NICOSIA, 31 May 2002 -- The 23rd session of the FAO Regional Conference for Europe ended today in Nicosia with a powerful appeal to the European Heads of State and Government to attend the forthcoming World Food Summit: five years later that will be held in Rome on 10-13 June 2002.

The delegates reaffirmed their determination to achieve the objectives set by the 1996 World Food Summit to halve the number of the world's undernourished people by 2015.

The ministerial round table on food security and quality unanimously adopted a set of measures to put into place effective and transparent arrangements throughout the food chain within the framework of a national risk management strategy based on the sensitisation and broader participation of all the stakeholders. Taken as a whole, these measures constitute a pan-European Action Plan to address an issue of particular sensitivity to Europeans.

The round table emphasised the importance of heightened cooperation between the European countries to improve surveillance, strengthen the coordination of food safety monitoring systems, step up the exchange of information and take prompt action when dangers arise. The Conference requested FAO to cooperate with the WHO and other international institutions to contribute to enhancing the capacities of the countries in the region.

One issue on which that the Conference focused in particular was combating land degradation and desertification. The delegations examined the underlying causes which are present in numerous European countries, particularly in the sub-regions of Mediterranean Europe and Central Europe. They impact on water resource management and land productivity, which makes them marginal in agricultural and food production.

The Conference also took note of the messages brought by 30 NGOs and national coordinations from different parts of the European continent, emphasising that the forthcoming World Food Summit: five years later will provide an opportunity to further strengthen cooperation between civil society and FAO.

During the Nicosia Conference France reiterated its offer to host the 24th FAO Regional Conference for Europe in 2004.