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Facing the challenges of the World Food Summit

The latest session of FAO's Committee on World Food Security (CFS), held at the organization's Headquarters in June 1999, took two major practical steps towards making the 1996 World Food Summit's (WFS) over-riding goal a feasible attainment. The 1999 session of the CFS endorsed moves to improve means of assessment, and monitoring and reporting capacities - assessing the conditions that create food insecurity, and monitoring and reporting progress in cutting the number of undernourished people.

Bread on sale in Bolivia
FAO/19363/R. Jones

One hundred and eighty-six nations, gathered at the WFS declared that they would work together to reduce the number of undernourished people in the world by half, by the year 2015. This vital humanitarian task involves not only direct action in many fields and at many levels - national, regional and international - but also an effective system for measuring progress towards the 2015 landmark goal. The CFS was made responsible for keeping track of progress in implementing the seven Commitments contained in the Summit Plan of Action, and reducing the number of people without enough food to eat on a daily basis.

The latest session of the CFS first concentrated on improving capacity to assess accurately the number and characteristics of food insecure and vulnerable people, who are the target of Summit follow-up actions. Delegates considered a document providing an improved structure for monitoring the food security situation at all levels, and suggested a number of improvements in the indicators to be used.

At global level, in addition to supply-side indicators, other suggestions included: dietary composition, a poverty index, income distribution and purchasing power, trade position, terms of trade, external debt, private capital flows and overseas development aid. Various recommendations were also made for improving the monitoring of food availability and accessibility at national, household and even individual level. The Committee decided to take up the question "Who are the Food Insecure?"as a major theme at its 26th session in the year 2000.

The meeting also looked at the reporting format, developed by the secretariat, for monitoring progress towards the 2015 goal. Some delegates expressed concern that synthesizing national reports would not have much meaning, and suggested that, instead, the CFS should review voluntary country reports. Other delegates had no objection to the reports being synthesized, but recommended that countries should make their reports available to other interested countries.

A reporting format was endorsed for use in reporting on actions taken to implement Commitments One, Two and Five and it was agreed that this format should form the basis for all future reporting on progress under the Summit's Plan of Action.

Continuing the focus on Summit follow-up, the Committee also took a new look at the role of NGOs and civil society in this work. FAO is in the process of reviewing policies and strategies for cooperation with NGOs and CSOs and the results of the review will be available soon. Unusually, during the discussion of the relevant agenda item, the floor was given to any NGO/CSO representatives who wished to speak.

Of the meeting's achievements in these three areas, FAO's Barbara Huddleston, Chief of the Food Security and Agricultural Projects Analysis Service said "All these innovations responded to the need to reorient the work of the CFS to meet the new challenges laid down by the Summit".

The CFS has a standing agenda item on nutrition and this year's session looked at the importance of food quality and food safety as integral components of food security - an issue increasingly making headlines in recent years. The meeting stressed the importance of developing country participation in the work of the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission, which strives to improve food quality and safety worldwide, dealing with key issues such as food labelling, establishing safe levels for drug residues, food additives etc. The CFS noted that developing country participation in Codex had increased in recent years, but stressed that more effort, including donor country support, is needed to increase the quality and impact of their participation.

15 June 1999

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