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Fostering the political will to fight hunger



This chapter offers a broad overview of the issue of political will and its impact on the fulfilment of the commitments made at the World Food Summit in November 1996. It is a revised version of the document submitted for consideration at the 27th session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS)1 and takes into account comments by CFS members and peer reviewers as well as relevant recent developments.


The chapter begins by recalling the major commitments into which governments entered at the Summit. This is followed by a rapid overview of changes in the international socio-political and economic environment since 1996 and an analysis of the impact that these have had on the ability and willingness of governments and the international community to adopt effective measures for implementing their commitments. The subsequent section reports on the major actions taken by FAO to reinforce the awareness and will of all concerned parties to fight hunger.2 It also assesses the extent to which there has - or has not - been a deepening of political commitment to address the scourge of hunger with determination at the international and national levels. Finally, the chapter summarizes areas where there is an emerging consensus, consistent with the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and World Food Summit Plan of Action, that might provide a focus for reaffirmed commitments and strengthened partnerships.

World Food Summit commitments


The World Food Summit, held in Rome in November 1996, was the third international meeting on food and nutrition issues since the 1970s, having been preceded by the World Food Conference in 1974 and the International Conference on Nutrition, organized by FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1992. The World Food Summit was notable because of its very high level of government representation, with 112 of the 186 countries present being represented by their Heads of State or Government or their deputies. Such an attendance was appropriate for a meeting aimed at securing the political commitment required to tackle the crosscutting, underlying causes of widespread hunger and malnutrition, the resolution of which requires the engagement of many government ministries and elements of civil society. A further feature of the Summit was that it was specific in setting a time-bound goal, progress towards which could be monitored, yet it was sufficiently realistic to recognize that the full eradication of hunger worldwide was not feasible in the medium term.


The Summit concluded with the issuance of two major documents, the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and World Food Summit Plan of Action.3 The Declaration was essentially an agreed statement of goals and policies, concluding with seven major commitments (Box 1.1), whereas the Plan of Action set out in detail the actions which countries agreed to take to operationalize these commitments.


The first two paragraphs of the Declaration eloquently summarize the consensus on policies and specific goals reached at the Summit:

We, the Heads of State and Government, or our representatives, gathered at the World Food Summit at the invitation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, reaffirm the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger.

 We pledge our political will and our common and national commitment to achieving food security for all and to an ongoing effort to eradicate hunger in all countries, with an immediate view to reducing the number of undernourished people to half their present level no later than 2015.


Of particular significance is the Declaration's acknowledgement of the human right to adequate food and of the implicit need for common action within and between countries in global efforts to eradicate hunger.


These commitments, in turn, provided a framework for 27 specific objectives and 182 proposed actions, many of which were to be implemented by countries in cooperation among themselves, jointly with the international community or in partnership with civil society. The sheer length of the list of proposed actions is indicative of the relative complexity of food security problems and of the need to tackle them from several angles simultaneously.


No proposals for new institutions or for pledges of additional resources were put forward during the Summit. There was an implicit recognition throughout the preparatory process that the world has the capacity to feed its population adequately today and in the future, that most of the international institutional arrangements for achieving this are in place and that it should be possible to muster the necessary financial resources from existing sources. Instead, the main concern was how to generate and sustain the political will to translate the commitments into the required actions.


The World Food Summit, like other summits, was premised on the assumption that, by drawing national leaders together in a public forum to commit themselves collectively to tackle major issues of global concern, it would reinforce their determination to bring about change and heighten their accountability. It would also strengthen the partnerships among governments and between governments and the international community and civil society, which is considered a prerequisite for achieving the goals. Whether, in practice, national leaders have the power to induce the complex processes needed to bring about rapid reductions in hunger, however, depends very much on their standing in their own countries, on the capacity of the institutions over which they preside, on whether potentially feasible solutions exist and on whether those responsible for taking action are persuaded of the validity of prescribed actions. There are thus bound to be situations where leaders are strongly committed but, for reasons beyond their control, the required action is not taken or only partially implemented.

The global political environment


As noted in Chapter 1, one of the great achievements of the past century has been the production of enough food not only to meet the demands of a global population which doubled in 40 years, from some 3 billion in 1960 to more than 6 billion in 2000, but also to ensure a generally better standard of nutrition, with the average daily food intake rising by well over 20 percent from about 2 250 to 2 800 kcal per capita in the same period. Apart from raising output, the agricultural revolution of the twentieth century has led to remarkable increases in labour and land productivity, which have been reflected in a progressive fall in real international grain prices.4 Part of this increase, however, may have been achieved at the expense of the sustainable use of natural resources, given the environmentally damaging impact of some of the technologies on which intensive farming has come to depend.


Looking back on the last century, future historians are likely to point to the anomaly that hunger should have coexisted on a vast scale with more than adequate aggregate global food supplies, and that while more than 800 million people were underfed, a further 300 million suffered from obesity. The simultaneous persistence of widespread extreme food deprivation and plentiful food supplies in a world with excellent means of communications and transport can only suggest that there are fundamental flaws in the ways in which nations are functioning and the relationships between them are governed and managed. The situation was described as unacceptable in the Rome Declaration, yet the world continues to live with it and seems not to care. This chapter looks at how recent developments in global political relations and thinking, and related institutional changes, appear to affect the incidence of hunger and the ability and willingness of governments to eradicate it.


When the Berlin Wall came crashing down in 1989, a wave of optimism swept around the world. Many observers expected that the combination of market-based economic policies and democracy would induce rapid growth in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, that the cessation of superpower confrontation would bring an end to proxy wars and lead to a sharp drop in expenditure on arms, and that this in turn would free resources which could then be channelled to poorer countries to accelerate their development. More than ten years later, few of these hopes have materialized. Fundamental structural problems have held back transition and growth in most of the formerly centrally planned economies. Increasingly difficult political and security situations, combined with a thriving international arms market, have fuelled conflicts and terrorism, dashing development hopes, driving millions from their homes into penury and destabilizing vast regions. And the peace dividend has not contributed to an increased flow of aid to poorer countries: instead, such aid has fallen steadily over the decade in spite of unprecedented prosperity in developed countries. Indeed, the end of superpower clientelism has allowed aid to fall back to a level determined more by altruism than by geopolitical considerations.


There is, however, growing recognition of the extent of global interdependence, and attempts are being made to make this work for everyone's benefit. Following the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995, trade barriers have started to come down and there are high expectations that freer trade, once adopted symmetrically, will broaden markets and reduce transaction costs to the benefit of developing countries. There has been a massive growth in foreign direct investment (FDI) by the private sector, which now accounts for 82 percent of net financial flows into developing countries, compared with 44 percent in 1990.5 Similarly, rapid advances in global communications and information technology are accelerating the speed with which knowledge can spread, opening up exciting opportunities for citizens of developing countries to make a knowledge leap-frog. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 created a new awareness of the extent to which the global environment was endangered by human activity, setting in process movements towards the creation of new regulatory bodies and funding instruments.


However, while the globalization of trade, economic relations, communications and environmental management offers interesting prospects for the benefit of the populations of developing countries, it is a double-edged sword. Thus, to the extent that developed countries maintain trade barriers or subsidize their farmers on a massive scale (over US$300 billion per year), there are diminishing prospects that markets will expand for the goods that developing countries can produce with a comparative advantage. Dumping foodstuffs at prices below production costs may benefit low-income consumers but it can also undermine incentives to farmers to raise their output, thus inflicting lasting damage on the food crop agriculture of developing countries and contributing to rural impoverishment. Similarly, the rapid increase in the supply of private capital, combined with a narrowing of the role of the public sector, may inadvertently have provided one of the motives for cutting official development assistance (ODA), which decreased during the 1990s from 0.33 to 0.24 percent of OECD countries' GNP. This has been to the detriment of the majority of developing countries, especially the least developed countries in Africa, which receive almost no private inflows.


The "Washington consensus", based on the application of macroeconomic policies designed to liberalize markets, had a major influence during the 1990s, both on the way in which developed country governments perceived their role and on the economic policy advice that was given to developing country governments by the Bretton Woods institutions. All around the world, states began to withdraw from activities that the private sector was considered to be able to handle better. Instead, governments concentrated on their role as providers of public goods; domestic markets were deregulated and trade and investment regimes liberalized; parastatal enterprises were privatized; civil services were cut; and fiscal discipline was tightened. Controversy still reigns over the impact of these structural adjustment programmes. While some countries have clearly benefited, others have seen little response in terms of economic growth: instead they are faced with a widening of the gap between rich and poor, a civil service that does not have the strength to provide essential public goods, and a private sector that has been slow to respond to new opportunities. The simultaneous process of rural-urban migration, apart from its important demographic impact, may also have contributed to further erosion of the political weight given to rural affairs, strengthening tendencies for an urban bias in policy-making and resource allocation.


The Summits of the 1990s, including the World Food Summit, were successful in their aims of raising public awareness of major global problems, developing plans to address them and securing high-level commitments for joint action by countries and international agencies. Expectations were thus raised of action on an unprecedented scale to address the most important issues facing humanity. But this came at a time when the response capacity of the UN system was seriously curtailed by budgetary restrictions imposed by reform-minded governments, many of which had themselves adopted inward-looking policies that gave little attention to development issues. A further unintended consequence of the Summits was to overcrowd the development agenda, with the attention of governments being shifted from one major theme to another with bewildering speed, thereby complicating priority setting and diffusing effort. The resultant lack of visible progress on many of the selected themes, combined with rising doubts over the effectiveness of multilateral assistance programmes, further damaged the credibility of the sponsoring agencies.


There was thus a situation in the years immediately following the World Food Summit in which many developing countries were grappling with adjustment problems, struggling with fiscal resource constraints and facing a growing list of international commitments that they had undertaken to internalize. Many of the poorest countries were engaged in conflicts, which sapped their resources and energy; others were beset with overwhelming natural disasters, while still others struggled to maintain fledgling democracies in the face of public discontent over austerity measures. Some countries also awoke in the mid-1990s to the enormity of the social and economic impact of HIV/AIDS, which has a particularly damaging effect on the ability of poor rural communities and families to maintain food security in the face of adverse shifts in dependency ratios. It is hardly surprising that, in line with conventional wisdom and prudence, most developing countries tended to take resource allocation decisions with the aim of cutting budget deficits and maximizing the rate of economic growth. This was done on the assumption that such action would eventually contribute to a reduction in poverty even in the absence of deliberate measures for asset and income redistribution. As a result, in spite of their pledges at the Summit, few countries embarked on purposive large-scale programmes for improving food security. Nor were they necessarily encouraged to do so by their development partners who, although they discredited the effectiveness of "trickle down" approaches to poverty reduction, continued to emphasize policies and investments that supported economic growth as the main development goal in their country assistance strategies6 and persisted with conventional economic analysis techniques that gave little weight to distributional concerns in investment decisions.


The overriding commitment to economic growth, efficiency and undistorted trade, combined with pressures - imposed by relentless advertising - on the citizens of developed countries to raise consumption, is increasingly at odds with concerns for social equity and the welfare of poor people elsewhere in the world. Commitment among donors to engage in humanitarian and development issues was further eroded by doubts about the effectiveness of aid, concerns about corruption and poor governance, a diminishing geopolitical rationale for assistance, the emergence of new concerns about their domestic agriculture sectors and food safety7 and, in some cases, the need to apply austerity policies domestically.


Rising public indignation over such apparent indifference to issues of global inequity and the squandering of natural resources has, however, given rise to what may have been the most significant political development in the last few years of the twentieth century: the emergence of transnational civil society advocacy movements comprising coalitions of diverse interest groups whose members are dissatisfied with the way in which the world is managed and are demonstrating a formidable capacity to influence the conduct of global affairs. Although they thrive in democratic societies, these movements bypass normal institutional mechanisms. Instead, they draw much of their influence from successfully harnessing the power of mass media communication and information technology to build highly articulate and visible global constituencies of support for their causes (see Box 2.1). Others adopt less visible public profiles, working with similar effectiveness through broad networks of grassroots activists who influence national and international decision-making processes by writing to and quietly lobbying their political representatives. Whether they are organized around human rights, environmental, trade, debt or food safety issues, what these movements show is that there is a very large number of people throughout the world who are strongly committed to achieving a global society that is managed more equitably and sustainably and who are determined to make their voices heard by those in power as well as by the general public. Some observers would claim that terrorism also builds on the frustrations of people who feel profoundly concerned about the economic and social inequity which increasingly characterizes modern society, and which is most painfully obvious in the incidence of hunger and poverty.

BOX 2.1

The power of civil society advocacy

The scale and speed with which debt has been reduced for heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs), at a time when the formal stance of most developed country governments has been to reduce aid, is to a very large extent attributable to the effectiveness of the advocacy campaign led and orchestrated by the Jubilee 2000 Coalition. Among the reasons for the relative success of Jubilee 2000 are:

  • clear and simply stated, relentlessly reiterated time-bound goals - a tight deadline loaded with symbolism;
  • appeal to people's shared sense of justice, regardless of religion, race, politics or wealth;
  • the construction of a loose coalition of civil society organizations (including non-governmental organizations, religious groups, civic organizations, parliamentary groups, etc.), many of which had extensive networks;
  • maximum use of media and state-of-the-art information and communication technology to complement traditional methods (e.g. religious services, televised concerts, demonstrations) in quickly mobilizing widespread and highly visible worldwide popular support;
  • high-quality research and monitoring, leading to the development of simple but clear messages (e.g. "too little, too late");
  • the targeting of key leaders worldwide to enlist their support by providing an assurance of popular backing for measures that could be perceived as potentially unpopular among voters;
  • a focus on major decision-making events, particularly G-8 Summits, ensuring that debt issues remain high on the agenda and that individual leaders are accountable for adhering to their commitments.

Ending hunger in the world is a cause that could provide the driving force for an equally effective international movement driven by civil society.


That these voices are audible - whether it be via celebrities meeting His Holiness the Pope, through human chains at G-8 summits or in riots on the streets of Seattle, Prague or Genoa - is evident in the speed and extent of the response of world leaders, the UN, the Bretton Woods institutions, transnational corporations and private philanthropists. Among the most notable successes of such movements - and one of particular relevance to many low-income food-deficit countries (LIFDCs) - has been the acceleration and deepening of debt relief under the HIPC Initiative (as noted in Box 2.1). The related decision of the G-8 Cologne Summit in 1999 to link accelerated debt relief to practical poverty reduction measures by developing countries8 has become the driving force of the development agenda at the start of the twenty-first century. In a similar manner civil society organizations (CSOs) have been the driving force in alerting governments and the international community to the urgent need for a massive global programme to combat HIV/AIDS.


There are also signs that some transnational corporations (TNCs) are increasingly committed to conducting business with a growing concern for ethical considerations, whether related to the employment of child labour, genetic modification of plant and animal species, trade in conflict diamonds or limiting environmental damage associated with mining, manufacturing or toxic waste disposal. This is reflected in the substantial response by TNCs to the UN Global Compact, through which TNCs undertake to respect the principles of good corporate citizenship. Given growing concern among consumers in developed countries over food safety, international food companies can be expected to become leaders in fostering new standards.


The new wave of large-scale philanthropy, targeted on the problems facing poor people in developing countries, is probably driven less by civil society pressures and more by the altruism of those who are distributing a part of their wealth. Although this is very welcome, it should not be seen as a substitute for more formal means of raising resources for the provision of global public goods to redress the various dimensions of poverty.


Whatever the motives for action, the new millennium has begun with a strong consensus that the main goal for development must be to eliminate poverty. The elimination of poverty is thus a central theme of the United Nations Millennium Declaration9 as well as of recent policy statements by most of the international financing institutions which call for greater emphasis on poverty reduction. Although hunger is a direct manifestation and cause of poverty, poverty reduction strategies supported by these institutions have shown a conspicuous lack of focus on food security issues, and concern about hunger tends to be confined largely to emergency situations.


The international community's failure to recognize the key role that the reduction of hunger plays in poverty alleviation is reflected in the initial exclusion of the World Food Summit goal for 2015 (in spite of vigorous representation by FAO) from the International Development Goals endorsed by OECD, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme.10 There are few signs of willingness on the part of both developing and developed countries to set aside the resources required to achieve the eradication of hunger. The great danger is that the debate on poverty reduction strategies will continue in the corridors of power, delaying commitment to even the most obvious of actions, while more than 800 million people suffering from chronic undernourishment, many of them children, are deprived of the opportunity to live a full life. There is also a real risk that the very success of the agricultural revolution of the twentieth century and the current general adequacy of world food supplies may encourage widespread indifference towards the need to adopt urgent solutions to chronic hunger.

Actions by FAO to fortify political commitment, and evidence of progress


FAO's actions towards reinforcing commitment to the achievement of the World Food Summit goal have been based on the conviction that, given the required political determination, it lies well within current technical, institutional and financial capacities to eradicate hunger - and in a very short space of time, provided that this goal is addressed directly rather than obliquely. Indeed, unless priority action is taken to reduce hunger, which is both a cause and an effect of poverty, little progress can be made towards eradicating poverty in all its dimensions. It is not more debate or scholarly research that is needed but a renewed determination on the part of governments, strongly backed by international bodies and civil society, to implement the key measures they endorsed five years ago.


The response of the UN system, civil society and governments to food emergencies, both human-induced and natural, has been improving steadily, and there are many instances of great courage on the part of those who work to ensure adequate food deliveries under very dangerous conditions. The result is that, compared with earlier in the twentieth century, nowadays relatively few people actually starve as a result of complex disasters,11 as should be the case given the existence of global food surpluses and the power of modern communication systems.12 In contrast, there has been much less success in dealing with the larger-scale but less visible problems of chronic undernourishment, even though they probably contribute to the permanent disability and premature death of many more people and should be logistically easier to overcome than acute food shortages during complex emergencies.


It is precisely because of the insidious nature of chronic hunger that FAO has felt obliged to be insistent in reminding Members of their commitments and to draw attention to the lack of progress towards the goal set at the Summit. If progress were to continue at the current rate it would take over 60 years to reach the goal of halving the number of undernourished people set for 2015.13 It is because of this and because "few, if any" of the 91 countries and nine international organizations that reported to the CFS in September 200014 were able to claim substantive progress in implementing their World Food Summit commitments, that world leaders are again invited by FAO to renew their commitments and translate them into practical programmes.

Major actions


In seeking to reinforce commitment, FAO has begun at home, engaging the assistance of its governing bodies to develop an organizational Strategic Framework for the period 2000-2015. In it, FAO has adopted the World Food Summit Plan of Action as "a new point of reference" which will ensure that resource allocations in the next six-year Medium-Term Plan reinforce the Organization's capacity to fulfil its mandate in line with the Summit's decisions.15


Much of FAO's effort to strengthen political will has been directed towards governments, particularly those of LIFDCs. A growing appreciation of the extent, causes, location and impact of hunger has resulted from an extension of the Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping Systems (FIVIMS) programme, which now covers 67 countries. A multi-institutional food security monitoring programme, for which FAO provides the secretariat, FIVIMS uses indicators endorsed by all of its major stakeholders. The need for an adequate allocation of resources for rural development and for policy changes to improve access to food has been highlighted in consultations with governments on proposed "National Strategies for Agriculture - Horizon 2010" as well as in a series of regional consultations (conducted jointly with WHO) aimed at strengthening the political commitment to implementing National Plans of Action for Nutrition. The launch of the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) in more than 60 countries has drawn attention to the practical opportunities that exist for improving agricultural productivity and rural livelihoods by inducing simple changes in farming systems within a supportive and enabling policy environment. Setting up arrangements for South-South Cooperation in support of the SPFS has also added to the political visibility of food security issues. In addition, some progress has been made in engaging the national-level commitment of FAO's development partners and governments in the fight against hunger. This has been achieved by extending the United Nations Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC)16 Network on Rural Development and Food Security within developing country members. The indefatigable advocacy of the Director-General for affirmative action to reduce hunger is bound to have contributed further to a strengthening of the political resolve to act.


Many actions have been taken to strengthen the engagement of civil society in ensuring an adequate follow-up to the Summit. FAO has issued policy statements intended to set a basis for increased collaboration between the Organization and both non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector. In 2000, there was a series of regional NGO/CSO consultations, culminating in a presentation to the 26th session of the CFS in which concerned organizations pledged to reinforce their activities in support of food security. CSOs have been particularly active, working alongside FAO legal staff, in fruitful consultations on the right to food. Convened by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as mandated by the World Food Summit Plan of Action (Objective 7.4), these meetings have contributed to clarifying the content of the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger, giving particular attention to the progressive realization of this right as a means of achieving food security for all (see Box 2.2). These consultations have already led to the adoption of a General Comment on the Right to Adequate Food by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. More than 800 NGOs have subscribed to a draft Code of Conduct on the Right to Food, which they drafted following the Summit. The purpose of this instrument is to clarify the normative content of the right to food, and governments are expected to find it useful in defining accountability for the eradication of hunger. Contacts with religious leaders culminated in late 2000 with an address on the issue of hunger by the Director-General to His Holiness Pope John Paul II. Staged on the steps of St Peter's Basilica on the occasion of the Agricultural Jubilee, the event was attended by well over 100 000 farmers from many countries. In the political arena, the influential International Parliamentary Union (IPU) has taken a lead in generating national and international support for moves towards the implementation of the Summit commitments and, in 1998, it held a well-attended Inter-Parliamentary Conference on Attaining the World Food Summit's Objectives through a Sustainable Development Strategy. The outcome was a final document in which IPU committed parliaments to support the implementation of the World Food Summit Plan of Action at the national and international levels. The participation by FAO's Director-General in meetings of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, has provided opportunities for the substantive engagement of private sector leaders, particularly managers of major agro-industrial concerns, as partners in the quest for a hunger-free world - a goal that is shared by the members of Italian corporate "groups of friends of FAO".

BOX 2.2

What is the right to food?

The right to adequate food is recognized in several international instruments, which are legally binding on those states that are party to them; first among these is the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, where it is recognized both as part of an adequate standard of living, which also includes housing and clothing, and separately as the fundamental right to be free from hunger.

The right to food implies the right to means of production or procurement of food of sufficient quantity and quality, that is free from adverse substances and culturally acceptable. This right can be fulfilled by an individual's own efforts or with others in the community, and it must be enjoyed by all without any adverse distinction based on race, religion, sex, language, political opinion or other status.

At the international level, States Parties to the Covenant "should refrain at all times from food embargoes or similar measures which endanger conditions for food production and access to food in other countries. Food should never be used as an instrument of political and economic pressure".1

Under the Covenant, States Parties are obliged to take all appropriate steps, to the maximum of their available resources, to achieve progressively the right to adequate food. A distinction is made between obligations of conduct and of results, and violations can be of commission or of omission. A distinction is also made between the unwillingness and the inability of States Parties to take action.

The right to adequate food, like other human rights, imposes three types of obligations on States Parties to the Covenant: the obligation to respect, to protect and to fulfil. In turn, the obligation to fulfil incorporates both and obligation to facilitate and an obligation to provide.

While the importance of creating an enabling environment where everyone can enjoy the right to food by their own efforts should be stressed, violations to the Covenant occur when a state fails to ensure the satisfaction of, at the very least, the minimum essential level required to be free from hunger.

1 Paragraph 37, General Comment 12.
Source: General Comment 12, The right to adequate food (art.11), Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1999).


Political resolve, however, is ultimately sensitive to public opinion. The Summit itself played a major role in raising public awareness of the magnitude of the problem of hunger in the world and of the need for action. Since 1996, FAO has stepped up its public awareness-raising activities within the context of a new Corporate Communication Policy and Strategy. Timely information on food crises is provided by the reports and special alerts of the Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture (GIEWS) and, to date, three issues of The State of Food Insecurity in the World have been published and have received extensive global media coverage. Much of the material on the Organization's multilingual Web site (which recorded an average of about 10 million hits per month in 2000) also contributes to increased awareness of food problems and actions being taken to address them. World Food Day celebrations have been held in some 150 countries each year, and the annual TeleFood campaign has added a further dimension to awareness raising and the promotion of solidarity, involving more than 80 television outlets around the world and reaching about 500 million viewers. In addition, the Director-General and senior managers have given a large number of press, radio and television interviews on themes related to the World Food Summit and many articles have been published in popular and specialized publications.


In line with the recognition that eradicating hunger depends on mutually reinforcing actions in several sectors, FAO has sought to deepen its cooperation with international agencies and other intergovernmental bodies whose partnership is necessary for success. Regular meetings among the three Rome-based UN organizations are held at the senior management and technical levels, and the considerable extent of their operational collaboration is illustrated in an annual publication;17 it was also highlighted in a joint presentation to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 2000. The three organizations also worked jointly in the process leading up to the International Conference on Financing for Development, arguing together for a greater focus on hunger and rural poverty issues. The ACC provides a valuable forum for interagency collaboration, of which the effectiveness in combining forces to address food security issues was illustrated in the work of the Task Force on Long-Term Food Security, Agricultural Development and Related Aspects in the Horn of Africa,18 in which FAO took the initial lead and which is now being pursued under the World Bank's leadership.


While the Organization has had long-standing cooperation agreements and joint work programmes with all the major international financing institutions (IFIs), steps have been taken to deepen this collaboration and to focus it increasingly on addressing food insecurity. There have been frequent contacts between the Director-General of FAO and the Presidents of all IFIs and of most subregional banks, aimed at promoting a resurgence of lending to the rural sector. This theme has also been brought up in addresses by the Director-General to the boards of several of the regional banks. Commitments have been reflected in new memoranda of understanding, signed with the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank and the West African Development Bank, in which these institutions have agreed to fund, at the request of countries, SPFS-related activities.19 All major international financing institutions as well as WFP and UNDP were represented on the High-level Panel on Resource Mobilization, convened in June 2001 by the Director-General.20


Contacts at the highest level have also been intensified with the governments of developed countries and particularly with representative intergovernmental bodies, including the European Community and the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).



Any assessment of growth in the political commitment to address undernourishment and malnutrition is bound to be subjective until firm evidence emerges of faster progress being made towards the eradication of hunger, especially in the LIFDCs. The good news is that some 58 developing countries registered a decrease in the proportion of their population classed as undernourished between 1990-92 and 1997-99. However, the proportional decrease in many of these countries has not been sufficient to offset the effect of population growth. Hence only 32 countries have reduced their number of undernourished in absolute terms. In reporting to the CFS, however, no country is claiming that reductions are due to actions taken in response to World Food Summit commitments, an impression that has been confirmed by the influential Society for International Development, which found in the course of 32 workshops (held in 26 countries in 1999 and 2000) that very few governments had effectively initiated a Summit follow-up process involving CSOs. Nor, as is shown in Chapter 3 of this publication, is there any evidence of a rise in international or domestic resource allocations for agricultural development, which should be part of any programme aimed at reducing food insecurity. Instead, ODA for agriculture has fallen steadily and the proportion of the new IFI loan commitments assigned to agricultural and rural development reached an all-time low in 2000. At the same time, a number of the most food-insecure countries, while failing to mobilize domestic resources for reducing hunger, have managed to increase their military expenditure.


What is encouraging is the broad consensus that has emerged in the international community that the focus of development assistance must be on reducing poverty so as to achieve the International Development Goal of halving poverty levels by 2015. There also appears to be large measure of consensus on the need to raise ODA allocations towards the set goal of 0.7 percent of GDP and to focus this principally on poor countries, although the number of developed countries that have moved in this direction remains small.21 Progress has also been made in reducing indebtedness underhe HIPC Initiative and in linking this with investments aimed at aspects of poverty alleviation.


The paradox, however, is that this welcome commitment to reducing poverty, together with the correct recognition that the causes of poverty are complex, could lead to a diffusion of effort that results in a diminished focus on the more tangible and life-threatening aspects of poverty, especially hunger. Indeed, a failure to address the problems of undernourishment frontally is likely to frustrate the achievement of the poverty alleviation goal, to the extent that hunger is contributing to and reinforcing poverty. The holistic approaches to development embodied in the Comprehensive Development Framework (CDF) and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) (both of which FAO is involved in) need to be interpreted and operationalized. Sectoral priorities must be defined within these frameworks and sequenced to address the different aspects of poverty, resulting in realistic proposals for action and resource mobilization to achieve the set goal of poverty reduction. Debate over the difficulties inherent in measuring the incidence of hunger - a state of life that is all too evident for those who suffer it - must not become a motive for claiming that its eradication is not a global priority.


This lack of attention to addressing food insecurity as a specific issue has been very evident until recently in the international arena since the World Food Summit. Thus it is only rarely that food insecurity has been singled out for specific action by the influential G-7/G-8 and G-77 Summits and other major international meetings, including those of the G-15 and the Non-Aligned Movement. The most notable exception was the G-7 Summit of 1997, which identified a need to expand ODA flows to Africa with a special focus on targeted assistance for rural development, food security and environmental protection. But, at subsequent Summits, there has been no report on steps taken in this direction, nor any further reference to the problems of hunger. For example, at the G-8 meeting in Cologne in 1999, where agreement was reached to broaden the impact of the HIPC Initiative and relate it to poverty reduction measures by beneficiary countries, these were equated with improvements in health and education, with no reference to food security or even to measures to increase income-earning opportunities. At Okinawa in 2000, the G-8 communiqué reiterated support for debt cancellation in favour of poverty reduction and again emphasized that "health is the key to prosperity" and that "every child deserves a good education"; it also called for dialogue on food safety issues but made no reference to food security. It is, however, encouraging to note that the Final Statement of the G-8 Summit in Genoa, in July 2001, referred specifically to food security issues as follows: "As the November 2001 World Food Summit: five years later approaches, food security remains elusive. Over 800 million people remain seriously malnourished, including at least 250 million children. So a central objective of our poverty reduction strategy remains access to adequate food supplies and rural development. Support to agriculture is a crucial instrument of ODA. We shall endeavour to develop capacity in poor countries, integrating programmes into national strategies and increasing training in agricultural science. Every effort should be undertaken to enhance agricultural productivity. Among other things, the introduction of tried and tested new technology, including biotechnology, in a safe manner and adapted to local conditions has significant potential to substantially increase crop yields in developing countries, while using fewer pesticides and less water than conventional methods. We are committed to study, share and facilitate the responsible use of biotechnology in addressing development needs. We shall target the most food-insecure regions, particularly sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, and continue to encourage South-South cooperation. We will support the crucial role international organizations and NGOs play in relief operations. We believe national poverty reduction and sectoral strategies should take due account of the nutritional needs of vulnerable groups, including newborns and their mothers." Recently, the G-77 has also started to draw attention to the problem of hunger, e.g. in its presentations to the Preparatory Committee for the International Conference on Financing for Development.


Neglect of hunger reduction as a central element in poverty reduction is evident in the International Development Goals established jointly by the World Bank, IMF, the UN and OECD which, as noted earlier, sought to exclude the World Food Summit target for hunger reduction as a specific development objective in spite of strong representation by FAO on behalf of the governments that endorsed the Rome Declaration.22 A similar situation prevailed in the initial guidance given by the World Bank and IMF for the preparation of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs), but this has subsequently been broadened to suggest that not only health, education and water supplies should receive attention but also other issues relating to rural poverty and income generation. However, since the incidence of poverty in most poor countries is highest in rural areas, measures to stimulate the growth of small-scale agriculture and to improve community-level food security are eventually bound to assume their proper importance in PRSPs, to the extent that these respond to a fully participative preparation process. This would be consistent with the World Bank's new "vision" for rural development, which focuses on the need to address food insecurity as a specific objective of its mission to achieve rural poverty reduction.23


The November 2000 declaration of the Council of the European Union and the European Commission on their development policy is more specific in recognizing food security as a key element within a wide range of activities in support of poverty eradication but one which must also be tackled from several angles. The need to address hunger as an issue in its own right was also explicitly acknowledged (but only at a very late stage in the drafting) in the United Nations Millennium Declaration of September 2000, which stated its principal goal was "to halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of the world's population whose income is less than one dollar a day and the proportion of people who suffer from hunger and, by the same date, to halve the proportion of people who are unable to reach or to afford safe drinking water".24 Hopefully, the strong spirit of cooperation which was so evident at the UN Millennium Assembly Summit will be reflected in resolute and purposive joint action.


A cautious optimism is also encouraged by the extent, already noted, to which transnational civil society movements are emerging as powerful advocates for a more equitable world, demonstrating that there is, contrary to some perceptions, broad popular support in developed countries for addressing hunger.25 Many NGOs are already deeply engaged in coping with food emergencies and in providing support services to small farming communities, often with an emphasis on sustainable land use practices. Others have been playing a prominent role in the post-World Food Summit consultative process, led by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, on the right to food. These organizations are likely to form coalitions, taking advantage of improved networking possibilities, and to become increasingly effective forces in ensuring greater international and national commitment to addressing food issues.


Finally, at the international level, there appears to be a growing recognition of the threat that hunger and the extreme deprivation with which it is associated pose to peace and security. Local conflicts over scarce resources can quickly spread to become regional conflicts, with massive destabilizing impacts, preventing any serious consideration of long-term food security issues in the affected countries. Extreme deprivation also drives poor rural families to produce illegal drugs. It is in the self-interest of all countries to take measures to pre-empt such situations. Because of its responsibility, under the United Nations Charter, for the maintenance of international peace and security, the Security Council has been giving increasing attention to the food issues, particularly to the assurance of food security in complex human-induced and natural emergencies. Given the scale of chronic undernourishment, especially in countries exposed to conflict, this is an issue which also needs to be confronted as an important theme in the Security Council's quest for a more peaceful world.


At the national level, there are indications that several developing countries are recognizing the critical role that the rural sector has to play in a process of broad-based economic development, and they are committed to promoting agricultural growth, focusing particularly on what they perceive to be new domestic and international market opportunities. But these countries are exceptions; the majority of developing countries tend to pursue urban-biased policies with little evidence of a genuine determination to stamp out chronic hunger and malnutrition or to promote rural development.

Towards translating commitments into action


The World Food Summit: five years later will provide an opportunity for governments, the international community and civil society to reaffirm their commitment to the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action. However, what is required is a move beyond these broad commitments and a statement in very specific terms of how all concerned will work together to step up time-bound actions in support of hunger eradication, so as to ensure that the Summit goal really is achieved by 2015. The commitment will be all the stronger if it is based on a consensual vision of how to proceed in eradicating hunger.


While firmly rooted in the Rome Declaration, the actions to be taken by each of the major parties can also benefit from the advances in knowledge, thinking and institutional relationships that have taken place since 1996. Of increasing relevance to the design of effective strategies is the growing understanding of the nature of food insecurity and its underlying causes.26 It is also becoming clearer that chronic hunger reinforces poverty, giving credence to the intuitive perception that measures to reduce hunger are vital precursors to successful poverty reduction programmes: as long as people - whether adults or young children - are hungry, their response to development opportunities is bound to be inhibited. Indeed, there is evidence that, in most economies, the presence of widespread hunger stunts the potential for national economic growth.27


Advantage also has to be taken of the significant advances in institutional decentralization which have taken place in many countries over the past five years but which have yet to be supported with adequate resources to enable local institutions to fulfil an expanded mandate. Decentralization opens up opportunities for more effective collaboration at the local level among public institutions concerned with the multiple dimensions of food security. It also greatly facilitates participative diagnostic and decision-making processes, which are increasingly recognized as important in contributing to local self-reliance in addressing critical issues, including hunger and the basis for more sustainable livelihoods. The emerging role of CSOs in responding to local demands for knowledge and services must also be factored into strategy development.


Significant advances have been made in thinking on human rights issues, including the way in which concepts underlying the right to food can contribute to the design of effective programmes for hunger eradication. This thinking emphasizes the primary role of the individual, the family and the community in meeting their own food needs, while attributing a "fulfilment" role to governments, a role that is activated only when the assurance of access to adequate and safe food is clearly beyond local capacities.28 Governments have, of course, an important role to play in creating the conditions for local efforts to succeed, for instance by assuring peace and conditions for effective participation in political processes. They are also required to ensure that food is not used as an instrument for political or economic pressure, an issue on which observance is being monitored by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, appointed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2000.


At the level of international institutions, the steps which have been taken to improve interagency collaboration at the national level, through the Common Country Assessment (CCA) and UNDAF as well as through the creation of the ACC Network on Rural Development and Food Security, open up new opportunities for mutually reinforcing interagency partnerships for hunger eradication.


However, in spite of these advances in thinking and in institutional relationships, few countries have made the deliberate attack on hunger that is needed to achieve the World Food Summit goal. Except in the consultations on the right to food, there is little evidence of much focused thinking about what is implied in practical terms by the commitment to eradicate hunger - beyond the important step of raising the output of small farms (see Box 2.3). Perhaps it is this absence of a clear vision that tends to weaken the determination to fulfil commitments and hence reduce progress towards eradicating hunger.

BOX 2.3

Raising farm productivity to reduce poverty

Most poverty in developing countries is overwhelmingly concentrated in rural areas, and urban poverty is often a consequence of migration to escape rural deprivation. Among rural populations, small farming families are usually the poorest and most malnourished. In many LIFDCs, success in raising small farm productivity can lead simultaneously to a reduction in rural poverty, improvements in household food security and nutrition, greater food availability on local and national markets, and a reduced import bill. Experience suggests that often relatively modest investments, combined with simple technology changes, can result in substantial gains in both land and labour productivity where adequate markets exist for the incremental output. Part of these investments may be made from farmers' own resources, particularly through conversion of family labour into productive assets such as small-scale irrigation and drainage schemes, plantations of tree crops or land improvement, for instance through terracing or levelling.

Having a ready market is critical to the success of programmes for raising farm output. For developing countries, however, one problem lies in the fact that the long-term decline in international cereal prices (resulting largely from a combination of rapid technology change and subsidies in developed countries), while allowing cheap imports and hence low food prices, tends to reduce food production incentives for small farmers and erode their major source of income.

The link between agriculture and food security can be strengthened if developing countries purchase the food used for food safety nets on the local market, thereby creating an effective demand where none existed before.


Hunger, unlike many other manifestations of poverty, is relatively easy to identify, to measure and to target; indeed, surveillance and early warning systems are becoming increasingly effective in predicting food shortages. The solution - that of ensuring regular access to adequate, nutritious and safe food - is also seemingly simple. Unlike many health problems, eradicating hunger does not require many years of costly scientific research or the administration of expensive medicines. This implies that a real option exists to address hunger by ensuring that those who are, for structural reasons, unable to meet most of their food needs either from expanded farm production or from gainful employment have direct access either to suitable food or to the money with which to buy it. Although measures to ensure access to food are often put in place during emergencies, few developing countries have yet mounted effective programmes to address chronic hunger on a daily basis.


One of the most surprising factors in the search for solutions to hunger is that almost everyone who should be concerned with its eradication - but probably not those who are genuinely hungry - tends to search for a rationale for rejecting direct measures to address the problems of chronic undernourishment in favour of what they claim to be more sustainable solutions. Paradoxically, underlying this widespread aversion to direct solutions are essentially ethical concerns relating to human dignity and dependence. Yet, no human state can be more damaging to individual dignity or cause more dependency than persistent deprivation of food which, along with water, is the most essential ingredient for leading a healthy and fulfilling life. The need for ensuring access to adequate food is implicitly recognized by most developed countries, which have established social security systems to protect their own citizens from penury and to ensure that everyone has adequate nutrition. Although the need for similar systems in developing countries, where vulnerability to hunger and risks tend to be greater, would seem to be self-evident, few countries have been encouraged by their development partners to put them in place.


An aversion to direct solutions to hunger is also often voiced by many economists and development practitioners who wrongly claim that they necessarily distort markets, remove incentives, are unsustainable, fiscally unaffordable, hold back growth and breed corruption. In practice, any steps that translate a need for food into incremental effective demand can only stimulate markets, providing an opportunity for a win-win situation in which sales of local staple foods have the potential to lift both suppliers and consumers out of hunger. The incentive to work harder or to produce more food is largely meaningless to those who have neither the strength nor the means to do so. Similarly, there is a danger that the quest for sustainable solutions, while noble, could take resources away from meeting immediate needs, thereby building capacity among hungry people to respond to more sustainable growth options. When properly targeted, redistributive measures are less costly and hence, for the same amount of money, are able to lift more people out of hunger than the investments required to underpin seemingly more sustainable solutions, and they can create the preconditions for sustainable growth. Economic growth can only be held back by the non-participation of those who are hungry. Finally, there is no evidence that corruption thrives more on the resources committed to redistributive measures than on those allocated to investment programmes.


The implication of this is that the widespread bias against redistributive measures must be set aside in the search for practical and rapid solutions to food insecurity - solutions that respond to a human need that can only induce suffering if denied. They should be seen as part of a balanced set of initiatives designed to address the various manifestations of hunger, identified through good diagnostic work in a targeted, cost-effective and institutionally feasible manner that takes account of the availability of resources. As demonstrated by Maharashtra State in India and some regions of Ethiopia, the multiplier effects of such balanced programmes can be increased if they are used to create productive assets and are supplied by local purchases that stimulate domestic food markets, thereby generating greater farm output. Visible success in eradicating hunger and improving nutrition, and evidence of resultant social and economic benefits, can thus become a catalyst in generating the necessary will to complete the task in the shortest possible time.


There is much to be learned from those few countries, regions and communities that have made rapid progress in reducing the incidence of undernourishment and have struck the right balance between different measures (see Box 2.4). It would be useful to explore opportunities for sharing such experiences more widely through extended South-South Cooperation arrangements.

BOX 2.4

How Thailand overcame malnutrition

Over three decades ago, Thailand recognized malnutrition as a national problem that was concentrated in rural areas. The government decided to address the problem through a community-driven rural development programme. Improving the nation's nutritional status was considered to be a productive investment and not a welfare expense, and this was reflected in a national policy calling for accelerated action focused on the improvement of nutrition as a critical element in poverty alleviation. A national rural development policy and plan were developed with the involvement of planning officials, staff from many sectors, academics and community representatives. Improving nutrition became a central element of a broader economic and social contract between the government and people, which related it closely to poverty alleviation. Poverty was to be addressed in all its dimensions and not from an income perspective alone. It entailed the implementation of integrated multisectoral actions linked to income generation opportunities in order to improve the nutritional status of communities. Programme components included rural job creation, village development projects, complete coverage of basic minimum services for the community and an expansion of food production (with an emphasis on improving the quality of diets). At first these activities covered only the poorest third of the country, but they soon encompassed the entire nation.

Among the reasons for Thailand's success in eradicating moderate to severe malnutrition in a single decade (1982-1991) was its investment in human capital. It recognized that the measures introduced must have a social foundation and that the concept of self-help is central to collective action against malnutrition. A community-government partnership was developed and fostered through broad-based social mobilization strategies. Volunteer facilitators, selected by the community, became responsible for enhancing the community's access to minimum basic services and for mobilizing its members to engage in nutrition-related actions. Central to this was the utilization of a set of minimum basic needs indicators that guided the people in identifying and working towards prioritizing their nutrition problems, taking appropriate action and maximizing the potential of local resources.


It is through reference to successful experiences and to the important developments that have taken place since 1996 that a possible basis for enhanced efforts to eradicate hunger begins to emerge. What is clear is that lasting progress towards achieving universal food security has much to do with rates of economic growth, the components of growth, deliberate pro-poor policies and fair trade. While acknowledging the complex interactions of all these factors in influencing the incidence of hunger, the following is a summary of observations that countries could find helpful in defining hunger eradication strategies.


The right to food

Poverty, hunger and economic development

Hunger as a result of market failure

Options for improving access to food

Political commitment

Global interdependence


Parties to the World Food Summit: five years later may find that the elements listed above provide a helpful basis for enhancing national programmes aimed at achieving the Summit objectives, establishing institutional accountability and developing effective international partnerships focused on common goals. They may also be relevant in the development of voluntary guidelines for realizing the right to adequate food, such as an International Code of Conduct on the Human Right to Food.


The governments of countries engaged in preparing strategies for poverty reduction could internalize the above considerations in defining the hunger eradication elements of their strategies as well as detailed plans to achieve the Summit target by 2015, at least within their borders. The types of programmes they adopt will vary, but a common feature is likely to be support for decentralized community-led initiatives designed to ensure inclusive food security, involving a strategic succession of measures aimed at bringing about immediate reductions in hunger and putting in place the ingredients of longer-term sustainable solutions. Often they will combine the provision of social safety nets with embarking on vigorous rural development programmes. Implementing such programmes will require the engagement not only of Ministries of Agriculture but of other institutions - from both the public sector and civil society - whose mandate it is to respond to the multiple demands made by communities and common interest groups committed to eradicating hunger.


Enabling developing countries to implement hunger eradication programmes on the scale required implies the full engagement of the international community. Endorsement of the above concepts would imply acceptance of the need to take purposive actions to eradicate hunger rather than assuming that hunger will disappear as a side-effect of broader measures to eliminate poverty. Hunger eradication goals must therefore be explicitly included among the development goals guiding the actions of the international community. Subscription to the general considerations outlined here also implies a need for stronger collaboration among the UN agencies (especially the Rome-based agencies but also those concerned with health, education, children's welfare and the environment), IFIs and other intergovernmental bodies, working jointly within their areas of comparative advantage in the delivery of technical, food and financial assistance. International funding for hunger eradication needs to rise to a scale commensurate with the problem and be advanced under affordable terms and conditions to avoid a renewed increase in developing countries' indebtedness.29 Apart from their use for enhancing food security, international resources could be provided to compensate governments and international institutions for the marginal costs of incorporating hunger eradication components in poverty reduction strategies and resulting programmes. It is particularly important that all external commitments be sufficiently secure over the long term to enable governments to embark confidently on the multifaceted programmes needed to achieve the World Food Summit goal.


A sharper focus on hunger within the broader objective of reducing poverty also has implications for the implementation of FAO's Medium-Term Plan. Indeed, each major activity should be assessed in terms of its relevance to hunger reduction and the question should be raised as to how its impact on food security might be enhanced. This would imply, for instance, that the Organization's long-term strategic thinking should focus less on predicting food supply and demand as determined by markets, and more on identifying unsatisfied food needs and how these can be fully met in a cost-effective manner. Policy advice would increasingly focus on the hunger eradication component of PRSPs and investment projects would be evaluated not simply with consideration for their economic benefits but also for their effect on hunger reduction. Furthermore, the SPFS could be broadened to become a people-centred demand-driven instrument through which groups and communities, backed by a partnership of various sectoral ministries, civil society and concerned agencies of the UN system, are empowered to address hunger in its multiple dimensions as a first step towards poverty reduction. This would be in conformity with the recognition that multisectoral action is a requisite for eradicating undernourishment - a recognition that is implicit in the Rome Declaration and in the invitations to Heads of State to attend the Summit and the World Food Summit: five years later. In turn, it would imply developing a joint vision on how to approach hunger eradication with other UN bodies (especially WFP and the International Fund for Agricultural Development [IFAD] as well as the Bretton Woods institutions) and with civil society. Such a joint vision should be reflected more fully in current programming processes, including the CDF, PRSPs, CCA and UNDAF. It could be supported at the national level in developing countries by revitalizing the Thematic Groups of the ACC Network on Rural Development and Food Security and by creating a high-level Coordinating Unit. FAO also has a catalytic and facilitative role in promoting hunger eradication, building a strong supportive constituency and ensuring that hunger features prominently on the agenda of other fora, including those concerned with the environment, sustainable development, health, nutrition and finance. The Organization must also strengthen the performance of its early warning and food monitoring systems in cooperation with other agencies.


Developed countries, backed by international institutions, especially those concerned with trade, have an opportunity to demonstrate their will to make potentially very significant contributions to hunger eradication by opening their markets, especially to the agricultural exports of developing countries; by reducing dumping and subsidies on farm products; by sharing technology and by substantially expanding funding for relevant international public goods (agricultural research, regulating the management of common fish stocks, monitoring forest, land and biodiversity degradation, and setting up codes of conduct for responsible resource management, etc.).


CSOs, especially international and national NGOs operating in developing countries, as well as farmers', women's and youth groups, are expected to commit themselves to address the problems of hunger with renewed vigour, playing an important role in resource mobilization, the provision of technical services and advocacy. They may also assume responsibility for monitoring performance against the reaffirmed commitments.


Good opportunities will arise for the private sector to contribute to hunger reduction. Within developing countries, this would principally be through extending trading systems into rural areas and investing in small-scale industries that can provide gainful employment and equip people with new skills. At the international level, contributions can be made by the private sector in opening new markets for developing country products, moving manufacturing from developed to developing countries, and developing as well as freely sharing technologies that offer prospects for improving poor people's livelihoods. If the significant private resource transfers expected eventually to flow through the CDM can be directed towards small-scale resource-poor farmers, enabling them to shift towards more sustainable systems of land use, this will have beneficial effects on both food consumption and the environment.


One can conclude that, in spite of the disappointing progress over the past five years, the prospects for achieving the World Food Summit goal remain good. This, however, will require the eradication of hunger to be adopted as a specific objective, nationally and internationally, within poverty reduction strategies. Not only do these strategies need to build on the recognition that, as long as people are hungry, there can be little progress towards halving poverty levels through economic growth processes, but they need to be based on the fact that all humanity has a right to food, which cannot wait. The Summit goal can be achieved by tailoring programmes to address local needs and opportunities, balancing measures designed to bring about immediate reductions in deprivation with investments aimed at generating sustainable livelihood improvements so as to ensure inclusive food security at the level of individual communities. The lead must come from the households, communities and countries where food insecurity is most prevalent, but these efforts need to be matched with reciprocal resource commitments by the international community, provided through bilateral, UN and multilateral channels and CSOs on a non-recoverable basis. Developed countries can also contribute to the achievement of the Summit goal by reducing trade barriers against agricultural imports and by creating incentives for the transfer of knowledge and appropriate forms of FDI, particularly directed at the rural areas of developing countries. It is in the interest of people in both developing and developed countries - and a moral imperative - to eradicate hunger as a shared endeavour, as quickly as is humanly possible.

1 FAO. 2001. Committee on World Food Security (27th session). (CFS: 2001/Inf.6). Rome.
2 The term "hunger" is used in this chapter to cover all aspects of temporary and chronic undernourishment and malnutrition, to convey the state of people who do not have timely access to sufficient, nutritionally adequate and safe food.

3 FAO. 1997. Rome Declaration on World Food Security and World Food Summit Plan of Action. Rome.

4 M. Mazoyer. 1998. Access to food: poverty eradication, safety nets and food assistance. Presentation at the Inter-Parliamentary Conference on Attaining the World Food Summit's Objectives through a Sustainable Development Strategy, Rome, 29 November-2 December 1998.

5 UNCTAD. 2000. The Least Developed Countries 2000 Report. Geneva.

6 World Bank. 2000. Poverty reduction in the 1990s - the World Bank strategy. Précis No. 202. Washington, DC.
A number of such issues that have come to the fore since 1996 and are of concern to FAO are reviewed in Chapter 1 of this publication.

8 Defined in Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs).
UN. 2000. United Nations Millennium Declaration. Resolution 55/2. Adopted by the General Assembly in 2000. New York.

10 This appears to have been rectified in the UN Secretary-General's Roadmap towards the implementation of the United Nations Declaration (19 September 2001).

11 S. Devereux. 2000. Famine in the twentieth century. Working Paper No. 105. Brighton, United Kingdom, Institute of Development Studies.
This is not to imply that there are no longer serious constraints limiting national and international responses to disasters, responses which tend to be triggered too late and are underfunded and insufficiently sustained once the media spotlight has shifted to a new area of focus. The lack of a permanent facility for funding responses to major disasters imposes serious constraints on the scale and speed of action.
FAO. 2001. The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2001. Rome.
FAO. 2000. Committee on World Food Security. Follow-up to the World Food Summit - Report on the Progress in the Implementation of Commitments I, II, V and Relevant Parts of Commitments VII of the Plan of Action. (CFS 2000/3-Rev. 1). Rome.
FAO. 1999. Corporate strategy C - Creating sustainable increases in the supply and availability of food and other products from the crop, livestock, fisheries and forestry sectors. In The Strategic Framework for FAO: 2000-2015. Rome.

16 Now renamed the UN System's Chief Executive Board for Coordination (CEB).

17 FAO/IFAD/WFP. 1999, 2000 and 2001. Working together to fight hunger and poverty. Rome.
FAO. 2000. The elimination of food insecurity in the Horn of Africa - A strategy for concerted government and UN agency action. Summary Report 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. Rome.

19 See Chapter 3 of this publication.
Report of the High-level Panel on Resource Mobilization for Food Security and for Agricultural and Rural Development, FAO, Rome, 26-27 June 2001.
IMF/OECD/UN/World Bank. 2000. A better world for all - Progress towards the International Development Goals. Paris. See, however, footnote 9, p. 36. See also the documents for the Preparatory Committee for the International Conference on Financing for Development (January 2002).

22 See paragraph 2.38.

23 The World Bank intends to launch its new "vision" during 2002.
Op. cit., footnote 9, p. 36.
This is evident from a recent public opinion poll, carried out in the United States by the University of Maryland, which found that 75 percent of Americans would be willing to pay US$50 a year in taxes to halve the number of people suffering from hunger worldwide by 2015 (cited by D. Beckmann, President, Bread for the World Institute, in a press release of 2 February 2001).

26 Op. cit., footnote 13, p. 38.
FAO. 2001. Undernourishment and economic growth: the efficiency cost of hunger. By J.-L. Arcand. FAO Economic and Social Development Paper No. 147. Rome.

28 FAO. 1998. The right to food in theory and practice. Rome.

29 The need for "concessionality levels (including grants) appropriate to the purposes and to the situation of recipient countries" has been noted in the review of international development cooperation, contained in the Report of the Secretary-General to the Preparatory Committee for the International Conference on Financing for Development.

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