REVIEW OF CODEX SUBSIDIARY BODIES
DISTRIBUTION OF DOCUMENTS
85 ALINORM 97/16-Add. 1.
185. The Commission had been requested by the 112th FAO Council86 to review its subsidiary body structure. It had been suggested that, for reasons of cost-reduction and efficiency, Codex eliminate a number of committees adjourned sine die and move to more flexible structure, using intergovernmental task forces to handle specific issues. The Executive Committee at its 44th Session also considered this matter and expressed some concerns on these suggestions.87
86 2-7 June 1997.
87 ALINORM 97/4, paras. 23-
186. The Commission expressed concern about possible implications of abolishing committees adjourned sine die as it was felt that this was contrary to the recognized increasing importance of Codex work, for example in WTO. It was pointed out that these committees represented no cost to the Programme and, where necessary, could be revived for a specific task.
187. The Commission also expressed interest in the "alternative mechanisms" but stated that there should be clear rules for their establishment and operation. It emphasised that, if they were to be implemented, they should be as inclusive, transparent and responsive as the current system and use the same Codex stepwise elaboration procedure.
188. The Commission agreed to bring the following to the attention of FAO Council:
· was appreciative and attentive of FAO's concerns and suggestions;
· was carrying out only the work it need to do so, and in the most cost-effective way;
· wished to stress its increasingly important role in the light of WTO's SPS and TBT Agreements;
· wished to point out to FAO Council that the Codex Committees adjourned sine die did not cost FAO but rather were playing an important role of monitoring developments in the relevant areas and would revive when necessary;
· noted that the Committee on Edible Ices had been abolished at the present session;
· had requested guidance on rules for establishment and operation of ad hoc task forces;
· stressed that such task forces would have to have the same attributes of inclusiveness, transparency, cost efficiency and responsiveness as the current arrangement;
· expressed concern at the recommendation to reduce further the length of Commission Sessions in view of the increasing importance and workload of the Commission.
189. Regarding the suggestion of FAO regarding the broadening of the mandate of the Codex Committee on Natural Mineral Waters to include soft drinks, the Delegation of the United States expressed the strongest reservations on this suggestion. The Delegation further stated that a standard for bottled water was to be accelerated following the adoption of the Standard on Natural Mineral Waters at Step 8. The Delegation of the United States stated that it would object if Switzerland were not to hold a meeting for two years to develop a draft standard on bottled waters, especially in light of the interest expressed by 31 countries in this standard, and volunteered to join other countries in preparing a draft for consideration at a meeting next year.
190. Delegation of Switzerland reported that it had committed itself to proceeding with the work on a standard on packaged waters other than natural mineral waters and assured the Commission that Switzerland would proceed as rapidly as possible with this work. Currently Switzerland was creating an informal working group with all interested countries, including the Delegation of the United States which had already contacted, and would request them to send in as quickly as possible their regulations, comments and proposals, after which Switzerland would prepare a draft, circulate it for comments and then hold a session of the Committee on Natural Mineral Waters in 1998.
191. The Secretariat informed the Commission that the deadline for distribution of working documents was normally two months, however some Committees had been held shortly before the Commission and the planning might need to be reconsidered in this respect; working documents had been made available on Internet and this practice would continue; transmission of documents via electronic mail to the FAO Representatives at the national and regional level would also contribute to ensure their availability in time to Member countries; similarly, documents could be distributed through the Permanent Representatives of Member countries to FAO for distribution to Contact Points. The Secretariat also expressed its appreciation to the host countries of Committees for their important contribution to the translation and distribution of documents.
192. Several delegations expressed their support for continued use of Internet to facilitate the diffusion of documents. The Representative of WHO indicated that it would explore the possibilities of facilitating the distribution of Codex documents to the national health authorities using the electronic facilities in WHO offices in the countries.
193. The Delegation of Spain, supported by the Delegations of Argentina, Peru, Cuba and Costa Rica, recognized that significant efforts had been made to improve distribution; however, specific difficulties existed concerning documents in Spanish, which were circulated much later than those in English and they proposed that the papers should be available on Internet in the three languages; in many cases, translation itself was also a problem as it did not correspond to the terminology actually used in Spanish-speaking countries.
194. The Delegation of China, supported by the Delegation of Japan, stressed that it needed enough time to ensure its national translation of documents, and suggested that Codex papers be translated into all FAO and WHO official languages.
195. The Secretariat recognized the difficulties inherent to the reduction in translation services in French and Spanish and the increased volume of documentation, and indicated that additional means of ensuring timely translation were being considered. The use of other languages, however, would not be feasible in view of the very high costs to the Codex Programme, as had appeared in an earlier study88.
88 ALINORM 97/3, para. 7
196. The Delegation of Nigeria recalled that specific consideration had been given in recent years to cooperation with the African Regional Standardization Organization (ARSO) and that this should be pursued in view of its importance to the Region. The Secretariat indicated that continued cooperation was evidenced by the regular attendance of ARSO at the meetings of the Coordinating Committee for Africa, and that it was also entitled to participate in the Commission.
197. The Delegation of Botswana proposed that the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which was promoting food security and food safety issues in the sub-region, be invited to attend the Commission and this was agreed.