The Global Information and Early Warning System of FAO

Abdur Rashid
Fao, Room D/886, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy. Tel: +39-6-57 05 30 99,
E-mail: abdur.rashid@fao.org

The Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) was established in 1975 in the wake of the world food crisis of the early 1970s. The System has been assigned the mandate of constantly monitoring the global food supply and demand situation and alerting the international community to countries or regions threatened by serious food shortages or which have exceptional localised or exportable surpluses of food available for donor purchases and distribution to deficit areas. One of the System’s exceptional assets lies in the vast data base at its disposal on global, regional, national and sub-national food security which is continuously updated and refined. Recently, GIEWS has invested in innovative methods for collecting, analysing and disseminating information, making full use of the revolution in information technology and exploiting the possibilities offered by recent hardware developments and ever more specialised software including GIEWS’ own workstation and risk mapping projects. The System provides policy-makers and relief agencies throughout the world with timely and objective information and has repeatedly demonstrated its capacity to alert the international community to impending food emergencies. The System, constantly endeavours to improve the quality and flow of information from the field, enhance the objectivity and credibility of its assessments, speed up the dissemination of its outputs to the users and strengthen linkages between its early warnings and the response mechanisms.

The paper deals with the objectives of GIEWS, the institutional links forged by the System and its extensive information sharing arrangements with national governments, inter-governmental agencies, NGOs and other early warning systems. It highlights the recent innovations and the improvements introduced in the assessment methods by the System. The paper also draws attention to the possibilities offered by the communication technology which has been effectively used by GIEWS to speed up the dissemination and broaden the audience for its outputs.