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6. the governing bodies

The Conference

Functions, Sites and Frequency

The FAO Conference is the supreme governing and deliberative body of the Organization. Each Member Government may send one delegate to the Conference and has one vote. The delegates may be accompanied by alternates, associates, and advisers, as the respective governments may desire.

The Conference acts on applications for FAO membership, elects the Members of the Council, reviews and approves the Organization's programme of work, decides the level of its budget, sets the scale of contributions, reviews the state of food and agriculture, makes decisions on administrative and constitutional questions, discusses special topics included in its agenda, and (when the posts are to become vacant) appoints the Director-General and the Independent Chairman of the Council. It also acts on other matters of importance, as required, such as its determination of the permanent site of FAO Headquarters. In the early years of the Organization, the Conference met annually, but since, in 1949, the Constitution was amended to provide that regular sessions should be held every two years, that has been the pattern.

The Conference may also meet in special session to deal with emergencies and other immediate matters. Thus far, three such sessions have been held, in 1948, 1950 and 1956. In addition, a General Commemorative Session was held in 1970 to mark the 35th anniversary of the founding of the Organization.

The complete list of Conference sessions, with their places and dates, and the names and nationalities of their chairmen, appears below:

FirstQuebec1945Lester B. PearsonCanada
SecondCopenhagen1946Henrik de KauffmannDenmark
ThirdGeneva1947F.T. WahlenSwitzerland
First SpecialWashington1948Sir Carl BerendsenNew Zealand
FourthWashington1948Charles F. BrannanUnited States
FifthWashington1949Oscar GansCuba
Second SpecialWashington1950André MayerFrance
SixthRome1951Amintore FanfaniItaly
SeventhRome1953U Thet SuBurma
EighthRome1955K.J. HolyoakeNew Zealand
Third SpecialRome1956Rafael Cavestany AnduagaSpain
NinthRome1957Alberto MerrierArgentina
TenthRome1959Richelieu MorrisLiberia
EleventhRome1961Georges HaraouiLebanon
TwelfthRome1963E. Shiroshi NasuJapan
ThirteenthRome1965Maurice SauvéCanada
FourteenthRome1967Josef WiniewiczPoland
FifteenthRome1969Hernán Santa CruzChile
General Commemorative
Rome1970Hernán Santa CruzChile
SixteenthRome1971Ian M. SinclairAustralia
SeventeenthRome1973R.C. KamangaZambia
EighteenthRome1975M. RouhaniIran
NineteenthRome1977T. HadiwijayaIndonesia
TwentiethRome1979Jaime Lamo de EspinosaSpain

Changes in the Conference

Since its inception the Conference has undergone many changes, put into effect by the governments of FAO's Member Countries in their efforts to improve its efficiency and effectiveness. Because of the importance of FAO's major Governing Body, some indication of the nature of these changes should be given here. They include changes in the length of Conference sessions, in the length and complexity of its agenda, and in the structure and working methods of its Plenary, Commissions and Committees. Because of the complex manner in which the Conference had evolved, only a concise outline of major changes can be given.

The 20 regular sessions of the Conference held from 1945 through 1979 varied in overall length from 12 to 22 days, or to 36 days if the Technical Committees held in part or entirely before the main Conference sessions from 1961 through 1969 are taken into account. Leaving aside those extra periods, the duration of the Conference was stabilized from 1963 onward at 20 calendar days, consisting of 15 normal working days including the opening Saturday; the 1979 session was scheduled to last 20 days but completed its work in 19. Given the increase in the number of Member Countries and the growing desire of many delegations to participate in discussions, the fact that the overall length of the Conference has remained stable at 20 days from 1971 onward, a period during which 28 new Member Countries joined the Organization, represents a considerable achievement.

Under the Constitution, Conference action is required on many items, such as the admission of new Member Countries; the election of the Council Members, the Director-General, and the Independent Chairman of the Council; approval of the Director-General's Programme of Work and Budget; and amendments to the Constitution and the General Rules of the Organization.

The length of the agenda has varied considerably over the 20 sessions. In terms of major or basically-numbered items, it varied from 12 to 46; in terms of the total number of items and sub-items (counting only the sub-items when an item was subdivided), the range was from 19 to 77. The practice of fragmenting items was followed to the greatest extent between 1957 and 1967. Following the Fourteenth Session in 1967, there has been considerable tapering off, both in the number of major items and in the degree of fragmentation into sub-items. From 1955 onward the number of opening procedural items was stabilized at five; during the last half-dozen Conferences, the number of substantive items has ranged from 18 to 24, averaging 21.

The present structure of the Conference, with a Plenary and Commissions I, II and III, has been in existence—with some variations — since the Third Session, in 1947.

The Plenary has remained more stable over the years than the Commissions. It has consistently carried out its functions of organizing the Conference, assigning agenda items to the respective Commissions, holding the elections prescribed by the Constitution, and formally approving the Conference Report. In addition, it has for many years been used as a forum in which heads of delegations make general statements. As the Organization has evolved, the Plenary has also been used for other purposes, including the presentation of the McDougall Memorial Lecture and of the B. R. Sen and A. H. Boerma Awards, and appearances of Heads of State and other special guest speakers.

Commission I has normally had assigned to it those substantive agenda items which relate to the world food situation and to government policies relating to food, agriculture, fisheries and forestry. On occasion, it has been assigned one or more items relating to the activities of the Organization, but for the most part such matters have been left to Commission II. In the early years, between 1946 and 1951, Commission I established from two to seven committees. However, from 1953 onward, all matters assigned to Commission I have been dealt with in the full Commission.

Beginning in 1969, the Conference has appointed a Rapporteur from Plenary to Commission I, to inform the Commission of salient points made by heads of delegations in their general statements. This practice has not eliminated duplication, however, since many speakers in Commission I debates have also referred to what their heads of delegation had said in Plenary and since the general debate in Plenary has normally continued beyond the time when discussion of some agenda items was completed in Commission I. Consequently, the Council, when making preparations for the Twenty-First Session of the Conference, proposed that the office of Rapporteur be abolished. Among the Commissions, Commission II has had by far the most complex history, only the broad outlines of which can be noted here. As mentioned above, this Commission (together with its predecessor Commission A, during the First and Second Sessions of the Conference, and the Commission on Programme Trends and Policy Questions which replaced it for the Eighth Session in 1955) has been assigned agenda items relating to the activities of the Organization. It set up from five to eight committees, panels or technical committees during each of the Conference Sessions from 1945 through 1967; in 1969, there were only two committees, one on field programmes and one on “areas of concentration”. Thereafter, the practice of establishing committees or panels was abandoned, their functions being for the most part absorbed by certain standing committees of the Council: the Committee on Fisheries, created in 1965, and the Committees on Forestry and Agriculture, created in 1971.

Commission III (and its predecessor Commission B, during the First and Second Sessions of the Conference) has traditionally dealt with constitutional, administrative and financial matters. In the early Conference sessions, “financial” was interpreted broadly to include the budget for the ensuing year or biennium, but from the Seventh Session in 1953 onward, the Programme of Work and Budget has been dealt with as a single agenda item in Commission II.

Commission III also used from two to nine committees to carry out some of its work during the Conferences from 1945 through 1955, except for the 1953 session. From the Ninth Session in 1957 onward, no committees have been established, and all agenda items assigned to the Commission have been dealt with in full Commission. However, at that Session the Conference decided that the Council should set up a Committee on Constitutional and Legal Matters (CCLM), which has contributed substantially to the effective handling of constitutional matters that have required Conference action. Also, the reports of the Finance Committee, after having been duly passed through the Council, have contributed materially to the more efficient handling of administrative and financial matters in Commission III.

The agenda items assigned to Commission III tended, at one stage, to be highly fragmented. For example, during a number of sessions, the item on “Audited Accounts”, had under it as many as five sub-items; it was reduced to a single major item in recent sessions.

In addition to the three Commissions, several other subsidiary bodies of the Conference are provided for in the General Rules of the Organization: the General Committee which exercises oversight for Conference sessions, the Nominations Committee and the Credentials Committee. A Resolutions Committee, not provided for in the General Rules, was first established by the Fourteenth Session in 1967. Through its efforts, and through other efforts to contain and reduce the use of resolutions, considerable success has beenachieved: against 97 resolutions adopted at the Tenth Session of the Conference in 1959, there were only 41 in 1975, 29 in 1977 and 21 in 1979.

It should also be noted here that the Programme and Finance Committees, established by the Conference in 1957 as standing committees of the Council, and which are discussed on pages 28–30, have contributed substantially to improving the working efficiency of the Conference, and particularly Commissions II and III, even if their impact has been felt most directly on the Council.

The Council

The Council is FAO's second-level governing body, serving as the governing body between Conference sessions and holding at least one full-scale session each year in addition to brief sessions just prior to and following sessions of the Conference. It currently consists of 49 Member Countries, elected by the Conference. Its work is carried out under the chairmanship of an Independent Chairman, also elected by the Conference.

Formation and Evolution

When FAO was founded in October 1945, an Executive Committee was established, composed of 15 members serving in their personal capacities. Its chairman was Andre Mayer (France). The Third Session of the Conference, in 1947, amended the Constitution to replace the Executive Committee by a Council and elected 18 countries to membership in the Council; it also elected Viscount Bruce of Melbourne as the Council's first Independent Chairman. The First Session of the newly-created Council was held in Washington from 4 to 11 November 1947.

Two factors were certainly among those that contributed to the decision to establish the Council, although the first of these is not reflected in the written record. Governments were growing a bit uneasy over the arrangement whereby, between sessions of the Conference, the general oversight of the affairs of FAO was in the hands of persons serving in their personal capacities, rather than as representatives of their governments. Also, at the Second Session of the Conference the Member Countries considered whether or not to create a World Food Board, as Director-General John Boyd Orr had proposed, with financial resources and wide powers to fix a general policy incumbent on the various Member States, or to allow the countries to retain their freedom of action. The Conference side-tracked the Director-General's proposal, using the simple device of setting up a Preparatory Commission “to carry the proposals further”. One conclusion of the Preparatory Commission was “that so far as policy with regard to agricultural commodities is concerned, the Council of FAO when established should take as a guide the principles indicated at previous Conferences as set out in the Report of the Preparatory Commission.” In turn, when the Council was established by the Third Session of the Conference, the first function assigned to it was to “keep under review the state of food and agriculture in the world,” thus leaving some remnant of the first Director-General's concept of a World Food Board with managerial authority. Indeed, Commission I of the Third Session, in its report to the Plenary, interpreted the Report of the Preparatory Commission as containing “the proviso that a Council should be created within the Organization to ensure with the means at its disposal the coordination of the policies of the various states with a view to the implementation of FAO's policy,” although this wording is not to be found in the Report of the Preparatory Commission itself.

From its original 18 members, the Council grew in size, as the number of Member Countries of the Organization increased. Various sessions of the .Conference amended the Constitution to enlarge the Council, which grew as follows:

Conference SessionCouncil Membership
Third (1947)18
Seventh (1953)24
Tenth (1959)25
Eleventh (1961)27
Thirteenth (1965)31
Fourteenth (1967)34
Seventeenth (1973)42
Nineteenth (1977)49

Members of the Council are elected for three-year terms, and the terms are staggered so that about one third of the seats are vacated each year.

By agreement in the Conference, the 49 seats of the Council are divided among the FAO regions, as follows:

RegionNumber of Council Seats
Asia and the Pacific10
Latin America9
Near East6
North America2
Southwest Pacific1

Independent Chairman

When establishing the Council, the Conference also decided that it should have an Independent Chairman, appointed by the Conference. The General Rules of the Organization provide that the Independent Chairman “shall be appointed for a term of office of two years which shall be renewable for the same period after which it shall not be renewable.”

The Chairman is appointed during a regular session of the Conference and presides over the Council session immediately following it; his two-year term continues until he is re-elected or replaced by the next regular Conference Session. Thus, his term of office does not coincide precisely with the normal FAO biennium.

The Independent Chairmen of the Council, together with their nationalities and their periods of incumbency, are listed below:

Independent Chairman of the CouncilCountryPeriod
 Viscount Bruce of MelbourneAustralia1947–1951
 Josué de CastroBrazil1951–1955
 S.A. HasniePakistan1955–1959
 Louis MaireSwitzerland1959–1963
 Georges HaraouiLebanon1963–1964
 Maurice GemayelLebanon1965–1969
 Michel CépèdeFrance1969–1973
 Gonzalo Bule HoyosColombia1973–1977
 Bukar ShaibNigeria1977–1981

Georges Haraoui did not complete his first two-year term, having died on 28 February 1964, only a few months after his election. The Council was chaired by one if its Vice-Chairmen during the remainder of 1964 and until the 1965 Conference Session. It was this circumstance which led the Conference to amend the General Rules of the Organization to provide that the Chairman of the Programme Committee should take over as Independent Chairman of the Council if that post should become vacant before the end of a term.

In view of the importance attached to the post of Independent Chairman of the Council, a tradition has become established whereby, on the completion of his term of office, the portrait of each Chairman is hung in the Red Room, at FAO Headquarters, in which sessions of the Council normally are held. This series of portraits includes one of Andre Mayer, who chaired the Council's predecessor Executive Committee.

Since the Independent Chairmen of the Council have exercised considerable influence in the affairs of FAO, it is appropriate to include here some biographical information regarding them. Andre Mayer, who chaired the precursor of the Council, is also included.

André Mayer was born in Paris on 9 November 1875. He received his doctorate in medicine in 1900, and later in life received honorary degrees from the University of Glasgow, the University of Liège, and Middlebury College. Before World War I he served at the Ecole pratique des hautes études. He joined the army in 1914, and during much of World War I served as Director of the Military Chemical Services' Laboratory of Physiology. In 1919, he became Professor of Physiology in the Faculty of Medicine at Strasbourg, and in 1922 he was elected Professor of Physiology at the Collège de France. From 1940 to 1945 he headed a mission in the United States to organize the shipment of food for children, and during this period he also lectured at Middlebury College. He was elected to the French Academy of Medicine in 1935 and to the Academy of Sciences in 1950. Andre Mayer first became involved in FAO affairs when he served as a member of the French delegation to the Hot Springs Conference. He also participated in the Quebec Conference, and in many other sessions during the early years of FAO. He chaired the Executive Committee from 1945 until it was replaced by the Council in 1947, and chaired the Second Special Session of the FAO Conference in 1950. He died in Paris in January 1956. FAO's Andre Mayer Research Fellowships were created in his honour.

Stanley Bruce, first Viscount Bruce of Melbourne, was born on 15 April 1883, in Melbourne, Australia. He received a B. A. degree from Trinity Hall, Cambridge University, and was called to the bar in 1906. From 1914 to 1917 he was in military service. He was elected to the Australian Parliament from Flinders from 1918 to 1929 and again from 1931 to 1933. Among the many posts he held in the Australian Government were that of Commonwealth Treasurer, Minister for External Affairs, Minister for Health, Minister for Trade and Customs, Minister for Territories, and Prime Minister. From 1933 to 1945 he was High Commissioner for Australia, in London. He carried out many international assignments for his Government, including serving as Australian Representative at the League of Nations in 1921 and from 1932 to 1938. It was in Geneva in 1935 that he made his famous speech advocating “the marriage of health and agriculture”. He was President of the Council of the League in 1936. From 1947 to 1957, Viscount Bruce was Chairman of the Finance Corporation for Industry, and from 1951 to 1961 he held the post of first Chancellor of the Australian National University at Canberra. He died on 25 August 1967.

Josué de Castro was born at Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil, on 5 September 1908. After receiving his M. D. degree from the National School of Medicine at the University of Brazil, he held various posts at the Colleges of Medicine and of Philosophy and Social Sciences of Recife from 1932 to 1935; from 1935 to 1938 he was Professor of Anthropology at the University of the Federal District. From 1939 to 1970 he held posts as Professor of Nutrition in the National Department of Public Health, as Professor of Human Geography in the National College of Philosophy at the University of Brazil, and as Professor of Food and Nutrition in the College of Medicine of the same University. From 1955 to 1963 he was a Member of the Brazilian Parliament. During the 1960s he served for a period as Brazil's Ambassador to the European Office of the United Nations in Geneva. His last years were spent in Paris, where he died on 24 September 1973.

S. A. Hasnie was born in 1905 at Sialkot in the Punjab, in what is now Pakistan.In 1927 he obtained a M. S. degree with honours from the Honours School of Biology in the Punjab University. Prior to the partition of India he served in the Government of India as Under Secretary and Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, and also as Joint Financial Adviser, War and Supply; at the time of partition he was Joint Secretary of Commerce. In Pakistan, he served first as Joint Secretary and then Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce, in which capacity he represented Pakistan at various GATT meetings, and in 1951 was Chairman of GATT. Moving to the post of Secretary, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, he was closely associated with FAO, beginning in 1952, as his country's delegate to Council and Conference sessions, and from 1955 to 1959 as Independent Chairman of the FAO Council. Mr. Hasnie died on 17 March 1968.

Louis Maire was born on 18 December 1902 in Geneva, Switzerland. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1925 and a doctorate in 1945, both in economics, at the University of Geneva. His professional career was for the most part associated with the dairy production and processing industry, and in particular the Federation of Milk Producers of Geneva. He frequently represented Switzerland at meetings of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers, the European Confederation of Agriculture, and the International Dairy Federation. In addition to serving on numerous committees and boards in Switzerland, and as Vice-Chairman of the Swiss National FAO Committee, Mr. Maire represented his country at many sessions of the FAO Council and Conference from 1947 through 1957. He was a member of the Committee on Financial Control in 1952–53 and its Chairman in 1954–56. In this last capacity he was also a member of the Coordinating Committee.

Georges Haraoui, of Lebanon, was graduated from the School of Law and Economic Science at the University of St. Joseph, in Beirut, in 1932. He served as Minister of the Interior in 1954, and as Minister of Health and Welfare in 1955. In the Lebanese Parliament, he served as Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for National Economy, Agriculture and Tourism, and as Rapporteur of the Parliamentary Finance and Budget Committee. He led the Lebanese delegations to the Third Special Session of the FAO Conference in 1956, and to the regular Sessions of the Conference in 1957 and 1961. In 1957 he served as Chairman of Commission I, and in 1961 as Chairman of the Eleventh Session of the Conference. Mr. Haraoui died in Beirut on 28 February 1964, only about three months after his election as Independent Chairman of the FAO Council in the autumn of 1963.

Maurice Gemayel was born in Lebanon in 1910, and studied in Lebanon and France. He served in his Government's cabinet as Minister of Economic and Social Development, was a member of the Lebanese Parliament, and also served as Chairman of the Parliamentary Planning Commission. He died in October 1970.

Michel Cépède was born on 20 October 1908, in Wimereux, Pas-de-Calais, France. He studied geology in the Faculty of Science, and economic law, economics, and political science in the Faculty of Law in Paris from 1929 through 1934. He received a diploma in economic law in 1932, a diploma in agronomy from the National Institute of Agronomy in 1938, and a Doctorate of Rural Economy from the Faculty of Law, in Paris, in 1944. In 1967 he received an honorary doctorate of science from the Faculty of Agronomy in Gembloux, Belgium. During his professional career, Mr. Cépède held a number of posts in the French Ministry of Agriculture. These included Chief, Bureau of Economic Studies, 1944–45; Chief, Studies and Documentation Service, 1945–53; Chief, Education Service, 1953–55; Deputy Director, Agricultural Production, 1955–57; and Director, Studies and Planning, 1957–59. In 1959 he became Professor of Rural Economy and Sociology at the National Institute of Agronomy. Mr. Cépède was a member of the French delegation at the Quebec Conference in 1945, and at most FAO Conference and Council sessions from 1945 through 1973. He served as a member of the Programme Committee from 1959 to 1963 and as its Chairman from 1963 to 1969. He has also represented France in many other international gatherings.

Gonzalo Bula Hoyos was born on 21 May 1929 in Sahagun, Colombia. He was Colombia's Permanent Representative to FAO from 1959 to 1965. He then became Consul General and later Minister Counselor for Colombia in Amsterdam, where he served until 1979. From 1959 to 1979 he participated in all FAO Conference and Council sessions, and in many other FAO meetings. He served as a member of the Programme Committee from 1965 to 1969, and as its Chairman from 1969 to 1973. In July 1979 he returned to Rome as Colombia's Ambassador to FAO.

Bukar Shaib was born in Nigeria in 1928. In 1954 he graduated from Liverpool University as a Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. From 1954 to 1956 he served as a Government Field Veterinary Officer in Northern Nigeria. From 1957 to 1958 he attended Edinburgh University and received a diploma in tropical veterinary medicine. From 1958 through 1960 he was Provincial Veterinary Officer in Sokoto Province. From 1961 through 1967 he served as Permanent Secretary in charge of the former Northern Nigeria Ministry of Animal and Forest Resources, and from 1968 through 1975 he was Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources. In 1976 he became Permanent Secretary of a new Federal Ministry of Water Resources. In June 1979, he briefly became Ambassador of Nigeria to Italy, returning to Nigeria to become the President's Residential Adviser on National Security. Apart from his official positions, Dr. Shaib served on a number of bodies in Nigeria, and between 1959 and 1980 he represented his country in many international gatherings, including a number of sessions of the FAO Conference and Council. He served as a member of the FAO Programme Committee from 1971 to 1977, and as the first Chairman of the FAO Committee on Agriculture during the period 1972–74.

The Key Committees

Article V of FAO's Constitution, which deals with the Council of the Organization, provides for the Council to be assisted by eight committees:

Programme Committee
Finance Committee
Committee on Constitutional and Legal Matters
Committee on Commodity Problems
Committee on Fisheries
Committee on Forestry
Committee on Agriculture
Committee on World Food Security.

Most of the Council's substantive and detailed work is carried out in the first instance by these committees, whose efforts lead in turn, as appropriate, to formal Council action, and in some cases to Conference action. One other committee of similar rank exists, although it was not established under Article V but was set up jointly by FAO and the UN, namely:

Committee on Food Aid Policies and Programmes

Each of these committees has undergone changes as it evolved, and these are noted briefly below.

Programme Committee

When the Conference amended FAO's Constitution to establish the Council, it also provided that the Council should establish a Coordinating Committee to tender advice on the coordination of technical work and the continuity of the activities of the Organization undertaken in accordance with the decisions of the Conference. This Coordinating Committee consisted of the Chairman of the Council, the Chairmen of the Standing Advisory Committees and the Chairman of the Committee on Financial Control.

In 1955 the Eighth Session of the Conference set up an Ad Hoc Committee on the Organizational Structure of FAO, with Sir Donald Vandepeer (United Kingdom) as its Independent Chairman. It dealt with the structure of the governing bodies rather than with that of the Secretariat, and one of its recommendations was to transform the Coordinating Committee into a Programme Committee (FAO, 1957). In 1957 the Ninth Session of the Conference amended Article V of the Constitution accordingly. The Programme Committee as then established was elected by the Council and consisted of a Chairman and six members, serving in their personal capacities. It functioned in this form through 1977. In that year the Conference decided to enlarge it to consist of a Chairman and ten members, and to change the nature of the Committee so that countries rather than individuals would be elected; it provided however that countries nominated for election would designate in advance the individuals who would represent them.

The Chairmen of the Programme Committee, together with their nationalities and periods of incumbency, are listed below:

Chairman of the Programme CommitteeCountryPeriod
 Norman C. WrightUnited Kingdom1958
 Oris V. WellsUnited States1959
 Ramon Cantos-FiguerolaSpain1960–1963
 Michel CépèdeFrance1964–1969
 Gonzalo Bula HoyosColombia1970–1973
 Ralph W. PhillipsUnited States1974–1977
 Milan TrkuljaYugoslavia1978–

Finance Committee

The Executive Committee also served as a Committee on Financial Control during the initial years of the Organization until 1947, when the Conference amended the Financial Regulations to provide that “the Council shall establish at its first meeting after each Conference session a Committee on Financial Control, consisting of not more than five members…”

In 1955, the Ad Hoc Committee on the Organizational Structure of FAO set up by the Eighth Session of the Conference recommended that the Committee on Financial Control be transformed into a Finance Committee. In 1957 the Conference amended Article V of the Constitution accordingly. The Finance Committee thus established consisted of a Chairman and four members, elected by the Council and serving in their personal capacities; it functioned in this form through 1977. In that year the Conference decided to enlarge it to consist of a Chairman and eight members, and to change the nature of the Committee in the same manner as that of the Programme Committee.

The Chairmen of the Finance Committee, together with their nationalities and their periods of incumbency, are listed below:

Chairman of the Finance CommitteeCountryPeriod
 A. VasconcellosBrazil1958–1961
 J.C. NagleIreland1962–1971
 Frank ShefrinCanada1972–1975
 Salahuddin AhmedBangladesh1976–1977
 M. Bel Hadj AmorTunisia1978–

Committee on Constitutional and Legal Matters

The Ad Hoc Committee on the Organizational Structure of FAO set up in 1955 also recommended that a “Constitutional Committee” should be set up. This recommendation was accepted by the Ninth Session of the Conference in 1957, which amended Article V of the Constitution to provide for a Committee on Constitutional and Legal Matters. This Committee is composed of not more than seven Member Nations, elected by the Council. In practice, nations which stand for membership normally have staff in their Rome missions who are qualified to serve on the Committee. The CCLM elects its own officers.

Committee on Commodity Problems

The Fifth Session of the Conference, in 1949, established a Committee on Commodity Problems (CCP), to work under the supervision of and be responsible to the Council. This action arose from consideration of a proposal for an International Commodity Clearing House (ICCH), which had been prepared following the rejection of Sir John Boyd Orr's World Food Board proposal, and which was likewise not accepted; other discussions in the Preparatory Commission also contributed to the decision. The Council, at its Eighth Session in 1949 invited 14 governments to serve on the CCP during its first year. The Committee's membership was increased to 20 in 1953 and to 24 in 1955.

The Ad Hoc Committee on the Organizational Structure of FAO recommended that the CCP should be continued as a standing committee. Consequently, the Ninth Session of the Conference, in 1957, included it in its amendment of Article V of the Constitution, as a standing committee of the Council, together with the Programme Committee, Finance Committee and the CCLM. Its membership was maintained at 24, but was increased to 30 by the Conference in 1965, and to 34 in 1967. Then in 1971 the Sixteenth Session of the Conference decided that, for a trial period of four years, the CCP should be open to all interested Member Nations, after which its structure and composition and the method of appointment of its members would be reviewed. In 1975, the Eighteenth Session of the Conference decided that the CCP should be continued as an open committee.

Over the years, the CCP has carried out much of its work through subsidiary bodies. There are currently 12 of these, 11 of which are intergovernmental groups concerned, respectively, with rice; cocoa; grains; citrus fruit; jute, kenaf and allied fibres; oilseeds, oils and fats; bananas; hard fibres; wine and vine products; tea; and meat. The twelfth subsidiary body of CCP, which is based in Washington, is the Consultative Sub-Committee on Surplus Disposal. The Intergovernmental Group on Cocoa has not met since 1963, although a subgroup on cocoa statistics met regularly until 1975, when an international cocoa agreement came into force and the International Cocoa Organization took over this aspect of FAO's statistical work.

As was implied above, the establishment of the CCP was a compromise solution, after proposals for a World Food Board and an ICCH had been rejected. It is not the intention here to pass judgement on the wisdom of those earlier decisions. However, the observation of Gerhardsen (1950) on this point is worth quoting, since it appears to reflect the attitude that generally prevailed among FAO's Member Governments at the time:

Those friends of FAO who think it has perhaps been fortunate that the World Food Board was not approved and that the ICCH did not go through are not entirely without foundation. It may be seen in the light of history that those fields were too venturesome for a young organization. Perhaps the most important thing — the world being as it is — was to have the basic idea behind FAO survive, facilitating a more natural growth.

Earlier, Cruickshank (1946), writing about the problems faced by FAO, in a sense had reflected the same concern, posing the question, “Will such an organization be able to manage expanding production without running the risk of creating dangerous surpluses?”

Committee on Fisheries

The Twelfth Session of the Conference, in 1963, requested Director-General Sen to consider measures which could be taken to ensure that FAO had in future years the status of being the leading intergovernmental body in encouraging the rational harvesting of food from the oceans and inland waters. In response to this request, the Director-General proposed, and the Conference, at its Thirteenth Session in 1965, agreed, to upgrade the Fisheries Division into a Fisheries Department, and to establish a Committee on Fisheries as a committee of the Council, under Article V of the Constitution. The Committee, which was to consist of not more than 30 countries, held its first session in 1966. In 1967, the Fourteenth Session of the Conference increased its membership to 34. Then, in 1971, the Sixteenth Session of Conference decided that this Committee, like the CCP, should be open to all interested Member Nations for a trial period of four years, after which its structure and composition and the method of appointment of its members should be reviewed. In 1975 the Eighteenth Session of the Conference decided that it should remain an open committee. In general, about 70 countries have indicated their desire to participate; 76 participated in 1981.

Committee on Forestry

As was the case with Fisheries, the establishment of a Committee on Forestry was associated with the upgrading of the Forestry Division into a Forestry Department. A meeting of an Ad Hoc Committee on Forestry had been held in 1969, and later that year the Fifteenth Session of the Conference approved the establishment of a Forestry Department and requested the Council to advise the Director-General on how the need for a standing committee on forestry could be met. Pending the creation of permanent machinery, the Conference advised the Director-General to hold a further meeting of an Ad Hoc Committee on Forestry. After this meeting was held in 1971, the Sixteenth Session of the Conference established the Committee on Forestry, under Article V of the Constitution. The new Committee held its first session in 1972.

Unlike the CCP and the Committee on Fisheries, the Committee on Forestry was from the outset an open committee, all Member Nations which notified the Director-General of their interest in its work and of their desire to participate actively being entitled to attend its sessions. In recent years about 75 to 80 countries have participated in the Committee's work.

Committee on Agriculture

Following the decisions of the Conference to establish a Committee on Fisheries and to take steps to set up a Committee on Forestry, the Programme Committee noted in June 1970 that a problem of balance was arising, since there would be no comparable body to deal with the work of the Agriculture and Economic and Social Policy Departments. In November 1970, the Programme Committee reaffirmed this concern, and recommended the establishment of a Committee on Agriculture. This recommendation having been endorsed by the Council late in 1970, the Committee on Agriculture was duly established by the Sixteenth Session of the Conference in 1971 under Article V of the Constitution. Its first session was held in 1972. Like the Committee on Forestry, the Committee on Agriculture was an open committee from its inception. The number of countries requesting membership has generally been about 70, but at the early 1981 session it stood at 94.

Not only did the proposal to establish the Committee on Agriculture encounter some opposition, but the Committee itself met with greater difficulties in developing a satisfactory method of work than did the Committees on Fisheries and Forestry. There were those who felt that the field of agriculture, as reflected in the subject matters dealt with by the Agriculture and Economic and Social Policy Departments, was much too broad and complex to be dealt with by a single standing committee. In fact, the initial proposal put before the Programme Committee by the Director-General in 1970 was to establish three committees to deal respectively with agricultural development planning, the institutional framework for agricultural and rural development, and agricultural science and technology. While it was finally decided that a single committee could better serve the interests of the Organization, it was agreed at the same time that, for each of its sessions, the Committee would have to be selective, dealing with only a few topics.

Also, perhaps because of the breadth and complexity of the subjects with which they deal, as well as their numbers, agriculturists as a group generally lack the cohesion and sense of fraternity that characterizes both the forestry and the fisheries professions. A still different kind of cohesion exists in the Committee on Commodity Problems, since its members have a common interest in the supplies of, and the problems of trade in, the major agricultural products that move in international commerce.

Committee on World Food Security

World food stocks were seriously depleted in 1972–73 as a result of crop failures in some important grain-producing areas and the entry of the USSR into the world grain market on a substantial scale. Consequently, the Seventeenth Session of the Conference, in 1973, expressed serious concern over the situation and the dangers it posed for consumption levels in the event of further large-scale crop failures. It also requested the Director-General to transmit to Member Nations of FAO, and to non-member nations of FAO with a substantial interest in world cereal production, consumption and trade, the text of a Draft International Undertaking on World Food Security, with a view to its acceptance.

Several other interrelated actions were taken by FAO following this critical period, including the development of a Global Information and Early Warning System, a Food Security Assistance Scheme and an International Fertilizer Supply Scheme. In addition, a Commission on Fertilizers was set up.

Then, in 1975, the Eighteenth Session of the Conference established the Committee on World Food Security under Article V of the Constitution, and requested it to examine and make necessary recommendations on the implementation of the principles, objectives and guidelines of the International Undertaking on World Food Security.

The Committee was from the outset open to all Member Nations of FAO which notified the Director-General of FAO of their desire to become members and of their intention to participate actively in the Committee's work. Because of the universality of the problem of food security, the Committee was also opened to the members of the United Nations, in order to permit nations that were members of that Organization, but not of FAO, to participate. The Committee held its first session in April 1976; about 80 countries have thus far indicated their desire to participate in it.

Committee on Food Aid Policies and Programmes

This is a joint committee of FAO and the UN, half of its members being elected by the FAO Council and half by the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC). Since it is one of the important committees reporting to the FAO Council, it is described briefly here, although it will be discussed in somewhat more detail in Chapter 12, dealing with the World Food Programme (see pages 173–174).

The Committee on Food Aid Policies and Programmes (CFA) was first established in 1961 as the UN/FAO World Food Programme Intergovernmental Committee (IGC), through concurrent resolutions of the FAO Conference and the UN General Assembly. As its name implied, its function was to exercise supervision over the World Food Programme, which was also established, on an experimental basis, jointly by the FAO Conference and the UN General Assembly. The original Committee had held its first session in 1962. The two parent bodies decided in 1965 to continue the World Food Programme and the Committee, on essentially an open-ended or permanent basis.

The World Food Conference of 1974 focused considerable attention on the problems of food aid, and one of its recommendations was to broaden the terms of reference of the IGC to include the more general problems of food aid and policies related thereto. As a result, in 1975, the FAO Conference and the UN General Assembly reconstituted the IGC as a Committee on Food Aid Policies and Programmes (CFA). The new Committee held its first session in April–May 1976.

The CFA consists of 30 members, half (as noted above) elected by the FAO Council and half by ECOSOC. Terms of membership are staggered so that one third expire each year. When first established in 1961, the IGC had had 20 members, and the number was increased to 24 in 1963. The present number of 30 members took effect when the IGC was reconstituted as CFA in 1975.

Other Statutory Bodies

Only the Conference, the Council, the standing committees for which provision is made in Article V of the Constitution, and a body created jointly by FAO and the UN, have been discussed above. Apart from these, there are many other statutory bodies and panels of experts, 121 in all according to the most recent official listing (FAO, 1980), which deal with specialized aspects of the Organization's activities.

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