19. The Ministerial-level Session of the Conference was convened from 16 to 17 May. It involved the full delegations of all participating countries and organizations, including 11 Ministers of agriculture.
20. Dr R.B. Singh, Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative (ADG/RR) for Asia and the Pacific reported on the major FAO activities in the region over the past biennium.1 He emphasised the impact of FAO's work in relation to the thematic priorities discussed at the twenty-fifth Conference in Yokohama. These were sustainable agriculture and poverty alleviation; biotechnology and biodiversity; and follow up to the World Food Summit Plan of Action.
21. A detailed summary of the senior officers' discussions related to preparations for the WFS:fyl was presented to the Ministers and other delegates. The summary highlighted the key elements of the deliberations and the recommendations made by the senior officers.
22. Mr Frederick Muller, Rapporteur of the Senior Officers Meeting, introduced the report of the Senior Officers Meeting to the Ministerial-level Session and summarised the key findings and recommendations resulting from the deliberations during that part of the Conference. The Ministers and other delegates endorsed the findings and recommendations of the Senior Officers Meeting, which comprise an integral part of this Conference report.
23. In validating and reinforcing the conclusions and recommendations made by the senior officers, the Ministers and other delegates unanimously expressed concern over the slow pace in reducing the number of undernourished in the world. They cited the urgent need for renewed political commitment, more effective policies and strategies and increased dedication in implementing programs to accelerate the progress of agricultural development and ensuring food security for all.
24. The Ministers and other delegates welcomed the initiative of the Director-General in convening the upcoming WFS:fyl, to be held in June 2002. They also noted the potential for a “Global Alliance Against Hunger” to further mobilise political will in combating hunger and looked forward to further discussion of the concept at the WFS:fyl.
25. Numerous challenges and constraints in the pursuit of food security were cited by the Ministers and other delegates. Particular attention was drawn to challenges arising from growing populations and food demand, globalisation and emerging trade arrangements, natural and man-made disasters, civil strife, lack of rural infrastructure, shrinking farm lands, degradation of forests and declining fish stocks.
26. The Conference noted that many of the small island developing states face a number of challenges similar to those of mountain communities, such as their distance from markets, reliance on imports to supply many basic commodities, dependence on a narrow base of exports, susceptibility to natural disasters, lack of infrastructure and low levels of investment.
27. Ministers and other delegates recognised a broad range of strategies and mechanisms to enhance food security and alleviate rural poverty. Particular focus was given to the roles of domestic food production and stockholding; fair and equitable trade; sustainable management of natural resources; participatory approaches and partnerships with local communities and local organizations; empowerment of the rural poor including women; effective research and development; rural credit; appropriate application of biotechnology, indigenous knowledge and technologies, post-harvest and processing facilities; improved food distribution; and creation of off-farm employment.
28. The Ministers and delegates also highlighted the importance of capacity building in biotechnology, paying special attention to human and environmental risks from this advanced technology. The Conference urged FAO to provide assistance in dealing with this issue.
29. The Ministers and other delegates stressed the valuable roles of FAO in supporting member countries' efforts to achieve food security. Particular attention was given to the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS); Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information Mapping Systems (FIVIMS); early warning systems; codes and guidelines for responsible fishery and forestry practices; prevention and management of forest fires; strengthening of capacities for meeting sanitary and phyto-sanitary requirements; and trade-related technical and policy assistance. The Conference encouraged the further strengthening of mechanisms promoted by FAO for exchanging technical knowledge and experience through South-South Cooperation, regional networking, and other partnerships.
30. A representative of the pre-Conference NGO/CSO consultation on preparation for the WFS:fyl presented a statement to the Conference summarising the results of the consultation. The statement is given in Appendix F.