The FAO was founded on October 16, 1945 in Quebec, Canada. The initiative was taken as early as May 1943 when then-US President Franklin Roosevelt gathered 44 nations for a conference in the spa town of Hot Springs in the US state of Virginia.
The participants were mainly opponents of Nazi Germany who, despite the war still going on, wanted to create the conditions for a peaceful world. The idea was that the kind of economic and political crises that preceded the war would be prevented.
The crises had hit agriculture and thus the world’s farmers very hard. The economic depression with unemployment, low wages and growing barriers to trade led to difficulties in selling agricultural products, which led to reduced incomes for farmers. Many people lived in poverty and starvation even though there was an abundance of agricultural products and food in the world as a whole.
An international agricultural organization was considered to be able to contribute to better safeguarding the interests of both producers and consumers and to promote trade so that as many people as possible could share in the total food production. In a broader perspective, they also wanted to contribute to economic growth. Another goal was to stimulate agricultural production to meet the needs of a growing world population.
The Soviet Union participated in the Hot Springs Conference but then chose not to become a member (Russia, the successor to the Soviet Union, did not become a member until April 2006). This meant that the FAO, unlike many other UN bodies, was not so much affected by the Cold War, that is, the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union. The differences within the organization instead reflected the gap between, on the one hand, member states that wanted the FAO to work more to a fair distribution of the world’s agricultural and food resources, and, on the other hand, countries that considered this best solved through free trade and did not belong to the FAO but to the GATT free trade body (see Glossary).
From the late 1950’s and into the 1960’s, when a number of developing countries became members and eventually formed a majority in the FAO, the distribution issues came mainly to concern the imbalance between rich and poor countries. Developing countries requested various forms of support in accordance with the demand for a “new world economic order”, an issue they pursued at the UN from the mid-1970’s. These demands and expectations led to the development and development work within the FAO becoming increasingly extensive over time.
According to zipcodesexplorer, FAO has also been affected by the fact that the food situation in the world has changed sharply. During the period immediately after the end of World War II, there was a general shortage of food, but as early as the early 1950’s, signs of future surpluses began to be seen. However, increased food production was unevenly distributed. While North America in particular produced significant surpluses, there was still a shortage of food in Asia, for example. An important question was how surpluses of food could best be used as aid.
In 1963, the UN and the FAO jointly established the World Food Program (WFP), which was to provide food aid to developing countries. Today, WFP provides both disaster relief and long-term development assistance.
In the early 1970’s, food shortages prevailed mainly in Africa and parts of Asia, and the poorest countries were hit very hard when harvests failed. The UN decided to hold a conference to discuss the crisis. The UN World Food Conference was held in Rome in 1974 and resulted in the establishment of the so-called World Food Council (WFC). The WFC was tasked with studying global livelihood problems and food issues. At the conference, the initiative for the International Agricultural Development Fund (IFAD) was also taken . The WFC was disbanded in the 1990’s. Nowadays, FAO, WFP and IFAD work largely together to achieve the goal: a world without hunger.
From the latter half of the 1970’s, world food production began to recover. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, however, major famines occurred in Africa. As a result, the question of how food resources can be distributed more evenly came back into focus, not only within the FAO but in all the international organizations working on poverty and development issues.
The political upheavals in Eastern and Central Europe in the late 1980’s led to new expectations of the FAO. An important task was to help these countries adapt agriculture and forestry as well as the fisheries sector to the market economy.
In 1996, the FAO organized the world’s first summit on food supply and the fight against hunger. Leaders from 186 countries participated and agreed on an action plan to halve the number of malnourished people in the world by 2015, from a number then estimated at over 800 million people. This also became one of the UN’s so – called millennium goals.
A follow-up meeting was held in 2002 and the halving target was then set again, despite the fact that the number of malnourished people in the world had not decreased.