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 hopes fulfilled?

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.

But 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 time?

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 soon join.

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.

This 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 for success.

What are the implications of the Summit for Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia?

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 sub-regions.

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.