1. Opening Ceremony
2. Election of the Chairperson, Vice-Chairpersons and Appointment of Rapporteur: for decision
3. Adoption of the Agenda and Timetable: for decision
(ERC/04/1-Rev.1 and ERC/04/INF/2-Rev.1)


4. Statement by the Director-General (ERC/O4/INF/4)


5. Follow-up to the World Food Summit and World Food Summit:fyl : Regional Dimensions: for discussion (ERC/04/3)
6. Food Safety and Quality in Europe: Aspects concerning in particular quality, nutritional balance, the importance of agricultural land and cultural heritage (“terroirs”) (Outcome of the 33rd Session of the European Commission on Agriculture): for discussion (ERC/04/4, ERC/04/INF/10 and ERC/04/LIM/1)
7. Agricultural Research: its role and contribution to sustainable rural development: for discussion (ERC/04/5 and ERC/04/5-Sup.1)
8. Review of the State of Food and Agriculture in the Region: Focus on Rural Poverty: for discussion (ERC/04/6)
9. Report on FAO Activities in the Region 2002-03: for discussion and/or information (ERC/04/2)
10. International Year of Rice, 2004: for information (ERC/04/INF/5)
11. Programme for Bridging the Rural Digital Divide to reduce Food Insecurity and Poverty: for information (ERC/04/INF/6)
12. Initiative to Review and Update National Agricultural, Rural Development and Food Security Strategies and Policies: for information (ERC/04/INF/7)


13. Date, Place and main theme(s) of the Twenty-fifth FAO Regional Conference for Europe: for decision
14. Any other business
15. Adoption of the Report
16. Closure of the Conference




Mr Chairman,
Distinguished Ministers,
Honourable Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,


It is a great pleasure to address the Twenty-fourth FAO Regional Conference for Europe, which is being held in France for the first time, in this modern and dynamic city of Montpellier. On behalf of the Organization and of all of you, I should like to express my profound gratitude to the French Government and to the authorities of the Languedoc-Roussillon region for hosting this Conference and for their warm welcome.

(State of food and agriculture in the world)

During the first half of the 1990s, the number of undernourished people in the world declined by 37†million. In contrast, during the second half, it increased by 18 million. Positive achievements in many countries were countered by setbacks in many others. In 1999-2001, there were 842†million undernourished people in the world, including 798 million in the developing countries, 34 million in the countries in transition and 10 million in the industrialized countries. At this rate, the World Food Summit’s objective of halving the number of hungry people by 2015 will only be achieved in 2150.

In 2003, world cereal utilization totalled some 1 970 million tonnes, exceeding production by 100†million tonnes.

The prices of many export commodities from developing countries are now lower than ever. Coffee is one of the most spectacular examples, but the same has occurred for cocoa, sugar and banana. Moreover, 43 countries earn more than 20 percent of their total export revenue and more than 50 percent of their total agricultural revenue from just one commodity.

After the failure of the Cancun Ministerial Conference, negotiations have resumed following the meeting of the General Council of the World Trade Organization in December 2003. Commitment to achieving the Doha Development Agenda for the agricultural sector was confirmed at the Round Table held on this subject during the Thirty-second Session of the FAO Conference, for a fair trading policy essential for rural development and food security. In this context, the role of FAO’s Committee on Commodity Problems is more important than ever. It is with this in mind that I wish to invite representatives of the Ministries of Trade to the next session of this Committee in February 2005.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations should promote agricultural development and protect the income of farmers in all countries of the world. FAO should support all actions that defend the parity of farmers’ incomes with those of workers in the secondary and tertiary sectors. Related measures should not however cause distortions in the international agricultural commodity market, with a resulting deterioration of living conditions of farmers in developing countries, as has happened with cotton.

At constant 1995 prices, external aid to agricultural development fell from US$27 billion to between US$10 and 15 billion during the 1990s, whereas the amount should be doubled and agriculture’s share of national budgets should be increased if there is to be accelerated progress in reducing undernourishment.

(Round tables on financing for agricultural development)

For the purpose of mobilizing such financial resources, FAO has decided to organize, with the regional development banks, round tables on financing for agriculture alongside each of its 2004†Regional Conferences in the developing regions.

(World Food Summit: five years later)

During the June 2002 World Food Summit: five years later held in Rome, the Heads of State and Government resolved to hasten implementation of the Summit’s Plan of Action and called for an International Alliance Against Hunger.

National alliances are thus being formed in member countries to mobilize governments, parliaments, NGOs, civil society, the private sector and agricultural organizations.


The developing countries need to take up the challenge of agricultural productivity and market competitiveness in order to improve their food security.

Soil degradation is accelerating, affecting 21 million hectares of arable land. In the arid and semi-arid areas that make up 45 percent of the world’s land surface, the integrated management of land, water and fertilizer can significantly mitigate this situation.

Urban and periurban agriculture and home and school microgardens would help rapidly improve the nutritional status of poor population groups with relatively modest levels of investment. FAO has undertaken such projects in all the regions of the world, notably with Technical Cooperation Programme resources and TeleFood funds.

Livestock sustains some 800 million rural poor and meets 30 to 40 percent of total food requirements.

Transboundary animal diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease, haemorrhagic fever, Rift†Valley fever, swine fever, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia and avian influenza, are sources of concern for trade and public health. Yet, real progress has been made in this domain. The battle against old and new epidemics is a major challenge that FAO and its partners are striving to meet under the Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases†(EMPRES).

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture has already been ratified by 48 countries, including 12 European countries, and will come into force on 29†June†2004.


A ministerial meeting on forestry will be convened in Rome in 2005 to study the recommendations of the Regional Commissions and to make strategic decisions on the future of the sector, especially to strengthen measures against forest fires.


In the fisheries sector, almost 10 percent of the world’s fish stocks are depleted and 18 percent are overexploited, mainly because of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, more efficient new technologies and excessive fishing capacity. The situation is aggravated by the absence of monitoring and surveillance of vessels employing satellite transponder technology, in particular.

FAO will therefore be convening a meeting of Fisheries Ministers at its Headquarters in 2005 to add renewed impetus to actions needed in this sector.

(Sustainable agricultural development)

As regards sustainable agriculture and rural development, FAO is formulating a four-year project for mountain regions.

The International Conference of Small Island Developing States will be held in Mauritius in August 2004. FAO is actively involved in this initiative and will organize a Ministerial Conference on the Development of Agriculture in Small Island States in Rome in 2005.

Although women account for 60 percent of agricultural production in developing countries, they still have unequal access to productive resources. FAO is striving to tackle this problem, devising specific indicators for appropriate policies.

(Emergency situations)

At the end of†2003, 38 countries were faced with serious food shortages requiring international assistance. Food aid in cereals fell to 7.4 million tonnes in 2001-2002, down 23†percent from 2000-2001.

Eight million small farmers and agricultural workers died from HIV/AIDS between 1985 and 2000 in the 25 most affected countries. FAO is involved in the fight against this pandemic, conducting surveys of its impact on food security and developing agricultural production techniques that are less labour intensive.

(State of food and agriculture in the region)

Mr Chairman,
Distinguished Ministers,
Honourable Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

This Conference meets at a historic moment for Europe as ten more countries have just become members of the European Union.

Europe is a very diversified region. It includes some of the most advanced countries of the world as well as others that have high levels of poverty. Factors fuelling poverty in the past fifteen years include the difficulties associated with moving from a centrally planned economy to a market economy, declining production in agriculture and the agrifood sector and resulting unemployment. In the Balkans, the situation has been further exacerbated by conflict.

The level of poverty in the region based on a poverty line of less than US$2 per day stands at 21†percent and 5 percent of the population are affected by food insecurity. Such levels are lower than in most other parts of the world but significant differences exist among the countries.

Agricultural production in the region as a whole fell by about 0.5 percent per year between 1998 and 2003. Agricultural production gained in the so-called "transition" countries that were able to complete their land reform rapidly or that did not need to restructure their agricultural sectors as farms were already in private hands.

Agriculture accounted for 12 percent of the region's Gross Domestic Product in 2001. Agricultural exports represented 7.4 percent of total exports in 2002, for a value of US$211†billion, against agricultural imports of US$222 billion. The 25 countries of the European Union account for more than 90 percent of these figures.

The year 2003 was unfortunately not a good year for agriculture in most countries of the region. Drought, frost, flooding and other problems, such as locust and rodent infestation, led to a sharp decline in agricultural production, especially in Armenia, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine.

During the last biennium, six countries of the Balkans and Commonwealth of Independent States received emergency assistance from FAO to deal with crises in their agricultural sectors, for a total of some US$15 million, including US$2 million under the Technical Cooperation Programme. FAO also helped prepare the agricultural components of the United Nations Consolidated Appeals in the region.

(The Conference agenda)

Mr Chairman,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

(Quality of food products)

Improving the safety and quality of food products remains a key objective of governments, private sector and civil society organizations of all the countries of the region. Such improvement will help safeguard public health, meet consumer expectations and encourage local and international trade.

(Role of agricultural research in sustainable rural development)

The transfer and adoption of appropriate technology is essential for the sustainable intensification of agricultural systems. Very important to Europe in this connection are the promotion of exchanges, the existence of regional and global partnerships and the strengthening of linkages between public and private research, extension, education and communication institutions.

(Follow-up to the World Food Summit)

The Conference will be reviewing the follow-up to the World Food Summit and the initiatives taken to achieve the Summit's objectives and the Millennium Development Goals. It will also be looking at the measures that have been taken under the Anti-Hunger Programme, the Right to Adequate Food and the International Alliance Against Hunger.

(Main challenges and priorities for the future)

Mr Chairman,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Special attention needs to be paid to the poorest countries of the region, especially those of southeast Europe and the Community of Independent States, to help resolve their problems of food insecurity and rural poverty.

FAO must continue to pursue its long-term priorities for Europe which extend until 2007 and which were determined at its Twenty-second Regional Conference for Europe four years ago. The region must take up the challenge of poverty and concentrate on strengthening sustainable rural livelihoods and food security. It also needs to improve food safety and quality and the management of natural resources. Lastly, it needs to strengthen its institutions and facilitate transition to a market economy, especially in the agricultural sector.

FAO is seeking to meet these challenges by working in close collaboration with its development partners in the region and with individual governments in order to address national priorities as defined in their poverty reduction policies and strategies and related programmes.

Through its Investment Centre, FAO is working with the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and other financial institutions in establishing pilot technical cooperation projects. These could serve as models for the sustainable development and modernization of the agricultural sector and subsequently evolve into programmes that are much broader in scope.

I am confident that a determined Europe can meet the challenges of poverty and food insecurity. FAO, for its part, will continue to support governments and regional partners for the implementation of coherent and effective programmes and for the mobilization of domestic and external financing.

I wish you every success in your work and thank you for your kind attention.





Referring to the World Food Summit: five years later’s call for more political will and financial resources to eradicate hunger and malnutrition, the organizations taking part in the FAO/NGO-CSO Regional Consultation for Europe, held before the Twenty-Fourth FAO Regional Conference for Europe, put forward the following viewpoints and challenges to the governmental delegations participating in the FAO Regional Conference.

1. End hunger and malnutrition

We request that the governments fulfil their obligations to secure everyone’s right to food.

It is unacceptable that 842 million people in the world and 13.8 million people in Europe are undernourished or starving. It is possible to end hunger and undernourishment quickly. What is lacking is the political will of the governments. We request that the governments of Europe immediately end undernourishment in Europe and do whatever is possible to contribute to ending hunger in the world.

2. The principle of food sovereignty has to be recognized and adopted

We challenge the governments to recognize and adopt the principle of food sovereignty. We ask the delegates to recommend that FAO make a report on the concept and on the consequences of adopting the principle of food sovereignty.

Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to define their own food and agriculture; to protect and regulate domestic agricultural production and trade in order to achieve sustainable development objectives; to determine the extent to which they want to be self reliant; to restrict the dumping of products in their markets; and to provide local fisheries-based communities the priority in managing the use of and the rights to aquatic resources. Food sovereignty does not negate trade, but rather, it promotes the formulation of trade policies and practices that serve the rights of peoples to safe, healthy and ecologically sustainable production.

There are many positive initiatives and encouraging examples of sustainable farming in Europe, but the development of agriculture in all European countries is going in the wrong, unsustainable direction. Industrialized agriculture - with increasingly bigger farms, the use of huge amounts of chemical fertilizer and pesticides, monocultures, heavy machinery, tapping of ground water and less and less varieties - is not sustainable. The rapid closing down of small farms in all European countries is alarming, and the trend has to be reversed. Family farms with low input and diversified production mainly for local and domestic markets represent the future of farming and should be strongly supported by all governments.

The unsustainable development of agriculture in Europe is closely linked to the trade policy, which is not based on the needs of people and the environment but on the greed of the multinational companies.

The NGOs and CSOs want to underline that food sovereignty is the most important and basic principle for an agricultural policy to end hunger and to develop a sustainable agriculture.

3. More and better development assistance

We request that the level of official development assistance (ODA) from the OECD countries in Europe increases drastically, and we challenge the governments to cooperate with the NGOs and CSOs in Europe and our partner organizations in the developing countries to improve the quality of development assistance.

We cannot accept that less than 15 percent of the ODA from the OECD countries goes to agriculture. Between 60 and 90 percent of the population in the developing countries are living in the countryside and are directly dependent on agriculture. About 75 percent of the undernourished people and people living in extreme poverty are farmers.

Development assistance is not only being used to eradicate hunger and poverty, and to promote sustainable development, but also to push policies that will increase poverty and hunger, reducing biodiversity and causing other environmental harm. An example of this is the push for GM-food in development aid. We therefore underline that the increase of development assistance for agriculture and rural development and the improvement of the quality of development assistance have to go hand in hand.

Better aid supports local communities and community-based organizations, particularly in building political empowerment, the capacity of people to articulate their views, implement their own development models, and participate meaningfully in development processes. It recognizes that the needs and realities of rural communities are at the core of solutions to solve hunger and poverty. Development assistance has to build on local and traditional knowledge and real participation.

4. Agrarian reform and access to natural resources

We ask the governments in Europe and FAO to support the work of social movements, NGOs and governments for agrarian reform and to secure farmers the right to and access to land, water, seeds and other productive resources.

To eradicate hunger, undernourishment and poverty, it is necessary to undertake agrarian reform in many of the developing countries, and to secure farmers the right to and access to land, water, seeds and other productive resources, but the policies of some governments and international institutions are working in contradiction to this. There is an urgent need to change this. Most urgently, we call on the EU-member states, which are about to adopt Land Policy Guidelines for Development Cooperation, to involve NGOs/CSOs by means of broad regional consultation, in order to guarantee real redistributive effects of land reform, and a pro-poor focus on vulnerable groups and their human right of access to land.

5. Civil society’s role in ending hunger and a new governance model for the UN System

The WFS: fyl has recognized the fundamental role of CSOs in meeting the objective of ending hunger. FAO has recognized the autonomy and the self-organization principle in its relations with CSOs and in particular with the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty.

Building on this process, FAO must ensure structural inclusion of CSOs in the normative and operational activities of the Organization. FAO must allow CSOs to participate in all the decision-making processes of the Organization in order to achieve a new governance in the UN system.

6. Promoting the right to food

Regarding the fact that

Regarding the fact that

We, the participants of the FAO/NGO-CSO Regional Consultation for Europe in conjunction with the 24th FAO Regional Conference,


International obligations in the Voluntary Guidelines have to be recognized by the European countries which are members of the FAO:

We strongly call on the European states for a final text of the Voluntary Guidelines, in which these topics are duly taken into account.




We, consumers, farmers and representatives of the rural world, of environmental organizations and of international solidarity organizations from throughout Europe, have discussed, during the course of intense debate, the very relevant but also extremely broad topic of food quality and safety.

In accordance with the document put before you by FAO, we define quality as aligning the characteristics of a product with the stated or implied, objective or symbolic requirements of the consumer.

Access to a sufficient quantity of quality food is a basic right. We solemnly ask that these rights, the right to food and the right to food sovereignty, be recognized and defended by FAO and its European members.

Each country, or group of countries, has the duty to provide its inhabitants with the food they require. Evoking the principle of food sovereignty, we declare that each nation has the right to decide its procurement in terms of origin, means of production, and social and environmental standards. The duty of the government authorities – your duty – is to put in place the policies and instruments that are needed to satisfy these demands.


We call for a European model of consumption that is based on quality and diversity, inherited from farmer know-how, from tradition and from cultural heritage. We also note that the prevailing agricultural model does not always correspond to our expectations.

The current norms of food processing and distribution that are determined under the influence of market oligopolies lead to the deterioration of flavour, the disappearance of product diversity and the standardization of consumption patterns, with a negative impact on the wellbeing and health of consumers.

In addition, trade and agricultural policies implemented under the impetus of the WTO tend to align agricultural commodity prices with those of the global producers that can offer the lowest prices and that exploit labour and the environment. These prices are widely applied to European farmers but they do not remunerate their work. Resulting falling prices cause certain agroindustrial enterprises to seek ever lower prices and, in doing so, to adopt dangerous policies that cannot meet consumer expectations but that can endanger their health.

We ask Member States and FAO:


We ask that you defend family farming as the only model capable of meeting the requisites of the food production system we advocate. This means introducing agricultural policy based on regulation of supply to match domestic consumption, on protection at borders to guarantee producers remunerative prices and on halting the export of subsidized products that depress developing-country markets. In recognition of the principle of food sovereignty, we ask that such a policy be placed within the scope of any country or group of countries.

In addition, for the export crops (coffee, cocoa, cotton, sugar, banana…) that enable the least advanced countries, notably the ACP countries, to earn the financial resources they need for their development, we ask that import quotas at guaranteed remunerative prices be maintained or established.

That is the only way that you will achieve your set objective of eradicating hunger from the world.


A remunerative price policy would be the best means of ensuring harmonious expansion that was considerate to the new members of the European Union, as it would help secure the financial resources needed to develop infrastructure and the economy and to support family farms and local processing industries.

A price policy is also feasible for consumers: a 25 percent increase in agricultural prices would only mean a surcharge of one to two percent for the consumer. This simple observation causes us to question the distribution of added value within the agricultural supply chain and to ask whether producers and consumers are not hostages to the interests of large-scale distribution. We ask the public authorities to restore a state of balance in market relations.


The organizations participating in this consultation are particularly unhappy with the actual trends of the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy. The reform adopted in Luxembourg in June 2003 runs counter to the model that we defend. The fall in prices, with decoupled support, is a negation of the value of the work of small farmers. This reform is also a cover to continue dumping products on domestic and international markets. It will also undoubtedly lead to desertification and to irreversible loss of agricultural land and know-how in the less developed parts of the European Union.


If the diversified European food and agriculture model is to continue to exist, the young must be encouraged to take up farming and must be given long-term prospects of proper income and social recognition.

The only policy that can combine all these advantages must necessarily be defined together with the consumers, the farmers and the representatives of the rural world, of environmental organizations and of international solidarity organizations of the whole of Europe. Only so can our respective demands be reconciled.

That is the policy we propose and earnestly call for.




Agricultural research in Europe is largely reductionist and geared towards industrial agriculture and food production. The need for standardization, economies of scale and economic returns has distanced farmers from consumers. Such research is largely oblivious to the environment. The technical choices are harmful to health and the environment, and there is no monitoring of risks. The European legislative framework for GMOs needs to be unified and enhanced by including regulations on the responsibility of patent holders and of government authorities that have authorized GMOs.

The world will not be fed by industrial agriculture. There is an urgent need, rather, to maximize benefit from the diversity of local environments, cultural heritage and farmer practices, the diversity of life forms and the diversity of human societies. This is where smallholder farming, breeding and innovation play a central role. Small-farmer know-how is today restricted by intellectual property regulations (UPOV and patents) and mandatory registration in the catalogue of distinct, homogeneous and stable seeds (DHS). This know-how needs to be rehabilitated, disseminated and shared within societies. This is where research can play an enabling role for the dissemination of small-farmer know-how, adopting a holistic, participatory approach that involves farmers, consumers, the scientific third party of associations with acquired competence, and the other social actors.

European agricultural research is now dominated by biotechnology. Through the GEF, the World Bank favours a liberal approach to GMOs in the legislative frameworks of the countries of East Europe and of the South.

It seems impossible to reform the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research†(CGIAR) from within, as it is designed and structured to support the development of an industrial approach to agriculture. This institutional rigidity seems to be reinforced by the rigidity of scientists and technicians, who are overly specialized in training and ill-equipped to face the complexities of reality. We also note a strong reluctance on the part of the scientific community to break out of this mould.

There is a very wide range of alternative initiatives and projects to the prevailing industrial system, especially as regards agroecology. These activities testify to the success of small-farmer agriculture but have not received capital investment or been publicized. The formation of multisectoral research teams pursuing a holistic approach is essential for the fostering of agroecological (which includes organic) and small-farmer agriculture if it is capable of involving all the actors.

Civil society concludes by firmly requesting the following of governments and FAO:

  1. The results of agricultural research should not be patented and no priority should be given to genetic engineering technologies.
  2. FAO should establish a reference framework for international agricultural research that is based on small-farmer know-how and on a holistic, participatory approach that includes farmers, consumers and the other social actors.
  3. Governments should give financial priority to the realization of these programmes.
  4. FAO wishes to broaden its sphere of governance. Organized civil society calls for this to be extended to agricultural research. FAO seems to be the only UN agency capable of leading a new orientation of agricultural research that is holistic, small-farmer centred and conducted along genuinely participatory lines.
  5. A budget line allocated to agroecological agriculture to serve as a means of entry to this new approach. The sharing of experiences, information and training should be integrated into a capacity-building strategy.
  6. With regard to agricultural research, FAO should promote the issue of agriculture and food sovereignty in all multilateral agreements on the environment and in strategic plans to reduce poverty.
  7. FAO needs to protect small-farmer research and biodiversity against the restrictions imposed by the WTO agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). As for implementation of the International Treaty on Plant and Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, governments need to ensure that genetic resources are not patented and remain freely available to farmers.
FAO members in the European Region (November 2003)















San Marino

Bosnia and Herzegovina


Serbia and Montenegro










Czech Republic








TFYR of Macedonia

European Community



   (member organization)





United Kingdom





Date and place of FAO Regional Conferences for Europe

First  - Rome, Italy, 10-15 October 1949
Second  - Rome, Italy, 10-15 October 1960
Third  - Rome, Italy, 8-13 October 1962
Fourth  - Salzburg, Austria, 26-31 October 1964
Fifth  - Seville, Spain, 5-11 October 1966
Sixth  - St. Julianís, Malta, 28-31 October 1968
Seventh  - Budapest, Hungary, 21-25 September 1970
Eighth  - Munich, Germany, Fed.Rep.of, 18-23 September 1972
Ninth  - Lausanne, Switzerland, 7-12 October 1974
Tenth  - Bucharest, Romania, 20-25 September 1976
Eleventh  - Lisbon, Portugal, 2-7 October 1978
Twelfth  - Athens, Greece, 22-27 September 1980
Thirteenth  - Sofia, Bulgaria, 4-8 October 1982
Fourteenth  - Reykjavik, Iceland, 17-21 September 1984
Fifteenth  - Istanbul, Turkey, 28 April-2 May 1986
Sixteenth  - Cracow, Poland, 23-26 August 1988
Seventeenth  - Venice, Italy, 3-7 April 1990
Eighteenth  - Prague, Czechoslovakia, 24-28 August 1992
Nineteenth  - Killarney, Ireland, 6-10 June 1994
Twentieth  - Tel Aviv, Israel, 29 April-3 May 1996
Twenty-first  - Tallinn, Estonia, 25-29 May 1998
Twenty-second  - Porto, Portugal, 24-28 July 2000
Twenty-third  - Nicosia, Cyprus, 29-31 May 2002
Twenty-fourth  - Montpellier, France, 5-7 May 2004


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