Food Security:

Factors That Could Affect Progress Toward Meeting World Food Summit Goals

NSIAD-99-15: Published: Mar 22, 1999. Publicly Released: Mar 22, 1999.

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Benjamin F. Nelson
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the outcome of the 1996 World Food Summit, focusing on factors that could affect progress toward meeting world food security goals.

GAO noted that: (1) the 1996 World Food Summit brought together officials from 185 countries and the European Community to discuss the problem of food insecurity and produced a plan to guide participants' efforts in working toward a common goal of reducing undernutrition; (2) to reach this goal, they approved an action plan, the focus of which is to assist developing countries to become more self-reliant in meeting their food needs by promoting broad-based economic, political, and social reforms at local, national, regional, and international levels; (3) the participants endorsed various actions but did not enter into any binding commitments; (4) they also agreed to review and revise national plans, programs, and strategies, where appropriate, so as to achieve food security consistent with the summit action plan; (5) according to U.S. officials, a willingness on the part of food-insecure countries to undertake broad-based policy reforms is a key factor affecting whether such countries will achieve the summit goal; (6) other important factors that could affect progress toward achieving the summit goal are: (a) the effects of trade reform; (b) the prevalence of conflict and its effect on food security; (c) the sufficiency of agricultural production; and (d) the availability of food aid and financial resources; (7) also needed are actions to monitor progress, such as the ability and willingness of the participant countries to develop information systems on the status of food security and to coordinate, monitor, and evaluate progress in implementing the summit's plan; (8) given the complexity of the problems in each of these areas, participants acknowledged that progress will be difficult; (9) the Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) Committee on World Food Security requested that countries report to the FAO Secretariat on their progress in meeting the summit's goal in 1998, but many countries did not respond in a timely fashion; (10) in addition, some reports were more descriptive than analytical, and some reported only on certain aspects of food security actions; (11) thus, the Secretariat was unable to draw general substantive conclusions on progress made to reduce food insecurity; and (12) the Agency for International Development said that the level of effort by both donor and developing countries will probably fall short of achieving the summit's goal of reducing chronic global hunger by one-half.

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