ROME, 7 November 2002 -- The head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Dr. Jacques Diouf, urged strengthened cooperation between FAO, NGOs and other civil society organizations in the fight against hunger.

Speaking at a recent meeting with a delegation from the International NGO/CSO Planning Committee for the World Food Summit:five years later to discuss follow-up to the Summit (10-13 June 2002), Dr. Diouf noted that there had been a great deal of global discussion over the past decade. "The time has come", he said, "for policy changes and action at a level that impacts directly on the lives of the hungry."

FAO and NGOs will work together on the four priority areas identified by the hundreds of delegates from around the world at the NGO/CSO Forum For Food Sovereignty held last June during the World Food Summit:five years later. The Forum brought 20,000 people to the streets of Rome for a peaceful and colourful march on "Land and Dignity". The four priorities are: the right of all peoples to food security and food sovereignty; rural peoples' access to land, water and biodiversity; mainstreaming family-based agroecological approaches to sustainable food production; trade and food sovereignty.

In concrete terms, concerted efforts will be made over the coming months to improve civil society access to FAO information, to encourage effective participation by representatives of social movements and NGOs in policy fora where decisions are taken that affect peoples' lives, to provide them with capacity building support, and to enhance participation of farmers' organizations and other CSOs in FAO's field programmes.

Civil society organizations will take an active part in an intergovernmental working group established by the session of the FAO Council which closed last Friday. This group will draft voluntary guidelines to help member countries guarantee their citizens' right to adequate food, a field in which NGOs have played a pioneering role. An NGO/CSO conference will be organized in Germany in late November, the International Committee announced, to develop civil society input to the working group.

The results of last June's NGO/CSO Forum are serving as a reference point for reflections on food security issues at the European Social Forum opening in Florence (Italy) on 6 November 2002, where one of the plenary conferences will focus on "Europe and Food sovereignty". Among the panelists is Sergio Marelli, the president of the Italian host NGO committee that organized the Forum in Rome in parallel to the World Food Summit:five years later.