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World Food Council (WFC) was a United Nations organization established by the UN General Assembly in December 1974 by recommendation of the World Food Conference. Its headquarter was in Rome, Italy. WFC's goal was to serve as coordinating body for national ministries of agriculture to help reduce malnutrition and hunger. WFC was officially suspended in 1993. WFC is one of very few UN organization which has been suspended. The UNDRO (United Nations Disaster Relief Organization and its predecessor, the DHA similarly were replaced by the OCHA. WFC's functions were absorbed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Food Programme.

The world food situation in the early 1970s was marked by extreme food shortages in many developing countries in Africa and parts of Southeast Asia, by a general lack of progress in the world fight against hunger and malnutrition, and by very slow progress in the creation of a system of internationally coordinated cereal reserves to meet crop shortfalls and other abnormal situations.

It was against this background that the General Assembly decided, in 1973, to convene a conference to deal with global food problems. The UN World Food Conference, held in Rome in November 1974, called for the creation of a 36-member ministerial-level World Food Council to review annually major problems and policy issues affecting the world food situation and to bring its political influence to bear on governments and UN bodies and agencies alike.

Each year up through 1992 the WFC met in plenary session at the invitation of one of its member states. The council, as a subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly, reports annually to it through the Economic and Social Council.

At first, the WFC's approach to solving world food problems was to encourage the adoption of national food strategies by developing countries. Under this plan, each country would assess its present food situation, including needs, supply, potential for increasing food production, storage, processing, transport, distribution, marketing, and the ability to meet food emergencies. In the early 1980s, this concept was taken over by the World Bank. Richard Levie was the Secretary of the World Food Council in the mid eighties. In 1989, at its 15th session held in Cairo, Egypt, the WFC delineated a Programme of Co-operative Action with four main goals for UN member countries within the next decade: the elimination of starvation and death caused by famine; a substantial reduction of malnutrition and mortality among young children; a tangible reduction in chronic hunger; and the elimination of major nutritional-deficiency diseases. The Programme of Co-Operative Action contained proposals for immediate action to be taken on food-for-work programs in rural areas where employment opportunities are not available and measures to make specific food items affordable to the poor. Over the longer term, the WFC recommended projects to create production and employment opportunities in rural and urban areas; community initiative projects designed to enable the communities themselves to identify and implement projects; vocational training schemes; retraining schemes; food stamp schemes. In the area of nutrition, the WFC recommended the implementation on an emergency basis of supplementary feeding programs for children; primary health care programs, including programs to improve sanitation and drinking water; family planning programs; nutritional education programs; and support to food and nutrition programs undertaken by WHO, UNICEF, and other international agencies.

At its 16th session in 1990, held in Bangkok, Thailand, the council observed that most countries had not yet set specific goals and targets to implement its call to action. However, by 1991 those goals had been adopted by all UN member states as part of the International Development Strategy for the Fourth United Nations Development Decade.

The WFC also considered the coordination of the activities of some 35 international agencies that have programs significantly related to hunger problems. The WFC observed that its own role was that of providing a central, undivided focus on hunger and recommended the creation of an inter-secretariat consultative mechanism among the four Rome-based food organizations (FAO, IFAD, WFC, and WFP). In 1991, meeting in Helsingor, Denmark, it reiterated this support. It noted with concern the great financial difficulties facing these international organizations.

The 18th session of the WFC met in 1992 in Nairobi, Kenya. Its report to the General Assembly noted that although most developing regions made some headway during the 1980s in reducing hunger and malnutrition, this was not the case for the peoples of Africa where disastrous droughts and civil disturbances had caused widespread starvation in recent years. The council praised the IFAD Special Programme for Sub-Saharan African Countries Affected by Drought and Desertification. In response to the disastrous problems of Africa, the WFC called for a "New Green Revolution," and the intensified transfer of technology to accomplish such a revolution. It recommended that substantial increases in investments in research, extension, and training were needed, particularly in Africa.

In 1992 the WFC also noted the problems of millions of people in Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (formerly the USSR) in gaining access to adequate food as a result of the dislocation of their economies.

In the context of the efforts of the General Assembly to streamline the activities of the United Nations, the WFC considered its future role within the framework of the restructuring process. With disarming frankness, the council stated: "We agree that the council has fallen short of achieving the political leadership and coordination role expected from its founders at the 1974 World Food Conference." It concluded that, in a rapidly changing world, the continuation of the status quo for the World Food Council and the United Nations as a whole was not possible. It established an ad hoc committee to review the mandate and future role of the WFC, which met in New York on 14–15 September 1992 and submitted its report to the 47th Session of the General Assembly (1992). However, the committee could not reach agreement on what the council's future role should be. Views ranged from abolishing it to strengthening it and integrating its mandate with another intergovernmental body. With this the committee referred the matter to the General Assembly, which requested the council members to continue attempts to agree on appropriate measures to be taken. After informal meetings from January to May 1993, the council reported to the General Assembly that "Council members are agreed on a set of principles to guide the United Nations response to global food and hunger problems, but disagreements continue to exist concerning the most effective institutional response to these principles."

In 1993 no formal WFC session was held, nor were any substantive documents prepared by the WFC secretariat. In fact, in December 1993, the secretariat in Rome was abolished as a result of the restructuring of the United Nations. Responsibility for servicing any future meetings of the WFC was given to the newly formed Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development (DPCSD) in New York.

In November 1993 the president of the World Food Council held informal consultations with other WFC ministers of agriculture during the biennial FAO Conference in Rome about the possibility of scheduling the next (19th) session of the council. The consultations were inconclusive and the future of the WFC was not taken up at the General Assembly's 48th regular session in light of these ongoing discussions.

At a General Assembly plenary meeting on 26 May 1996 it was recommended that the World Food Council be discontinued and its functions absorbed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Program (WFP). To eliminate duplicative and overlapping efforts, this recommendation was heeded and the WFC was dissolved. The move was generally hailed as a sign that the Assembly was rededicating itself to better use of its resources. As the FAO and WFP became heirs to the World Food Council's initiatives, the restructuring was also viewed as a reinforcement of ECOSOC's development-related activities. (For more information on the UN's ongoing work to combat hunger around the globe, please see the chapter on the Food and Agriculture Organization.)

References [1] [2]



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