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The extraordinary rise of global food prices in early 2008 posed a major threat to global food and nutrition security and caused a host of humanitarian, human rights, socio-economic, environmental, developmental, political and security-related consequences. In particular, it presented challenges for low income food deficit countries, and severely affected the world most vulnerable. It threatened to reverse critical gains made toward reducing poverty and hunger as outlined in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The soaring prices stemmed from the cumulative effects of long-term trends, like the increasing demand of food due to the growing world population and a decline in agricultural investment, more immediate supply and demand dynamics, including those related to the rapidly increasing oil prices and diversions of maize to ethanol production, and responses like hoarding which exacerbated price volatility. Altogether, the crisis exposed underlying structural problems in the food systems of poorer countries, partly linked to serious distortions in world food markets (associated with production subsidies in rich countries and trade tariffs), that predispose to price spikes and problems with food availability. Climate-related events like droughts, floods and environmental degradation had further negative effects on many developing countries.

Before the rapid rise in food prices, some 854 million people worldwide were estimated to be undernourished. It was estimated that the crisis had increased the number up to one billion undernourished people in the world – one in six people in 2008.

While food prices on world markets came down in the fall of 2008, the average levels were higher in 2009 than in 2007. At the same time, lower prices on global markets had not fed through to lower prices on local markets within many developing countries. The global economic downturn started to further increased the hardships of the most vulnerable as that both formal and informal economies contract, trade volumes had declined, and remittances has decreased.

The High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security (HLTF)

The dramatic rise of global food prices and the crisis triggered led the United Nations (UN) Chief Executives Board in April 2008 to establish a High-Level Task Force (HLTF) on the Global Food Security Crisis. Under the leadership of the UN Secretary-General, the Task Force brought together the Heads of the UN specialized agencies, funds and programmes, as well as relevant parts of the UN Secretariat, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the World Trade Organization. The primary aim of the Task Force was to promote a comprehensive and unified response to the challenge of achieving global food security, including by facilitating the creation of a prioritized plan of action and coordinated its implementation. The Secretary-General appointed Assistant Secretary-General David Nabarro as Coordinator of the Task Force. Mr. Nabarro was supported by a small HLTF Coordination Secretariat – hosted at IFAD, in Rome – to help the HLTF pursue its programme of work.

In July 2008, the Task Force responded to the request for a plan of action and produced the Comprehensive Framework for Action (CFA). The CFA was a framework that sets out the joint position of HLTF members, and aimed to be a catalyst for action by providing governments, international and regional organizations, and civil society groups with a menu of policies and actions from which to draw appropriate responses. It pursued a twin-track approach: It outlined activities related to meeting the immediate needs, like investing in food assistance and social safety nets, as well as activities related to the longer-term structural needs, like scaling up investment in agriculture within developing countries, increasing opportunities for producers, pastoralists and fisher folk to access land, water, inputs, and post-harvest technologies, focusing on the needs of smallholders, and enabling them to realize their right to food, sustain an increase in income and ensure adequate nutrition.

In December 2008, the Task Force agreed on its programme of work for 2009, focusing on support to effective action in countries, advocacy for funds for both urgent action and long-term investment, inspiring a broad engagement by multiple stakeholders and improving accountability of the international system.


Beginning 2008

Global Food Security Crisis
Establishment of the HLTF

June 2008

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) convened the High-Level Conference on Food Security and the challenge of climate change and bio-energy in Rome. It concluded with a Declaration that includes calls for increased food production, fewer trade restrictions and increased agricultural research.

July 2008

Adoption of the HLTF Comprehensive Framework for Action (read more details under the Comprehensive Framework of Action sub-page on this website)

Jan 2009

Spanish Prime Minister Rodriguez Zapatero and the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convened the High Level Meeting on Food Security for All in Madrid. At the meeting, there was widespread support for the CFA’s twin-track approach that addresses food security in a comprehensive way. Participants agreed on an urgent need for a substantial scale up and better coordination of resources, and highlighted the value of a broader and deeper engagement of all stakeholders by ensuring the participation of governments, civil society, businesses, scientific researchers and both international and regional organizations. There was a consensus on the need for extensive and open consultations for forming such partnerships in ways that take account of the positions of different countries and different stakeholder constituencies.

May 2010

Updated Comprehensive Framework for action

June 2012

Rio+20 Conference. Whit the “soaring food crisis“ over, it was agreed that the HLTF would refocus its activities on advancing the Secretary-General vision of a world without hunger, which is the Zero Hunger Challenge (read more details under the Rio+20 sub-page on this website)

May 2013

Independent External Evaluation of the HLTF Coordination Team. Following that evaluation, it was decided to distinguish the functions of Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Food Security and Nutrition, and that of HLTF Coordinator (read more details on the below links)


Effective from 1st April 2014, the Secretary-General appointed Giuseppe Fantozzi as the new HLTF Coordinator; David Nabarro remains the SRSG for Food Security and Nutrition. Giuseppe Fantozzi is supported by a light HLTF Coordination Team, hosted at FAO in Rome.