ROME, 5 June 2002 -- Commenting on the contribution of non-governmental organisations and organisations of civil society to the preparations for the World Food Summit: five years later, which will convene in Rome from 10 to 13 June, the Director-General Jacques Diouf of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said that "FAO is delighted to be able to count on the cooperation of the NGOs/CSOs* during the Summit and subsequently to combat hunger and place agriculture at the service of humanity".

Dr Diouf has emphasised that FAO will give careful consideration to any new proposals which the NGOs/CSOs might offer against the background of "increasingly more concrete and fruitful collaboration" with FAO, adding that, "the Summit: five years later will come to nothing without the follow-up, which cannot be implemented if we do not know each other."

Parallel to the FAO Summit, the NGOs/CSOs will hold a Forum addressing food sovereignty and the right to food. In this connection, Dr. Diouf said that the declaration that the Forum will submit to the Summit will enable all the stakeholders' points of view to be understood "in their rich variety, diversity and determined commitment to combating hunger".

The FAO Director-General emphasized the vital need for everyone to participate and marshal their efforts, and noted the "broad convergence" that existed between the concerns of the NGOs/CSOs and the main thrusts of the FAO Strategic Framework for Action between now and 2015. He said that since the 1996 World Food Summit, FAO had been involved in pursuing a series of initiatives to entrench the right to adequate food, particularly in the representations it has made to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Dr Diouf said that FAO had been very closely monitoring work on the Code of Conduct on the Right to Adequate Food which had been adopted by eight hundred NGOs. Two years ago FAO had set up a group of distinguished experts on Ethics in Food and Agriculture, and had embarked on a series of publications dealing with ethical issues relating to food and agriculture.

Describing the NGOs as the "conscience of humanity," Dr Diouf paid a stirring tribute to their contribution and support during the negotiations leading up to the adoption of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture in November 2001. The Director-General stressed the importance of this treaty as an international instrument committing the concerned states to recognizing farmers' rights.

"It is essential for the idea to become firmly established that hunger - this extreme dimension of poverty - must be attacked immediately, for it is the negation of a fundamental human right, in that it hampers all progress towards improving the plight of those who are suffering from it, and because it is absurd in a world that now has the means of doing away with it," he concluded.

*Non-governmental Organizations/Civil Society Organizations