CFS:96/22/INF.9 September 1996
Twenty-second Session
Rome, 23 - 27 September 1996


Explanatory Note

The key points of the Consultation were adopted by an overwhelming majority of participants on 21 September 1996. As is usual when large assemblies adopt substantive statements, not every participant can necessarily endorse every point as formulated.

During the Consultation, participants formed working groups to review the draft Rome Declaration and Plan of Action. The proposals of the working groups were consolidated in English only, and will be available informally as an additional input to the negotiating process.

1. More than 200 civil society organizations, representing farmers (including small- and medium-sized farmers), peasants, farm workers, fisherfolk, indigenous communities, herders, consumers, urban poor people, children’s rights advocates, urban communities, industrialists, emergency aid workers, legal workers, AIDS solidarity advocates, commerce, food workers, scouts, gender equality advocates, urban workers, family advocates, human rights advocates, anti-hunger advocates, university professors, researchers, social workers, breastfeeding advocates, organic and conventional agriculture advocates, agroecological and sustainable agriculture advocates, the international press, service clubs, peace advocates, education workers, cooperatives, academics, voluntary workers, non-governmental organization networks, mothers, the private enterprise sector, foodgrain banks, health workers, religious groups, fair trade advocates, environmentalists, nutrition workers, women, children and youth and other organizations of civil society from over 83 countries and all regions of the world, gathered in Rome from 19 through 21September 1996, at the invitation of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations for a consultation on the World Food Summit, have agreed upon the following key points toward achieving universal food security, in response to the positions expressed in the draft official documents prepared for the Summit:

2. The World Food Summit Declaration and Plan of Action must be consonant with the various international Declarations, Agreements and Conventions. All these international Documents have a bearing on attaining food security and have been ratified or approved by various governments; therefore, the governments are obliged to abide by them.

3. It is necessary to challenge the present development paradigm that continues to ignore not only farmers (especially small farmers) and farm workers, women, youth and children and the marginalized rural and urban groups, but also whole regions and continents. The growth model generates exclusion and poverty, and is not conducive to attaining equitable and sustainable development, social justice, and gender equality. The World Food Summit needs to focus on development, support and propagation of current locally practiced alternative models and further explorations in other new paradigms promoting people’s participation and empowerment.

4. The establishment of organisations of farmers, rural workers and peasants, including co-operatives, must be encouraged, supported and respected, and mechanisms must be created to guarantee the involvement of farmers, especially women farmers, in decision-making at all levels in relation to food systems.

5. Indigenous and traditional knowledge and practices in production, processing and preservation of foods need to be promoted, improved and disseminated to ensure equitable availability of safe food.

6. Effective agrarian reforms need to be supported and implemented to consolidate access, ownership, control and management of resources by small farmers and landless people. This must include the right of women to land and resources.

7. Structural adjustment programmes promoted by international financial institutions in some cases endanger access to land, water, sanitation, food and nutrition. These programmes should be renegotiated to assure consistency with the right to safe food for all.

8. The World Food Summit should clearly acknowledge that the problems of malnutrition and hunger, including micronutrient deficiencies (“hidden hunger”) are prevalent both in rural and urban areas and that different approaches are required for food security for rural poor people and urban poor people in the developing as well as developed countries.

9. National governments have the responsibility to coordinate, in partnership with civil society, the formulation and implementation of food and nutrition public policies to deal with the question of urban food insecurity. These policies should include components of enhancing urban agricultural production, public food price regulation, food safety and quality control, and food assistance to socially and nutritionally vulnerable populations.

10. Breastmilk is a natural resource for food security. In this context, the crucial role of exclusive breastfeeding for infants up to six months must be emphasized.

11. Poverty is one consequence of the unequal distribution of wealth, the unequal interchange between North and South and applying inadequate macroeconomic policies in developing countries. It results, among other causes, from programmes of structural adjustment, external debt and inadequate agrarian policies. Structural adjustment programmes and external debt in developing countries are seriously limiting the achievement of food security and for that reason need to be reconsidered.

12. Developing countries are often forced to import food from overseas, so their food security is subject to the vagaries of the international market. National self-sufficiency in basic food staples should be sought. For this reason, governments should directly support small farmers and fisherfolk, promoting their productivity, since they are responsible for most food staple production.

13. Governments shall involve all sectors of the population in the design, implementation and evaluation of food security policies in a democratic partnership between the state and civil society. It is necessary to create the specific mechanisms that allow the participation of all social groups interested in achieving food security.

14. To eradicate poverty it is necessary that governments guarantee rural and urban poor people’s access to productive resources, such as land, credit, technology, infrastructure, basic services including health care, and jobs.

15. The responsibility for food security has to be shared between men and women within the family. Governments must promote policies which facilitate the productive and reproductive roles of women and men through better access to education, credit, technology, infrastructure and basic health care, including reproductive health care and family planning services.

16. All donor nations should immediately comply with the existing United Nations target, reconfirmed at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, committing 0.7% of gross national product to Official Development Assistance, and restore the share of ODA allocated to food security objectives. Development assistance has to be separated from private international investment because their goals are different. Even in areas where private international investment is necessary, it has to be strongly regulated.

17. Food sovereignty is the freedom and capacity of states and communities to decide production, marketing and consumption strategies and policies. In order to exercise this sovereignty, political and economic autonomy are essential, along with the existence of national and international food reserves that are freely accessible. The creation of food reserves and emergency food aid must give priority to mobilizing and using local resources and to promoting local, national and regional food security reserves, as called for at the 1974 World Food Conference held in Rome. Such reserves are economically, culturally, and socially appropriate, and can improve local food production. International organizations must review their procurement procedures to allow small farmers’ organisations to participate on an equal footing with local commercial interests.

18. We consider that “sustainable agriculture” has become an empty expression used with many different and even contradictory meanings. It needs to be qualified. The FAO-Den Bosch definition represents an important step in the direction of the NGO concept and practice of agroecology and organic agriculture, but it is not reflected in the propositions made in the proposed World Food Summit Plan of Action. We consider that the sustainable agriculture and rural development (SARD)/agroecology/organic agriculture concept implies a change in the scientific paradigm, replacing the tendency to destroy nature with one which seeks to produce as closely as possible in harmony with its laws.

19. This new paradigm implies that all efforts to develop and diffuse technology should be reoriented accordingly, and education, training, research and extension institutions will have to redefine their programmes and agenda. On the other hand, we consider that farmers’ knowledge and farmers' needs should be at the centre of these efforts, and farmers’ and farm workers’ organisations must participate in the whole process.

20. Accordingly, farmers’ and NGOs’ successful experiences represent an important reference on which governmental and international organizations shall rely in the process of changing the patterns of agricultural development toward sustainability.

21. Urgent attention is needed to the problems of access to, and conservation of, water resources, including the question of distribution of water between neighbouring countries.

22. We consider that the world's "domesticated" genetic resources are a heritage of thousands of years of farmers’ efforts, and this treasure cannot be appropriated for private corporate profit. Free access to genetic resources must be guaranteed for farmers and indigenous communities whose rights over the biodiversity they have improved and conserved are being threatened. The system of Intellectual property rights promoted by the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade contravenes this principle and must be rejected.

23. International trade liberalisation is not the solution to the problem of food security and, in many cases, undermines it. In many countries the implementation of trade agreements has driven farmers and farmworkers, especially women, off the land, creating national and regional dependency on food imports for future generations. Food products have a strong social and cultural dimension, and must not be considered simply as commodities. We therefore call upon governments to put a freeze on the implementation of further agricultural trade liberalisation until after a thorough study of the impacts of the Uruguay Round and other trade agreements is undertaken. In particular, we charge the First Ministerial Meeting of the WTO in Singapore to conduct this evaluation before proceeding with further agriculture negotiations. We also call for implementation of the Marrakesh Decision on Measures Concerning the Possible Negative Effects of the Reform Programme on Least Developed and Net Food-Importing Developing Countries.

24. In no case should food be used as a weapon or coercive political tool. Unilateral and multilateral embargoes that jeopardize food security in any state or any community within a state should never be used, and those in effect must be eliminated.

25. Debt cancellations should be implemented, especially for the least developed countries, as agreed at the World Summit for Social Development. Otherwise, governments will have to continue converting agriculture from domestic food production to cash crops for export to generate foreign exchange, directly aggravating food shortages and import dependence while increasing environmental degradation.

26. Current unsustainable practices benefit mostly transnational corporations. Presently, four food companies control the vast majority of the global grain trade, for example. Similarly, a small number of companies control virtually every agricultural commodity -- a trend which will be worsened as global agribusiness substitutes developing country commodity exports with biotechnologically engineered products. The monopolistic position of these companies impedes the development of local food markets and in fact is rapidly displacing them in many regions of the world as trade liberalisation proceeds. Therefore, we urge governments to establish regulations in a code of conduct restricting such practices by transnational corporations. We enjoin governments to support small-scale producers and farms that are economically and ecologically sound and ensure the conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity. Governments should immediately implement the Global Plan of Action from the Leipzig Conference for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and, in particular, Farmers’ Rights.

27. As the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture expires in the year 2000, it must be renegotiated with a Comprehensive Food Security Clause ensuring the exemption of all staple food crops from trade liberalisation commitments, in support of the sovereign right of countries to protect their national food self-sufficiency. At the same time, governments should undertake the negotiation of a global convention on food security, to ensure a framework for macro-economic and agricultural policies that are open, democratic,participatory and transparent -- engaging civil society fully. Such a global convention on food security would enable local, national and regional self-sufficiency in staple foods, and stabilise prices through a decentralised system of local, national and regional food reserves for staple crops. Under this convention, socially and ecologically fair trade and sustainable food security should finally become mutually compatible objectives of the world community. We recommend that the November 1996 Rome NGO Forum on Food Security make support for such a convention one of its central goals and activities.

28. The larger task of achieving universal food security, as well as the implementation of the World Food Summit Plan of Action and Plans at the regional, national and subnational levels, all depend upon the full engagement and empowerment of all the relevant stakeholders of civil society and of poor and hungry people. The work of governments and international organizations toward achieving food security must be carried out in collaboration with civil society. We endorse the principles in this regard articulated at the 1995 Brussels Conference on Hunger and Poverty. Such an open and transparent process of genuine collaboration must underlie the Food for All Campaign, future efforts to negotiate international agreements, and the workings of all multilateral institutions. We endorse the concept of a forum in which regular dialogue occurs among governments, inter-governmental institutions, civil society and the private sector regarding a broad range of matters related to food security.

29. Food security is a human right which must take precedence over macroeconomic and trade concerns, militarism, and the dictates of the marketplace. Assuring food security for all people within their territory must be the first priority of governments.

30. Achieving food security for all also requires sustainable human development, which includes equitable access to economic opportunities for all people without discrimination, governmental policies and programs to assist vulnerable groups in meeting their basic needs, protection of the environment and sustainable management of natural resources, peace, and transparent, accountable and democratic government.

31. We urge FAO member governments and the Committee on World Food Security to fully accept the results of the FAO/NGO Consultation, especially our proposed amendments to the final draft of the Rome Declaration and the World Food Summit Plan of Action.