In August 2002, the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations initiated a global consultative process to determine whether an international assessment of agricultural knowledge, science and technology (AKST) was needed. This was stimulated by discussions at the World Bank with the private sector and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) on the state of scientific understanding of biotechnology and more specifically transgenics. During 2003, eleven consultations were held, overseen by an international multistakeholder steering committee and involving over 800 participants from all relevant stakeholder groups, e.g. governments, the private sector and civil society. Based on these consultations the steering committee recommended to an Intergovernmental Plenary meeting in Nairobi in September 2004 that an international assessment of the role of agricultural knowledge, science and technology (AKST) in reducing hunger and poverty, improving rural livelihoods and facilitating environmentally, socially and economically sustainable development was needed. The concept of an International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) was endorsed as a multi-thematic, multispatial, multi-temporal intergovernmental process with a multistakeholder Bureau cosponsored by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Bank and World Health Organization (WHO).

     The IAASTD's governance structure is a unique hybrid of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the nongovernmental Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA). The stakeholder composition of the Bureau was agreed at the Intergovernmental Plenary meeting in Nairobi; it is geographically balanced and multistakeholder with 30 government and 30 civil society representatives (NGOs, producer and consumer groups, private sector entities and international organizations) in order to ensure ownership of the process and findings by a range of stakeholders.

     About 400 of the world's experts were selected by the Bureau, following nominations by stakeholder groups, to prepare the IAASTD Report (comprised of a Global and 5 sub-Global assessments). These experts worked in their own capacity and did not represent any particular stakeholder


group. Additional individuals, organizations and governments were involved in the peer review process.

     The IAASTD development and sustainability goals were endorsed at the first Intergovernmental Plenary and are consistent with a subset of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): the reduction of hunger and poverty, the improvement of rural livelihoods and human health, and facilitating equitable, socially, environmentally and economically sustainable development. Realizing these goals requires acknowledging the multifunctionality of agriculture: the challenge is to simultaneously meet development and sustainability goals while increasing agricultural production.

     Meeting these goals has to be placed in the context of a rapidly changing world of urbanization, growing inequities, human migration, globalization, changing dietary preferences, climate change, environmental degradation, a trend toward biofuels and an increasing population. These conditions are affecting local and global food security and putting pressure on productive capacity and ecosystems. Hence there are unprecedented challenges ahead in providing food within a global trading system where there are other competing uses for agricultural and other natural resources. AKST alone cannot solve these problems, which are caused by complex political and social dynamics, but it can make a major contribution to meeting development and sustainability goals. Never before has it been more important for the world to generate and use AKST.

     Given the focus on hunger, poverty and livelihoods, the IAASTD pays special attention to the current situation, issues and potential opportunities to redirect the current AKST system to improve the situation for poor rural people, especially small-scale farmers, rural laborers and others with limited resources. It addresses issues critical to formulating policy and provides information for decision makers confronting conflicting views on contentious issues such as the environmental consequences of productivity increases, environmental and human health impacts of transgenic crops, the consequences of bioenergy development on the environment and on the long-term availability and price of food, and the implications of climate change on agricultural production. The Bureau agreed that the scope of the assessment needed to go beyond the narrow confines of S&T and should encompass other types of relevant knowledge (e.g., knowledge held by agricultural producers, consumers and