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A statement by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva

13 November 2013

Joint Meeting of
the 114th Session of the Programme Committee and
151st Session of the Finance Committee

Chairpersons and Members of the Program and Finance Committees,

Independent Chairperson of the Council,

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
 

First of all, I want to begin by expressing FAO’s solidarity with the people and the Government of The Philippines. FAO will do all within its means to support the reconstruction process and to build resilience.

Ladies and gentlemen,

At this Joint Meeting of the Program and Finance Committee I will update you on work that we have done since Conference.

The main issue I want to tackle is the adjustments to the Program of Work and Budget.

Let me begin with the programmatic side and the implementation of the PWB.

The main message I have for you is that we will be ready to hit the ground running in 2014.

The five Strategic Objective work plans are being finalized. The outcomes, outputs and indicators are being refined.

The regional, sub-regional and national priorities and needs are helping to focus our Strategic Objective work plans to achieve impact on the ground.

The crosscutting themes of gender and governance are being fully mainstreamed into our work.

We are also protecting and enhancing our capacity to produce global public goods and to support the commissions and treaty bodies established under Articles 6 and 14 of the FAO Constitution.

And it is clear that our sixth objective will serve its purpose to guarantee the technical quality of our work.

I want to highlight the efforts made by the Corporate Programs Monitoring Board, the CPMB, in the past few months. They will allow us to deliver a truly results-based program of work.

Let me mention another very important thing that the CPMB is making possible: true culture change in the way we are working. The six regional initiatives are good examples of this change.

And allow me to acknowledge the hard work of senior management and of the many FAO staff at Headquarters and decentralized offices that are actively participating in this effort.

So, in 2014-2015, we hope to implement the full Program of Work that we originally presented. But, as you know, we will do that with a budget that is 37 million dollar less.

Having to do the same with less money always presents a challenge. Especially when we are seeing two processes going in opposite directions.

On the one hand we have budget cut after budget cut. Over the past 20 years, FAO´s budget has lost almost 30% of its real value. On the other hand, we are continuously being asked to do more and more.

As I have said before, there is a limit to the cost-savings that we can find responsibly, without damaging our capacity to implement the program of work.

With that in mind, let me mention the current cost-savings exercise.

We have already identified cost savings of 34 million dollars, without compromising our capacity to deliver the program of work. Let me repeat: we are preserving, totally, our program of work.

To do this, we did not choose the easy path. This would have been cutting vacant posts, many of them just created to strengthen decentralized offices and key technical areas.

Most of the savings come from what you can call the “bureaucratic” side of the organization. This also means that we had to abolish encumbered posts. This is a painful decision.

To move forward in an effective manner, we had to amend the FAO rules and regulations. This is never an easy process.

I have gone into some detail on this because I want to make a point.

Staff costs rose from 70 to 75 percent over the last decade or so. We have been asked repeatedly to reduce these costs. But none of the significant decisions related to staff costs are under the direct authority of the FAO Director-General.

These are decisions made by the International Civil Service Commission, in New York, and decided upon by the UN General Assembly, where you are also Members.

Allow me to recall that in its report, the last Conference appealed to the ICSC and the General Assembly, and asked me to make a similar appeal, to consider the need for greater vigilance with regard to increases in staff costs across the UN Common System. Particularly, within the context of the ongoing comprehensive review being undertaken by the ICSC.

Let me inform you that I have personally discussed this with the UN Secretary General, most recently on a mission to Hungary. This issue is also on the agenda of the next Chief Executive Board Meeting of the United Nations later this month in New York.

I would like to invite you to stress once more the importance of this with your representations in New York. I understand that this was part of the agreement we reached in the Conference.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There are of course some decisions that can be taken here in Rome that can help further reduce costs. And we are doing all that we can within FAO.

But there are more opportunities. The three UN System food agencies are in the same city but many of our administrative activities are still separate. We have made progress, but there is room for improvement.

Just to give one example, the Membership of FAO, IFAD and WFP have approved three different models of enterprise resource planning systems that are not compatible among them.

So, there is a clear potential for cost saving and more efficient and integrated management of administrative and support services.

But to do this, we need to receive your clear guidance and support. Not only FAO, but IFAD and WFP, as well, as you are also part of their boards.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me to take this opportunity to touch on one of the constant common strand of the process to transform and better equip FAO to fulfill our mission.

The most evident change is the sharpening of our focus on five strategic objectives that are very topical and, at the same time, reclaim the fundamental ideals expressed in our Constitution.

This transformation is pervasive throughout FAO: not only in the strategic objective work plans but also in the inner operations of the organization.

Take a look, for instance, at the Global Resource Management System, GRMS, that has just been implemented.

Today, every FAO office around the world is connected to the same management system. GRMS is an essential tool to have one FAO, and not 140 fragmented FAOs around the world.

GRMS is also helping us put an end to the unnecessary duplication of work. It is simplifying and speeding up administrative processes. And it is doing this with increased accountability and control.

GRMS also allows us to know accurately in real time how many people are employed by FAO. The value of this cannot be understated.

The number that we had previously obtained from different systems was approximately 5 thousand employees, counting regular program, project posts, consultants and other types of contract.

However, now with a single system, GRMS, we know that as of October 2013, we have a total of 11 thousand working in the organization.

So, GRMS is helping us put together a puzzle that has many pieces: how many we are, what will we work on, whom will we work with, how will we do it, and what do we need.

It is a long process. The results will not come in one day, and we must learn from our experience. But we are in the right direction. And working together, with our joint responsibilities but separate duties, we will get there.

Let me add that since taking up office I have listened carefully to your guidance. I will continue to do that.

I also want to insist on the importance of respecting the red line between guidance and management, fulfilling the different roles each one of us has.

Members provide guidance and Management acts upon them. There is no co-management and there can be no micro-management.

Let me take the opportunity to say that you have two points of entry to FAO’s senior managers. If you have a formal request relative to conference services, meetings, protocol, then CPA and Mr Louis Gagnon is ready to assist you.

But for other issues, I invite you to, first, contact my office. It is part of my job and my Cabinet’s job to listen and respond to your needs. Ms Fernanda Guerrieri is always at your disposal.

I want to reaffirm that the doors of the Office of Director-General are always open for Members. I have personally met, individually, with nearly 80 Permanent Representatives this year.

In many cases, we will be able to answer your questions directly. In others, we can direct you to the right persons.

This is important for practical reasons. To respond to requests of our over 190 Members, Managers need to step away from the work they are doing. To the extent possible, I want to help them focus in what they need to deliver.

Having my office as the first entry point is also important to avoid that you receive fragmented information.

I believe that this will help reduce the anxiety levels and possible misunderstandings among members.

Let me end by repeating that IN FAO there are no Americans, Brazilians, French or Germans. We are all civil servants. Independent of which State we represent, we always dispense you the same attention and respect.

Thank you very much for your attention.