Twenty-sixth Session

Rome, 18-21 September 2000






21. Twenty-six Heads of Delegation intervened on this agenda item2 . In addition, the Conference was addressed by the Co-Chairpersons of the European NGOs/CSOs Consultation, which was held in Porto on 21 and 22 July 2000. The Report of the Consultation is appended in Appendix E to this Report.

22. The Conference expressed concern at the slow pace of achieving food security in many countries in the world. It took note of several Member Nations reiterating their commitment to achieve WFS goals. It was informed of the substantial contributions made by the EU and its Member States to official development aid for the purpose of food security. It further took note of the G-8 Summit (Okinawa) initiative on debt relief for low-income countries.

23. The Conference also took note of the activities carried out by FAO in the Region to support the countries in meeting WFS commitments. Appreciation was expressed for the role played by FAO in coordinating the activities relating to the WFS follow-up by the concerned international organizations.

24. The Conference highlighted:

  1. the relationship between food security and political stability in the countries of the Region; it took note of the serious economic and humanitarian impact caused by the Kosovo crisis on neighbouring countries;

  2. the importance and the need to involve NGOs and Civil Society in agricultural and rural development activities;

  3. the usefulness of national and regional workshops and conferences organized by some of the Member Nations on sustainable agriculture and rural development;

  4. the need for assistance to a number of Member Nations to combat prolonged drought;

  5. the willingness of Member Nations in the Region, including the CEECs, to contribute with expertise and resources to assist in reducing hunger and world food insecurity including providing support for preventive measures as well as support in crisis situations;

  6. the appropriateness of an increased use of experts from CEECs and EU countries in the implementation of technical assistance projects;

  7. the continued support for the role of FAO as the lead agency for the elaboration of international standards within the framework of the Codex Alimentarius Commission;

  8. the adoption by some countries of food legislation, which would strengthen food safety systems to ensure consumers' health;

  9. the measures taken by CEE countries in the accession process, to harmonize national food legislation and standards with EU requirements.

25. The Conference took note of the proposal made by the Delegation of Hungary for a water management project involving the countries of the Carpathian Basin to address recurring problems related to water management and the environment.




1. The European Regional Consultation between FAO and non-governmental and civil society organizations (NGOs/CSOs) was held in Porto, Portugal on 21-22 July 2000 in conjunction with the 22nd FAO Regional Conference for Europe. It brought together thirty-five participants representing thirty national, regional and international organizations from Europe.

2. The Consultation highlighted that the goal of reducing food insecurity is far from being attained. Four years after the World Food Summit the attitude of many civil society organizations is pessimistic, particularly regarding the implementation of the commitments contained in the World Food Summit Plan of Action. To date, little significant progress seems to have been made. An extra effort will be needed to improve the situation of food security in Europe and globally and to halve the number of the hungry by 2015.

3. The Consultation reviewed the situation of food security, food safety, sustainable agriculture and rural development in Europe and concluded that Europe is not exempt from a trend observed generally throughout the world, that of the growing gap between rich and poor, not only within individual countries, but also between countries and regions. The Consultation considered that this phenomenon is particularly severe in European countries with economies in transition which, over the past few years, have undergone the most significant increase of inequalities in their history (UNDP Report on Human Development, 1999).

4. The Consultation discussed priorities for future cooperation, among civil society organizations in Europe, governments and FAO, to achieve food security and sustainable development objectives within the framework of the recently published document on FAO Policy and Strategy for Cooperation with NGOs and civil society organizations. It recognized that networking and sharing of information and experience was essential at all levels, from the grassroots up to the regional and global levels. It noted that another important level for networking is that of subregions and, in this context, CSOs need to interface with intergovernmental organizations at this level. Among the many means that should be used for networking, including electronic communications, documents and rural radio programmes, the Consultation emphasized the importance of people-to-people contact.

5. The Consultation identified some priority actions and issues within the broad fields of food security, sustainable agricultural and rural development and food safety on which the NGOs/CSOs felt attention could be focussed in strengthening their networking, their participation in policy dialogue and their capacities:

- Participation in the formulation of strategies and action plans for food security and agricultural and rural development and in the review and negotiation of policies during the process of accession to the EU;

- involvement in food quality control programmes;

- involvement in environmental monitoring;

- involvement in monitoring the implementation of the WFS commitments;

- ensuring coherence among European policies for agriculture, trade and cooperation in support of food security, sustainable agriculture and rural development in Europe and in southern regions;

- raising public awareness and promoting a multi-stakeholder approach regarding the above mentioned issues.

6. The participants of the Consultation proposed several actions to be taken in the future cooperation between NGOs/CSOs, inter alia:

- NGOs/CSOs have an important role to play in articulating and defending the interests of farmers and consumers in the formulation of agriculture and food policies, in providing services to rural producers and in promoting the growth of strong, effective and representative peoples' organizations. They are often in the forefront of experimentation with new approaches to sustainable development like organic farming;

- national NGOs/CSOs in CEE countries should promote the structuring of civil society from the base up by motivating their members and by extending their organizations and improving their effectiveness and legitimacy. They should undertake public education campaigns with the involvement of the media. They should lobby the governments and network with other local, national, regional and international NGOs;

- national NGOs in EU countries could provide advice and assistance to partner NGOs in the rest of Europe to help them build their capacity, improve their lobbying techniques and learn how to access funding at the European level. The EU development NGOs can help to bring a global dimension to NGO work on food and agriculture issues in Europe.

7. The Consultation indicated the following areas of cooperation between NGOs/CSOs and FAO:

- FAO should offer assistance to NGOs/CSOs by providing capacity building, training and technical assistance in the priority areas identified by CSOs which fall within its mandate and by providing needed data, information and statistics;

- FAO can facilitate NGO/CSO participation in governmental decision-making processes. It can encourage exchange of experience through meetings like the present regional consultation;

- NGOs/CSOs look to FAO to implement the positive commitments contained in its new strategy for cooperation. Particular reference was made to the importance of effective diffusion of information on FAO field programmes and other activities; enhancement of civil society participation in policy fora through such means as providing them with opportunities to react to meeting papers and to interact with government delegates; and support for civil society capacity building. FAO missions to countries should make a point of contacting civil society organizations and involving them in programme discussions.

8. The NGOs/CSOs recognize that Governments have the primary responsibility for ensuring food security and sustainable development and for defining and enforcing a policy framework that takes account of the interests of all sectors of the population. In this context, the Consultation made a number of proposals for cooperation between NGOs/CSOs and governments, inter alia:

- To enhance the positive role that NGOs/CSOs are able to play in issues of food security, sustainable agriculture and rural development, the governments in CEE and other non-EU countries as well as the European Commission should contribute resolutely to the strengthening of the NGO/CSO sector, by adopting procedures for active participation of NGOs in decision-making processes as well as removing the existing procedural and financial obstacles for the NGO participation;

- governments should support education and training programmes for farmers on new environment-friendly, organic farming practices, especially in non-EU countries;

- to improve the quality and safety of food as well as nutrition habits throughout Europe, governments should prepare and support programmes of education of consumers and farmers on the issues of nutrition, as well as programmes to make organic products widely available to the public. NGOs want to be involved at the national regional and worldwide level in quality control and environmental impact monitoring programmes, bringing to the partnership their knowledge, good will, good access to the people and to the media.

9. Follow-up to the present Regional Consultation should build upon the work done to date and maintain the continuity between the consultations, with the inclusion of new civil society partners. Attention was drawn to the difficulties experienced by many NGOs, even of Western European countries, in attending meetings of this kind unless some funding is available to help cover costs of travelling and living expenses.



1 ERC/00/3

2 European Community, France, Germany, Sweden, Hungary, Ireland, The Netherlands, Finland, Poland, Romania, Norway, Cyprus, Albania, Czech Republic, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Israel, Italy, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Denmark, Portugal, Slovak Republic while two statements (Malta and Lithuania) were delivered to the Secretariat.