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3. From framework to action.

Towards a commitment to food security

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, while there are ample aggregate supplies of food in the world, agricultural production technologies are advancing in leaps and bounds and increasingly sophisticated early warning and information systems are in place, it is unacceptable that people should die of starvation in the Horn of Africa, or anywhere else in the world. The reason that this has happened, yet again, is that there has been a failure in the system to prevent such disasters, both nationally and internationally.

The events of 1999/2000 that triggered the Secretary-General's establishment of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the UN Response to Long-Term Food Security, Agricultural Development and Related Aspects in the Horn of Africa renewed the image of the region as a place characterized by starving people, conflict and dependence on the outside world for support; an image that has prompted a new round of humanitarian assistance by donor governments and individuals in rich countries. However, these events also highlighted the fact that both governments and international agencies remain ill-prepared to cope adequately with such crises, let alone to solve the underlying causes. The principal message of this report, in line with the Rome Declaration on World Food Security of 1996 and the recent Millennium Summit Declaration (see Box 7), is that it lies within the capacity of the countries concerned, working in partnership with the UN system, international financing institutions, bilateral sources of assistance and civil society, to end famine and malnutrition within the region.


As we move from outlining a Framework for Action to action itself, it is important to address what must be acknowledged as failures over the last three decades, by governments, UN agencies and donors, in preventing famine and chronic food insecurity in the Horn of Africa. The beginning of a new millennium offers the opportunity for governments and their partners in the international community to commit themselves to the elimination of famine and food insecurity. The main partners in such a commitment would be the governments of the region, regional organizations, UN agencies, the donor community and civil society. The commitment would be to a set of common goals, policies and programmes.


On the part of governments, it is important to make an explicit political commitment, not only to eliminating famine and food insecurity, but also to taking the necessary steps in support of achieving this goal, especially with respect to governance, health, education, water and population policy and people's empowerment. The most tangible commitment would be in the form of resource allocation, especially to support basic productive activities in agriculture that are carried out by small farmers. This would mark a fundamental step in reversing the syndrome of dependence and erasing the images of poverty and famine that have for long characterized the region.

To achieve this, it is essential that governments take full and explicit responsibility for eliminating famine and food insecurity in their countries. Not least, their efforts must be directed to securing peace and stability, nationally and in the region as a whole. Joint efforts aimed at conflict prevention and resolution, as well as closer working together through regional bodies in order to realize the potential benefits of regional economic integration and technical cooperation, would need to be a central part of the commitment.

The governments of the region must also take on the task of formulating, strengthening and implementing national strategies for poverty reduction and food security (where they do not already exist), building on the World Food Summit Food Security Strategies, in order to put together comprehensive Country Food Security Programmes (CFSPs). The CFSPs would comprise investment programmes aimed at broadening the opportunities for sustainable livelihoods among the food-insecure, measures to protect the most needy and reforms and other measures to create an enabling environment for sustainable growth.

World Food Summit and UN Millennium Summit Declarations

At the World Food Summit in 1996, world leaders reaffirmed "the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food ... and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger". At the UN Millennium Assembly in early September 2000, world Heads of State and Government declared their commitment to a more peaceful, prosperous and just world. Many elements of this Declaration are echoed in the proposals of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Long-Term Food Security, Agricultural Development and Related Aspects in the Horn of Africa. One of the fundamental freedoms is that of being free from hunger, and this is the focus of the Task Force efforts. In line with the Declaration, crucial elements of the Strategy and Framework for Action are to strengthen respect for the rule of law, internationally and nationally, to strengthen cooperation between UN and regional organizations, and to develop partnerships with the private sector and civil society organizations. At the heart of the Strategy is poverty eradication, through promoting good governance and mobilizing resources by way of debt relief and more generous development assistance. The Declaration's goal, "to halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of the world's people whose income is less than US$1 a day and the proportion of people who suffer from hunger", reiterates the World Food Summit goal and is embraced by the Task Force's aim to eliminate famine and food insecurity. Respect for the environment is also part of the Strategy's call for the promotion of sustainable production systems in rural areas.

The Task Force identified conflict as one of the most important underlying causes of food insecurity and, mirroring the Declaration, proposes enhanced roles for regional organizations in conflict resolution. Similarly, in attributing a share of responsibility to the UN for the failure to reduce food insecurity, the Task Force proposes greater policy coherence and better cooperation among UN agencies, and the Bretton Woods Institutions, in order to achieve a fully coordinated approach to the problems facing peace and development.

Regional organizations

The principal regional intergovernmental organizations, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Organization for African Unity (OAU), as well as the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the recently revived East African Community (EAC),1 would need to renew their commitment to promoting peace, cooperation, trade and economic integration in the Horn of Africa.

This commitment, which must be underpinned by the political support of the governments belonging to IGAD, should be expressed through the formulation and implementation, with the involvement of all concerned governments, of a Regional Food Security Programme (RFSP) which would cover the diverse fields that are susceptible to a regional approach. The RFSP would build on the World Food Summit Regional Strategy for Agricultural Development and Food Security, and would need to encompass the resolution of conflicts, the expansion of technical and research cooperation, the liberalization and harmonization of trade policies, the promotion of interregional infrastructure development, the fostering of trade (especially in food and food products) and, as an ultimate goal, the economic integration of the countries. It should also, as a matter of urgency, strengthen the capacities of regional institutions.

UN agencies

The UN agencies would need to commit themselves, within the coordinated approach provided by the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), to collaborating more closely together and to providing increased support to governments in focusing their efforts on eliminating famine and food insecurity. The actions of the UN agencies should encompass the provision of support in the form of advocacy, policy dialogue, capacity building and assistance with the delivery of basic economic and social services. UN agencies should also assist governments in directing and setting priorities for the formulation of development programmes aimed at enhancing food security, identifying areas of vulnerability for the purpose of disaster preparedness and mitigation, and building partnerships with the main development actors, especially with respect to facilitating resource mobilization.


Donors, both multi- and bilateral, should pledge to provide long-term and reliable funding, in support of national efforts aimed at the elimination of famine and food insecurity in the region, on a scale that is commensurate with the size of the problem being addressed. Although a substantial part of such funding would need to be made available through traditional mechanisms such as soft loan or grant-funded projects and sector programmes, donors would have to consider changing the way in which they contribute to tackling food insecurity. This would include making a longer-term commitment to supporting programmes, as well as facilitating the introduction of innovative funding mechanisms,2 at the country level, in order to allow greater flexibility and responsiveness to local-level initiatives. There would also need to be acceptance of the need to adopt, as far as possible, common mechanisms for funding, disbursement and reporting so as to facilitate the implementation of individual CFSPs and reduce overhead costs.

Civil society

All forms of civil society, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), farmers' and community-based organizations and the private sector, need to commit themselves to collaborating with governments, donors and external sources of financing in order to tackle the problem of food insecurity. They would take an active part in the policy dialogue on food security issues and support the process of participatory planning through the diffusion of information and by sharing experiences on successful activities at the community level. They would also seek to play an active role in the provision to rural people of services that are often lacking in the newly privatized market economies. They would do this in their own right as well as in collaboration with governments and agencies. In particular, they would attempt to build on successful examples of mediation in conflict situations, working especially with IGAD, OAU and the UN system.


In the region, the launching of a programme to eliminate famine and food insecurity should be marked by a formal commitment on the part of all concerned. One way in which this might be achieved would be through a meeting of Heads of State with senior representatives of regional organizations, UN agencies, donors and civil society organizations (CSOs), at which a joint commitment would be made, possibly in the form of a Compact.3 Governments would commit themselves to eliminating famine in their countries and to undertaking all necessary measures to address long-term food insecurity. Regional organizations, UN agencies, donors and CSOs would commit themselves to supporting government initiatives in this respect, through the provision of financial and technical support and food over a period of at least ten years. Each government would agree to formulate a CFSP and, together with IGAD, governments would jointly prepare an RFSP.

1 EAC comprises Kenya and Uganda, among the Horn of Africa countries, and the United Republic of Tanzania.

2 Such as a multidonor trust fund with decentralized management.

3 This could be launched in conjunction with an IGAD Heads of State meeting.

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