CGD Working Group on Food Security

September 10, 2014

The Rome-based agencies--the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)--play a central role addressing global hunger and food security. These agencies must deal with the problems of tight budgets, increasing politicization of hunger statistics, and worsening food insecurity in many parts of the world. The separation of donor monies into separate and seemingly immutable categories of emergency and development has only added to the problems caused by the agencies’ divergent histories and differences in leadership, funding, organization, and governance structures.

The Center for Global Development has launched a working group on Food Security to explore how these agencies could work more effectively to improve food security. The group has decided to focus on the largest of the three agencies—FAO—with a particular emphasis on making member states more accountable for their actions related to food and agriculture, especially when these actions have wide-ranging impacts regionally and globally.  The election of Jose Graziano da Silva–the former Brazilian Food Minister, who led the Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) program, which is credited to have reduced poverty and hunger by record levels Brazil– as FAO Director General, presents a unique opportunity in that it followed an extensive reform process and was the first leadership change in decades. 

The Working Group’s first meeting, held on March 21st, 2012 in Washington DC, focused on measuring the contributions of national and international actors to food security and rural development, as well as understanding which agencies—often working as partners—should provide which services for which countries.  After the meeting, the project coordinators went to Rome to meet with national representatives and staff members at all three agencies. Of the three agencies, FAO is regarded as having at once the widest mandate, the farthest-reaching linkages to other organizations, and some of the greatest challenges. We prepared a draft report for the Working Group, pulling together the findings of past evaluations, measuring the influence of FAO’s knowledge goods, and taking stock of an ongoing reform process in its final stages.

The Working Group convened again on September 25th, 2012 and members provided extensive feedback on the draft report. The Group decided to produce a shorter report with a forward-looking vision, and with attention to specific substantive needs that must be met to feed the world in coming decades.

October 2013 update:

View the final FAO working group report: “Time for FAO to Shift to a Higher Gear

View the press release here


View the podcast on the final FAO report with Vijaya Ramachandran here.

May 2013 update:

The Working Group will soon publish its report, which focuses on the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – the cornerstone of the global food and agriculture system.  Based on our collective experience and expertise, we provide an informed and independent perspective – following the tradition of current and previous CGD Working Groups.  In this report, we analyze the normative and delivery functions of the FAO, in an emerging 21st century global food security context that is increasingly characterized by volatile food prices, lowering yields, changing diets and rapidly changing climate.  We expect to disseminate the report widely, to management and staff of the Rome-based agencies as well as to policymakers and researchers around the world.

The need for the FAO and its sister agencies in Rome is not an issue of debate: how the FAO adapts to this new context to serve the world’s hungry is what we consider it head-on.  We offer a set of actionable recommendations, directed at both member states and management toward this end.  Our undertaking ought not to be confused as a meta-evaluation nor is it an exercise in multilateral assessment, like those conducted recently by DFID or AusAID

The project is coordinated by Vijaya Ramachandran, senior fellow at CGD. Please contact Vijaya at [email protected] for more information.

Working Group Members:

Click here to see bios

Jenny Aker

Jock Anderson

Regina Birner

James Butler

Kimberly Elliott 

Alan Gelb 

Giorgia Giovannetti 

Jikun Huang

Calestous Juma

David Lambert 

Uma Lele 

Ben Leo

Ruth Oniang’o

Kei Otsuka 

Sushil Pandey 

Vijaya Ramachandran

Emmy Simmons 

Peter Timmer

Maximo Torero

Yan Wang

Haisen Zhang

View minutes from the March 21st working group meeting here.

View a summary of the discussion at the September 25th meeting here

The working group is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation