International Sustainable Agriculture
Report of the September 15, 1995 Brown Bag Luncheon
Washington Office, WSAA
GLOBAL FOOD SECURITY:
FAO AND THE WORLD FOOD SUMMIT
Charles H. Riemenschneider,
Director, Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.S., Liaison
Office for North America
At the September 15, 1995 Brown Bag Luncheon, Charles Riemenschneider
described ways in which the FAO is revamping itself in response to a
recognition that improved connection with Non-Government Organizations
(NGOs) is helpful to their mission and cost effective. He also talked
specifically about the World Food Summit in Rome and about the 50th
Anniversary Symposium in Quebec in October 1995. He touched on the
financial situation of FAO and the efforts being made to create a more lean,
efficient and responsive organization.
FAO and NGO Cooperation
Since taking office in 1994 the Director-General has taken a number of
concrete steps to enhance the partnership between FAO and the NGO
community and to increase openness to input from civil society. He has
begun the task of decentralizing the organization so that normative
activities are more separate from field projects and more field and
normative work is moved to the field and out of Rome. Specific technical
areas in which ongoing cooperation between FAO and NGOs is invited and
carried out include 1) Early Warning, 2) follow-up to the International
Conference on Nutrition (ICN), 3) implementation of the Uruguay Round
Agreement of the GATT, 4) sustainable development, 5) forestry, and 6)
fisheries. The new Department of Sustainable Development has a branch on
Women in Development.
The Organization is looking at ways to create partnerships with NGOs and
governments in the developing world. FAO has redefined its priorities in
terms of food security recognizing that there are approximately 8,000,000
food deficient people in the world and productivity gains have slowed as
the world's population is growing to 9 billion. The Director has created a
new unit within the Technical Cooperation Department of the Organization
that will be responsible for promoting and facilitating FAO's cooperation
with NGOs in pursuit of common development objectives, particularly in
the field. The new unit, TCDN, will also seek to mobilize external and
domestic resources for operational activities in the food and agriculture
sector of FAO Member States.
In collaboration with both national and international NGOs, TCDN will foster
dialogue and exchange of experience on technical cooperation matters.
This will include partnerships involving NGOs from the developing and
developed world, FAO, and concerned governments in the design, funding
and implementation of development plans, programs, and projects. FAO is
working with NGOs on a special program for food security in 14 low-
income countries, (Special Progamme on Food Production in Support of
Food Security in Low-Income, Food-Deficit Countries). Appropriate
technology is being sought and applied to provide water control and other
strategies are being developed and used to effect sustainable gains in food
production. The intent is to use programs in these 14 countries as seed
projects that NGOs and others will broaden to include other countries.
Some of the issues addressed concern transboundary animal and plant pest
control issues such as finding a means to control locusts in Africa without
excessive spraying. We need to know what can be done to prevent the
need to spray. There is a need for longer term research on this problem.
Foot and mouth disease in Latin America is another such problem being
worked on through this program.
On the technical side, the Director-General, as a part of the Organization's
effort to reach out to the non-governmental community, convened
meetings between NGOs and the Departments of Fisheries and Forestry in
connection, for the first time, with the biennial sessions of the Technical
Committees on and Forestry (March 1995). These meetings provided the
opportunity for NGOs to present their views on the deliberations of the
committees and the subsequent ministerial meetings and to suggest how
FAO/NGO collaboration could be strengthened. These views were
presented to the Conference on Fisheries (COFI) and the Conference on
Forestry (COFO) respectively.
Twenty-three participants from 17 NGOs attended the meeting held in
Rome prior to COFI. Discussion at the meeting was facilitated by the
rapport established among NGOs themselves as well as that between the
NGOs and FAO during the negotiations associated with the elaboration of
the Code of Conduct on Responsible Fisheries. As a means of strengthening
FAO-NGO collaboration, several NGOs undertook to prepare a program to
promote NGO participation in the implementation of the Code.
The meeting on forestry brought together 46 participants from 34 NGOs. It
focused on: 1) international aspects of the UNCED follow-up process and, in
particular, the report of the UN Secretary-General on forests prepared by
FAO and submitted to the Commission on Sustainable Development; 2) the
question of a legally-binding international agreement on forests; 3) criteria
and indicators of sustainable forest management; and 4) trade mechanisms
There is also a long-standing participatory relationship with NGOs through
the FAO community forestry program, and many have been involved in
National Forestry Action Program activities, as well as numerous technical
assistance projects at the country level.
The FAO Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) has
cooperated very closely over the years with NGOs in an effort to improve
the flow of field information, notably on socio-economic indicators which
are very useful especially in measuring the severity of localized food
supply difficulties. At present, some 60 NGOs are assisting the FAO/GIEWS
by diffusing information through their bulletins, mission reports or other
special documents and, on certain occasions, collaborating directly in the
field with FAO/GIEWS crop of food supply assessment missions. The main
GIEWS publications in turn are distributed to NGOs. Examples of such on-
going collaboration developed with NGOs in the field of early warning
include, among others, a "Risk Mapping" project launched with Save the
Children Fund, U.K., and the provision by FAO/GIEWS of data to NGOs for
studies on cereal markets and cereal policies, notably in Western Africa.
NGOs have shown particular interest in the implementation of the Uruguay
Round Agreement of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade,
especially regarding the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards (SPS) and
Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) related to food quality and safety.
Consumer- and trade-related NGOs actively participated in the recent
Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting in Rome. In addition, FAO in
1994 organized a meeting with consumer NGOs on increasing their role in
FAO's work in food quality and safety standard setting and will continue
actively to seek the input of these NGOs in the future.
Within the framework of the follow-up to the International Conference on
Nutrition (ICN) held in December 1992, FAO continues to implement
various on-going activities and initiatives with NGOs. Non-governmental
organizations have participated in national and sub-regional workshops
and seminars, as well as the development and implementation of ICN
National Plans of Action on Nutrition. Such participation was further
encouraged by the Organization through its promotion of the establishment
of international, regional, and national networks aimed at improving food
supplies and nutrition. Geneva and Rome-based NGO working groups in
nutrition continue to manifest their support to the ICN process by
publishing, periodically, the newsletter "Calls to Action," which contains
practical information on policy, advocacy, and action in addition to
facilitating information exchange among NGOs to advance the goals of the
The Organization has further maintained a long-standing collaboration with
NGOs in such areas as the Code of Conduct on Pesticides and Prior Informed
Consent (PIC) Clause, Rural Finance, Land and Water Development, and in
the field of Plant Genetic Resources. Contacts are maintained with NGOs at
the technical level particularly in the development and preparation of the
Code of Conduct on Germplasm Collection and Transfer as well as the Draft
Code of Conduct on Biotechnology.
International non-governmental organizations (INGOs) are invited to
submit reports on their activities to sessions on the Commission of Plant
Genetic Resources, and reports on their activities to sessions on the
Commission of Plant Genetic Resources, and NGOs are encouraged to
participate in the preparatory process of the International Technical
Conference on Plant Genetic Resources and Global Plan of Action, and have
initiated plans to hold an NGO Forum in conjunction with the Conference.
FAO project staff in their turn participated in the NGO Forum on Genetic
Biodiversity held on the occasion of the first session of the Conference of
the Parties for the Convention of Biological Diversity.
Launched in 1970, Development Education Exchange Papers (DEEP)
adopted a new production method which provides opportunities for NGOs
and FAO technicians to exchange views and concerns on particular issues
and to communicate them to the readers of the magazine. DEEP reaches an
international network of 10,000 groups and institutions in the non-
governmental sector seeking to share knowledge and experience on a
variety of development issues. Five editions have been issued since
September 1993 and one is in preparation. Themes treated were: plant
genetic resources, sustainable agriculture and rural development (two
issues), food security (two issues), and responsible fisheries. Each of these
issues, prepared in collaboration with specialized NGOs, seeks to bring
together the positions and programs of FAO and NGOs highlighting
complementarities as well as divergencies. As the FAO publication with
the largest outreach to the NGO sector, DEEP is an instrument of
dissemination of information of FAO and NGO policies and programs.
Suggestions from NGOs on future themes to be featured in the magazine
are most welcome.
The Director-General also has met three times with the ad hoc groups of
international NGO representatives residing in Rome, which is currently
composed of 26 of the 180 INGOs with which FAO has established formal
relations. During the first meeting in April 1994, the Director-General
provided the group with information about the changes in the
Organization's policies, programs and structures which he would later be
proposing to the FAO Council in May 1994.
A second meeting was convened in November 1994 to inform them about
the action being taken to implement the Director-General's proposals
regarding food security. He also described the various initiatives
underway in which FAO was seeking NGO collaboration, such as the World
Food Summit and interaction with universities and agricultural research
institutions. In this context, he noted that he had more confidence in
concrete programs of action as instruments of NGO cooperation than in
institutional and structural mechanisms.
In June 1995, during his third meeting with the ad hoc group, the Director-
General reiterated the priority he attached to operational cooperation with
NGOs, especially in the framework of the Special Progamme on Food
Production in Support of Food Security in Low-Income, Food-Deficit
Countries (LIFDCs). Increasing food production, he stated, was one of the
necessary responses to the problem of food insecurity. NGOs were in a
privileged position in this regard, since they were present in the field,
interacted with producers, and helped to build a better social climate in
rural areas. FAO wished to work directly with rural producers themselves,
with the agreement of governments, and NGOs had an important role to
play in making this outreach possible. NGOs have been contacted by the
formulation missions fielded in the context of the Special Programme and
some were involved in program implementation.
In closing the most recent meeting, the Director-General reviewed the
existing avenues for NGO participation in the World Food Summit and
expressed FAO's willingness to consider additional modalities proposed by
NGOs, and urged NGOs to present their views. The Summit will provide an
opportunity for significant new collaboration between FAO and NGOs.
World Food Summit
This World Food Summit from 13 to 17 November 1996 will be the first
time since 1974 that the issue of food security has really been faced. It is
expected to capture attention and spur action of leaders at the highest
political level - the level where responsibility for national food security
rests. Policies in various sectors may have important impacts on food
security, and only Heads of State or Government have the potential to
influence policy for all sectors. We expect many heads of governments to
Ways to ensure universal food security are far from limited to
governments, however. All actors of civil society will need to work
together with one another and with governments to identify and
implement actions at local, national, regional, and global levels.
Accordingly, it is hoped that NGOs will make a major contribution to the
World Food Summit preparatory process, and be major actors in the
implementation of a plan of action issuing from the Summit.
As preparations for the Summit have been taking shape in the past few
months, the views of NGOs have been actively sought. Comment and input
from the non-governmental sector on the series of Summit technical
background documents, and the preparation of the basic Summit policy
document and plan of action, are an important means of influencing the
Summit's outcome. With respect to the Summit itself, FAO is actively
encouraging member countries to include representatives of NGOs and the
private sector as members of their national delegations attending the
The Secretariat is open to suggestions from NGOs as to how, in their work,
they might advance the Summit's objectives through implementation of
the Summit final plan of action. In accordance with the Director-General's
instructions, the Office for External Relations of the Organization, in
consultation with the concerned technical departments and in particular
TCDN, is preparing a new policy framework aimed at strengthening FAO's
collaboration and its partnership with NGOs.
FAO Financial Situation
The current budget situation is that the Senate Appropriations Committee
reported out a proposal of a 43% cut in funding for international
organizations. The damaging effect of this potential decision would be
immediate as the funds are to be pulled back from the payment due to the
U.N. for 1995. The U.S. currently is committed to supporting 25% of the
U.N. budget. These cuts will force the U.N. system into a crisis management
mode of operation. Without the clout of being a major contributor, the U.S.
will lose influence. Unlike the other major donor countries, the U.S. is
already significantly in arrears in its payments to the U.N.
By way of fiscal responsibility, the FAO has reduced staff by 18% and
abolished 158 posts. It has begun using professors on sabbatical leave and
member state government workers on loan to replace consultants and thus
reduce the cost of technical support. Also reduced are the numbers of
meetings and the amount of travel to meetings. The amount and size of
documents prepared by FAO has also been reduced. Part of the reason for
holding this World Food Summit in Rome is to reduce the cost to FAO. The
summit is being handled overall in the most economical way possible.
Many in Congress do not realize that, among other things, FAO is doing
work in the areas of international agriculture and genetics that would
otherwise have to be done by the U.S. and other developed countries.
These issues could affect the food supply and quality of life of those
FAO Symposium in Quebec in October
(See attached copies of Symposium brochure.)
In regard to the FAO 50th Anniversary in October, it is being held on the
50th anniversary of the founding of FAO in Quebec. Approximately 60
Ministers of Agriculture have agreed to attend the ministerial level
meeting and approximately 800 so far for have registered for the
symposium, "People at the Heart of Development."
Linda Elswick, WSAA: Comments on the Global Assembly on Food
Security, Quebec, October 1995 (See gold colored flyer,
The Global Assembly on Food Security has four goals:
- analyze the world's food systems, as informed by the history and vision
of the founders and early leaders of FAO;
- prepare a People's Declaration of Principles for Food Security
- initiate a renewed global NGO Network on Food Security
- launch a global NGO Campaign for Food Security for the 1996 World Food
Summit and for the World Trade Organization's review of agricultural
trade rules in the year 2000 and beyond.
Founders and early leaders of FAO will explore the forces behind the
creation of global food agencies 50 years ago. Panels, followed by working
gorups, will then focus on three main themes: 1) forces affecting global
food security, today and in the future; 2) how civil society can effectively
manage the forces affecting food security; and 3) strategies for the future.
Questions for Dr. Riemenschneider
At the World Food Summit, will the questions unresolved by the 1974
conference be solved?
The ministerial meeting in Quebec will mainly deal with the question
of investment for food security. Other issues will be covered by the
technical papers for the Summit, most of which will be out by the
first few months of next year for review.
How do NGOs that don't have representatives in Rome get involved with
Not all the NGOs we work with are in Rome. We have sought them
out other places. The preparatory meetings for the World Food
Summit will include regional meetings around the world. They will
be coordinated around FAO's regional meetings. NGOs may provide
input to these meetings and participate as observers.
How does FAO deal with the issue of land tenure? How does FAO define
"Sustainability" is not yet adequately defined. For instance, in
forestry, world-wide there are 5 different definitions of sustainable
development. Sustainability involves concerns for environment,
social equality, people's participation, and other issues as well as
production. Data is still being collected in pursuit of a workable
definition and NGOs could have input on this process.
Where do you see FAO going in the long term?
The recent FAO meetings have emphasized the point that FAO's
priority of priorities is food security. We are cognizant of the fact
that there are 800,000,000 people who are food insecure. FAO's
direction is toward being a center of excellence so that we can
provide appropriate aid. Being able to utilize professors on
sabbatical leave and experts on loan from member governments
allows us to pursue this goal in a cost-effective way.
Do the large food manufacturers support your work?
A number of them have been very helpful, especially in the
standard-setting work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
How do you see market based systems and GATT influencing food deficit
While our analysis shows aggregate benefits from the GATT
agreement, we see a net loss for food importing countries. Also food
aid will be down as a result of GATT.
What has been FAO's response to the present drought situation in southern
We have provided early warning to member states and are working
with the World Food Program to provide emergency aid. We also
focus on means such as providing seed and hand tools to prevent
short-term problems from becoming long-term disasters.