AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION
THE UNITED NATIONS
Origins and Background
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) was founded in Quebec City (Canada) in 1945 and is the largest of the United Nations specialized agencies. FAO has 175 Member Nations and one member organization (the European Community). The preamble of the FAO Constitution dedicates the organization to assisting its members in raising levels of nutrition and standards of living of the peoples under their respective jurisdictions; securing improvements in the efficiency and production of all food and agricultural products; bettering the condition of rural populations; and thus contributing toward an expanding world economy and ensuring humanitys freedom from hunger.
As the leading international body for food and agriculture, FAO has four main functions: provide technical advice and assistance; collect, analyze and disseminate information on food, nutrition, agriculture, fisheries and forestry; offer independent advice to governments on agricultural policy; and provide a neutral forum where governments, international organizations and non-governmental organizations can meet to discuss food and agricultural issues.
The FAO Conference is the organizations supreme governing body. It is made up of all members and meets every two years to review the state of food and agriculture and FAOs work, determine policy, and approve the programme of work and budget for the next biennium. Each member is represented by one delegate. The delegates from Member Nations elect the Director-General and the council, an interim governing body of 49 nations, which serve three-year rotating terms.
The council meets twice a year. It receives reports from committees on finance, programme and constitutional and legal matters, and from major technical committees on commodity problems, fisheries, forestry, agriculture and world food security. The meetings of these specialized committees are open to all FAO Member Nations and may include observers from intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.
In non-conference years regional conferences are held in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Near East to assess problems specific to each geographic area and identify priorities for the next biennium. FAO has a wide range of other intergovernmental and expert bodies, both global and regional, which deal with various areas of agriculture, fisheries, forestry and food. The organization holds specialist meetings on major development issues throughout the year, and NGOs are increasingly invited to participate in a wide range of technical areas relevant to their work and experience.
The FAO secretariat is headed by Director-General Jacques Diouf (Senegal), elected by the Member Nations for a six-year term, which began 1 January 1994. Dr. Diouf, who was re-elected for a second term in November 1999, restructured FAO and created eight departments: Agriculture, Technical Cooperation, Sustainable Development, Economic and Social Policy, Fisheries, Forestry, Administration and Finance, and General Affairs and Information.
The newly created Technical Cooperation Department provides a consolidated base for the delivery of increased policy advice and assistance in preparing investment projects and implementing field programmes. Various units have been regrouped under the Department of Sustainable Development, whose objective is to promote appropriate and sustainable technologies that will ensure food security for all--and for the rural poor in particular--while conserving natural resources, protecting the environment and helping communities to become self-reliant. Within this department, a Women and Population Division has been established to guarantee that considerations for human resources are fully integrated within the activities of the organization.
There are 2,289 professional and general service personnel at FAO headquarters in Rome and over 1,900 staff on field projects and at field offices in the developing world. FAO has liaison offices in New York, Washington, Geneva, Tokyo and Brussels and five regional offices in Africa (Accra), Asia and the Pacific (Bangkok), Europe (Rome), Latin America and the Caribbean (Santiago) and the Near East (Cairo). The organization recently opened subregional offices in Southern and Eastern Africa (Harare), Central and Eastern Europe (Budapest), Pacific Islands (Apia), the Caribbean (Bridgetown), and North Africa (Tunis).
In recent years, FAO has been decentralizing many of its activities to achieve greater country-level impact through the regional and subregional offices and its network of 80 country representations, which serve more than 100 countries. These decentralized structures facilitate inter-country cooperation, intra-country coordination and technical cooperation activities; ensure information exchange; and maintain relations with other organizations active in rural development. NGOs are increasingly important in this context.
FAOs regular programme (US$650 million for 1998-1999) is financed by members according to a scale of contributions set by the FAO conference. The programme covers the cost of the FAO secretariat and of activities specified in the programme of work and budget adopted by the conference. These include studies, publications, meetings, contributions to special action programmes, as well as the Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP), which enables FAO to react rapidly to urgent requests from member governments for support of short-term technical assistance needs.
The field programme, mostly funded from external sources, supports governments and rural communities through specific project activities prepared with FAOs assistance and approved by the respective donors and recipients. On average, FAO has some 2,200 field projects operating at any one time.
In 1998, US$277.5 million was spent under FAO field programmes. Funding from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) accounted for 12%, and 13% was provided by FAOs Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) and the Special Programme for Food Security. The remaining 75% was provided by donor countries, international financing agencies and other sources under trust fund arrangements. NGO donors are also contributors and fund projects that enable their partners in developing countries to benefit from FAOs technical support. In 1997-1999 for the first time the TCP supported a capacity building programme requested and co-funded by a national farmers federation.
The regular and field programmes are reviewed by the FAO Conference, the council and its technical committees. Individual field projects are evaluated jointly with the beneficiary government/recipient and the concerned donor(s).
FAO assists farmers, fisherfolk and foresters to raise their standards of living and produce more food using techniques that do not degrade the environment. But it is not enough to simply grow more food; it must be shared equitably within and between countries. FAOs overriding priority is therefore to achieve global food security, which is a situation where everyone has access at all times to the food needed for an active and healthy life. The organization tries to improve food security by executing projects that help rural women, who are usually responsible for family nutrition, and others gain access to land, credit and training. It provides early warning of potential food shortages, whether caused by manmade or natural disasters. It brings food insecurity and nutrition problems to world attention through such events as the 1992 International Conference on Nutrition (ICN) and the 1996 World Food Summit. Both meetings have Plans of Action designed to have a measurable impact on food insecurity and malnutrition.
Two new programmes target food insecurity. The Special Programme for Food Security, launched in 1994, is designed to assist target countries to increase food production and productivity as rapidly as possible, primarily by involving farmers in identifying constraints to production and finding ways of overcoming them, including adoption of available improved production technologies. FAO largely provides support for global coordination of the programme and helps attract funds. The Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES), also established in 1994, strengthens FAOs existing contribution to prevention, control and, when possible, eradication of diseases and pests. The first two EMPRES priorities are locusts and rinderpest.
FAOs natural resources programmes aim at more productive and efficient utilization of the earths natural resources to meet present and future food and agricultural needs on a sustainable basis. Activities cover six main areas: natural resources assessment and planning; farming systems development; plant nutrition development and management; water development, management and conservation; soil management, conservation and reclamation; and sustaining natural resource potential.
FAO promotes Integrated Plant Nutrition Systems (IPNS), which use all available plant nutrients--recycled organic materials, biological nitrogen fixation and mineral fertilizers--to achieve sustainable crop production and protect the environment.
Farming Systems Development (FSD) has become a major tool for FAOs technical assistance--and an important terrain for FAO/NGO cooperation--because of its holistic and participatory approach to improving the situation of farm households and rural communities.
Seeking to ensure that agricultural production meets expanding human needs involves FAO in a range of activities, including conservation and use of plant biological diversity; crop management and diversification; seed production and improvement; crop protection; agricultural engineering and prevention of food losses; and food and agricultural industries.
The International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides (1985) was amended in 1989 to include the Prior Informed Consent clause (PIC), which maintains that pesticides restricted or banned for health or environmental reasons should not be exported without the consent of the importing country. Discussions are now underway to attempt to turn PIC into a legally binding instrument.
FAOs Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programmes, conducted in close collaboration with NGOs, emphasize biological control methods and training for farmers to diagnose and treat pest damage. NGOs have been strong supporters of FAOs efforts to introduce responsible limits to pesticide use.
NGOs are also allies of FAO in promoting the conservation and use of plant and animal genetic resources. Sessions of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture are attended by a range of NGOs. They were particularly strong advocates of the resolution on farmers rights adopted by the FAO Conference in 1989, which stresses the importance of recognizing and rewarding the contribution of farmers in domesticating and developing crops over thousands of years.
FAO programme activities to develop sustainable livestock production cover feed resources and feeding systems, animal health, and genetic resources and production systems, including both the meat and dairy sectors.
Sustainable feeding systems are given high priority. In semi-arid and arid zones, FAO focuses on improving fodder conservation, fodder trees and grazing systems; and in humid and sub-humid regions, providing high-quality feed from nitrogen-fixing legumes adapted to local means of production.
An important feature of FAOs livestock programme is the conservation and sustainable use of animal genetic resources, which is the subject of a comprehensive five-year FAO programme launched in 1992. Specific objectives include establishing a world database of livestock breeds and strains, action to identify and preserve endangered breeds, promotion of conservation programmes, improvement of livestock breeding capacities in the developing world, and the establishment of an international legal framework on global trade in animals and their germplasm.
Sustainable Rural Development
FAOs promotion of equitable and sustainable development involves ensuring that rural communities have adequate access to land, water, fishery and forestry resources, and vital complementary support services. Key activities in rural development include agricultural education, extension and training; development support communications; agrarian reform; rural institutions and employment; women in agriculture and rural development; marketing; and rural finance.
These participatory concerns are governed by the Action Plan for Peoples Participation (PPP), adopted in 1991. The plan aims to create a favourable legal and policy environment, strengthen local organizations, decentralize government decision making, and apply appropriate measures to involve the wider participation of rural people in all stages of rural development policies, programmes and projects. FAO supports special PPP projects set up by governments agencies, semi-governmental agencies, and increasingly, NGOs, who have been appointed as implementing agencies. NGOs also take part in national-level coordinating committees that monitor project performance and promote understanding of PPP.
FAO also works with member governments and NGOs on policies and programmes to develop voluntary agricultural and rural cooperatives and farmers organizations that are self-reliant, autonomous and democratic organizations benefiting the rural poor.
FAO collaborates with NGOs in implementing the Plan of Action for Women in Development (WID), adopted in 1995, into FAOs mainstream programme and field activities. WID calls for equal rights and opportunities for rural women through improved access to land, credit, extension services, rural organizations and technology.
In its efforts to promote better nutrition, FAO provides member countries with advice, information and technical assistance in three broad areas: formulation and implementation of national food policies and nutrition programmes; provision of technical and legislative advice on measures to ensure the quality and safety of food supplied; and assessment and monitoring of nutrition situations, including monitoring the effects of food and agricultural policies and development activities on nutrition. The organization also promotes community-level action programmes to analyze and deal with the causes of malnutrition.
The development and application of international standards, codes of practice and other recommendations for food quality to protect consumer health and encourage fair trade in the food sector is an activity carried out by the joint FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission. FAO contributes more than 80% of the commissions expenses and hosts its secretariat.
Food and Agricultural Policy
FAO assistance in policy advice and planning analysis covers three main categories: global or regional sector studies and the production of action plans; direct policy advice to countries, regions and subregions; and training and institution-building to improve policy analysis and planning capacity. Subjects include sustainable development, food security, nutrition, commodities and trade, agrarian reform and the integration of women in rural development.
Policy advice is provided through short-term policy review missions, seminars and workshops, or longer-term field projects. A common request in recent years has been for help in studying the effects of structural adjustment policies on food security and the environment.
Recently, such assistance has been extended to the NGO sector to help build a basis for dialogue with governments on policy issues that condition the livelihood of rural people. In Senegal at the request of the Fιdιration des ONG Sιnιgalaises (FONGS), a peasants organization representing village-based associations, FAO helped farmers assess the effects of structural adjustment programmes on small agricultural producers and the environment. As a result, a national forum was organized in January 1993 at which the peasant movement, the government and major donors identified and discussed key issues and reaffirmed the importance of involving farmers organizations in framing policy affecting the rural milieu.
FAO formulates comprehensive national food security strategies and action programmes at the country level, with a participatory methodology involving NGOs. Much of this assistance is aimed specifically at improving the food security of at risk groups, and emphasis is placed on accessibility, adequacy and stability of food supplies, along with ways of developing monitoring systems for evaluating household food security.
National commodity and trade policy problems are another focus of policy and planning assistance. FAO supports the development of fair international trade with activities ranging from policy-level discussions on agricultural trade among member countries to commodity market analysis, technical standard setting for food quality and pesticides, and technical assistance to member countries. Training is being provided for developing country delegations to enable them to play a stronger role in the Multilateral Trade Negotiations in Agriculture, conducted under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
FAO stresses the need to ensure sustainable use of fishery resources and lessen detrimental effects on marine species and the environment. These concerns are reflected in FAOs fishery activities, such as policy and management advice; conservation of fishery resources; environmental protection; small-scale fisheries and community development; aquaculture development; quality control and development of post-harvest activities; fishery data and information; promotion of women in the fisheries sector; fish trade information and technical advisory services; and the safety of fisherfolk and fishing vessels.
Much of FAOs work in fisheries involves providing advice in formulating national policies, plans and programmes for fisheries development, management and investment. This entails liaison and collaboration with relevant national and international NGOs involved in fisheries and marine affairs. FAO was a major contributor to the International Conference on Responsible Fishing, held in Cancun (Mexico) in May 1992. In response to a conference recommendation, FAO prepared a Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, the first international code to address all facets involved in the sustainable development of an entire natural resource sector. The FAO Conference adopted the code in November 1995. It covers world fisheries and aquaculture issues, including fisheries resource conservation and development, fish catches, seafood and fish processing, commercialization, trade and research. It is not binding except for the agreement on measures to ensure compliance with resources management schemes in the high seas.
Fisheries activities of the FAO field programme focus on support for small-scale fisheries, in particular promoting fisherfolks participation and equal sharing of benefits among those dependent on fishery activities. Aquaculture and inland fisheries play an increasingly important role in fisheries development. FAO promotes aquaculture as a valuable source of animal protein for rural communities and as a source of income and export earnings.
FAOs activities to promote the sustainable management and use of forest resources include forest policy formulation; the launching of national forestry plans; institution building; the integration of forests and trees into land use systems; the development of forestry data, statistics and outlook studies; market development; wood and non-wood production; and research.
Member countries are being helped to produce National Forestry Action Plans (NFAPs) to combat and control deforestation by promoting conservation and sustainable development of all forests. The programme was launched in 1985 in response to growing concern over the high rate of deforestation and forest degradation in the tropics. It is a programme of global partnership co-sponsored by UNDP, the World Bank and FAO, which is responsible for international liaison, coordination and technical support.
Community forestry is an integral component of FAO-supported forestry projects around the world. Through the Forest, Trees and People Action Programme (FTPP), FAO helps strengthen local capacity to provide effective support to self-help forestry activities of rural men and women. The FTPP coordinates a network of more than 3,000 individuals and organizations--including many NGOs--involved in community forestry in 100 countries.
Through its Forest Resources Assessment programme, FAO helps countries establish methods and capabilities to monitor their forests on an ongoing basis. The programme produced the Forest Resources Assessment 1990, a comprehensive analysis of survey data of 90 tropical countries, and is producing another assessment for 2000.
Response to Emergencies
FAOs monitoring activities and information services play a vital role in detecting and triggering early response to emergency food supply difficulties, natural disasters, and outbreaks of pests and disease. The Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture (GIEWS) uses satellite remote sensing, agrometeorological data and a wide variety of agricultural and socioeconomic indicators to monitor the crop and food outlook at global and national levels. More than 100 countries and 60 NGOs are members of the system. The Special Relief Operations Service (TCOR) is the FAO body that coordinates disaster relief assistance to rural communities who need help in reestablishing production in the aftermath of floods, fires, outbreaks of livestock disease and other similar emergencies. Much of TCORs activities are carried out in collaboration with NGOs. In 1998, TCOR undertook 96 projects in 45 countries at the cost of US$96 million.
One of FAOs development roles is to help countries formulate and generate multi-sector investment in agriculture, forestry and fisheries. The focal point for this work is FAOs Investment Centre. In 1997, 43 agricultural and rural development projects that were prepared with the centres help were worth US$2,827 million. The centre also undertakes subsector analyses to generate new investment ideas and initiatives.
The organization functions as an information centre by collecting, analyzing, interpreting and disseminating information through various media, including print, radio, television, video, film and photo displays, and exhibitions. The anniversary of FAOs founding is celebrated as World Food Day on October 16 every year, when member countries and NGOs around the world participate in special events highlighting one particular priority theme.
Materials produced by FAO include information booklets, technical documents, reference papers and reports of meetings, training manuals and audiovisuals.
Major periodicals include the annual State of Food and Agriculture, FAO Quarterly Bulletin of Statistics, Food and Agricultural Legislation (annual), Unasylva (forestry quarterly), World Animal Review (quarterly), Plant Protection Bulletin (quarterly), and Rural Development (annual). FAO yearbooks are issued on rural development, trade, fertilizers, forest products, field projects, fishery statistics and animal health.
AGROSTAT PC, an electronic version of FAOs statistical yearbooks, is designed to be used on a simple personal computer. It provides updated figures on all agriculture-related topics in six files: population, land use, production, trade, food balance sheets and forest products.
Other important statistical information produced by FAOs technical divisions include the Fisheries Statistical Database (FISHDAB), Globefish Databank and Electronic Library, Forest Resources Information System (FORIS), and the Geographic Information System (GIS).
FAO compiles and coordinates an extensive range of international databases on agriculture, fisheries, forestry, food and statistics. The two most important are AGRIS (the International Information System for the Agricultural Sciences and Technology) and CARIS (the Current Agricultural Research Information System).
To meet the increasing supply and demand for agricultural data, FAO operates the World Agricultural Information Centre (WAICENT), designed to improve access, particularly to external users, via the Internet, floppy disks and CD-ROMs. WAICENT can be accessed on the World Wide Web (www.fao.org).
Each year FAO holds a worldwide TeleFood Campaign Against Hunger, both to raise awareness about the problem and to raise funds for grassroot projects to help poor families grow more food. In 1997 and 1998, civil society organizations and individuals in 60 countries sponsored a variety of TeleFood events, raising US$4 million for the TeleFood Fund.
Environment and Development
FAO was a major contributor to the FAO/Netherlands Conference on Agriculture and the Environment in 1991 and the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992. The Netherlands conference identified ways and means of achieving sustainable agriculture and rural development. The organization continues to fulfill its mandate established at UNCED as task manager in the UN system for the land cluster of Agenda 21 and specifically for chapters 10 (planning and management of land resources), 11 (combatting deforestation), 13 (integrated mountain development), and 14 (promoting sustainable agriculture and rural development). In addition to responsibilities as coordinator of activities at the UN system level, this involves launching and managing numerous activities in collaboration with national institutions.
FAOs definition of NGOs has always been a broad one, which accommodates the newer terminology of civil society organizations: all not-for-profit actors who are not governmental or intergovernmental. FAOs Basic Texts provides for formal relations with international NGOs, currently enjoyed by 196 organizations. Such status, however, is by no means a precondition for close collaboration. The broader range of NGOs with which FAO works includes: organizations directly representing producers and consumers; Southern development NGOs that provide services to rural people; Northern development NGOs that support programmes in developing countries and undertake public information at home; advocacy NGOs concerned with influencing public opinion and policies; national, regional and global NGO networks organized formally or informally around specific themes or tasks; trade unions and private sector associations linked to food, agriculture, forestry and fisheries; and professional and academic associations.
FAO has a long history of cooperation with the NGO world. Support for cooperatives and farmers organizations has been part of the organizations brief since its founding. As early as 1959 the FAO Conference established the Freedom from Hunger Campaign (FFHC) to enlist the participation of society at large in ensuring fulfilment of humanitys right to food security. National fora for joint NGO/government reflection and action were created; grassroots projects were formulated and implemented with FAO technical support and Northern NGO funding; the Ideas and Action bulletin was launched as a tool for exchange of experience; and regional and international FFHC conferences provided a mechanism for the NGO sector to feed its concerns directly into the proceedings of FAOs governing bodies. From the early 1970s the campaign evolved into a farsighted cooperation programme aimed at strengthening non-governmental organizations and initiatives in the development field, particularly in the South.
Over the past 25 years FAOs mandate for NGO collaboration has been endorsed by a number of international conferences including the World Food Conference in 1974, the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development in 1979, the World Forestry and Fisheries Congresses in 1985, the International Conference on Nutrition in 1992 and, most recently, the World Food Summit in 1996. At the same time, technical units and offices throughout FAO have built up their relations with NGOs both in the field and in global dialogue and information sharing.
The rapid changes taking place today in the roles of governments and civil societies, however, have made it imperative to take a fresh look at FAOs potential for partnerships. A growing proportion of official development assistance (ODA) is channelled through NGOs; and civil society organizations are taking responsibility for a range of services previously provided by governments, with their participation in policy fora at all levels recognized as indispensable for viable and equitable measures to be negotiated. As the World Food Summit Plan of Action underscores, civil societys commitment will be indispensable to attain the goal of halving by the year 2015 the number of those who suffer from food insecurity. This is the context within which the Unit for Cooperation with the Private Sector and NGOs (TCDN) was set up in 1994 to provide a focal point for policy and promote civil society cooperation organization-wide. On the instructions of the FAO Director-General, TCDN has coordinated a thorough review of the organizations policy and strategy of cooperation with NGOs and other civil society organizations, in consultation with outside partners and with technical units and decentralised offices of FAO. The review has resulted in a new FAO Policy and Strategy for Cooperation with NGOs and CSOs, endorsed in July 1999. Its main lines have been incorporated into the proposed strategic framework which will guide FAOs work over the coming 15 years.
The review has addressed the why, the who and the how of FAO/civil society cooperation.
Why should FAO seek a stronger relation with civil society? The benefits FAO expects from closer association include:
-- enhancing the equity of decision making under FAO auspices by ensuring that it takes into consideration the interests of all sectors of society and builds consensus among stakeholders;
-- obtaining substantive input into the normative and field activities of the organization by drawing on NGO/CSO expertise, experience and insights; and
-- building public support and harnessing additional resources for food security goals.
In return FAO believes it can provide civil society actors with valuable technical and institutional support; help them to replicate proven NGO approaches; and improve their access to information and to decision-making processes.
Who is included under this label? Different kinds of organizations are relevant partners for different kinds of cooperation. FAO attaches priority to membership organizations representing important constituencies like farmers and consumers and technically competent NGOs that are able to commit to ongoing collaboration. Whatever the organization, partnerships have to respect basic principles of congruence with FAOs mandate, shared interests and objectives, transparency and accountability.
How and in what forms should the relationship be strengthened? The challenge is to develop cooperation with an expanding civil society sector in an era of declining resources. To do so requires:
-- choosing partners and activities strategically;
-- promoting networks among non-governmental organizations/civil society organizations to multiply outreach and dialogue;
-- sharing responsibility for planning and implementing programmes and for resource mobilization; and
-- using FAOs country offices to reach the national organizations that are closest to rural people.
The review has identified strategies and key activities in four areas: information sharing and analysis, policy dialogue, field programmes and resource mobilization.
NGOs are valuable participants in FAO information systems such as the Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) mentioned in the preceding section. FAO and NGOs work together on joint public information activities such as World Food Day. There is also cooperation in undertaking and diffusing analytic work, for example through the Development Exchange Papers (DEEP), which serve as a tool of dialogue between FAO and NGOs on themes of common interest. Information technology is now offering new scope for the democratization of information. FAO is endeavouring to take full advantage of these tools to make available technical and field programme information and to exchange experience and views with outside partners, while also catering to NGOs that do not have access to electronic communication.
Due to FAOs functions as an adviser to member governments and a forum for international negotiation, it is well-placed to facilitate increased civil society participation in policy dialogue related to food security and sustainable agricultural and rural development. At national level FAO is committed to the principle that, if producers and consumers are the main actors in improving food security, they should be represented in the design of national policies and programmes as well as in decentralized decision making by local authorities. The thematic groups of the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) Network on Rural Development and Food Security provide a forum for such dialogue within the UN Resident Coordinator system. Regionally, the NGO consultations held in 1996 just before each FAO regional conference in the context of preparations for the World Food Summit illustrated the fruitfulness of dialogue at this level. Also important is interaction between civil society organizations and sub-regional intergovernmental structures.
Globally, the World Food Summit was the most highly visible in an ongoing series of negotiations in technical areas within FAOs mandate in which NGO participation is having significant impact. Plant genetic resources, pesticide use, the Codex Alimentarius, and the Code of Conduct on Responsible Fisheries have been mentioned in the preceding section. FAO is encouraging ongoing collaboration with NGO networks on technical themes, feeding into the technical committees of FAO and other policy fora. In June 1999 the 25th session of the Committee on World Food Security, charged with monitoring follow-up to the World Food Summit, discussed and endorsed measures for broadened participation of civil society in its work.
FAOs strategy for promoting cooperation with civil society organizations in its field programme is based on ensuring involvement from the earliest stage of designing country programme frameworks in order to facilitate subsequent collaboration in specific activities. FAOs field programme includes components aimed specifically at strengthening the capacity of peoples organizations (POs) and NGOs to participate effectively in policy fora and to formulate and implement their own development strategies and services. FAO also seeks PO/NGO involvement in its mainstream field activities, increasingly from the formulation stage on. Particular attention is being given to civil society participation in the Special Programme on Food Security highlighted in the preceding section. NGOs are also prime partners of FAO in emergency and rehabilitation action.
FAO seeks complementarities with the NGO sector in resource mobilization. Through its country-level technical assistance, capacity building, information activities and policy dialogue FAO helps to facilitate partnerships among NGOs, farmers, governments, researchers, and the private sector. While FAO is not a donor agency, its technical support can help POs and NGOs to mobilize resources by enhancing the technical viability of their programmes. Conversely, NGO participation in FAO programmes can help to root them in local realities and make them more attractive to bilateral and multilateral donors.
FAO is strongly committed to giving new impetus to its relations with NGOs and civil society organizations. The World Food Summit and the strategy and action plan resulting from the review of FAOs cooperation with these actors provide a strong focus and a basis for strengthened partnership.