International Sustainable Agriculture
Report of the February 27, 1996 Brown Bag Luncheon
Washington Office, WSAA
WORLD FOOD SUMMIT BRIEFING
Mr. Tim Lavelle, U.S. NGO Liaison, World Food Summit
United States Agency for International Development
The following notes are from the February 27, 1996 World
Food Summit Briefing given by Mr. Tim Lavelle, U.S.A.I.D.,
Special Assistant to the Director, Bureau for Humanitarian
Response, Food for Peace Program. Mr. Lavelle is the U.S.
government-appointed NGO Liaison to the World Food Summit.
These notes are supplemented by attachments related to the
World Food Summit, prepared by the US government and the
Global Network on Food Security. Please note that policy
positions of the U.S. government are still in formation and
that issues discussed in this report may reflect draft thinking
at this time.
Linda Elswick, WSAA, welcomed the approximately 25 people in
attendance and thanked Jim Adriance of the Inter-American Foundation
(IAF) for the generous offer to host the meeting. Jim welcomed the
group and called attention to materials available from IAF, including
copies of Grassroots Development - Journal of the Inter-
American Foundation Vol. 19, No. 1, 1995, an issue featuring work
with rural families on sustainable agriculture and food security in Central
America. (Contact IAF at 703 841-3800 for a copy).
Before introducing the speaker, Elswick highlighted the work that
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been doing related to the
World Food Summit, including concerns of NGOs and people's
organizations as articulated by the Global Assembly on Food Security in
Quebec City, October 1995 (handout attached). The Global Network on
Food Security, formed at the Quebec meeting, has endorsed the principles
of sustainable food security, local self-reliance, equity, participation, and
the duty of states to protect the vulnerable. These principles place the
well-being and empowerment of people ahead of the promotion of the
marketplace as the key to food security. She noted that North Americans
need to address the questions of food insecurity in the North as well as
the South, and especially how U.S. policy relates to the larger global
problems of food insecurity. Similar solutions are needed everywhere,
including community empowerment, self-reliance, and environmentally
sustainable development. NGOs will be increasingly active in the
preparations for the Summit to bring the views and contributions of civil
society to the attention of governments and international institutions,
and to increase involvement of citizens in the dialogue.
Mr. Tim Lavelle:
Plans for the World Food Summit
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations is
convening a "World Food Summit" November 13-17, at their head-
quarters in Rome, Italy. The Summit is an initiative of the new FAO
Director General Jacques Diouf. Its purpose is to address the devastating
effects of global chronic hunger and malnutrition, and renew the
commitment of world leaders to their eradication and achievement of
food security for all.
FAO points out that 20 years after the 1974 World Food Conference that
addressed the same issues and mandated that hunger and malnutrition
be eliminated "within a decade," these problems are still with us. And as
populations around the world grow, we see their effects worsen. There
are an estimated 800 million people chronically hungry and mal-
nourished in the developing world. They are living on $1 a day or less,
while only getting an average of only 1400 kilocalories per day. This is
not just in Haiti, but in many countries worldwide. Thus the need to
address the problem of food insecurity is great. The issue is also very
For instance, the price of food has a great impact on food security. In our
western hemisphere, starting with commodity prices, we are concerned
that the prices of cereals are up substantially, as per the FAO. In the Low
Income Food Deficit Countries (LIFDCs), there has been a $3 billion
increase in their costs to purchase grains in 1995. They can't grow
enough food, for whatever reason, and so they are importing more and
more food. At the same time, foreign aid is declining. Production in
many places is stagnant. If the marketplace is right, economists say,
everything will be okay. Whether or not that is the case, there is the
need also to get people mobilized, focus them, and take steps to
implement the Plan of Action that will come out of the Food Summit.
The United States is supportive of the agenda of the Summit, and is
working to influence its content so that it becomes a vehicle for action
and follow-up concerning the issues involved, and not just a "ceremonial
meeting" with no substantive outcome.
What does the US government hope to get out of this Summit?
U.S. objectives for the Summit:
(1) assure that the focus is on developing countries to take necessary
actions to increase their self-reliance;
We want to focus on necessary actions individual countries need to take.
There are roles for NGOs and the private sector in each country as well.
How do we increase these countries' ability to increase their self-
(2) demonstrate that the United States continues to play a leadership role
in overcoming chronic hunger and malnutrition;
We would like to show that we have and will continue to play a
leadership role in overcoming hunger.
(3) gain consensus on the role of FAO with respect to world food security
With GATT, the World Trade Organization in Geneva is working to follow
through on agreements that have been made. Will FAO expand its
network with NGOs and the private sector? The Summit will review the
continuing need for agricultural and genetics research, private as well as
that done by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural
(4) assure that the Summit produces measurable results, keeps costs
down, is not a pledging conference, and does not seek to create new
We would like to work to assure that this Summit produces measurable
results, not just pledges, or new financial mechanisms. We have exhorted
FAO to keep costs down.
The primary output from the Summit will be a Policy Statement and Plan
of Action. These have been drafted initially by the FAO Secretariat and
were reviewed by the FAO Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in
Rome last month. The CFS is a standing Committee of FAO and has been
designated as the primary preparatory body for the Summit.
In addition to the global documents, the FAO Regional Conferences (which
are having their regular biennial meetings between March and July of
this year), are being asked to adopt regional contributions in the form of
National Plans of Action for each country, to the Global Plan of Action.
At the Regional FAO Conference, regional strategies for food security will
be developed and endorsed by countries from that region. These
contributions, which are initially being drafted by the FAO Secretariat,
are intended to be integrated into the Global Plan in some way by the CFS
in the fall. The regional contribution will be a major item of business at
the regional conferences, which are meeting as follows: (1) Near East and
North Africa, Morocco, March 26-30; (2) Africa, Burkina Faso, April 16-
20; (3) Europe, Israel, April 29-May 3; (4) Asia and Pacific, Western
Samoa, May 14-18; (5) Latin America, Asuncion, Paraguay, July 2-6.
There is normally no FAO Regional Conference for the North American
region (the U.S. and Canada). The idea of a North American Regional
meeting with Canada (organized by the two countries), which would
parallel regional meetings being held by other countries to discuss issues
involved in the Summit, is being considered. This includes the question
of preparing a regional contribution. The USG is also considering what
kind of a country paper, if any, to prepare in response to FAO's
suggestions on that subject.
The Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) is providing the National
Secretary for the Summit (Mr. Buzz Guroff), and has lead responsibility
for U.S. government preparation for the Summit, in cooperation with the
U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International
Development. The National Secretary is also responsible for liaison with
the NGO and private sector.
FAO is producing a series of technical papers which are intended to serve
as the analytical basis for the Policy Statement and Plan of Action. Eight
of these papers are currently available; eight more are expected in the
next several weeks. They are being distributed widely in the U.S. for
review. People interested in doing so are being encouraged to provide
their comments directly to FAO for their consideration in revising/
finalizing the papers. Ralph Cummings, U.S.A.I.D./Global Bureau, is
coordinating matters relating to the technical papers on behalf of the
National Secretary. These issues need to be debated and have that
debate flow into the final Policy Statement and Plan of Action. Other
contributors are to be named.
An inter-agency coordinating committee is being constituted to ensure
full U.S. government participation in Summit preparation.
How can NGOs be engaged in the process?
The USG is seeking active involvement of the NGO and private sectors in
the preparatory process. Public Briefings have been held and other
outreach is anticipated. I have been asked to coordinate NGO Liaison for
the National Secretary.
NGOs can work with partners in other regions to express views through
the five Regional FAO Conferences. (Eds. Note: NGO meetings are planned
for the two days prior to each Conference. A list of focal points for each
country has been developed by FAO. The Global Network on Food
Security can be contacted for further information on focal points. See
For further information, there is a "home page" on the Internet that can
be accessed to get current information on the Summit. The address is:
It would be unfortunate if the Summit turns into a griping session about
what's wrong with GATT, the WTO, and trade issues, etc. We want to put
a positive spin on the problem and be able to say, "here are the
constraints to food security, and this is what we can do to overcome
them." It is not productive in the long run to do otherwise.
The problems are real. For instance, we are using maximum amounts of
water in places where water is rapidly running out. While there are
those who are hoping for a miracle -- a big discovery in plant genetics,
for instance -- we cannot necessarily count on something that will
reverse the situation.
The United States has agreed with the European Union last September to
assist five countries in preparing their national plans on food security.
These are Ethiopia, Eritrea, Malawi, Angola and Bolivia. This is an
opportunity to expand the "common vision" on food security of the EU
and the US on viable approaches to food security.
There is need to maximize creative NGO energy for mutual beneficial
results. The International Conference on Nutrition witnessed some
acrimonious exchanges between public interest NGOs (PINGOS) and
business interest NGOs (BINGOS). This needs to be avoided. We cannot
accomplish progress on the tasks we face without both private and public
interests working actively on the issues together.
For further information contact Tim Lavelle, U.S.A.I.D.,
(703) 351-0138, the Global Network on Food Security, Ottowa,
(613) 232-5751, ext. 239, or Linda Elswick, World Sustainable
Agriculture Association, (202) 293-2155.