will just be met in East Asia. To meet the WFS and MDGs by 2015, more concerted efforts would be needed primarily by national governments, though the support of the international community remains indispensable, to accelerate overall national growth and reduction of poverty through broad based development strategies.

Progress in the post-WFS period

24. The above projection is consistent with the progress in the post-WFS period so far. According to FAO’s latest analysis, the number of undernourished in developing countries of Asia and the Pacific region decreased from 566.8 million in 1990–92 to 505.2 million in 1999–2001. In the 1990s, the proportion of the undernourished population in the region declined from 20 to 16 percent. Notwithstanding these achievements, the present incidence of hunger means that every sixth person in the region is still undernourished. Furthermore, the region accounts for nearly two-thirds of the undernourished population in the developing world.

25. The average decrease in the absolute number of the undernourished during the nine years from 1990–92 to 1999–2001 was 6.8 million annually, only about half of the original target. It implies that the WFS goal of reducing the number of undernourished people by half by the year 2015 can now be reached only if the annual reductions can be accelerated to around 15 million per year, more than twice the rate achieved so far.

26. The above target seems extremely difficult to meet as these numbers and trends are dominated by progress and setbacks in a few large countries. China alone has reduced the number of hungry people by 58 million since the World Food Summit baseline period. The net contribution of the rest of the Asia-Pacific countries in reducing the number of hungry was only 3.9 million during the nine year period.

27. During 1990–92 and 1999–2001, the number of undernourished people declined in East and Southeast Asia by 27 and 13 percent, respectively. In South Asia, however, the absolute number of undernourished increased slightly, instead of declining. The proportion of the undernourished population declined from 26 to 22 percent, but remains one of the highest in the world, second only to Sub-Saharan Africa. In the largest developing country in the Pacific region, both the absolute number and proportion of undernourished declined.

28. Analysis of more recent trends makes the prospects of meeting the WFS target by the 2015 even bleaker. While the number of undernourished people declined by 70.4 million from 1990–92 to 1995–97, the number actually increased by 8.8 million from 1995–97 to 1999–2001. This happened because progress in China, Thailand and Viet Nam slowed and reversed in India, Indonesia and Pakistan. Even in the Republic of Korea and Malaysia, the number of undernourished people either stagnated or increased.

Experiences in hunger reduction

29. The progress in hunger reduction across subregions and countries varied due to the interplay of a multiplicity of factors and outcomes. The major determinants of success at the country level were its relative performance in terms of economic and agricultural growth and distribution, success in poverty reduction, population growth, specific measures to expand access to food, improve health and sanitation conditions and maintain a conducive policy and institutional environment and general peace and order in society. Several of these outcomes were greatly influenced by external economic and political environment and natural disasters.

30. Three out of five countries where the number of undernourished people declined throughout the 1990s had witnessed sustained economic growth rates exceeding 7 percent for most years, low inflation and unemployment rates, and stable exchange rates. These Asian countries (China, Thailand and Viet Nam) had also targeted programmes to assist the poor communities. One of these countries suffered a temporary setback in poverty reduction in the wake of the economic downturn following the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Selected illustrations of policies and their impact on reducing hunger in these countries are presented below.

31. During the last two decades China achieved an unprecedented GDP growth rate of around 10 percent per annum. The agriculture sector grew at the average rate of 3.7 percent during 1992–2002 and at 5 per annum during 1982–92. In preparation for its accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), China carried out far-reaching agricultural and trade policy reforms to make the agriculture sector more competitive and commercial. In 1999 it initiated a new round of agricultural restructuring to enhance the efficiency of crop, livestock and fish production, improve the quality of products and promote regional specialization based on geographical potentials. The government continued implementation of the Eight-Seven Poverty Alleviation Programme and a series of policy measures aimed at ensuring food security for the low income groups. The incidence of poverty is reported to have fallen from over 30 percent in 1978 to 2.5 percent in 2000. China has also strengthened its disaster preparedness and relief systems.

32. Over the past 20 years, Viet Nam has achieved remarkable success in reducing hunger. Between 1991 and 2001 Viet Nam’s economy grew at a rapid annual rate of 7 percent and the proportion of undernourished people was reduced from 27 percent to 19 percent. Agricultural policy and institutional reforms implemented during the same period gave farmers control over land, allowed them to increase sales to the market and reduced agricultural taxation. Such policy reforms combined with investments in rural infrastructure and development produced agricultural growth of 6 percent per year with agricultural exports growing even faster as the country’s cereal self-sufficiency ratio increased from 88 percent in 1979–81 to 108 percent in 1989–91 to 120 percent in 1997–99. After seeing agricultural exports and imports roughly in balance through the late 1980s, Viet Nam generated a large agricultural trade surplus in the 1990s. The country has emerged as of one of the top exporters of rice and coffee in the world market. Agricultural trade played an important supportive role in reducing poverty and food insecurity.

33. In addition to the positive effects of growth, an aggressive poverty eradication campaign that targeted investments in rural infrastructure also contributed to boosting agricultural production and reducing hunger. A hunger eradication programme launched at the provincial level in 1992 and extended nationwide in 1996 has helped Viet Nam make rapid progress towards its declared goals of ensuring household food security. Community nutrition projects combining home gardening with nutrition education for families with malnourished children has made a significant contribution to that success.

34. Thailand’s success in eradicating moderate to severe malnutrition in a single decade (1982–91) can be attributed to a combination of rapid economic and agricultural growth and the effective government programmes to alleviate poverty and improve nutrition. Thailand achieved one of the highest economic growth rates in the world from the late 1970s until the financial crisis of 1997. While the non-agriculture sector grew at a much faster rate and created millions of jobs for the rural poor who would otherwise be dependent on agriculture, the agricultural sector adjusted well to the challenge by adopting labour-saving technologies, commercialization and diversification towards high value products. Thailand has the highest cereal self-sufficiency ratio of 142 percent in Asia (1997–99) which is a highly favourable condition for eradication of food insecurity.

35. The positive effects of economic growth on hunger reduction were reinforced by the government which put nutrition on its national development agenda. It decided to address malnutrition through a community-driven rural development programme. It entailed the implementation of integrated multi-sectoral actions to improve the nutritional status of the community, linking this to income-generation opportunities. At first these activities covered only the poorest third of the country, but soon encompassed the entire nation.

36. In contrast to the above high achievers, the South Asian subregion as a whole did not perform well in reducing the number of undernourished. The number of undernourished actually increased from 291 million in 1990–92 to 293 million in 1999–2001, despite a 5 percent increase in per capita DES for the subregion. Clearly the increased availability was not equitably distributed. This outcome could be related to the lower GDP growth, erratic performance of the agriculture sector, high incidence of poverty and the problem of access to food due to the small size of landholding, limited access to water, credit, fertiliser and other resources for small farmers, highly skewed pattern of assets and income distribution, and limited off-farm employment opportunities in rural areas. Moreover, the role and coverage of the public food distribution system providing basic food commodities at affordable prices have been shrinking in recent years.

37. As 56 percent of the population in developing Asia-Pacific countries is still agricultural, food security outcomes in Asia and the Pacific region continue to be significantly dependent on the vagaries of nature. The region is highly prone to natural disasters and the incidence and impact of disasters have increased significantly in recent years, seriously threatening the food security of the affected population and thwarting efforts at reduction of undernutrition. In the 1990s, 150 to 263 disasters were reported each year. Recurrent droughts, storms, floods, mudslides, tsunamis, earthquakes, forest fires, volcanic eruptions, and other natural disasters have caused more devastation in this region in the last decade than any other in history. The region is not alone in experiencing adverse effects of gradual climatic change on the agricultural systems. It has also suffered from the impact of El Nio/La Nia phenomena originating in distant seas.

38. Several Asian countries have also been facing the effects of harsh weather and natural disasters. In Mongolia, drought and harsh winters during the last few consecutive years have devastated livestock production in the country. Unusually heavy snowfall in 2003 killed up to 2.5 million animals, undermining the livelihood of nearly a quarter of the country’s population. An estimated 80 percent of Mongolians, many of them nomadic herders, raise livestock, accounting for almost 90 percent of agricultural output. The food crisis in Mongolia highlights the vulnerability of traditional pastoral production systems, particularly nomadic systems that are the main source of food and income in semi-arid rangelands ill suited to growing crops. Likewise, DPR Korea has been suffering from domestic food shortfalls as a result of adverse natural conditions for the past several years.

39. Natural disaster-induced food insecurity was exacerbated by man-made calamities in the post-WFS period. Civil strife continued in some parts of Asia, while new disturbances and border hostilities broke out in other areas with obvious implications in terms of the diversion of scarce development resources to security services and the adverse effects of peace and order situations on economic activities. Moreover, wars and intra-country conflicts cause immense economic losses and disruption of food supplies and access. Recovery of the agricultural sector from war damage can be painfully slow and costly.

40. The secular decline in real prices of agricultural products, the persistent volatility of world prices and existing trade barriers in export markets have resulted in limited benefits from trade liberalization to Asia-Pacific farmers. Moreover, the complexity of import regimes and of accessing tariff rate quotas as well as the costs of complying with sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards continue to create obstacles to market expansion. Whether benefits will accrue in the future will depend on the outcome of the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations.

41. The WTO members committed themselves in the Doha declarations to comprehensive negotiations aimed at: “substantial improvements in market access; reductions of, with a view of phasing out, all forms of export subsidies; and substantial reductions in trade-distorting domestic support.” However, the WTO member countries could not come to an agreement on the modalities for further commitments, which were to be the basis for them to submit their comprehensive draft Schedules by the Fifth Ministerial Conference in Cancn in September 2003. Despite the failure to meet the deadline in Cancun, the call by the Ministers “to continue working on the outstanding issues with a renewed sense of urgency and purpose” provides some hope that the obstacles that prevented reaching an agreement in Cancn, while important, may not be insurmountable.

Essential measures for expediting the achievement of the WFS goal

42. Hungry people are not hungry by choice. They are hungry because they face multiple constraints - economic, social and political - that leave them trapped in hunger. Some people are hungry because of disability or misfortune. Policy responses to hunger must be multi-faceted and should aim at helping the hungry and poor to break out of the hunger trap. Responses should create opportunities for the hungry, equip them to take advantage of these opportunities, and protect them if they are unable to feed themselves by reason of misfortune.

43. Food security, i.e. access of all people at all times to sufficient, nutritionally adequate, and safe food, without undue risk of losing such access, entails four dimensions that have to be considered in any food security strategy:

44. All four dimensions of food security must be present for an individual to be food secure. A critical implication is that food security is defined at the level of the individual even though it is brought about by a combination of individual, household, community, national and even international factors.

45. This discussion points to the need for a twin-track approach to sustainable hunger reduction addressing all aspects of food security in an integrated manner combining opportunity creation with empowerment and protection. This approach would combine promoting rural and agricultural growth involving, in particular, poor and vulnerable farm households with targeted programmes to ensure that hungry people, who have neither the capacity to produce their own food nor the means to buy it, have access to adequate supplies. Investment in agricultural and rural development must play a central role in strategies to reduce hunger and poverty since 75 percent of the hungry in the developing world live in rural areas and depend, directly or indirectly, on agriculture for their livelihoods.

46. One track creates opportunities for the hungry to improve their livelihoods through policy reform and investment in agricultural and rural development. The other track equips the poor and hungry to take advantage of these opportunities by enhancing immediate access to food thereby increasing their productive potential. The two tracks are mutually reinforcing since programmes that enhance access to food offer new outlets for expanded production.

47. A supportive, pro-poor policy environment is critical for an investment programme, based on the twin-track approach, to succeed in reducing hunger. Programmes that increase productivity (such as research and extension, promotion of high-yielding varieties, water and irrigation) should be combined with those that reduce the costs of market access and improve the marketing and management skills of producers. These improve food availability and nutrition within the immediate farm families and increase food supplies in local markets. Enhancing urban food supplies through investment in communications infrastructure, post-production operations and food handling and safety procedures is important.

48. Even though the public sector’s role in economic activities has become less significant following a decade of structural reforms, its expenditure remains indispensable for promoting agricultural development. In fact, the level of farm investment is largely determined by the provision of public goods, i.e. rural infrastructure, research and extension, market information and other support services. Despite the dependence of poor countries on agriculture for incomes and food security, the share of public expenditure for agriculture, whether measured in relation to GDP or total expenditure, has been declining. Available data for 13 countries in the Asia-Pacific region show that in two countries of East Asia, public expenditure for agriculture as a ratio of GDP declined from nearly 1 percent in 1990 to 0.8 percent in 2000 and as a ratio of total expenditure declined from 8.4 percent to 3.8 percent. These shares declined more drastically in four countries of Southeast Asia, from approximately 1.6 percent to 0.8 percent of GDP and from 8.4 to 3.8 percent of total expenditure. In three South Asia countries, public expenditure for agriculture declined from 1.9 percent to 1.2 of GDP and its share in total expenditure dropped from 9.2 to 5.2 percent. In four developing countries in the Pacific, while public expenditure as percent of GDP declined only marginally and was maintained at around 2 percent, its share in total expenditure declined from approximately 4.6 percent in 1990 to 3.6 percent in 2000.

49. Considering that the agriculture sector still contributes approximately 15 percent of GDP in East Asia and the Pacific and 25 percent in South Asia, and that 56 percent of the population is agricultural with a high dependency on the sector for food security and income generation, the declining share of public expenditure for agriculture is not consistent with the development imperatives of the countries in the region. Moreover, the average figures for the subregion hide the lowest share of agriculture in total public expenditure in some of the least developed countries with high incidence of undernutrition. Obviously, meeting the goals and commitments of the WFS calls for the countries to urgently review and appropriately adjust their public expenditure priorities.

Formulating and implementing a strategy against hunger

50. The first task in formulating a country strategy against hunger is the setting of realistic strategic objectives based on the characteristics and needs of the country. In setting these goals it is necessary to take into consideration internationally agreed goals (such as the WFS target and the MDGs), as well as any existing national objectives. These goals should also be time-bound and quantitative in order to form the basis for monitoring, accountability and political pressure for their achievement. Setting goals at the national level is a powerful instrument to reinforce political will, gather consensus around a National Alliance Against Hunger, and mobilize resources to enable the poor to be self-reliant through creating employment and income generating projects and programmes as well as improving their access to productive resources such as land and technology to enhance their productivity and, by so doing, to reduce poverty and food insecurity on a wider scale.

51. The Strategy should not set itself in competition with other national and international efforts to fight poverty and hunger. It should be harmonised with other anti-poverty and anti-hunger plans and policies that are ongoing or in the pipeline in each participating country so as to mainstream food security as an overarching goal in regional, national, and local policy design and implementation. In particular, coordination with the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) process should be ensured. The Strategy can maximise its impact by striving to emphasise the need for a food security focus in the PRSP from within, rather than working in parallel to the PRSP process. As national anti-poverty resources are increasingly being allocated according to the strategies devised in the context of the PRSPs, this will also ensure that human and financial resource constraints to the implementation of the strategy are, to the extent possible, eased.

52. The food security strategy should include a detailed resource plan and spell out the institutional initiatives that will be required for the achievement of the strategic objectives. In order to address the wide spectrum of cross-sectoral issues and make sure that food security concerns are incorporated in the entire policy domain (including macroeconomic, education, health policies and others) there is a need for a wider coordination amongst related government ministries and agencies. This may require mobilizing inter-ministerial coordination through the prime minister’s office, national development planning authority or some other entity which can ensure overall coordination and a comprehensive vision and action.

53. Recognizing the importance of a coherent national strategy to tackle hunger and mainstreaming the same into the national development strategies, in March 2003 FAO launched the Initiative to Review and Update National Agricultural, Rural Development and Food Security Strategies and Policies (Initiative). This initiative supports member countries in reassessing and revising their agricultural and rural sector strategies and polices within the framework of the WFS: fyl Declaration and the MDGs. More specifically, the initiative aims to support countries in addressing food insecurity issues within a medium/long run framework that ensures consistency among objectives, policies, resources and results. This mechanism also enables the incorporation of food security objectives into country/regional processes documented by the PRSPs and Regional Integration Agreements, ultimately facilitating resource allocation towards hunger reduction, with particular focus on the needs and expectations of poor farmers and other disadvantaged groups. (Further details of this Initiative are provided in the document APRC/04/INF/10.)

V. CONCLUSION

54. The Asia-Pacific countries that are lagging behind in meeting the WFS goals need to assess their national performance vis--vis the national and international commitments made earlier and identify the gaps in policies, resource allocation and implementation capacities. They should consider, if they have not already done so, preparing a national food security strategy with a time-bound action plan to address existing constraints, estimation of resources required and a workable monitoring mechanism facilitating independent assessment of progress based on quantifiable indicators. Formulation and implementation of such strategies should ensure multi-stakeholder partnerships with innovative institutional reforms and clear delineation of responsibilities and authority. In this regard, FAO would be ready, upon request, to provide direct policy assistance or technical support in formulating national food security strategies.

55. To take full advantage of international trade for poverty alleviation and enhanced food security, countries in the region need to further strengthen their national capacities in dealing with WTO related matters in the context of trade liberalization. In particular, the capacity to analyze the implications of various provisions of the Agreement on Agriculture and other agriculture-related WTO Agreements and to formulate policies and harmonised legislation required to comply with these Agreements needs be strengthened. Technical capacities, laboratories and institutions to improve the quality and safety of domestic products and ensure quality and safety of agricultural imports should be developed to meet internationally prescribed standards.

56. FAO has assisted countries in the region in capacity building through direct country-specific assistance and subregional workshops. Such technical support has primarily aimed at enhancing familiarity with the Uruguay Round agreements related to agriculture, issues and topics relevant to negotiations relating to agriculture, and special issues of regional and subregional concern. Member countries may wish to request continued support from FAO to strengthen national capacity, analyse implementation issues, formulate and update national legislation, and enhance regional/subregional co-operation for sharing information and technical facilities for human resource development.

57. Survival in the age of globalization calls for not only fair terms of trade but also enhancing competitiveness vis--vis price and quality of products. In the final analysis, real benefit could only accrue if countries can offer their products in a non-distorted market at competitive prices. Therefore, public and private investment to promote efficient production and marketing must be pursued vigorously. Although a large proportion of agricultural investments are mobilized by the farmers themselves, the public sector has a critical role to play in creating a conducive environment for such investment and in ensuring adequate availability of public goods. Governments must ensure that the critical public sector support to the agriculture sector is maintained. In this regard, the public expenditure policy and resource allocation to agriculture and rural development should receive priority attention and macroeconomic policies should be favourable to agriculture. The declining trend in the flow of resources to the food and agricultural sector should be reversed. Domestic resource shortfalls should be compensated through mobilization of international funding for priority programmes.


1 The more correct term for this variable would be “national average apparent food consumption”, since the data come from the national food balance sheets rather than from consumption surveys.