PLACE DU PETIT-SACONNEX
1211 GENEVA 19, SWITZERLAND
OF THE INTER-PARLIAMENTARY CONFERENCE ON
Organized by the Inter-Parliamentary Union with the support of FAO and hosted by the Italian Parliament
We are convinced that it is feasible to meet this target. More than ever before, this will require a strong political commitment and concerted national and international efforts, to which we - as members of parliament - pledge ourselves.
We are likewise convinced that the sustainable development of agriculture is an important objective in any sustainable development strategy as a means of achieving world food security.
Over the past two decades, world per capita food availability has increased considerably despite continuing population growth. Although the estimated number of under-nourished persons in the developing world fell from over 900 million in the early 1970s to over 800 million in the early 1990s, progress has been uneven and has bypassed many countries and population groups. According to the latest FAO estimates (The State of Food and Agriculture 1998), the situation has further deteriorated since then and the numbers of under-nourished persons increased again in the first half of the 1990s, mainly in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. It was the realisation that in the absence of drastic measures progress would continue to be slow and uneven that led to the commitments made at the World Food Summit. Unless a major effort is urgently made, between one-sixth and one third of the population in some countries will still be under-nourished in 2015.
Undernutrition has manifold causes, but it is recognised that poverty, and in particular rural poverty, stands out as a major determinant of food insecurity. Insufficient food (dietary energy supplies), micronutrient deficiencies and poor sanitation, and especially the lack of clean water supplies, are all major factors underlying poor health. Women and children in particular are affected by malnutrition. It is estimated that about 200 million children are underweight. Even with sufficient food supplies, food security cannot be achieved if access to food remains inequitable.
We have been elected to parliament by the people in our respective countries to express their will and aspirations and to represent them at the national level in the management of public affairs. On their behalf, we strongly and unequivocally call for urgent action to be taken now to achieve food security for present and future generations.
As members of parliament, we are committed to working to reach the target of halving the number of undernourished people by the year 2015 and call on every country to set national food security targets compatible with this overall objective. We are also committed to ensuring that sectors essential to food security, especially agriculture, receive greater priority in the allocation of public funds, including official development assistance, and to ensuring that those funds are used as effectively as possible.
The role of agriculture in improving nutrition is primarily to provide food for an ever increasing population, and to create employment and hence enhance the purchasing power of the rural populations who often have only very limited alternative employment opportunities. For this to succeed, poor farmers must be placed in a condition in which they have access to the resources (land, water, technology, microcredit) they require and which enable them to practise sustainable agriculture.
Action to be taken should include the creation of an enabling environment acknowledging the primary role of agricultural and rural development (removing policies that discriminate against the agricultural and rural sector), promoting public and private investments, facilitating fair and equitable international trade, ensuring the involvement of civil society and encouraging action by the international community. Actions should aim at producing sufficient food, while maintaining the resource base and promoting the development of appropriate technology and human capital. Rural poverty eradication and emergency prevention and preparedness policies should be implemented targeting vulnerable groups in particular. These actions can only be successful if the critical role of women is explicitly acknowledged through their participation in development policy formulation and implementation, and if every appropriate level of civil society is involved.
The commitments of the World Food Summit were made by governments on behalf of States. They can, however, only be honoured if parliaments and their members are fully involved in the implementation process. Indeed, combating food insecurity requires resolute and everyday action by parliaments, which must provide the necessary legislative framework. Parliaments are also required to adopt the national budget, allocating resources to agriculture and other sectors which are essential to achieving food security for all, and monitoring their most efficient use. We pledge ourselves to work towards this end and in the attached findings and recommendations we have set out our suggestions for action to ensure that our respective governments honour their commitments.
CREATING AN ENABLING ENVIRONMENT
1. A peaceful, stable and supportive political, social and economic environment is the essential prerequisite to enable governments to give adequate priority to food security and poverty eradication. Democracy, equal participation of men and women, the promotion and defence of human rights and freedoms, including the right to development, are fundamental for achieving sustainable food security for all.
2. In order to guarantee food security world-wide, all governments must contribute towards safeguarding the environment of our planet which is undergoing continual degradation. If this is not done, no kind of development can be sustainable.
3. Every country needs to develop a policy and legislative framework to achieve food security and make the right to food a reality, and to set national food security targets that are consistent with the global ones adopted by the World Food Summit. Such a framework should permit all the parties in civil society to work together in conditions of transparency and accountability to ensure the sound monitoring of progress towards achieving the targets.
Acknowledging the primary role of agricultural and rural development
4. Local production accounts for the bulk of increased overall food supplies. For developing countries, agricultural and rural development is essential not only to generate food supplies, but also to ensure and improve the livelihood of the rural populations. Initiatives aimed at raising the productivity of the agricultural sector cannot ignore the role played by women in the food production chain. Agriculture has multiple functions, in addition to its economic function of providing food, such as preserving the environment and developing rural communities through sustainable natural resource utilisation.
5. It is essential for each country to develop policies for food, agriculture, forestry, fisheries and rural development that are gender-responsive, participatory and sustainable. In particular, such policies must:
Promoting investment, public, private and in partnership
6. To enable increased food production in the developing countries to meet the actual demand until 2010, an estimated US$ 166 billion would have to be invested every year in primary production, related post-production facilities, public support services and infrastructure. This is 23% above average total gross agriculture-related investment during the past decade.
7. Nearly three-quarters of this total investment would come from private commitments by farmers and small and medium-sized rural enterprises, including those in the post-production chain. The remaining one-quarter would consist of complementary public investments partly supported by external multilateral and bilateral sources and aimed at ensuring the profitability of private-sector agricultural investment.
8. Optimum allocation and use of public and private investments should be pursued in order to develop human resources, sustain food, agriculture, fisheries and forestry systems, and promote rural development. This approach includes:
Facilitating international trade
9. International trade is a key element in achieving world food security. Whereas net food imports into the developing countries are expected to grow, partly in the form of food aid, unstable and unfair prices are likely to remain features of world commodity markets in the medium term.
10. It is therefore crucially important for agricultural trade to be based on a fair market-oriented world trade system. This should include addressing the twin need to:
11. It is likewise indispensable to maintain adequate levels of food quality and safety on domestic and international markets in accordance with the requirements of the WTO Uruguay Round Agreements on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures and Technical Barriers to Trade.
Strengthening civil society with a view to its involvement in the partnership for sustainable food security
12 The attainment of the World Food Summit's objectives necessarily requires co-ordination of the complementary efforts by governments and civil society. Of the many initiatives of this kind, the Food for All Campaign is a particularly useful means of mobilising stakeholders at all levels of society in support of the implementation of the Plan of Action.
13. The Food for All Campaign, which has the support of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, aims to place food security issues permanently at the heart of the national political debate.
14. Concerted and continued efforts are needed to:
Encouraging action by the international community
15. It is recognised that for many developing countries long-term food security can only be assured if national efforts are given international support. This takes various forms, such as development co-operation, access to technologies and genetic resources, and establishing and implementing trade rules.
16. It is also necessary to deal appropriately with the heavy financial burden which is crushing the most disadvantaged people in so many parts of the world through various debt relief and debt cancellation programmes.
17. The Summit's Plan of Action commits States to implementing, monitoring and following up national commitments in co-operation with the international community. An appropriate mechanism has been established to keep progress under constant review in which the FAO Committee on World Food Security plays a pivotal role. While reporting is an instrument and not a goal, States should:
18. The Summit also called for international solidarity to reinforce national efforts. States therefore should:
19. Agriculture, the dominant economic sector in many developing countries, is an integrated activity. It necessarily involves natural resources, including climatic and biological resources, different interacting technologies, and farming populations whose decisions and activities are influenced by their physical and economic environment. Action to promote sustainable agricultural development must therefore address the interrelated issues of resources, technology and human capital.
20. The challenge of the coming years is how to raise the production of food and other agricultural commodities under conditions of diminishing per capita arable land and available irrigation water resources, while protecting the environment, namely, the ecological balance, soil and water quality, as well as genetic resources. These dual demands on agriculture will continue to be felt most acutely in the developing countries.
21. The principal aim is therefore to narrow the gap between potential and actual yields in farmers' fields by applying the best available technologies coupled with efficient services and public policies. In seeking new ways to enhance productivity, it is equally important for agriculture in developing countries to produce enough food for their growing populations and generate more income and employment opportunities using innovation and technical skills.
22. Low-income, food deficit countries are in dire need of concerted efforts to enable their rural populations to gain greater access to food and rapidly raise food production to economically and environmentally sustainable levels.
23. The per capita availability of productive land is continually decreasing in many developing countries, resulting in increasing pressure on marginal lands and on biodiversity. The depletion of plant nutrients is responsible for reduced land productivity, even in regions that are essential for guaranteeing food security. Land tenure systems which constitute an obstacle to the adoption of sound soil management and conservation measures should be changed Land use often favours short-term expediency over the long-term benefits. Hence the need to:
24. An increasing number of countries and regions are facing water scarcity. Despite growing competition between sectors and users for limited water resources, appropriate national and regional policies and plans have been slow to develop. Even though water management techniques allowing for efficient use of water in agriculture are available and accessible, social and economic conditions and the capacity for their application by rural populations are often inadequate. Unresolved inter-provincial and international water conflicts continue to prevent efficient utilisation of this resource. It is important to:
25. In matters of resource conservation and biodiversity, the importance of integrated approaches is foremost for enhancing sustainability, reducing risks and increasing opportunities. Long-term food security depends on the ability to minimise genetic erosion and to conserve and use as much agricultural biodiversity as possible, with particular attention to under-utilised species of agricultural potential. Action aimed at the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, especially agrobiodiversity, must seek to ensure a fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from these resources, bearing in mind the rights and options of future generations. In this regard, it is important to
26. Current patterns of energy use in most countries, both developing and industrialised, are non-sustainable from the environmental point of view and in terms of natural resource management. In the rural areas of developing countries, sustainability is further reduced because households depend mainly on fuelwood, agricultural residues, human and animal power for their energy needs, with human drudgery exacerbating poverty. To contribute at once to development and environmental enhancement, it is imperative to:
27. The expansion of international trade increases the risk of introducing and spreading exotic pests, which threaten the sustainability of local agricultural production and natural flora and wildlife. Appropriate phytosanitary measures are therefore needed to ensure plant protection. They will reduce unjustified trade barriers whilst maintaining an adequate level of protection of each country's own resources. When such measures are introduced:
28. Research for the national and international public good requires increased international support. The development of appropriate yield-increasing technologies to meet the needs of developing countries and poor farmers requires both public and private investment in research. Such technologies should be environmentally friendly, allow for the sustainable use of natural resources, and be built upon a blend of local and traditional technologies with new biotechnologies. Additional investment is required in particular for research programmes linked to:
29. The uncritical use of crop protection technologies, including conventional pesticides, has unexpected consequences which threaten the sustainability of food production, jeopardise human health, and degrade natural resources. Ecologically based crop and pest management strategies can prevent most of these problems. It is in the interest of increased food security, in both the short and medium term, to encourage such strategies through policy instruments and appropriate investment in human resources. In this regard:
30. New biotechnologies have a great potential for increasing productivity, but they also involve risks and uncertainties. In view of the potentially hazardous implications of genetic engineering for biosafety and bioethics, national and international regulatory measures are required in these areas. Concern has been expressed with regard to the possible implications for Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) vested in the inventors of such technologies. Priority attention should be given in this regard to such issues as:
31. New opportunities being created by the use of modern information technologies in such fields as resources surveying, environmental monitoring, education and extension services via telecommunications should be put to work for the benefit of rural populations, including poor and food-insecure communities. At the same time, the importance of traditional knowledge systems should be appropriately exploited.
32. Investment in human capital, particularly in education, and especially for women and children, can enhance food security and increase food production while sustainably maintaining the natural resource base. It is the responsibility of State authorities, with the legislative branch of power playing a determining role, to promote a supportive environment for farming activities and rural life. The measures to be adopted for that purpose must include:
33. Hunger is the ultimate and most unacceptable symptom of extreme poverty. The vast majority of those who are undernourished either cannot produce or cannot afford to buy enough food.
34. The poor are poor because they have no assets - no land, livestock, fishpond or skills which help to add value to labour and time. This approach to poverty eradication should therefore be based on appropriate asset-building and information and skill empowerment resources.
35. Poverty eradication remains the cornerstone of all policies geared to sustainable food security. Men and women alike require secure and gainful employment and equitable access to productive resources such as land, water, technology and credit.
Eradicating rural poverty
36. Poverty is most widespread in the developing countries among rural populations who depend directly and indirectly upon agriculture for their livelihoods. Extreme rural poverty causes widespread hunger and vulnerability to famine.
37. It is imperative to implement policies which eradicate poverty and inequality, and to improve physical and economic access by all, at all times, to sufficient, nutritionally adequate and safe food and its effective utilisation. It is equally essential to focus on the constraints faced by resource-poor farmers, a large proportion of whom are women, who depend on agriculture for their survival. Such policies should include:
Targeting vulnerable groups and ensuring adequate nutrition
38. Every country in the world has vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals, households and groups who cannot meet their own needs. Even where and when overall food supplies are adequate, poverty impedes access by these categories of population to the quantity and variety of foods required to meet their needs.
39. There is generally a higher incidence of under- and malnutrition among women and children. Poverty eradication and food assistance must take into account the specific needs and irreplaceable role of women in food production and family care. Well-targeted social welfare and nutrition safety nets can include cost-effective public works and food-for-work programmes for the unemployed and under-employed in regions of food insecurity, social assistance entitlements, fair prices shops, school feeding, food stamps, food collection and redistribution in social and health centres, among others.
40. Quite often, food insecurity at the level of individuals, particularly children, is caused by the lack of access to clean drinking water and environmental hygiene and sanitation. Under such conditions, even if food intake is adequate, the biological absorption of food in the body is poor. Hence, high priority should go to the provision of safe drinking water and sanitation.
41. Recognising that accurate information is the essential pre-requisite for the effective targeting of efforts to relieve the plight of the hungry, the World Food Summit called for the development and regular updating of Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping Systems. Even though considerable progress has been achieved in this regard, much still needs to be done to develop such systems in the countries where the problem of hunger is most critical.
42. Ensuring access to food by low-income households, both in the rural and urban areas, should be a priority concern of public authorities, who should also focus on:
Preventing and dealing with emergencies
43. Even under the most favourable circumstances, the world will never be free of the scourge of emergencies. Wars, civil strife, natural disasters, climate-related ecological changes and environmental degradation adversely affect millions of people. National and international relief operations are often the only solution for people facing immediate starvation.
44. Although the central element for minimising the negative effects of food emergencies and famines is emergency preparedness, an adequate capacity must be maintained in the international community to provide food aid, whenever it is required, to respond to emergencies. However, emergency food assistance cannot be a basis for sustainable food security or be used as a substitute to a coherent food policy. Moreover, they must be administered carefully to avoid adversely affecting local food production.
45. Every effort should be deployed to prevent and be prepared for natural disasters and man-made emergencies and to meet transitory and emergency food requirements in ways that encourage recovery, rehabilitation, development and a capacity to satisfy future needs. These should include:
46. Considering the severe effects of the current financial and economic crisis already observed in several countries, it is equally important to ensure that programmes aimed at food security and poverty eradication are safeguarded in times of difficult socio-economic adjustment.
47. In order to ensure food security for all and the practical realisation of the right to food, ongoing parliamentary action is required at both the national and the international levels. The Conference recommends that the following measures be adopted by parliaments and their members in each country:
48. As regards action at the international level, the Conference recommends Parliaments and their members, working through their world organisation - the Inter-Parliamentary Union, to: