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June 1999

World Food Summit

13-17 November 1996
Rome, Italy

"The Rome Declaration calls upon us to reduce by half the number of chronically undernourished people on the Earth by the year 2015….. If each of us gives his or her best I believe that we can meet and even exceed the target we have set for ourselves."

HE Romano Prodi, President of the Council of  Ministers of the Italian Republic and Chairman of the World Food Summit

"We have the possibility to do it. We have the knowledge. We have the resources. And with the Rome Declaration and the Plan of Action, we’ve shown that we have the will."


Dr. Jacques Diouf, Director-General of FAO

Table of Contents

The World Food Summit and its Follow up

What was achieved

Meeting the Summit's goals

Tracking progress

The Right to Food

The Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS)

Civil society organises for action

Building on the Summit

Global advocacy




Profile on civil society

Getting ready for the Summit

Country-level activities

Technical underpinning

Press coverage

World Food Summit Plan of Action

The Commitments

The World Food Summit and its Follow up

The World Food Summit took place from 13 to 17 November 1996, comprising five days of meetings at the highest level with representatives from 185 countries and the European Community. This historic event, convened at FAO headquarters in Rome, brought together close to 10,000 participants and provided a forum for debate on one of the most important issues facing world leaders in the new millenium-- the eradication of hunger.

The adoption by 112 Heads or Deputy Heads of State and Government, and by over 70 high-level representatives from other countries of the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and World Food Summit Plan of Action, at a meeting which also saw the active involvement of representatives of inter-governmental organisations (IGOs), and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), among others, has helped to influence public opinion and has provided a framework for bringing about important changes in policies and programmes needed to achieve Food for All.

What was achieved

The objective of the Summit was to renew global commitment at the highest political level to eliminating hunger and malnutrition and to the achievement of sustainable food security for all people. In the event, the high visibility of the Summit has raised awareness among decision-makers in the public and private sectors, in the media and with the public at large. It has also set the political, conceptual and technical blueprint for an ongoing effort to eradicate hunger in all countries with an immediate view to reducing to half the number of undernourished people by no later than the year 2015.

Meeting the Summit's goals

"We consider it intolerable that more than 800 million people throughout the world and particularly in developing countries, do not have enough food to meet their basic nutritional needs. This situation is unacceptable."

The challenge in the follow-up is to see that the measures set out in the Summit's Plan of Action are translated into practical actions, so that the number of 800 million hungry and undernourished men, women and children is reduced in line with, or preferably faster than, the goal of the Summit.

The Rome Declaration sets forth seven commitments (see last page) which lay the basis for achieving sustainable food security for all and the Plan of Action spells out the objectives and actions relevant for practical implementation of these seven commitments.

Commitment Seven stresses that the focus of action lies at the country level, where governments have the main responsibility, involving all actors, to create the economic and political environment within which action can be taken to assure the food security of their citizens.

A large number of developed and developing countries have already started to prepare national plans of action involving all sectors of society. The World Food Summit Plan of Action also calls upon governments to launch national "Food for All" campaigns, marshalling all sectors of civil society and their resources to help implement the measures identified. The first stage of these campaigns is for countries to set up a national forum comprising NGOs, civil society including universities, research institutes, parliamentarians, women's and youth groups, the media and other groups which may be part of a constituency for food and food security issues.

The importance of strong regional and international cooperation in the effective implementation of the Plan of Action is also underlined. The priority given to supporting and stimulating country-level activities is one of the fundamental principles behind arrangements for cooperation among United Nations organisations in the follow-up to the Summit.

Tracking progress

Within the United Nations system, FAO's Committee on World Food Security (CFS) is responsible for monitoring, evaluating and consulting on the international food security situation. It analyses food needs, assesses availability and monitors and disseminates information on stock levels. The CFS also recommends policies to ensure adequate cereal supplies for food security surveillance that monitor current and prospective food supply/demand situations.

The CFS was designated by the Summit to monitor implementation of the Plan of Action and to undertake a major review by the year 2006, at the latest. During the 23rd meeting of the CFS in April 1997, arrangements were agreed for monitoring and reporting on implementation of the Summit's Plan of Action involving three streams of reporting from:

The deadline for presentation to FAO of the national reports was set at 31 January 1998. These individual reports, providing the baseline situation and orientations which governments intend to pursue, were used as the basis for an initial Progress Report on the Implementation of the Plan of Action considered by the CFS at its session in June 1998.

At the regional level, the FAO Regional Conferences in 1998 devoted one day each to a discussion on Summit follow-up in which the views of NGOs were also heard.

For up-to-date information on further CFS progress in monitoring implementation, see FAO Internet Website : <>

The Right to Food

The World Food Summit reaffirmed the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food, and decided that the content of the rights related to food, as contained in Article 11 of the International Convenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, should be clarified.

The Summit further decided that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights should be invited to better define the rights related to food and to propose ways to implement and realize these rights. This request was endorsed by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in its resolution 1997/8. In May 1997, the Director-General of FAO and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights signed a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation in this regard.

The UN High Commissioner took the first major steps towards fulfilling the mandate given to her by the Summit on 1 and 2 December 1997 when consultations on the Right to Adequate Food as a Human Right were held in Geneva.

To date some 20 countries have incorporated the right to food in their constitutions. The Second Expert Consultation of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the right to adequate food as a human right recommended, in November 1998, that states consider the adoption of framework law as part of their national strategy, and that FAO and other UN bodies and agencies should offer their assistance upon request. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted a General Comment (No 12) on the right to adequate food in May 1999 and made the same recommendation.

For further information on activities, publications and a timeline of events related to the Right to Food, see FAO Internet Website: <>

The Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS)

A key contribution of FAO in implementing the Plan of Action is in the area of agricultural development. In this connection, the Special Programme for Food Security focusing on Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDCs) which was launched well before the Summit, will continue as a major focus of FAO's action in the field.

The Special Programme aims to increase food production and availability in LIFDCs through rapid increases in productivity and food production and by reducing year-to-year variability in production. The SPFS uses a participatory approach that is environmentally responsible and socially equitable. The ultimate goal is to improve the living conditions of the poorest in rural areas focusing particularly on women.

Expected to contribute substantially to the achievement of the Plan of Action in LIFDCs, as part of the follow-up to the Summit, FAO has accelerated its drive to bring the 86 LIFDCs into the Special Programme. Attention has also focused on assisting these countries to mobilise financial support from their development partners for funding the Special Programme.

Cooperation among developing countries also plays a vital role in implementing the Special Programme. Under a South-South cooperation scheme, an advanced developing country agrees to provide experts and field technicians to another developing country to work directly with farmers in the communities involved in Special Programme activities. See FAO Internet Web site: <>

Civil society organises for action

During the NGO Forum which was held in parallel with the Summit, 112 African NGO participants constituted an African NGO continental platform, known as COASAD, which met in Tunis in June 1997 to draw up an initial workplan centered on food security.

The Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development, ANGOC, met in Thailand in August 1997 to plan activities in follow-up to the Summit while the South Asian Network on Food, Ecology and Culture, SANFEC met in the same period in Bangladesh and underlined the crucial importance of food security for the malnourished in South Asia.

A regional meeting of the Latin American and Caribbean food security networks was convened in Brasilia in August 1997, simultaneous with a global meeting of networks of the South and Northern partners. On that occasion, the Global Forum on Sustainable Food and Nutritional Security was created, the major concerns of which are the achievement of sustainable food security at the national level, the follow-up to the food security commitments made by the international community at the Summit and other major conferences, and participation in the review of the World Trade Organization agreements.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is also an extremely active force in supporting Summit objectives. In August 1997, the Inter-Parliamentary Council signed a cooperation agreement with FAO followed shortly by the Council's support for a resolution on 16 September 1997 reiterating endorsement of the Declaration adopted by participants at the Parliamentarians' Day, which was held on 15 November 1996 in parallel with the World Food Summit.

From 29 November to 2 December 1998, a specialised Inter-Parliamentary Conference was held at the Italian Parliament in Rome organised by the IPU with FAO technical support. The Conference brought together 200 Members of Parliament from almost 80 countries. Participants adopted a Final Document containing conclusions and recommendations for parliamentary action in support of implementation of the Summit's Plan of Action as well as reviewing and promoting progress made by states in this area.

The IPU continues to play a major advocacy role in promoting and supporting the objectives of the World Food Summit.

Building on the Summit

The United Nations organisations have been similarly active in their efforts to meet the objectives of the Summit.

The Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) established the ACC Network on Rural Development and Food Security in April 1997. The network focuses on action at the country level, through thematic groups on rural development and food security, operating within the framework of the Resident Coordinator System, in close cooperation with government and non-governmental partners. Support is provided to the thematic groups through the headquarters-level Network, operated jointly by FAO and IFAD and with the close involvement of WFP and other concerned organisations. See Internet Web sites: <> and <>

FAO has also supported the preparation of national and regional food security and agricultural development strategies for developing countries and countries in transition. FAO will act as a catalyst in mobilising the international community to provide the necessary technical assistance and support to developing countries in their efforts to implement the Plan of Action.

In collaboration with other UN agencies, national institutions and NGOs, and as specified in the Summit Plan of Action; progress has been made in establishing the Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Mapping System (FIVIMS). FIVIMS involves the gradual development and establishment of the system at national and international levels, building upon existing information systems and mechanisms.

As a result of a Technical Consultation on FIVIMS organised by FAO in March 1997, a proposal was made to form an Inter-Agency Working Group on FIVIMS to oversee the development of the system internationally and to coordinate related efforts concerned with food insecurity and vulnerability.It was also recommended that FAO provide a Permanent Secretariat for the working group. Country-level action in support of FIVIMS should be facilitated by the Thematic Groups under the ACC Network on Rural Development and Food Security. See Internet Web site: <>

Global advocacy

In order to maintain the momentum achieved during the World Food Summit, FAO has been involved in a number of other activities aimed at further awareness-raising and assisting governments to put in place projects designed to alleviate poverty and food insecurity.

One of the activities developed in association with World Food Day which is celebrated every year on 16 October is an annual Teleconference organised by the US National Committee for World Food Day in cooperation with George Washington University and the United States Information Agency. The Teleconference involves some 1 000 interactive sites mostly in Canada, Mexico, the United States and included for the first time in 1997 the United States House of Representatives and the World Bank.

As part of the 1997 World Food Day observances, FAO launched the first of what has since become an annual event-- TeleFood. The aim of TeleFood is to raise public awareness of the issues underlying food security and to mobilise public support in the struggle against world hunger and malnutrition. The 29th Session of the FAO Conference not only adopted a resolution endorsing the Director-General's initiative in launching TeleFood and expressing the desire to see it continue and expand its coverage. It also approved the decision to allocate funds raised through TeleFood directly to finance grassroots food security projects, with no funds being diverted for administrative costs through the TeleFood Special Fund. For detailed information on TeleFood, see Internet Web site: <>



The Summit was called in response to the continued existence of widespread undernutrition and growing concern about the capacity of agriculture to meet future food needs. World cereal stocks were at their lowest levels since the early 1970s resulting in sharp price rises, and food aid had declined by almost half over the three years to 1996.

In 1974 governments attending the World Food Conference proclaimed that "every man, woman and child has the inalienable right to be free from hunger and malnutrition in order to develop their physical and mental faculties". The Conference set as its goal the eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition within a decade. For many reasons, among them failures in policy making and funding, that goal has not been met.

There has been remarkable progress in some countries and chronic undernutrition is slowly falling in many developing countries. The 5.8 billion people in the world today have 15 percent more food per capita than the population of four billion had 20 years ago.

But FAO estimates that unless progress is accelerated there could still be some 680 million hungry people in the world by the year 2010, more than 250 million of whom will be in sub-Saharan Africa. In theory the world produces enough food to feed everyone; it is the poorest sectors of societies that do not have the resources to secure their share.

According to FAO estimates, world food production would have to increase by more than 75 percent over the next 30 years to ensure adequate food supplies for a world population expected to reach 8.3 billion by the year 2025.

During the 27th Session of the FAO Conference in November 1993, Member Nations expressed "deep concern" at the situation and prospects for the future, and stressed that "the world's major problems in food, nutrition and sustainability require immediate action at national and international levels."

Following consultations with a large number of Heads of State and Government from all regions of the world, the Director-General of FAO, Dr. Jacques Diouf, invited the FAO Conference to consider convening a World Food Summit. The proposal, which was approved by the 28th Session of the FAO Conference in October 1995, was subsequently endorsed unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1995.


Altogether, 185 countries and the European Community participated in the Summit; 82 countries were represented at the level of Head of State or Government and 30 at the level of Deputy Head of State or Government. Over 70 other high-level representatives also attended on behalf of the remaining participants.

Some 24 United Nations agencies and 55 other IGOs also took part in the Summit.

Overall, 790 NGO delegates attended the World Food Summit representing a total of 457 organisations. A further 101 NGO representatives attended as part of their government delegations. Among the NGO representatives, over 60 percent were women.

A total of 243 statements were delivered during the Summit's five-days of plenary sessions, including those at the opening ceremony, and delivered on behalf of participants at the three parallel events which took place during the Summit.

The presence of His Holiness Pope John Paul II, who delivered a special message at the opening ceremony, together with the statements delivered by His Excellency Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, President of the Italian Republic, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and the Director-General of FAO, served to underline the gravity and urgency of food security within a context of international solidarity.

Profile on civil society

A strategy was evolved early on to ensure the involvement of NGOs in the Summit preparatory process at the national, regional and international levels as well as in the Summit itself. At the national level, NGOs were frequently consulted by governments, laying the basis for what may constitute food security constituencies. This involvement has also generated the creation or strengthening of specific food security networks.

At the regional level, NGO Consultations preceded each of the FAO Regional Conferences, and at the global level, through an international consultation preceding the CFS as well as through attendance at the Summit.

NGOs around the world also organised their own meetings to discuss issues being considered at the Summit. Several important NGO Declarations for the World Food Summit were submitted to the Summit Secretariat.

Parallel with the Summit, the NGO Forum took place in Rome from 11 to 16 November 1996. The Forum was attended by 1 300 NGO representatives from 80 countries. The participants produced a statement which was presented to the Summit on 17 November 1996.

Around the world NGOs mobilised themselves around the theme of food security in a variety of ways, ranging from holding meetings, writing articles and booklets, sending comments on the Plan of Action during the negotiating process, networking on a regional or thematic basis, lobbying their governments, and creating new associations and networks focusing on food security.

An important outcome of this mobilisation is the broadening of the type of NGO constituencies (see above) represented by the organisations involved, thereby expanding the traditional range of organisations known to, and working with, FAO.

In addition to development support NGOs, farmers' organisations, peoples' and rural workers' organisations, relief and humanitarian NGOs, the Summit preparatory process attracted the participation of NGOs working in urban areas, in human rights, in economic policy-making as well as extensive involvement of the academic, research and scientific community.

Two other influential meetings took place in parallel with the World Food Summit, the International Youth Forum (15-16 November 1996) as well as a Parliamentarians' Day on 15 November 1996.

Youth from over 130 countries represented at the International Youth Forum, called inter alia for: the establishment of an international mediating committee to work for the cancellation of the debts of the poor and developing countries by the end of the millennium; for the setting up of an International Youth Council "to promote the worldwide exchange of ideas without any discrimination of political, racial or social status."; and for Youth Associations at school level whose representatives could participate in the meetings of FAO and other international bodies.

Hosted by the Senate of the Italian Republic and organised by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (see also above), an umbrella organisation representing parliamentary groups from all corners of the world, delegates attending the Parliamentarians' Day declared their commitment to "promoting the implementation of the Summit's Plan of Action within our respective parliaments" and, in cooperation with FAO, to set up "a mechanism to monitor the implementation, at parliamentary level, of the Commitments taken in Rome."

Getting ready for the Summit

In preparing for the World Food Summit, broad-based consultations took place among governments, IGOs, INGOs and NGOs and the private sector. The focal point for preparations was the CFS which is open to members of FAO and also to all members of the United Nations who have expressed interest in participating in its work. A special Inter-Sessional Working Group (ISWG) of the CFS was set up to guide the preparations and to review the main draft documents of the Summit, the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action.

An important contribution to the documents was made through discussions held during the FAO Regional Conferences in the course of 1996. These were the:

· 23rd Regional Conference for the Near East, Rabat, Morocco (26-30 March).

· 19th Regional Conference for Africa, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (16-20 April).

· 20th Regional Conference for Europe, Tel Aviv, Israel (29 April - 3 May).

· 23rd Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific, Apia, Samoa (14-18 May).

· 24th Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean, Asunción, Paraguay (2-6 July).

· Regional Consultation for North America organised by the United States of America and Canada, East Lansing, Michigan (24-25 June).

The reports produced during the Regional Consultations were fed-into the documentation prepared for the ISWG meetings to ensure that regional viewpoints were fully canvassed and integrated into the final Summit documents.

Numerous IGOs lent their formal support to the World Food Summit, and called for top-level participation on the part of governments. Resolutions were passed, for example, by the Organization of African Unity, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the IPU, CARICOM, and many others.

In July 1996, a meeting of representatives from science academies of the world, mostly from developing countries, took place in Madras, India with the support of FAO and the Italian government. The aim was to articulate the scientific viewpoint on the issues before the Summit. Three of the main issues discussed and elaborated in the Madras Declaration which resulted from the meeting, were: science for sustainable agricultural progress; hidden hunger, agro-biodiversity and post-harvest technology; and information technology in fostering a learning revolution.

Dozens of other fora contributed to the Summit process, beginning with a Global Assembly on Food Security, and an International Symposium organised by the Federal Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec in October 1995 in Quebec City. These sessions preceded the Ministerial Meeting on World Food Security convened in Quebec on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of FAO - which was founded in Quebec City in 1945.

Country-level activities

A basic principle of the Summit was that it should build upon national level experience in developing activities aimed at improving food security in each country. Over 62 developing countries benefited from limited financial assistance to cover such activities which included in many cases the preparation of a country position paper, the organisation of seminars and workshops, and the launching of public awareness campaigns. In many countries, FAO was also able to generate additional resources locally from other UN agencies as well as bilateral donors, the private sector and NGOs.

Well before the Summit some 150 countries had established National Secretariats/World Food Summit Committees to coordinate their national contributions towards the Summit process;

Altogether, 200 national, sub-regional and regional seminars and workshops were held involving over 15 000 participants from all sectors of society. Most of these considered one or more of the following aspects relating to the Summit:

1. Examination of the food security situation and formulation of recommendations for its improvement;

2. Discussion of the Summit draft documents and formulation of specific comments and proposals for consideration by the Regional Conference and/or the CFS;

3. Discussion and comments on the Summit Technical Background Documents (see titles listed below).

Over 300 events were organised at the country level in different parts of the world including local production and or distribution of posters and memorabilia, the organisation of special sports events, essay contests and artistic events.

Technical underpinning

Fifteen Technical Background Documents (TBDs), including a full-colour technical atlas, formed the analytical underpinning for the political decisions and actions approved at the Summit. Prepared by FAO staff and experts from many centres of excellence, the documents detailed some of the main issues and arguments about food security past, present and future.

The documents were initially distributed in provisional form, starting in early 1995, and comments were invited and received through an extensive review process involving experts from governments, sister UN agencies, development banks, selected centres of excellence from every region, NGOs, the private sector, and to the special guests invited to the Summit.

In their revised final form, the TBDs and the Technical Atlas were translated into the five official languages of FAO and published in three volumes shortly before the Summit. These documents, together with the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action were also made available on Internet and CD Rom.

The TBDs were also used as material to support five technical panels held during the Summit, at which leading world experts discussed with participants at the Summit the lessons learnt and options for future action that underlie the course for accelerated progress towards universal food security. Many technical contributions were also prepared by IGOs, NGOs and governments which enriched the debate at national and international levels.

Technical Background Documents

1. Food, agriculture and food security: developments since the World Food Conference and prospects.

2. Success stories in food security.

3. Socio-political and economic environment for food security.

4. Food requirements and population growth.

5. Food security and nutrition.

6. Lessons from the green revolution: towards a new green revolution.

7. Food production: the critical role of water.

8. Food for consumers: marketing, processing and distribution.

9. Role of research in global food security and agricultural development.

10. Investment in agriculture: evolution and prospects.

11. Food production and environmental impact.

12. Food and international trade.

13. Food security and food assistance.

14. Assessment of feasible progress in food security.

15. Technical atlas.

Press coverage

Given that a main aim of the Summit was to raise public awareness of the critical issues affecting world food security, press coverage of both the Summit and its preparatory process were fundamental to ensuring that the issues remained in the public consciousness. In the course of the two years leading up to the Summit, especially in the final 12 months directly preceding the Summit, numerous radio and television interviews, articles and special supplements appeared with increasing frequency in newspapers, magazines, and in the main international wire services.

During the Summit itself, hundreds more articles were published in the world's press, both North and South. Over 35 press conferences, attended by radio, television, newspaper and magazine journalists and reporters were held during the Summit with Heads of State and Government, and Ministers and other senior officials, as well as with Heads of regional groupings, UN agencies, IGOs and NGOs.

As a result of this international press coverage, the issues related to food security, including poverty and undernourishment received renewed attention at global as well as national levels. Tragically the theme of hunger and poverty was thrown into relief during the Summit itself, as the world's press chronicled the flight of refugees and the consequent food crisis occurring concomitantly in the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

World Food Summit Plan of Action

The Commitments

Commitment One: we will ensure an enabling political, social and economic environment designed to create the best conditions for the eradication of poverty and for durable peace, based on full and equal participation of women and men, which is most conducive to achieving sustainable food security for all;

Commitment Two: we will implement policies aimed at eradicating poverty and inequality and improving physical and economic access by all, at all times to sufficient, nutritionally adequate and safe food and its effective utilization;

Commitment Three: we will pursue participatory and sustainable food, agriculture, fisheries, forestry and rural development policies and practices in high and low potential areas, which are essential to adequate and reliable food supplies at the household, national, regional and global levels, and combat pests, drought and desertification, considering the multifunctional character of agriculture;

Commitment Four: we will strive to ensure that food, agricultural trade and overall trade policies are conducive to fostering food security for all through a fair and market-oriented world trade system;

Commitment Five: we will endeavour to prevent and be prepared for natural disasters and man-made emergencies and to meet transitory and emergency food requirements in ways that encourage recovery, rehabilitation, development and a capacity to satisfy future needs;

Commitment Six: we will promote optimal allocation and use of public and private investments to foster human resources, sustainable food, agriculture, fisheries and forestry systems, and rural development, in high and low potential areas;

Commitment Seven: we will implement, monitor, and follow-up this Plan of Action at all levels in cooperation with the international community.

The World Food Summit Web site offers all the major Summit documents including those published since the Summit, the Report of the Summit, Parts One and Two and the Revised List of Participants < >. A World Food Summit CD Rom is also available.

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