Rome, 1 October -- This
interview with FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf on the 2002
'World Food Summit: five years later' was first
published by the International Food Policy Research Institute in
the newsletter 'News and Views'.
What were the highlights of the summit for
you? Were you disappointed by the low attendance of
industrialized-country heads of state?
Getting heads of state and thousands of delegates to
join forces against hunger and getting hunger on the agenda both
at the summit and in the worldwide media were two big
achievements. Of course we would have liked to see more heads of
state. On the other hand, the presence of 73 heads of state and
government and more than 200 ministers from 179 developing and
developed countries was of extreme importance. They are the ones
who have hands-on experience and they are the ones who get
things done. Their presence and commitment leave me with hope
for the future fight against hunger.
After the first World Food Summit (WFS) in
1996 there was optimism, but progress in the fight to end hunger
has slowed since then. Was there real commitment at the 2002
summit to achieving the goal set in 1996, namely halving the
number of hungry people by 2015?
Progress has not slowed down, but it is far too slow
to meet the target. Renewed political will and commensurate
resources are needed without delay. The 2002 summit declaration
was unanimously adopted by all the countries attending the
meeting. They renewed their commitment to cut the number of
hungry people in the world by half and reaffirmed the right of
everyone to have access to safe, nutritious food. They also
agreed to establish an International Alliance Against Hunger.
But, of course, our success will ultimately depend not so much
on the renewed commitments but on what resources are
subsequently mobilized and used effectively in a timely manner.
Now that the summit is over, what
are your personal hopes and expectations about what will happen
next? What do you see as the major impediments to having those
There is a
large consensus on measures to fight hunger and I am still
optimistic that we can reach the goal of reducing by half the
number of hungry people by 2015. But both developing and
developed countries must act. The world should mobilize US$24
billion per year. If we exclude US$5 billion in food assistance
and US$3 billion in loans at commercial interest rates, that
leaves US$16 billion to be found for investment and support to
agriculture and rural development in developing countries.
Developed countries should mobilize US$8 billion per year, not
much compared to the US$319 billion per year that they spend in
support of their own agriculture.
developing countries should take the lead by mobilizing at the
national level US$8 billion every year to help those who are
hungry and poor in their own countries. The developing countries
must set an example for the rest of the world to follow.
Will we have another summit in
five years? What do you expect will happen in the intervening
Summits are not convened
for pleasure, but as an extreme resource in case of real need.
Therefore it is too early to answer this question. If the
commitments made this year are followed by the action required
from governments and financial institutions, there may be no
need for another summit for many years to come.
As a first impression of the summit, how do
you assess the quality and quantity of the media coverage?
Much of the media coverage was
very thoughtful and intelligent, particularly in France, where
Le Monde and Le Figaro ran a series of articles examining the
issues in detail.
Coverage was extensive
in Spain, Germany, Latin America, and the developing world as a
whole. Media coverage in a few developed countries was somewhat
frivolous, as tends to be the case with most international
coverage. The Economist and the Financial Times both carried
very thoughtful stories addressing the serious issues behind
continuing world hunger.
Global radio and
television coverage was on the whole quite serious.
Prestigious broadcasters like BBC and CNN devoted
considerable air time to covering both the summit and the issues
that caused FAO to convene it. I am generally pleased that the
world had the opportunity to read about, listen to, and see the
problems that we face in the struggle against hunger and to
learn the facts, which are often ignored.
Do you expect that industrialized countries
will support the proposed International Alliance Against Hunger?
First, I would like to clarify
that the International Alliance Against Hunger is a call to
action that was adopted by the heads of state and government who
participated in the World Food Summit: five years later. In
operative paragraph 2 of the Declaration of the World Food
Summit: five years later, world leaders issued a call to all
parties (governments, international organizations, civil society
organizations, and the private sector) to reinforce their
efforts so as to act as an international alliance against hunger
to achieve the WFS targets no later than 2015. But the details
of how this would be coordinated and how it would function need
to be worked out with full participation of all stakeholders.
To this end, FAO has invited all member
countries, including industrialized countries, prospective
partners in other international organizations, NGOs, civil
society organizations, the private sector, and academic
institutions to work with us on developing a mechanism that is
fully participatory and transparent. I am very encouraged that
some industrialized countries have started to establish national
alliances against hunger, and I am confident that others will
What can or will FAO
do to enforce commitment to the goals of the summit? What should
others be doing?
FAO does not
have the power or authority to enforce commitments in the way
that, for example, WTO enforces agreements, or the Bretton Woods
Institutions enforce conditionalities. The main mechanism that
FAO has at its disposal is the power of information, technical
advice, and demonstration through pilot activities of feasible
options. FAO is facilitating the setting of standards and
negotiating of international agreements on the sustainable use
of natural resources and inputs for agriculture and rural
development. FAO is also trying to distill lessons learned from
successful and unsuccessful experiences in fighting hunger and
to make them widely known. Every country, in fact, has a
responsibility to abide by the commitments it made at the 1996
summit and reiterated in 2002. FAO is mandated to monitor
progress in the implementation of the World Food Summit
commitments and inform the global community, through the
Committee on World Food Security, regarding our findings. To do
so, FAO collects and disseminates data through the food
insecurity and vulnerability mapping system, prepared by a
common UN network in different member states. It also collects
national reports on actions that individual countries have taken
to meet their summit commitments.
year, nearly 100 countries submitted such reports. Many of them
provided detailed descriptions of a wide variety of initiatives
that are being pursued at national and sub-national levels to
defeat hunger and malnutrition. What is lacking is the
transformation of the many positive but small local efforts into
a critical mass that will have impact at the global level. FAO
is encouraging more systematic drawing of lessons from the
successful experiences of its member countries. The
International Alliance Against Hunger, through mobilization of
political will, would help to replicate these successes on a
much larger scale. With a coordinated effort, there is real hope
What are the
implications of the Summit for Sub-Saharan Africa and South
The Summits' goals
and objectives are geared toward addressing poverty and hunger
and, in absolute numbers and percentages, most of the poor and
hungry are concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Therefore, realization of the goals of the summit will have a
direct, profound impact on the populations of these two
South Asia has made
tremendous progress in increasing agricultural production and
productivity and has achieved near self-sufficiency in food.
Some countries are now experiencing a surplus. However, in
absolute numbers, this region still includes the largest number
of poor and hungry people. The countries of this sub-region need
a higher rate of overall economic growth for which it is
essential that the poor and hungry are given adequate access to
food, health care, and education, but also the means to engage
in productive activities. For countries with a surplus, well
targeted schemes, along with income-enhancing capacity require
priority attention. Greater access to international markets for
their goods is also a critical need for these countries.
In view of the fact that the number of
people who live in poverty and go hungry is so large, the
countries of this sub-region require international support and
collaboration. The 2002 summit's goals and objectives are
therefore most relevant for this sub-region.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, the situation with respect to
poverty and hunger is also acute, but the causes and remedies
are different from those of South Asia. The countries of
Sub-Saharan Africa are bedevilled with civil unrest, poor
governance, and inadequate public support for agricultural
development, in particular water control and marketing
infrastructure. They are also heavily indebted, experiencing
declines in production and productivity and suffering from
widespread HIV-AIDS. They need a concerted effort to address the
problems affecting governance, production, trade, AIDS, and
debt. The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD)
is a very positive step in this regard. Therefore, the World
Food Summit: five years later is also directly relevant to this
sub-region as it has focused on drawing the international
community's attention to the critical issues requiring
support, in particular NEPAD's Comprehensive African
Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), which was prepared
by African countries in cooperation with FAO.