Hundred and Twenty-third Session
Rome, 28 October-2 November 2002
United Nations Support for Science and Technology
JIU Report 2001/2: United Nations support for Science and Technology in Latin America and the Caribbean
Comments of the Director-General of FAO
The attached Report of the Joint Inspection Unit is preceded by the Comments of the Director-General and is accompanied by the Comments of the Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) (formally ACC - Administrative Committee on Coordination).
A] Comments on the recommendations of relevance to FAO
While the recommendation is formally addressed to the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development, its potential implications are relevant to the whole UN system.
In effect, the successful UNAIDS initiative cannot provide an adequate justification for an eventual "joint UN system programme for science and technology". UNAIDS is directed at fighting a specific disease with important transboundary dimensions. It is therefore particularly amenable to concerted international action, which can translate into jointly programmed sets of activities by all concerned UN entities, with precise objectives and resource requirements. On the other hand, the concrete shape of a "UN system joint programme in science and technology" is difficult to assess, given the pervasiveness of science and technology aspects to the work of most Organisations and Programmes of the UN system.
Recommendation 2 b):
The IDB policy set out in paragraphs 40 and 41 of the report is no doubt worthy of admiration, while reflecting the broad mandate of an International Financial Institution (IFI) in addressing the need of its Member Nations. The recommendation might be better addressed to other IFIs, rather than the UNDG and Specialized Agencies, the mandates of which are generally more restricted. This being said, FAO is already active within its mandate in supporting capacity- building in Information Technology (IT), and is ready to share in positive experiences of other Organisations.
As mentioned in paragraph 31 of the report, FAO is prepared to pursue co-operation with SELA in specific areas.
Recommendations 4 and 7:
FAO endorses the importance of science and technology networks in order to strengthen South-South co-operation. It notes with appreciation the mention of the substantial number of technical co-operation networks it supports, particularly through its Regional Office in Santiago (Chile), in paragraph 48 of the Report and of the REDBIO network - specifically highlighted in Recommendation 7 itself - which FAO has been supporting most actively. As recommended, the Organisation will certainly seek to assess, on a regular basis, the practical results achieved by the various regional networking activities it is associated with, in the normal process of formulation, appraisal and evaluation of all of its activities.
After having provided initial support to the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI) at its inception, it is worth stressing that over the years FAO has continued to cooperate with CFNI in various initiatives. For example, in 1999 CFNI hosted an FAO-organised sub-regional Workshop on Developing Food-based Dietary Guidelines and Nutrition Education in the Caribbean, and a manual and training module on Nutrition for Small-scale Food Processors in the Caribbean has been jointly prepared.
While PAHO is well placed to assist CFNI in raising funds, FAO would welcome such efforts, particularly to support work of interest to the sub-region.
B] Other comments
This section of the report addresses an FAO regional project executed from 1988 and 1992, dealing with the prevention of land degradation in agricultural development. While the satisfactory results of this project are adequately summarised in paragraph 101, somewhat critical remarks are made in the following paragraph, particularly regarding alleged lack of attention to data on farm productivity increases and by questioning that the commendable training and demonstration workshops organised by the project involved personnel from the national extension services and not from the farming communities.
This is not corroborated by the positive appreciation made by the recipient countries themselves and the donor, as transpires in the various reviews of the project achievements undertaken in this period. Although quite some time has gone by, it may be stressed that this was one of the most successful projects FAO had in the region, precisely on the topics mentioned in paragraphs 100 and 101. The GIS techniques were relatively new and FAO was a pioneer in applying them to detect and measure land degradation and salinization processes. As mentioned in paragraph 101, the project produced excellent manuals for use by extension services in the participating countries, and therefore the Steering Committee of the project, with the approval of participating countries, gave priority to these aspects (development of techniques, demonstration and extension) over measurements of farm productivity. Also, the project by essence could not reach directly farming communities themselves, but was directed at national services able to absorb these technological developments.
Presumably in the light of recent substantial media attention to these issues, the authors have included in the final version of this report the BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) and foot-and-mouth (FMD) diseases, as further examples of situations and disciplines which in their view would require additional "intersecretariat structures".
Given its mandate and its well-established role in supporting international actions in the animal health sector in co-operation with other partners, FAO is quite familiar with these two specific diseases. To take the region which is the focus of this report as an example, it may be noted that there are already in the Americas one Inter-Governmental Organisation dealing with prevention, detection and control of such diseases, that is: PAHO/WHO, with its two Centres, PANAFTOSA (Centro Panamericano de Fiebre Aftosa) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and INPPAZ (Instituto Panamericano de Protección de Alimentos y Zoonosis) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. There are many sub-regional organisations, like O.I.R.S.A also active on the matter. Furthermore, the OIE (Office International des Epizooties) based in Paris, France with a Regional Representation in Buenos Aires, Argentina, provides for overall co-ordination across regions. So, there is certainly no lack of intergovernmental structures in place.
FAO would submit that what is needed is more in terms of adequate resources for the existing Organisations in order to strengthen them and increase their capacity to deal with such epidemics. For its part, FAO will continue to assist countries in building their own surveillance and early warning systems, establishing contingency plans, and formulating policies for animal disease control and eradication.