Adopted by the World Food Summit

Rome, Italy 13 November 1996

We, the Heads of State and Government or our representatives, gathered at the World Food Summit at the invitation of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, reaffirm the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger.

We pledge our political will and our common and national commitment to achieving food security for all and to an ongoing effort to eradicate hunger in all countries, with an immediate view to reducing the number of undernourished people to half their present level no late than 2015.

We consider it intolerable that more than 800 million people throughout the world, and particularly in developing countries, do not have enough food to meet their basic nutritional needs. This situation is unacceptable. Food supplies have increased substantially, but constraints on access to food and continuing inadequacy of household and national incomes to purchase food, instability of supply and demand, as well as natural and man-made disasters, prevent basic food needs from being fulfilled. The problems of hunger and food insecurity have global dimensions and are likely to persist, and even increase dramatically in some regions, unless urgent, determined and concerted action is taken, given the anticipated increase in the world's population and the stress on natural resources.

We reaffirm that a peaceful, stable and enabling political, social and economic environment is the essential foundation which will enable States to give adequate priority to food security and poverty eradication. Democracy, promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development, and the full and equal participation of men and women are essential for achieving sustainable food security for all.

Poverty is a major cause of food insecurity and sustainable progress in poverty eradication is critical to improve access to food. Conflict, terrorism, corruption and environmental degradation also contribute significantly to food insecurity. Increased food production, including staple food, must be undertaken. This should happen within the framework of sustainable management of natural resources, elimination of unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, particularly in industrialised countries, and early stabilisation of the world population. We acknowledge the fundamental contribution to food security by women, particularly in rural areas of developing countries, and the need to ensure equality between men and women. Revitalisation of rural areas must also be a priority to enhance social stability and help redress the excessive rate rural-urban migration confronting many countries.

We emphasise the urgency of taking action now to fulfil our responsibility to achieve food security for present and future generations. Attaining food security is a complex task for which the primary responsibility rests with individual governments. They have to develop an enabling environment and have policies that ensure peace, as well as social, political and economic stability and equity and gender equality. We express our deep concern over the persistence of hunger which, on such a scale, constitutes a threat both to national societies and, through a variety of ways, to the stability of the international community itself. Within the global framework, governments should also cooperate actively with one another and with United Nations organisations, financial institutions, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations, and public and private sectors, on programmes directed toward the achievement of food security for all.

Food should not be used as an instrument for political and economic pressure. We reaffirm the importance of international cooperation and solidarity as well as the necessity of refraining from unilateral measures not in accordance with the international law and the Charter of the United Nations and that endanger food security.

We recognise the need to adopt policies conducive to investment in human resource development, research and infrastructure for achieving food security. We must encourage generation of employment and incomes, and promote equitable access to productive and financial resources. We agree that trade is a key element in achieving food security. We agree to pursue food trade and overall trade policies that will encourage our producers and consumers to utilise available resources in an economically sound and sustainable manner. We recognise the importance for food security of sustainable agriculture, fisheries, forestry and rural development in low as well as high potential areas. We acknowledge the fundamental role of farmers, fishers, foresters, indigenous people and their communities, and all other people involved in the food sector, and of their organisations, supported by effective research and extension, in attaining food security. Our sustainable development policies will promote full participation and empowerment of people, especially women, an equitable distribution of income, access to health care and education, and opportunities for youth. Particular attention should be given to those who cannot produce or procure enough food for an adequate diet, including those affected by war, civil strife, natural disaster or climate related ecological changes. We are conscious of the need for urgent action to combat pests, drought, and natural resource degradation including desertification, overfishing and erosion of biological diversity.

We are determined to make efforts to mobilise, and optimise the allocation and utilisation of, technical and financial resources from all sources, including external debt relief for developing countries, to reinforce national actions to implement sustainable food security policies.

Convinced that the multifaceted character of food security necessitates concerted national action, and effective international efforts to supplement and reinforce national action, we make the following commitments:

  • we will ensure an enabling political, social, and economic environment designed to create the best conditions for the eradication of poverty and for durable peace, based on full and equal participation of women and men, which is most conducive to achieving sustainable food security for all;
  • we will implement policies aimed at eradicating poverty and inequality and improving physical and economic access by all, at all times, to sufficient, nutritionally adequate and safe food and its effective utilisation;
  • we will pursue participatory and sustainable food, agriculture, fisheries, forestry and rural development policies and practices in high and low potential areas, which are essential to adequate and reliable food supplies at the household, national regional and global levels, and combat pests, drought and desertification, considering the multifunctional character of agriculture;
  • we will strive to ensure that food, agricultural trade and overall trade policies are conducive to fostering food security for all through a fair and market-oriented world trade system;
  • we will endeavour 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;
  • we will promote optimal allocation and use of public and private investments to foster human resources, sustainable food, agriculture, fisheries and forestry systems, and rural development, in high and low potential areas;
  • we will implement, monitor, and follow-up this Plan of Action at all levels in cooperation with the international community.

We pledge our actions and support to implement the World Food Summit Plan of Action.



Food Sovereignty and Security to Eliminate the Globalisation of Hunger


In the next few minutes the diverse voices of civil society will speak as one. We are representatives of more than 1,200 organisations from some 80 countries, from all regions of the world. We seek to bring the message of the more than one billion hungry and malnourished people of the world, most of them children and women. Through regional and global consultations we have discovered and affirmed our mutual solidarity. Our collective vision derives from our knowledge that food security is possible. We regret that we will have but four minutes to share this vision with you.

We affirm first and foremost the basic human Right to Food. Everyone has the right to secure access at all times to safe and nutritious food and water adequate to sustain an active and healthy life with dignity.

Neither food nor famine can be used as a national or international political weapon. Access to food cannot be denied to any nation, ethnic or social group for political, economic, religious or other reasons. Economic embargoes or international sanctions affecting populations are incompatible with food security. Those currently in place must be terminated.

The shame of global hunger and malnutrition compels action by all. At the same time, we insist that governments have the primary and ultimate responsibility to ensure national and global food security.

The representatives of civil society gathered at the NGO Forum are in full agreement on some of the fundamental causes of food insecurity.

The globalisation of the world economy, along with the lack of accountability of transnational corporations and spreading patterns of overconsumption have increased world poverty. Today's global economy is characterised by unemployment, low wages, destruction of rural economies, and bankruptcy of family farmers.

Industrialised agriculture, intensive animal husbandry methods, and overfishing are destroying traditional farming, poisoning the planet and all living beings. Subsidised exports, artificially low prices, constant dumping, and even some food aid programmes are increasing food insecurity and making people dependent on food they are unable to produce. The depletion of global grain stocks has increased market instability, to the detriment of small producers.

Family farmers and vulnerable people are forced under International Monetary Fund and World Bank policies to pay the price of structural adjustment and debt repayment. National policies too often neglect these same groups. Official corruption erodes all efforts to achieve food security.

The proliferation of war, civil conflict, and environmental degradation is a growing source of hunger and food insecurity. Hunger and malnutrition are most severe in cases where these combine with natural disasters.

Civil Society Proposals to Achieve Food Security

We propose a new model for achieving food security that calls into question many of the existing assumptions, policies and practices. This model, based on decentralisation, challenges the current model, based on a concentration of wealth and power, which now threatens global food security, cultural diversity, and the very ecosystems that sustain life on the planet.

We highlight six key elements of this alternative model, along with steps toward its development and implementation. An integrated approach is required, thus simultaneous action is needed in each of these areas.

1. The capacity of family farmers, including indigenous peoples, women, and youth, along with local and regional food systems must be strengthened.

1.1. All aspects of food and agriculture must be reoriented in favour of family farmers. This should include technical, managerial and financial support, credit, and direct access to markets for farmers' associations. It also should include a greater emphasis on safe and sustainable urban agriculture.

1.2. Women play a central role in food security and must be guaranteed the right to productive resources and equal opportunities to use and develop their skills.

1.3. Resources must be shifted in favour of local and regional food producers and food systems. Investment resources should be made available through debt exemption and debt relief, through a reallocation of existing international cooperation and allocation of additional resources by rich countries who should fulfil their commitment to appropriate 0.7 percent of Gross National Product to official development assistance.

1.4. Family farmers must be assured access to information and communication systems.

2. The concentration of wealth and power must be reversed and action taken to prevent further concentration. In particular:

2.1. Agrarian reform in favour of rural poor people who will work the land must be implemented immediately and priority placed on integrated rural development.

2.2. Genetic resources are essential to food security and must never be subject to intellectual property rights. Farmers' and community rights and the rights of indigenous peoples must be self-defined and implemented nationally and globally.

3. Agriculture and food production systems that rely on non-renewable resources, which negatively affect the environment, must be changed toward a model based on agro-ecological principles.

3.1. National and international research, education and extension services must be reoriented to integrate the agro-ecological paradigm, which incorporates the knowledge and experience of men and women farmers. Agro-ecological mapping should be carried out to detail areas of partial and total environmental deregulation.

3.2. To prevent and reduce the impact of drought and desertification, access and sustainable management of water resources, rehabilitation, conservation and sustainable use of natural vegetation must be ensured.

3.3. Policies and practices that favour organic agricultural production should be adopted, with the goal of reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides and other agro-chemicals.

3.4. Environmental and social costs of industrial agriculture should be included in the prices of products in order to avoid unfair competition with sustainable agriculture.

3.5. A diversified, culturally acceptable, well-balanced diet and safe, high quality food for all must be ensured.

4. National and local governments and States have the prime responsibility to ensure food security. Their capacity to fulfil this role must be strengthened and mechanisms for ensuring accountability must be enhanced.

4.1. National policies to overcome poverty by guaranteeing means for sustainable livelihoods, employment opportunities for all, and an equitable income distribution must be implemented to improve the access of poor and vulnerable people to food products and to resources for agriculture.

4.2. States must guarantee the political and economic rights of those within their borders, including consumers' rights. States also must ensure a climate favourable to development and democratic processes, with efforts to protect the environment and prevent violence, terrorism, and discrimination of all kinds. States should respect international law.

4.3. Current structural adjustment programmes imposed by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank should be suspended. Future economic reforms and plans for debt repayment must be formulated with the participation of civil society.

4.4. States must make greater efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts peacefully; together with donor agencies, they must guarantee food for vulnerable populations, including displaced persons and refugees.

5. The participation of peoples' organisations and NGOs at all levels must be strengthened and deepened.

5.1. The right to free association must be guaranteed, including the right of family farmers, consumers, women, indigenous peoples, youth, and others to organise themselves.

5.2. Civil society should monitor the impact on food security of policies, programmes, and actions of international financial and trade organisations and should participate in the formulation and monitoring of national policies and programmes.

5.3. Civil society organisations also should participate in the efficient implementation of projects for food and agricultural development.

6. International law must guarantee the right to food, ensuring that food sovereignty takes precedence over macro-economic policies and trade liberalisation. Food can not be considered as a commodity, because of its social and cultural dimension.

6.1. Each nation must have the right to food sovereignty to achieve the level of food sufficiency and nutritional quality it considers appropriate without suffering retaliation of any kind. Market forces at national and international levels will not, by themselves, resolve the problem of food insecurity. In many cases, they may undermine or exacerbate food insecurity. The Uruguay Round agreements must be reviewed accordingly.

6.2. All countries and peoples have the right to develop their own agriculture. Agriculture fulfills multiple functions, all essential to achieving food security.

6.3 Negotiations should be carried out to develop more effective instruments to implement the right to food. These instruments should include:

  • A Code of Conduct to govern the activities of those involved in achieving the Right to Food, including national and international institutions as well as private actors, such as transnational corporations;
  • A Global Convention on Food Security to support governments in developing and implementing national food security plans and to create an international network of local, national, and regional food reserves. Such a convention must be signed to ensure that the Right to Food will have precedence over any other international agreements such as the World Trade Organisation.

6.4. Structural food aid must be replaced progressively by support to local agriculture. When aid is the only alternative, priority should be given to local purchase and triangular aid, in which food is purchased in one country for distribution in the country of need in the same region.


Civil society organisations are committed to ensuring follow-up to this World Food Summit, particularly in monitoring the Food Summit commitments and active participation in the Food for All Campaign. In addition to the Global Convention on Food Security and the Code of Conduct, the Food for All initiative should become the basis for broad-based, participatory implementation at the local, national, and international levels of effort to ensure the legal right to food. We also call for an expansion of the Committee for World Food Security to include all actors of civil society in the follow-up tasks assigned to the Committee.

Finally, hunger and malnutrition are fundamentally a question of justice. Unless we agree that the right of every human being to the sustenance of life comes before the quest for profit, the scourge of hunger and malnutrition will continue. Our message is simple: Queremos una tierra para vivir.