Havana, 23 April 2002 -- More than 40 non-governmental and civil society organisations from Latin America and the Caribbean yesterday approved a final declaration and plan of action that for presentation to the 27th FAO Regional Conference which began yesterday in the Cuban capital.

The final declaration of the meeting noted with concern that the commitment made at the World Food Summit in 1996 - to reduce to 415 million, by the year 2015, the number of people affected by hunger world-wide - is not being fulfilled. The declaration said that the causes of this problem are not to be sought in the lack of food production but in the unequal distribution of productive resources and income. It went on to say that in many countries the result of structural adjustments has been a growth in unemployment and a deterioration in working conditions for both urban and rural populations.

The objective of this meeting, known as the "Second Regional Consultation of Non-Governmental and Civil Society Organisations (NGO/CSO)", was to evaluate progress towards implementation of the commitments of the 1996 World Food Summit, and to formulate proposals concerning the problem of hunger and malnutrition.

The Consultation insisted on the need for implementation of the right to food, as a fundamental human right contained in the United Nations Charter, and made the commitment, in its Plan of Action, to institute follow-up measures on food safety policy and to guarantee fulfilment of commitments made by governments in this matter.

The NGOs and CSOs participating in the Consultation also stressed the importance of food sovereignty, that is, the right of people to define their own sustainable policies and strategies for production, distribution and consumption of food, as a fundamental condition for the eradication of hunger.

The Consultation recognised the role that FAO has been playing in building global, regional and national consensus on the subject of food safety policies, and it called on FAO to facilitate agreements between governments and civil society in order to establish clear norms and mechanisms that favour full participation.

The Plan of Actionapproved by the Consultation also made reference to the need to promote and strengthen networking among the various civil society organisations and cooperation between the different actors of civil society.

Similar Consultations have been taking place this year on other continents with the aim of gathering contributions from civil society organisations all over the world for the upcoming "World Food Summit: five years on", which will be held in Rome from 10-13 June.