Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
- Sustainable development
Published under the auspices of the Max Planck Foundation for International Peace and the Rule of Law under the direction of Rüdiger Wolfrum.
A. Historical Background and Establishment of FAO
1 The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (‘FAO’), alongside the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), is one of the three Rome-based so-called ‘food agencies’.
2 FAO was founded on 16 October 1945, eight days before the itself. The idea originated at the ‘United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture of 18 May to 3 June 1943 at Hot Springs, Virginia, USA, an initiative of President Franklin D Roosevelt. The conference set up the United Nations Interim Commission on Food and Agriculture to formulate ‘[a] specific plan for a permanent organization in the field of food and agriculture’ (‘United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture: Text of the Final Act’ 165) which drafted the Constitution of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (‘FAO Constitution’). On 16 October 1945 in Québec City, Québec, Canada, 34 States established FAO by accepting its constitution and convened to hold the first session of its main governing body, the Conference, from 16 October to 1 November 1945. By the end of the first session, membership had increased to 42 States.
3 With the entry into force of an agreement between the UN and FAO on 14 December 1946, FAO became a UN specialized agency (United Nations, Specialized Agencies). In 1948 the functions and assets—including a library and archives of the Rome-based International Institute of Agriculture, founded in 1905, which in some respects was the institutional and thematic forerunner of FAO—were transferred to FAO. In 1951, the organization moved from its provisional headquarters in Washington, DC, USA, to its permanent seat in Rome, Italy (International Organizations or Institutions, Headquarters).
4 According to the Preamble of the FAO Constitution, the organization was founded with a view to promote common welfare by raising levels of nutrition and standards of living; securing improvements in the efficiency of the production and distribution of all food and agricultural products; bettering the condition of rural populations; and thus contributing towards an expanding world economy and ensuring humanity’s freedom from hunger. It is noteworthy that the last element of the organization’s mandate was only added in 1965 as a reaction to the negotiations of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) (‘ICESCR’), in particular Art. 11 (2) ICESCR, which enshrines the right to be free from hunger (Food, Right to, International Protection).
5 In order to fulfil its mandate, FAO has the functions of collecting, analysing, interpreting, and disseminating information relating to nutrition, food, and agriculture. It also has the tasks of promoting and recommending national and international action with respect to a) scientific, technological, social, and economic research relating to nutrition, food, and agriculture; b) the improvement of education and administration in those fields, and the spread of public knowledge of nutritional and agricultural science and practice; c) the conservation of natural resources and the adoption of improved methods of agricultural production; d) the improvement of the processing, marketing and distribution of food and agricultural products; e) the adoption of policies for the provision of adequate national and international agricultural credit; and f) the adoption of international policies with respect to agricultural commodity arrangements (see also Commodities, International Regulation of Production and Trade). FAO also furnishes technical assistance (Art. I (1)–(3) FAO Constitution). In the FAO Constitution the term ‘agriculture’ and its derivatives include fisheries, marine products, forestry, and primary forestry products (Art. I (1)–(3) FAO Constitution).
6 FAO currently has 190 members: 189 Member States and one member organization, the European (Economic) Community (International Organizations or Institutions, Membership). The FAO Constitution distinguishes between original members, additional members and associate members. Original members are those that were on the Interim Commission, while additional members are those that join in subsequent years. Associate members are territories or groups of territories not responsible for the conduct of its international relations.
7 Forty-five States are listed in Annex I of the FAO Constitution as eligible for original membership (Article II (1) FAO Constitution). Among them was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which never joined the organization. In 2006, however, the Russian Federation, which had retained the USSR’s entitlement to become an original member, accepted the FAO Constitution and thereby became the last original member (Russia). With a two-thirds majority of the votes cast, the Conference can admit additional members (Art. II (2) FAO Constitution) and currently all except the original members fall in this category. The 18 associate members FAO has had since its establishment have all become independent and therefore changed status to additional members. The only difference between original and additional members is that the former could become members by simply accepting the FAO Constitution whereas the latter have to be admitted by the Conference.
8 Since 1991, a regional economic integration organization can become a member provided it is constituted by sovereign States, a majority of which are members of FAO. Its members must also have transferred competence over a range of matters within the purview of FAO to the organization, including the authority to make decisions binding on its Member States in respect of those matters (Art. II (3), (4) FAO Constitution). On 26 October 1991, when it joined FAO, the EC became the first regional economic organization to join a UN organization (European Community and Union, Membership in International Organizations or Institutions; see also European Community and Union, Mixed Agreements). Depending on the distribution of competencies within the EC, either the Member States vote individually or the EC votes. If the latter, the EC’s ballot is equal to the number of its Member States. The EC as such does not contribute to the FAO budget, except for certain administrative costs. It is not entitled to nominate candidates for FAO offices and is not eligible for election or designation to bodies of restricted membership such as the Finance Committee (see para. 13 below) or any body established jointly with another organization such as the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) (see para. 38 below).
9 FAO has three main organs (International Organizations or Institutions, Decision-Making Bodies). Its highest organ and governing body is the Conference which is composed of representatives of all Member States (Art. III (1) FAO Constitution). It meets biannually to determine policy, approve the budget and exercise other powers conferred on it by the FAO Constitution (Art. IV (1) FAO Constitution). The Conference can review any decision taken by the second governing body, the FAO Council, or by any commission or committee of the Conference or Council, or by any subsidiary body of such commissions or committees (Art. IV (5) FAO Constitution). The Conference also appoints the Director-General (Art. VII (1) FAO Constitution), elects the members of the Council and appoints the Council’s independent chair (Art. V (1), (2) FAO Constitution).
10 In the Conference, each member has one vote with the exception of associate members which have no vote (International Organizations or Institutions, Voting Rules and Procedure). Generally, decisions are taken by consensus, but where voting is necessary, Conference decisions are taken by a simple majority of the votes cast (Rule XII (3) (a) General Rules of the Organization). A two-thirds majority is required only for specific cases such as the admission of new members (Art. II(2), (3) FAO Constitution); amendments of the FAO Constitution (Art. XX (1) FAO Constitution); recommendations to Member States and associate members concerning questions relating to food and agriculture, for consideration by them with a view to implementation by national action, approval of conventions and agreements concerning questions relating to food and agriculture (Art. XIV(1) FAO Constitution); and decisions on the level of the budget (Art. XVIII(5) FAO Constitution). A member forfeits its right to vote if it is in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions for two years (International Organizations or Institutions, Supervision and Sanctions). The Conference may nevertheless permit it to vote if it is satisfied that the failure to pay is due to conditions beyond the control of the member (Art. III (4) FAO Constitution). At the beginning of the 2005 session of the Conference, 31 members had lost their voting rights due to arrears but a number of them were nevertheless permitted to vote on some or all issues.
11 The Council consists of 49 members which serve three-year rotating terms. It governs the organization’s activities between the biennial sessions of the Conference and exercises those functions delegated to it by the Conference (Art. V(3) FAO Constitution). The Council also exercises some functions that are specified in the FAO Constitution itself—eg in Arts VI, XI, and XIV. It prepares all important decisions of the Conference and serves as the main forum for finding compromise. Except as otherwise provided, decisions are taken by the majority of the votes cast (Rule XII (3) (a) General Rules of the Organization).
12 For election to the Council all FAO members are divided into seven regions (International Organizations or Institutions, Regional Groups): Africa (48 members, 12 Council seats), Asia (23 members, 9 Council seats), Europe (47 members, 10 Council seats), Latin America and the Caribbean (33 members, 9 Council seats), Near East (21 members, 6 Council seats), Northern America (2 members, 2 Council seats), and the South West Pacific (16 members, 1 Council seat).
13 In performing its functions, the Council is assisted by a Programme Committee, a Finance Committee, a Committee on Constitutional and Legal Matters, a Committee on Commodity Problems, a Committee on Fisheries, a Committee on Forestry, a Committee on Agriculture and a Committee on World Food Security. While the Programme Committee, the Finance Committee, and the Committee on Constitutional and Legal Matters are limited in size—11, 11, and 7 members respectively—the other Committees have open-ended membership. In addition to the Conference, the Council, and the eight main governing committees, a large number of other statutory bodies exist, such as commission, committees, intergovernmental groups, or panels.
(c) Director-General and the Secretariat
14 The third main organ is the Director-General. He or she is appointed by the Conference for a period of six years which is, since 2005, only renewable once for four years. This limitation corresponds to similar rules in other UN organizations. The current incumbent, Jacques Diouf of Senegal, has been at the helm of FAO since 1994 and is currently serving his third six-year term, which will expire in 2012. The Director-General directs the work of the organization and appoints the staff of the Secretariat. The office was previously held by Sir John Boyd Orr (later Lord Boyd Orr) of the United Kingdom (1945–48), Norris Dodd of the United States (1948–53), Philip Vincent Cardon of the US (1954–56), BR Sen of India (1956–67), AH Boerma of the Netherlands (1967–75), and Edouard Saouma of Lebanon (1976–93).
15 The secretariat is organized into eight departments: Administration and Finance; Agriculture, Biosecurity, Nutrition and Consumer Protection; Economics and Statistics; Fisheries; Forestry; General Affairs and Information; Sustainable Development; and Technical Cooperation. It consists of the headquarters in Rome as well as five regional offices, nine sub-regional offices, five liaison offices and 73 country offices staffed by an FAO Representative (International Organizations or Institutions, Secretariats). Thirty-seven other countries have an assistant FAO representative, 10 have FAO offices with outposted technical officers, and five are served by national correspondents without an FAO representative.
16 Due to budget cuts and a general decline in resources, the number of FAO staff has decreased over the last few decades. FAO had reached the maximum of its human resources in 1984 with almost 7,000 staff world-wide. Since then the number of staff has shrunk significantly. Between 1994 and 2006 staffing was reduced by 31.1% from 5,560 to 3,832 today. Of these, 179 are directors and other senior managers, 1,252 are professionals and 2,234 are general service staff. There are 2,215 staff members working at headquarters, 1,182 in decentralized offices and 435 in field projects. While in the 1970s and 1980s a majority of FAO professional staff was based in the field and regional offices, as of 2006 only 57 directors and senior managers and 371 professionals are located outside headquarters.
3. Decision-Making Processes
17 In the case of elections, secret ballots are mandatory for the appointment of the chairman of the Council and of the Director-General, and for the admission of additional members and associate members (Rule XII (10) (a) General Rules of the Organization; International Organizations or Institutions, Decision-Making Process). Other elections are likewise to be decided by secret ballot, except when there are fewer candidates than vacancies. In that case the chairman may submit to the Conference or Council that the appointment be decided by ‘clear general consent’. Such elections by acclamation are the practice in most FAO organs.
18 For other decisions, voting procedures exist for all governing and statutory bodies. They are, however, rarely used as consensus is brokered in informal consultations and contact groups. Divergence in opinion may also be reflected in the report adopted at each session of a governing body rather than by a vote. A roll call vote is, nonetheless, necessary for decisions requiring a qualified majority (see para. 10 above).
19 FAO’s overall budget consists of its regular budget and extra-budgetary resources (International Organizations or Institutions, Financing of). The regular programme is funded by mandatory assessed contributions from Member States. FAO follows the UN scale of assessments which is adapted to the different membership of FAO. Voluntary extra-budgetary resources come from three sources: members, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other UN specialized agencies, for instance IFAD and the World Bank (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development [IBRD]; International Development Association [IDA]). Project funding by UNDP has declined significantly from US$163.2 million in 1994–95 to US$10.7 million in 2004–05, as UNDP has been moving away from working with specialized agencies to national execution of UNDP projects.
20 In 2004–05, the last financial period for which actual expenditures are available, FAO’s budget was allocated as follows: the regular biennial budget was US$749.1 million, of which US$103 million (13.7%) was for the Technical Cooperation Programme (see para. 22 below). Extra-budgetary expenditures amounted to US$623 million, of which 40% was for emergencies, 39% for technical assistance and 21% for headquarters-based work.
21 For the biennium 2006–07 FAO’s regular budget is US$765.7 million, which represents a decline of 25% in real terms from 1994–95. The current budget is based on zero nominal growth—but includes increases for security—like all previous budgets over the last decade which have resulted in cuts in real terms. The financial difficulties arising from these restricted budgets are compounded by the late payment of contributions by Members. As of February 2006, 81 members—more than one third of the total membership—were in arrears by US$73 million in payment of assessed contributions, forcing the Organization to borrow from commercial sources in order to meet approved operational expenditures.
1. General Overview
22 FAO’s activities comprise four main areas. The first is the collection and analysis of data and information on food and agriculture, including routine assessments of the state of food and agriculture and global surveillance of food security, pests, diseases and environmental damage, and their dissemination through reports, other media and early warning systems (Environment, International Protection; Public Health, International Co-operation). FAO’s flagship reports are the annual State of Food and Agriculture and State of Food Insecurity in the World, and the biannual State of the World’s Forests, State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, and State of Agricultural Commodity Markets (see also Forests, International Protection). Information is also accessible online through the information systems platform World Agricultural Information Centre. The second main field of FAO is the provision of advice with respect to devising agricultural policy, drafting effective legislation and developing national strategies to achieve rural development and food security. Third, the organization provides a neutral forum for States to forge agreements on food and agriculture issues and to set international standards (see para. 35 below). Last, FAO carries out field projects throughout the world, delivering technical assistance on agricultural issues, emergency assessments and post-emergency rehabilitation. FAO provides the technical know-how and in a few cases limited funds. It often works through partnerships with institutions such as UNDP, the World Bank, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), WFP, IFAD, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and non-governmental organizations (International Organizations or Institutions, External Relations and Co-operation). It is noteworthy that FAO’s important Technical Cooperation Programme with about 1,200 projects implemented annually was created only in 1976. In 2005, the Technical Cooperation Programme amounted to US$228 million of which FAO contributed 18%, donor trust funds 62%, recipient-funded trust funds 18%, and UNDP 2%.
23 FAO carries out both normative and operational work on crops, livestock, forests, fisheries, commodity trade, rural development, and food security. In FAO parlance, ‘normative work’ refers to the establishment of norms and standards, strategies, policies, and studies, while ‘operational activities’ means the direct provision of technical assistance to member countries.
24 A major growth area is FAO’s emergency work. It has increased fivefold from US$44.6 million in 1994–95—ten-fold if the Iraq oil for food programme is included—over the past decade to around US$228 million in 2004–05, and is funded almost entirely through voluntary contributions. Early warnings of emergencies are provided by FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System. Also, in 2003, a new mechanism for early response—the Special Fund for Emergency Response (‘SFERA’)—was established. SFERA was in place and applied when the Indian Ocean tsunami struck in 2004 and a locust crisis occurred in West Africa the same year.
25 FAO has in recent years increasingly worked on topical issues such as biotechnology, biosecurity (Biological Safety), the loss of agrobiodiversity, the effects of environmental threats such as climate change (Climate, International Protection) and desertification on food and agriculture, international trade in agriculture, dietary changes caused by urbanization and sedentary lifestyles, the prevention of diseases such as BSE and avian influenza, and the effects of HIV/AIDS on agricultural production.
26 In order to eliminate hunger and poverty, FAO collaborates with other organizations including the UN, IFAD and WFP. Collaboration takes place, inter alia, within the framework of the Millennium Development Goals (‘MDG’; United Nations, Millennium Declaration; see paras 31, 32 below). FAO, IFAD, and WFP complement each others’ activities on the basis of their respective mandates. FAO and WFP follow a twin-track approach to fighting hunger: WFP focuses on the near term as it delivers food aid which goes directly to beneficiaries while FAO leads long-term international efforts to improve food security based on its technical expertise. IFAD, an international financial institution, provides financial assistance.
2. Action against Hunger and Malnutrition and the World Food Summits
27 During most of its history FAO has emphasized action against hunger and malnutrition. Against the background of the world food crisis of the 1970s which was caused by a drought across many major grain-producing countries, FAO hosted the 1974 World Food Conference which adopted recommendations on strengthening food production to increase availability and stability of world supplies of basic foodstuffs, particularly cereals, to meet increasing demands. The FAO Council adopted an International Undertaking on World Food Security. The next milestone was the adoption of the World Food Security Compact by the FAO Conference in 1985. The compact went beyond emphasizing increasing supply and recognized that food security depended on the abolition of poverty.
Food security, at the individual, household, national, regional and global levels is achieved when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. (‘Rome Declaration on World Food Security and World Food Summit Plan of Action’  22 Population and Development Review 807–9)
29 To review progress, States met again in 2002 at the World Food Summit: five years later. The final declaration of the summit, entitled An International Alliance Against Hunger, led to the creation of an eponymous global partnership which brings together international governmental and non-governmental organizations, civil society, and national alliances. At the World Food Summit, five years later, FAO also initiated a new global Anti-Hunger Programme to complement its flagship Special Programme for Food Security. The Anti-Hunger Programme reflects what the organization calls the ‘twin-track approach’, which combines, on the one hand, medium- and long-term investment in agriculture and rural development with, on the other, measures to enhance direct and immediate access to food for the most seriously undernourished. The Anti-Hunger Programme focuses mainly on small farmers and aims to create more opportunities for rural people, who make up 70% of the poor, in order to improve their livelihoods in a sustainable way.
30 The two World Food Summits have put the fight against hunger and malnutrition firmly on the international agenda and have enabled FAO, together with its active participation in other summits, to provide global leadership on food and food security issues.
3. FAO and the Millennium Development Goals
31 The World Food Summit goal to halve the number of hungry people by 2015 was echoed in the more moderate target two of MDG—reduction of poverty and reduction of hunger—to cut by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. In keeping with its mandate and expertise, FAO dedicates its main direct contribution—over half of its effort—to MDG 1. A significant proportion—about one-fifth—of its support activities is also directed to MDG 7, which concerns environmental sustainability (Sustainable Development).
32 Unfortunately, global efforts to reduce hunger and malnutrition have not been sufficient to date: while ten years after the World Food Summit a smaller percentage of the populations of developing countries is undernourished—17% in 2001–03 as against 20% in 1990–92—and thereby the realization of MDG 1 has come closer, the number of hungry is actually increasing at a rate of four million a year, putting the World Food Summit goal out of reach.
4. Legal Activities
33 FAO’s legal activities fall into four main categories: naturally its Legal Office is concerned with the general legal affairs of the organization—ie carrying out in-house counsel work on personnel issues, contracts, relations with the host country and numerous other matters. Second, the Development Law Service of the Legal Office provides legal advisory services to governments on land, water, fisheries, plants, animals, food, forestry, wildlife, and agricultural biodiversity as well as general agricultural issues—institutions, trade, and economic reform. In collaboration with the organization’s technical departments, the Development Law Service assists governments in preparing new laws, regulations, agreements and other legal texts, and advises on institutional structures and compliance with international law. Projects often also build capacity through participatory training of national officials and national lawyers. Third, FAO maintains databases, notably FAOLEX, which contains the full texts of national legal instruments and international agreements concerning food and agriculture—including fisheries, forestry, and water—and it publishes legal studies within its fields of competence. Finally, FAO regularly provides a neutral forum for negotiating treaties and non-binding legal instruments.
(b) Developing Treaties and Codes of Conduct
34 A large number of treaties and other legal instruments concerning questions related to food and agriculture have been developed within the framework of FAO. Once such a treaty is finalized, the Conference can approve it and submit it to members (Art. XIV (1) FAO Constitution). The Council may also approve and submit treaties if they are of particular interest to members of specific geographical areas only, or if they are designed to implement other treaties (Art. XIV (2) FAO Constitution).
35 To date 16 treaties have been concluded under Art. XIV FAO Constitution. They range from regional agreements such as the first treaty concluded, the Agreement for the Establishment of the Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission (1948; Fisheries, Commissions and Organizations), to global agreements such as the International Plant Protection Convention (1951, amended in 1979 and 1997), the Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas (1993), and the most recent International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (2001; ‘ITPGRFA’; Plant Genetic Resources, International Protection). The ITPGRFA was negotiated within the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. It establishes a multilateral system for access and benefit sharing and introduces the concept of ‘farmers’ rights’. The Commission on Genetic Resources also acted as an Interim Committee for the ITPGRFA until the first session of the ITPGRFA Governing Body (June 2006) and FAO will host the secretariat of the ITPGRFA.
36 The Director-General also serves as depositary of treaties which are concluded outside the framework of FAO, such as the Convention for the Establishment of the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (1994) and the Agreement for the Establishment of the Global Crop Diversity Trust (2004).
37 In addition, non-binding normative instruments have been developed under the auspices of FAO (Soft Law). The FAO Principles of Surplus Disposal and Consultative Obligations (1954, last revision 2001) encourage the constructive use of surplus agricultural commodities and at the same time safeguard the interest of commercial exporters and local producers. Food aid deliveries that accord with these principles and other conditions are allowed in unlimited quantities under Art. 10 (4) WTO Agreement on Agriculture. Other instruments are the International Code of Conduct for Plant Germplasm Collection and Transfer (1993); the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (1995); and the International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides (2002; Codes of Conduct), a precursor to the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade for which FAO, together with UNEP, provides secretariat services. The Voluntary Guidelines to Support the Progressive Realization of the Right to Food in the Context of National Food Security are another non-binding legal instrument. Their development was called for by the World Food Summit: five years later and their adoption in 2004 marked a turning point in the organization’s and its members’ attitude towards the realization of the right to food and the role FAO should play in contributing to this goal.
38 FAO is involved in a number of important technical standard-setting activities which are of an on-going nature. It notably supports the CAC and the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards).
39 The CAC was created in 1963 by FAO and WHO subsequent to a 1961 resolution of the FAO Conference and a 1963 resolution of the World Health Assembly. The Commission works to protect the health of consumers, ensure fair trade practices in food trade, and promote the co-ordination of all food standards work undertaken by international governmental and non-governmental organizations. The Commission develops the Codex Alimentarius (food code), a collection of food standards, guidelines, and related texts such as codes of practice and other recommendations, including standards on specific commodities, food labelling, maximum residue limits and food additives. The Codex Alimentarius is non-binding but plays a crucial role in practice. It facilitates trade in food as national measures that are based on codex standards are presumed to comply with WTO rules. Codex standards are recognized in the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (‘SPS Agreement’) as the definitive source of international food safety standards (Art. 3 (1)–(2) and Annex A, No 3 (a) SPS Agreement). Codex requirements regarding food labelling, nutrition claims and quality and packaging regulations also have the status of international standards as stated in, amongst others, Art. 2 (4) Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (‘TBT Agreement’; Technical Barriers to Trade). The Codex Alimentarius Commission also adopted a Code of Ethics for International Trade in Food.
40 In the phytosanitary (plant health) field, FAO supports important standard-setting activities under the auspices of the International Plant Protection Convention. Non-binding International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (‘ISPMs’) are adopted by the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures which was established within the framework of FAO by the International Plant Protection Convention (‘IPPC’; Art. XI (1) IPPC). For phytosanitary (plant health) measures, ISPMs are international standards of the nature referred to in the SPS Agreement (Annex A, No 3 (c) SPS Agreement).
41 As codex standards and ISPMs are relevant in the context of the WTO Agreements, States have a strong incentive to comply with them.
42 FAO’s longer-term perspective on its work is established in the Strategic Framework for FAO 2000–2015 which was approved by the Conference in 1999. The document forged consensus among members on FAO’s goals objectives and programme, and provides a framework for medium-term planning. It covers global goals, FAO’s mission and vision, strategies to address members’ needs, cross-organizational issues and an implementation programme. Part of the implementation programme under the strategic framework includes a medium-term plan, which covers a period of six years, and the Programme of Work and Budget which is prepared for each biennium.
43 In 1968, FAO established an Evaluation Service, which implements an evaluation system in the organization and participates in UN system inter-agency discussions for strengthening and harmonizing evaluation approaches and criteria. The Evaluation Service, which is located in the Office of Programme, Budget and Evaluation, is only one part of FAO’s oversight regime. The other components are external and internal audit, inspection and investigation. With the development of the long-term strategic framework and the medium-term plan, evaluation increasingly assesses progress against strategic priorities.
44 In November 2004, the Council decided to launch an Independent External Evaluation (‘IEE’), which was endorsed by the Conference in November 2005. The IEE aims at strengthening and improving FAO, by evaluating FAO’s performance in conducting its mandate. Among other things, the IIE will review the findings of a comparative study conducted by DFID in 2005 of the effectiveness of multilateral organizations, which assigned FAO to 23rd place out of 24 organizations. It will also look into the concern that FAO’s governing bodies have failed to reconcile divergent views on the organization’s role and priorities despite the fact that FAO’s governance structures are essentially identical to those of other international organizations, programmes or funds such as the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), WHO, UNDP or the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). The evaluation encompasses FAO’s technical work, management, organization, governance, and role in the multilateral system. It is being undertaken by a core team of five independent consultants supported by other specialists and researchers. Oversight is provided by a committee of the Council. The results of the IEE together with a response from the Director-General are to be reported to the Council in November 2007.
E. The FAO Reform Process
45 In September 2005, the Director-General unveiled a comprehensive reform proposal with a view to improving the organization’s capacity to react to current challenges such as the reform of the UN system and the implementation of the MDGs. The 2005 session of the Conference expressed general support for the rationale and guiding principles underlying the Director-General’s reform proposals. It authorized some of the proposals while others are to be reviewed at a later stage. Primarily, the Conference supported the streamlining of administrative and financial processes aimed at achieving efficiency gains. It also acknowledged the need for strengthened decentralization of the organization and requested that as a first step the Director-General’s proposals be implemented in one pilot region and with respect to one other sub-regional office. The 2007 Council approved the establishment of a new sub-regional office in Central America and restructuring at headquarters including the establishment of a new department of Natural Resources Management and Environment, which will in part be a successor to the current Sustainable Development Department.
F. Concluding Remarks
46 Vast changes in the international environment have occurred since FAO was founded over 60 years ago. During its early years, FAO had a singular and unrivalled role to play. The organization clearly continues to play an important role in the collection and analysis of food and agricultural data and information, in policy development, standard-setting, and the provision of technical assistance. However, a large number of institutions now supply services in the fields of food and agriculture and FAO is under more and more pressure to demonstrate that it still holds a comparative advantage. The cumulative effect of the reductions in staff and budget has been damaging and created the impression of an institutional crisis. Those who believe that agriculture is central to development are hopeful that reform will enable the organization to maintain its role as the leader in the fight against hunger and malnutrition.
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