ACC Network:Background

ACC Network on Rural Development and Food Security

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Updated 28 May 1998


The ACC Network constitutes the mechanism for inter-agency follow-up to the World Food Summit and supports the Popular Coalition on Hunger and Poverty. It involves a two-tiered informal mechanism that comprises, at country-level, Thematic Groups, and at headquarters level, a network of interested organizations that support them.

At its April 1997 Session, the United Nation's Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC), which groups the Executive Heads of UN Organizations, decided to establish a global, consultative Network on Rural Development and Food Security. The Network replaces the former ACC Subcommittee on Rural Development. It constitutes inter alia the mechanism for inter-agency follow-up to the World Food Summit and supports the Popular Coalition on Hunger and Poverty. Its membership at present includes 20 UN Organizations.

The Network seeks to enable different actors to work together in pursuit of common goals based on their commitment to promote rural development and overcome global food insecurity. In particular, its objectives are:

  • to mobilise support for Government efforts to implement the WFS Plan of Action and rural development and food security programmes;
  • coordination of UN and other stakeholders' activities related to rural development and food security at the country-level;
  • exchange of information, experiences and best practices at country, sub-regional, regional and international levels.

The Network involves a two-tiered informal mechanism that comprises, at country-level, Thematic Groups on Rural Development and Food Security within the UN Resident Coordinator system, and at headquarters level, a network of interested organizations that support these country-level groups. The focus of the Network is on action at the country level. The Network links Thematic Groups in countries with UN and non-UN partner organizations at the national, sub-regional, regional and global levels.

The following proposal to establish the Network, jointly submitted by IFAD and FAO to the Consultative Committee on Programme and Operational Questions (CCPOQ) in March 1997 and subsequently by the Director-General of FAO to the ACC in April 1997, provides more detailed information on the background and emergence of the Network, as well as a description of the arrangements for the Network at the country and headquarters levels.

1. Introduction

At its Twenty-fourth session (15-17 May 1996), the ACC Subcommittee on Rural Development set up a working group to undertake a review of the Subcomittee's objectives and modalities of operation. The review was conducted by a consultant who recommended the dissolution of the Subcommittee and its replacement by a two-tiered informal coordination mechanism that would focus on country-level action supported by an informal headquarters coordinating network. The Consultative Committee on Programme and Operational Questions (CCPOQ), at its Ninth session (16-20 September 1996), endorsed these recommendations and requested FAO and IFAD to explore jointly cost-effective ways of launching an informal headquarters and field-based networking mechanism to replace the Subcommittee.

FAO and IFAD, in making their proposal to the CCPOQ, at its Tenth session (3-7 March 1997), indicated that this inter-agency mechanism was the optimal means for promoting follow-up to the World Food Summit (WFS) and for developing such further rural development activities as the network might decide. CCPOQ supported the FAO-IFAD proposal and recommended that the ACC endorse it. The Director-General of FAO subsequently submitted a Note on World Food Summit Follow-up to ACC at its First Regular Session of 1997 with a view to keeping ACC colleagues informed of World Food Summit follow-up, particularly with regard to modalities for inter-agency cooperation within this context.

As the network would be open to non-UN partners, IFAD and FAO, in the process of consultation for the development of the above-mentioned proposal, concluded that the envisaged mechanism would also provide effective support to the Popular Coalition to Eradicate Hunger and Poverty, already established within the context of the Plan of Action of the Conference on Hunger and Poverty (Brussels, 1995). The Coalition is a network for collaboration between intergovernmental agencies and civil society organizations for poverty alleviation with a focus on the potential and dynamism of the latter.

The Director-General's Note to the ACC expresses FAO's gratitude to UN system organizations, and their executive heads, for the excellent support extended to the Summit and its preparatory process. This support enabled the Summit to benefit from input beyond the food and agriculture sectors, thereby highlighting important inter-sectoral dimensions of food security. The institutional arrangements foreseen for inter-agency follow-up seek to facilitate, in a cost-effective and flexible manner, the continuing involvement of the UN system organizations and the development of productive inter-sectoral cooperation, particularly at the country level.

2. Involvement of UN system organizations in the World Food Summit

United Nations General Assembly Resolution 50/109 welcomed the decision of the FAO Conference to convene the World Food Summit and, inter alia, invited all relevant United Nations and other inter-governmental organizations to cooperate actively with FAO in preparing for the Summit.

Many organizations of the United Nations system participated in the development and negotiation of the draft Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action. Several organizations contributed to the preparation of the technical documents while a number participated in informal consultations among UN system organizations, held in conjunction with three sessions of the Inter-sessional Working Group of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), to discuss ways in which they could make a meaningful impact on the Summit's outcome, and contribute to the Summit follow-up. Among the organizations that were particularly active in these processes were IAEA, IFAD, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, WHO, WMO and WTO.

UN system involvement also took the form of financial support, with the World Bank providing $500,000 for preparatory activities and UNDP making a $500,000 contribution for national-level preparation and follow-up in the Africa region. UN Resident Coordinators assisted in the coordination of national-level preparations, information activities and resource mobilization.

Many UN system organizations and bodies undertook additional Summit-related activities, or issued statements of support, including the Joint Consultative Group on Policy (JCGP), the ACC Subcommittee on Nutrition and the ACC Subcommittee on Rural Development. UNFPA and FAO held an Expert Group meeting on Food Production and Population Growth to examine issues raised in the technical paper on population factors in food security.

3. ACC mandate with regard to World Food Summit Follow-up

Commitment Seven of the World Food Summit Plan of Action (PoA) assigns to the ACC a significant role in the Summit follow-up as specified in the following reference (para. 59(h) of the PoA) that governments:
"Invite the ACC through its Chairman, the Secretary-General of the UN, to ensure appropriate inter-agency coordination in accordance with UNGA Resolution 50/227 and, when considering the Chair of any ACC mechanisms for inter-agency follow-up to the World Food Summit, to recognize, in the spirit of ECOSOC Resolution 1996/36, the major role of FAO in the field of food security, within its mandate."

Relevant UN system organizations are encouraged to initiate consultations, inter alia, within the framework of the ACC, on the further elaboration and definition of a food insecurity and vulnerability information and mapping system. FAO is expected to play a catalytic role in this effort, the results of which should be reported to ECOSOC through the ACC (para. 59(b) of the PoA).

The Secretary-General is also invited to request the ACC to report to ECOSOC in accordance with established procedures on the follow-up by UN agencies to the World Food Summit (para. 60(d) of the PoA).

4. Principles determining the mechanisms for inter-agency cooperation in the implementation of the World Food Summit Plan of Action

The World Food Summit Plan of Action stresses that the main responsibility for the implementation and monitoring of the follow-up to the Summit lies at the country level, where governments have the primary responsibility for creating an economic and political environment that assures the food security of their citizens, involving for this purpose all elements of civil society (para. 56 of the PoA). The importance of strong international cooperation in the effective implementation of the Plan of Action is also underlined. It is emphasized that this will require effective coordination and cooperation within the UN system, including the Bretton Woods institutions, taking into account the mandate of FAO and other relevant organizations (para. 57 of the PoA). The priority accorded to stimulating and supporting action at the country level is one of the fundamental principles underlying the proposals for follow-up which are outlined in this note.

A second principle is a serious concern and commitment to promote efficiency and cost-effective use of available human and financial resources. In keeping with the prevailing process of reform within the UN system, the implementation of the World Food Summit Plan of Action is not expected to add to machinery and institutions already in place. On the contrary, the proposals are deliberately designed to make the most effective use possible of existing institutions and mechanisms.

5. Monitoring of the implementation of the World Food Summit Plan of Action

The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) is assigned the responsibility for monitoring the implementation of the Summit Plan of Action (para. 9 of the PoA). The CFS is also called upon to provide regular reports on the implementation, through the FAO Council, to ECOSOC. Full membership of the CFS is open to all members of the UN including, therefore, also those countries that are not members of FAO, while UN system organizations involved in food security issues participate as observers in the Committee.

The monitoring of the implementation of the PoA by the CFS will be based on reports from national governments, reports on follow-up by UN system organizations and inter-agency coordination bodies, and information from other relevant international institutions including NGOs. As reports to the CFS should not duplicate similar documentation before FAO and other UN system organizations, mechanisms will be required to channel relevant information from other reporting processes to the CFS.

As noted in section 3 above, the ACC is also called upon to present a progress report to ECOSOC on the follow-up by UN agencies to the World Food Summit.

6. ACC decisions

At its First Regular Session of 1997, the ACC "endorsed the arrangements proposed for inter-agency follow-up ... to the World Food Summit, which would focus especially on country-level action and coordinated headquarters support for that action." The ACC report further clarifies that:
"Under these arrangements thematic groups covering food security and related issues would be constituted at country level, within the resident coordinator system. At headquarters level, FAO would assume responsibility for overall operation of a network of interested organizations, including also non-UN actors, to backstop these country-level groups and promote common approaches; IFAD will manage a monitoring and evaluation component inter alia to collect, analyze and disseminate selected country experiences. Reporting to ACC would occur, as appropriate, through CCPOQ or through IACSD. Its outputs would also be made available to other mechanisms within or outside the ACC machinery". (Report of the First Regular Session of the ACC in 1997)

7. ACC Network on Rural Development and Food Security

The mechanism, which includes both field and headquarters arrangements, is described below. It should be stressed that from the conceptual to the operational stages of this exercise, the two organizations intend to have the closest cooperation with WFP and other concerned partners.

Field Level

It is foreseen that consultation would be carried out through the establishment, within the Resident Coordinator system, of thematic group(s) with participation of national government and its external and internal partners, including NGOs, to support national action. This is in line with the spirit of General Assembly Resolution 50/120 which "requested the Secretary-General to make the Resident Coordinator system more participatory in its functioning at the field level by, inter alia, making greater use of thematic groups and adopting a more consultative approach" (para. 36 of Res. 50/120). Furthermore, this mechanism would facilitate enhanced inter-agency coordination at the field level as implied in para. 4 of General Assembly Resolution 51/171.

FAO would be willing to take the lead role, as appropriate, within these thematic groups, in close collaboration with IFAD, WFP and other interested organizations. It is in a position to undertake this directly in the 108 countries where an FAO Representative is accredited. The UNDP Resident Representative/UN Resident Coordinator normally handles FAO-related work in countries where FAO does not have a Permanent Representative and therefore would be well-placed to take the lead in covering this function on behalf of FAO in such countries with the substantive technical support from FAO, primarily through its decentralized structure.

The objective at the field level is to promote "ground-up" and not "headquarters-down" activities which would (i) facilitate or catalyze a participatory process for the setting of priorities and designing of programmes and projects, and (ii) use effectively the complementarity of resources available to national agencies and UN system organizations.

Headquarters Level

The sharing of country-level experiences and the provision of headquarters backstopping support to the field level groups would derive from networking arrangements among relevant organizations, with FAO assuming responsibility for operation of the network. Extensive use of electronic communication, with periodic on-line posting of progress reports, is expected to reduce the need for formal meetings to a minimum. This flexible mechanism would also permit involvement of non-UN partners, in order to tap the broadest possible knowledge pool, without the institutional constraints imposed by formal inter-agency structures. FAO has already taken initial steps to facilitate inter-agency cooperation in areas such as the elaboration of national strategies, the development of a Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping System and indicators to measure the achievement of World Food Summit targets. All interested partner agencies met in Rome on 24 and 25 March 1997 in a technical consultation on the Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping System; in this area, the work of WFP is particularly relevant.

IFAD, as the former chair of the Panel on Monitoring and Evaluation of the ACC Subcommittee on Rural Development, would be the task manager inter alia for selective analysis and dissemination of country-level experiences including best practices.

Full reporting to ACC through its subsidiary bodies, namely the CCPOQ or IACSD, as appropriate, is foreseen in order to place the mechanism within the broader context of inter-agency coordination carried out by the ACC and its subsidiary machinery. This would help to ensure complementarity with other inter-agency initiatives and would also facilitate ACC reporting to ECOSOC.

8. Conclusion

UN agencies, funds and programmes and the Bretton Woods institutions have been invited to contribute to the establishment and effective operation of the ACC Network on Rural Development and Food Security in collaboration with other interested non-UN partners. FAO is consulting with UN partner agencies to ascertain which would be in a position to contribute to the work of the Network and to set in motion the following first steps whereby each participating agency would:
  • identify a focal point for the Network;
  • indicate in the matrix those action areas in the World Food Summit Plan of Action to which they will contribute;
  • identify, in partnership with other Network members, procedures for developing guidelines for the country-level thematic groups on rural development and food security, taking account of the guidelines and other activities developed in follow-up to other UN conferences;
  • indicate their willingness to participate in the Network component that will undertake, under the leadership of IFAD, selective analysis and dissemination of country level experiences.

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