I. Overall strategic framework



Towards 2015


In the year 2015 FAO will celebrate its 70th birthday. What will it be doing then? What should it be doing between now and then? At the turn of the century, and of the millennium, FAO's Members have decided to address these questions through the development of a Strategic Framework to guide the Organization's work over the coming 15 years.


The question of where FAO should be going and what it should be doing by 2015 is inextricably linked to the question of what kind of world it will be part of. In anticipating what the future will hold, the only real certainty is uncertainty. Demographic and economic projections only indicate the likely scenario based on current trends.


According to the latest population projections of the United Nations (UN), the world's population is expected to grow on average by about 75 million per year until 2015, when it is forecast to reach 7.2 billion. Populations living in what is today the developing world will account for over 90 percent of the increase. In 2015, it is estimated that Africa's population will be 55 percent above its 1995 level, while that of the other developing regions combined will be close to one-third above this level.


Economic growth in the medium term (to 2005) is expected to be more sustained in the developing world as a whole than in the developed countries, although with considerable differences between countries. However, change in the global balance of wealth among nations is likely to be slow; at present, 78 percent of world GDP is accounted for by high-income countries, which have 15 percent of the world's population, while only 2.5 percent comes from low-income economies, which have 35 percent of the world's population. Moreover, as recent events leading to regional and global financial instability in 1997/98 demonstrated, there is a risk of economic recessions with consequent adverse effects on employment, agriculture and food security.


Hunger is expected to persist, although at slightly attenuated levels. The number of chronically undernourished people in developing countries is now estimated to be 791 million for the 1995-1997 period. The region with the largest absolute numbers of undernourished (524 million) is Asia, while the region with the largest proportion of its population undernourished (28 percent) is Africa. Unless major efforts are made to improve food supplies and to overcome inequities, in 2015 the incidence of undernourishment in some individual countries may still be as high as 30 percent of the population.


A growing number of the chronically undernourished are likely to be among the urban poor. The world's current population of 6 billion is still predominantly rural. However, the total number of people living in urban areas is expected to increase by more than 60 million per year, and, by 2010, urban areas are expected to have surpassed rural areas in population. By 2015, 26 cities in the world, most of which are in countries now categorized as developing, are expected to have populations of 10 million or more.


National and international action can avert or mitigate the negative consequences of some of these trends, particularly for food security. Political, economic and social systems will be expected to provide the enabling environment necessary to ensure equitable access to food. Agriculture - in the broad definition including fisheries and forestry - will have to meet the needs of growing and increasingly urbanized populations while at the same time protecting the natural resource base for the benefit of future generations.


Within this general scenario, a number of major trends and forces can be considered likely to have a bearing on FAO's future work. They can be summarized as follows:

  • Increased emphasis on the state's principal role as that of providing a policy and regulatory framework conducive to sustainable development
  • Continuing globalization and liberalization of trade, including food and agricultural trade
  • Growth in the number of countries in the middle-income group, and increased reliance on regional and subregional groupings
  • Persistence of poverty and mounting inequality - a widening of the gap between the affluent and the poor
  • Continued risk of disaster-related and complex emergencies
  • Changing demands on agriculture, fisheries and forestry in increasingly urbanized societies
  • Changing dietary patterns and increasing public awareness of food (safety and quality) and environmental issues
  • Increasing pressure on natural resources and competition for their use
  • Steady progress in research and technological development, and continued inequality in access to its benefits
  • Increasing impact of information and communications technology on institutions and societies
  • Changes in the nature and the composition of funding for agricultural development
  • Changing role and public perceptions of the UN system

Each of the trends presents both risks and opportunities for the Organization. A Strategic Framework for FAO's response to the challenges implicit in this scenario must begin with consideration of the Organization's purpose.




The fundamental purpose of FAO is set out in the Preamble to the FAO Constitution (Box 1), which affirms the determination of Members "to promote the common welfare by furthering separate and collective action on their part for the purpose of:

  • raising levels of nutrition and standards of living of the peoples under their respective jurisdictions;
  • 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".

The order of the elements in the Preamble, and the name given to the Organization, associating food and agriculture, were significant in that they recognized both the imperative of ensuring adequate nutrition and standards of living for all, and the importance of agriculture in doing so. In a report to the first conference - in Quebec City - which established FAO on 16 October 1945, the drafters of the Constitution stated: "If there is one fundamental principle on which FAO is based, it is that the welfare of producers and the welfare of consumers are in the final analysis identical." It was to be the business of FAO to seek and to emphasize the "larger framework" within which the interests of the consumers of food and the interests of agricultural producers were seen to be the same. And, as was made clear in Article I of the Constitution, the term "agriculture" was to be understood in a broad sense, to include fisheries, marine products, forestry and primary forest products.


That the purpose of FAO remains relevant, vital and valid was reaffirmed at the time of the celebration of FAO's Fiftieth Anniversary in 1995. This was an occasion for both a review of past experience and a look ahead. Two things were clear. The first was that considerable progress had been made in food and agriculture generally and in reducing the proportion of chronically under-nourished in the population of the developing world. The second was that, despite all the progress, the undernourished still amounted to one-fifth of the total, and this in absolute terms meant more than 800 million people without access to enough food to meet their basic requirements.


Box 1


The Preamble states:

"The Nations accepting this Constitution, being determined to promote the common welfare by furthering separate and collective action on their part for the purpose of:

  • raising levels of nutrition and standards of living of the peoples under their respective jurisdictions;
  • 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;

hereby establish the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, hereinafter referred to as the 'Organization' through which the Members will report to one another on the measures taken and the progress achieved in the field of action set forth above."

Article I defines the mandate of FAO as follows:

1. The Organization shall collect, analyse, interpret and disseminate information relating to nutrition, food and agriculture. In this Constitution, the term "agriculture" and its derivatives include fisheries, marine products, forestry and primary forestry products.

2. The Organization shall promote and, where appropriate, shall recommend 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 relating to nutrition, food and agriculture, 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 agricultural credit, national and international;

f) the adoption of international policies with respect to agricultural commodity arrangements.

3. It shall also b e the function of the Organization:

a) to furnish such technical assistance as governments may request;

b) to organize, in cooperation with the governments concerned, such missions as may be needed to assist them to fulfil the obligation arising from their acceptance of the recommendations of the United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture and of this Constitution; and

c) generally to take all necessary and appropriate action to implement the purposes of the Organizations as set forth in the Preamble.




In the Quebec Declaration, approved by the Ministerial Meeting convened in Quebec City, Canada, and subsequently formally adopted by the FAO Conference, Members recalled each of the specific elements of the Preamble and reaffirmed their political support to the Organization in carrying out "its mission to help build a world where all people can live with dignity, confident of food security".


They emphasized the promotion of agriculture, forestry and fisheries as key sectors in the quest for sustainable economic development, the empowerment of food producers and consumers, the sustainable use of natural resources for development and the need to build a global partnership for sustainable development. In its substance, the Quebec Declaration reaffirmed the basic principles on which FAO was founded. It was formulated, however, to reflect changes in perspective based on 50 years of experience and on new paradigms emerging or accepted as a result of that experience.


The new paradigms emerged even more clearly in the outcomes of the series of international conferences and summits convened in the 1990s. These generated a broad-based international consensus on development, as a common response by the international community to the situation at the end of the twentieth century. They drew attention particularly to the need for a concerted attack on poverty and environmental degradation. Still to come, however, was a clearer focus on the imperative of addressing hunger, as the most extreme and unacceptable manifestation of poverty, and on the twin necessities of producing enough food for the people while protecting and sustaining the resources of the planet. It remained for the World Food Summit to build on agreements reached in earlier fora, in order to add the essential dimension of food security to the agenda for action in the twenty-first century.


The World Food Summit - a new point of reference


At the same 1995 session at which it adopted the Quebec Declaration, the FAO Conference decided to convene the World Food Summit. The Summit, held one year later, was the first global gathering at the highest political level to focus solely on food security and, in adopting the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action, it renewed the commitment of the international community to ensuring food for all. The Declaration enunciates both the ultimate goal and the immediate target: "We pledge our political will and our common and national commitment to achieving food security for all and to an ongoing effort to eradicate hunger in all countries, with an immediate view to reducing the number of undernourished people to half their present level no later than 2015."


A common thread that runs through the declarations and action plans adopted by the global conferences is that of national responsibility and international solidarity. The goals defined are goals that only states can achieve, but the multilateral institutions, each within its own mandate and sphere of competence, are called on to help and support them in that effort.


Thus, FAO has a major role to play in assisting countries in implementing the provisions of the World Food Summit Plan of Action that fall within its mandate, as well as in monitoring, through its Committee on World Food Security (CFS), overall progress in achieving the Summit's goals. In defining FAO's own goals, therefore, the Plan of Action is fundamental.


At the same time, the Organization has significant responsibilities within the UN system for assisting in implementation of parts of Agenda 21, adopted by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), and for aspects of the outcome of a number of other UN conferences dealing, inter alia, with women, children, population and social development.


Global goals


Keeping in mind the Basic Texts of FAO, it is possible to define three interrelated global goals that the Organization is specifically dedicated to helping Members achieve:

  • Access of all people at all times to sufficient nutritionally adequate and safe food, ensuring that the number of chronically undernourished people is reduced by half by no later than 2015.
  • The continued contribution of sustainable agriculture and rural development, including fisheries and forestry, to economic and social progress and the well-being of all.
  • The conservation, improvement and sustainable utilization of natural resources, including land, water, forest, fisheries and genetic resources for food and agriculture.



These goals have been formulated taking into account a number of texts agreed at various international conferences, and in particular the World Food Summit and UNCED. It should be stressed that they should not be seen as reopening debates that took place in those fora, nor as encompassing all aspects of the issues discussed in them. Rather, the intention is to highlight those aspects for which a contribution is expected from FAO in view of its mandate and sphere of competence.


In the pursuit of these goals, FAO must rely on a strong set of values that define it as an institution (Box 2). It must also have a clear sense of its mission and a vision of success.


Box 2

FAO's field of action touches on the most basic of human rights and needs - that of freedom from hunger - as well as on crucial sectors of the world economy - agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

Certain fundamental values underlie the Constitution, which Members accept on joining the Organization and which are enunciated in the Oath of Office by which the staff of the Secretariat are bound:

  • Commitment. With broad global membership, the Organization is dedicated to promoting the common welfare through cooperation among nations; integrity and devotion to this ideal are required of those who serve in the Secretariat.
  • Independence. FAO provides a forum in which Members seek to broaden consensus, and an impartial Secretariat is key to assisting them in achieving this.
  • Partnerships. FAO belongs to a global family of institutions in the UN system dedicated to the promotion of international economic and social cooperation and brought into relationship with the UN itself under the provision of Article 57 of the Charter, and its staff belong to an International Civil Service that is loyal to common principles.
  • Competence. FAO is expected to be a centre of excellence in its field, with a Secretariat dedicated to securing the highest standards of efficiency and technical competence.
  • Equality. FAO is committed to the promotion of the full and equal participation of women in development and to the achievement of gender balance in the staff of the Secretariat.
  • Diversity. FAO's strength derives from, among other things, respect for diverse approaches and paths to a common destination; its Secretariat therefore recruits personnel on as wide a geographical basis as possible.
  • Unity. By coming together in the Organization, nations affirm their belief in the need for collective action and their willingness to take it, and the Secretariat accepts loyally to carry out the decisions of Members.




FAO's mission, in fulfilment of the purpose for which it was established (Preamble to the Constitution) and in full respect of its mandate (Article 1 of the Constitution), is to help build a food-secure world for present and future generations.


In the coming 15 years FAO will assist Members in: reducing food insecurity and rural poverty; ensuring an enabling policy and regulatory framework for food and agriculture, fisheries and forestry; securing sustainable increases in the supply and availability of food; conserving and enhancing the natural resource base; and generating knowledge of food and agriculture, fisheries and forestry.




The Organization's vision of success is to remain fully responsive to the ideals and requirements of its Members, and to be recognized for leadership and partnership in helping to build a food-secure world.


In the coming 15 years it will be: a centre of excellence and an authoritative purveyor of knowledge and advice in the sphere of its mandate; a pre-eminent repository and provider of multidisciplinary capacities and services in the areas of its competence; an active partner of organizations, within and also outside the UN system, that share its goals and values; a well-managed, efficient and cost-effective institution; a mobilizer of international will and resources to assist its Members, as well as a responsible manager of the resources entrusted to it; and an effective communicator and advocate for its own goals and those of its Members.


Part II of this document addresses the ways in which FAO will translate this overall strategic orientation into concrete strategies for action. It highlights the challenge facing the Organization, which is to combine continuity of purpose with flexibility of approach in a changing world.