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 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, multi-spatial, multi-temporal intergovern­mental process with a multistakeholder Bureau cosponsored by the 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 five 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 end users) and that it should also assess the role of institu­tions, organizations, governance, markets and trade.

     The IAASTD is a multidisciplinary and multistakeholder enterprise requiring the use and integration of information, tools and models from different knowledge paradigms in­cluding local and traditional knowledge. The IAASTD does not advocate specific policies or practices; it assesses the ma­jor issues facing AKST and points towards a range of AKST options for action that meet development and sustainability