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10. the evolution of the programme of work and budget

When FAO was founded late in 1945, it had no formal written programme of work. The broad objectives and functions of the Organization were, of course, set out in the Constitution, and there was a substantial series of ideas on paper, as a result of discussions in the Interim Commission and during the First Session of the Conference, as to what work the Organization might undertake. But its methods of work were still to be developed and tested. FAO had only a limited inheritance in these respects from the former IIA, for example in the collection and publication of agricultural statistics. During its first few years, therefore, it had a modest work programme, and an equally modest budget, as the Organization and the Member Governments felt their way in this new approach to coping with man's continuing efforts to meet his needs for food and other agricultural products.

Both the programme of work and the budget expanded substantially over the years, as the Organization developed its capacity to serve its Member Countries, as their number increased, and as more resources were made available for the Regular Programme and, through various channels, for the Field Programme. The programme of work evolved in rather distinct stages, which are described briefly in broad outline in the following pages.

Evolution of the Programme of Work

1945 through 1950

The Organization's activities during the period 1945–1950 were financed largely under the Regular Budget. During this period, the substantive work of FAO took form, and some of the methods of work which were used to a large extent in subsequent years were developed. Of necessity, these two aspects evolved together.

One of FAO's important functions is to serve as a forum in which the Member Countries may consult together on matters of common concern. The Conference and the Council, in addition to their governing functions, provided some opportunities for discussion of substantive questions during these formative years. In addition, beginnings were made in the consideration of many technical and economic problems, through ad hoc meetings of representatives of governments and of individuals serving in their personal capacities. For example, a group of experts on animal and plant genetic resources was convened in Washington in 1947 to consider what work FAO might undertake in this field. Representatives of 27 countries participated in an FAO meeting on the preservation of stored grains, in London in 1947, which was followed by regional meetings in Florence, Italy, in 1948, in Cali, Colombia, in 1949, and in San Jose, Costa Rica, in 1950. An intergovernmental meeting on the control of rinderpest was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1948, and another, on livestock breeding under tropical and subtropical conditions, in Lucknow,India, in 1950.

Fora are also provided through standing statutory bodies, at least four of which were established during the 1945–50 period. As was noted in the previous chapter, an International Emergency Food Council was established in 1946, and it and its successor, the International Emergency Food Committee, functioned until June 1949 as bodies in which their members could consider and agree upon voluntary allocations of supplies of food and certain agricultural inputs during this period of post-war shortages. An International Rice Commission, set up in 1949, still functions as a forum for discussing problems of rice production, processing, conservation and utilization. Another body, the European Commission on Agriculture, was also established in 1949, to facilitate joint action and cooperation on agricultural problems. The Committee on Commodity Problems, through which governments continue to consult with each other on a broad range of questions concerning agricultural trade, was established in 1949 as well.

Technical assistance review missions to Greece, Thailand, Poland and Nicaragua, financed by the Regular Budget, were carried out during those early years, to review the overall situation in the respective countries and to make recommendations for further agricultural development. Another such mission, organized jointly by FAO and IBRD, was sent to Uruguay.

Direct technical assistance to individual countries was also initiated during this period. Financed for the most part by a fund transferred from the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), technical assistance was provided to nine countries: Austria, China, Czechoslovakia, Ethiopia,Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Yugoslavia.

Group technical assistance activities also began, taking the form of technical seminars and training centres for the benefit of participants from groups of countries. Between 1947 and 1950, 12 such activities were carried out, financed wholly or in part from the UNRRA Transfer Fund.

Another form of technical assistance, the granting of scholarships and fellowships for study outside the recipients' countries, also saw its first limited beginnings, as nine such awards were made under the UNRRA Transfer Fund. Still another form of technical assistance was also initiated, largely through the use of the UNRRA Transfer Fund, for the benefit of the countries eligible for assistance under that Fund. This was the provision of limited amounts of scientific and technical equipment and supplies, and of scientific and technical literature, primarily to support the work of experts who were providing technical assistance, and for use in the seminars and training centres mentioned above. In addition, limited amounts of seeds were supplied for experimental purposes.

Through these various field activities, although they were modest in scope and geographic coverage, the basis was laid for what was to become FAO's very large Field Programme.

The basis was also laid, during these first five years, for FAO's information gathering, compilation and distribution activities. The end products of these many and varied activities included technical monographs, development-oriented technical papers, production and trade statistical yearbooks, reports of technical and economic meetings, and a broad range of other technical, economic and statistical publications, annuals and periodicals. Many of these that were of an annual or periodic nature are still being issued in their original or suitably modified forms, and these activities grew to the point where FAO soon became the leading international publisher of agricultural, nutrition, fisheries and forestry materials.

Apart from the collection and publication of statistics and some basic economic studies, much of FAO's effort during its first few years was directed toward ways of managing world food supplies. First, as noted earlier, Director-General John Boyd Orr prepared his ill-fated proposal for a World Food Board. A further food-supply management proposal, in the form of an International Commodities Clearing House (ICCH), was put before the Fifth Session of the Conference in November–December 1949. It, too, was rejected, but instead the Conference decided to establish the Committee on Commodity Problems (CCP), which held its First Session in January 1950.

1951 through 1958

Two events early in 1951 had major impacts upon the evolution of FAO's programme of work: the transfer of Headquarters from Washington to Rome and the advent of the Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance (EPTA). It has already been noted that since only a little over a fourth of the original Washington-based staff made the move to Rome, the Organization was faced with the major task of rebuilding a staff. At the same time, changes in the nature of the staff required were necessary in view of the impending expansion in field activities and the need to provide effective professional backstopping for them. EPTA, in which FAO as well as most other organizations in the UN family participated, was initiated early in 1951 as the Expanded Technical Assistance Programme (ETAP); it grew rapidly, particularly between 1951 and 1955, and the new resources thus made available to FAO were roughly equal to those available under the Regular Programme. Under EPTA, experts were assigned to assist many developing countries, seminars and training centres were organized, fellowships arranged, and limited amounts of equipment, literature and experimental seeds provided, applying more widely the field techniques that had been developed during 1945–50. Regional and country-group projects, such as a desert locust control project and a wheat and barley breeding project, both in the Near East, were also used more extensively during this period. Joint field activities between FAO and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) were also developed and expanded substantially. In addition, a few trust-fund arrangements were entered into, under which technical assistance was provided through funds supplied by the recipient governments. The first of the Associate Expert Schemes, financed by the Netherlands, was also initiated at this time.

While the Organization's field programme was thus developing rapidly, the Regular Programme also continued to grow. The CCP extended its scope and influence, and since agricultural surpluses were creating problems in some sectors, a Consultative Sub-Committee on Surplus Disposal was established; an International Plant Protection Convention was prepared; regional commissions, permanent committees, working parties, ad hoc conferences and technical meetings were used increasingly as intergovernmental fora; and the Andre Mayer Fellowships were created. The recipients of these fellowships, named in honour of the French physiologist who had chaired the Executive Committee which was the precursor of the FAO Council, are expected to carry out research on problems related to aspects of FAO's programme of work.

1959 through 1968

The rate of expansion of FAO's Field Programme tended to level off during 1956–58, but following the initiation of the United Nations Special Fund(UNSF) in October 1958, a further period of rapid growth occurred since, like most other organizations in the UN system, FAO was able to utilize a share of the Fund for its technical assistance activities.

Projects under UNSF financing were, in general, quite large compared with those financed under EPTA, and went substantially further than EPTA projects in providing assistance other than through experts. They were designed to support the surveys, pilot projects and training facilities that were considered basic to programmes of agricultural development and to sound development investment. Funds allocated for each project over a period of years were supplemented by recipient governments' contributions and by backstopping costs under the Regular Programme.

The resources made available to FAO under EPTA also continued to increase during this period, as did activities which UNICEF supported in cooperation with FAO.

Three new lines of activity emerged: the Freedom from Hunger Campaign(FFHC), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the FAO/IBRD and similar investment-related programmes.

The FFHC was initiated in 1960 as a part of the Regular Programme, but some field programme activities were financed under it through funds-in-trust arrangements.

Under the joint sponsorship of FAO and the UN, the World Food Programme was set up in 1961 on a three-year experimental basis, to test the feasibility of using surplus food in support of economic development. Its secretariat was placed at FAO Headquarters. Costs of staff, and resources in cash and kind for its programme, were provided from voluntary contributions. At the end of the experimental period, it was constituted on an essentially continuing basis.

In 1964, FAO and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) undertook a joint activity aimed at better coordinating the use of FAO's technical and economic knowledge and IBRD's financial resources in support of agricultural development. Steps were also taken to develop close working relationships between FAO and various regional development banks. FAO's share of the costs of these activities was included in the Regular Budget.

On 22 November 1965, the UNSF and EPTA were consolidated into the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), but the distinctive nature of the projects financed under the two original funds was maintained for several years. There was a considerable growth in most aspects of FAO's Regular Programme during the period 1959–1968, apart from those already mentioned, but as a result of the development of the Field Programme, a much greater increase occurred in resources for that Programme than in the Regular Programme. Consequently, a substantially larger proportion of the total funds available was channeled into activities for the benefit of the developing countries, and a smaller proportion than in earlier years into activities of overall benefit to all Member Countries. This change reflected both the emergence of many newly independent nations which had become Member Countries of FAO, and an increasing recognition of the need to deal more effectively with the problems of the rapidly growing populations in the developing countries.

1969 through 1974

In a large on-going organization, the demarcation between development phases is not always precise and clear. However, 1968 appears to have marked a watershed in the evolution of FAO's programme of work, not so much because anything came to an end as because some significant developments marked 1969 as the beginning of a new phase.

As a result of Conference and Council decisions in 1967 and late 1968, a number of changes in structure were put into effect during 1969 and at the beginning of 1970. These changes, including among others the establishment of a Development Department, were designed to increase FAO's capability to handle its now quite large Field Programme. But there were also substantial changes in the Regular Programme.

The Forestry Division was upgraded to a Forestry Department as of January 1970. A new Agricultural Services Division was established, its responsibilities including coordination of the multidisciplinary projects that were becoming increasingly prevalent in the Field Programme. The Nutrition Division was relocated in the Economic and Social Department and was given broader responsibility for nutrition planning. Work on agricultural development planning was placed on a firmer basis, and for the immediate future was assigned to a Policy Advisory Bureau in the Office of the Director-General.

The presentation of the Programme of Work was modified for 1970–71 and the immediately following biennia, to emphasize five “areas of concentration”: high-yielding varieties, closing the protein gap, war on waste, development of rural populations and earning and saving foreign exchange. With some expansion of coverage and modifications in terminology, these had by 1974–75 and 1976–77 evolved into “areas of emphasis”: mobilization of human resources; production and productivity; nutrition and protein (livestock and fish); conservation of resources and control of pests and diseases; agricultural policy and planning; and basic economic and statistical services.

Presentation of the Programme of Work according to these broad areas had the advantage of allowing the many programme activities to be presented in a few large and relatively integrated packages. However, it also presented difficulties, both for delegations to the Council and Conference and for the staff, since the areas did not correspond to the organizational structure, so that it was very difficult for anyone interested in a particular sector to ascertain what was being done or planned in it. Consequently, a new format was adopted shortly after this period ended, i.e. for 1978–79.

Several events external to the Organization during 1969–74 had substantial effects on the evolution of FAO's programme of work: critical crop shortages, particularly in 1972 and 1973, major changes in UNDP programming procedures from 1972 onward, and the UN World Food Conference of 1974. Concern over the critical food shortages that occurred in the early 1970s in some parts of the world led to FAO putting forward a proposal for an International Undertaking on World Food Security, and setting up a Global Information and Early Warning System. At the same time, in order to cope with a short-term fertilizer supply problem in the poorer countries, an International Fertilizer Supply Scheme was initiated. In relation to these developments, two new FAO Statutory Bodies were established, a Committee on World Food Security and a Commission on Fertilizers.

In June 1966, the UNDP Governing Council had asked the Programme's Administrator to provide a realistic assessment of the technical assistance needs of the developing countries and an indication of the capability of the UN system to satisfy them. In July 1968 the Administrator requested Sir Robert Jackson (Australia) to prepare an independent, objective report which, completed during the remainder of 1968 and 1969, led to the establishment of country programming as the main means of planning UNDP-financed activities. The first five-year cycle of country programming was initiated in 1972 and extended through 1976. Under the new procedures, the planning responsibilities of FAO and other executing organizations were substantially reduced, although they continued to carry major responsibility for implementing UNDP-financed projects.

Although budgetary resources are dealt with more completely on pages 77–78, it is worth noting here that the funds available to FAO from UNDP continued to increase during this period, from $58.1 million in 1969 to about $90 million in 1975. At the same time, there were such substantial increases in Trust Funds and in funds from other extra-budgetary sources that by 1975 the latter funds approximately equalled those available to FAO from UNDP.

The World Food Conference, convened by the UN in 1974, was held at a time when there was intense concern over world food shortages. Although the Conference was held in Rome, the UN elected to hold it apart from FAO and, while FAO provided organizational assistance, it had no direct responsibility for the Conference. Even so, most of the substantive inputs were provided by FAO, and the Conference gave endorsement and political support to many FAO activities that were under way or proposed, including the proposal for an International Undertaking on World Food Security; the establishment of a Committee on World Food Security; further development of the Global Information and Early Warning System; the establishment of the FAO Commission on Fertilizers; strengthening of FAO's work on pesticides and seeds; development of a programme on tsetse fly and trypanosomiasis control in Africa; strengthening of FAO's nutrition work; strengthening of FAO's work aimed at improving research, extension and training; and stress on the need for consistency in national and regional agricultural policies. The World Food Conference also recommended that the Intergovernmental Committee for the World Food Programme (IGC) should be converted into a Committee on Food Aid Policies and Programmes (CFA).

1975 through 1981

Some of the foregoing observations on events during 1969–1974 apply to 1975, and even later years. However, several events late in 1975 and early in 1976 marked the beginning of a new phase, and although 1975 was in many ways a transitional period, it is included in this new phase as a matter of convenience. Following the food crisis of the early 1970s, and strong support for many of FAO's activities by the World Food Conference of 1974, Member Governments of FAO generally supported a substantial increase in the Organization's programme of work and budget for the 1976–77 biennium. However, many were growing restive over the size of the staff at Headquarters and wished to see more work done at the country level. Consequently, while generally approving the proposed programme of work and budget for the next biennium, the FAO Conference in November 1975, as already noted, authorized newly-elected Director-General Edouard Saouma to undertake a complete review of the Programme of Work and to submit proposed changes to the FAO Council for approval. This led to reductions in a number of areas of activity, the initiation of two important new ones and the strengthening of a third.

Many of the new posts provided for in the Programme of Work were eliminated. Reductions were made in the numbers of proposed meetings, documents and publications. Certain activities in the field of economics, particularly those relating to the Perspective Study on World Agricultural Development (PSWAD),international agricultural adjustment, and country perspective studies, were scaled down.

One of the new activities initiated was a Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP), designed to provide developing countries with emergency and short-term assistance on a small and quick-response basis — the type of assistance that cannot normally be funded from extra-budgetary resources. Sanction for the conduct of such activities already existed in Article 1, para. 3(a) of the Constitution, which reads,

It shall also be the function of the Organization… to furnish such technical assistance as Governments may request…

The other new measure proposed by the Director-General, and approved by the Council, was the gradual phasing out of Senior Agricultural Adviser/FAO Country Representative posts, financed in part by FAO and in part by UNDP, and their replacement by FAO Representatives. The phasing-out process was completed by the end of 1979.

The Council also endorsed the Director-General's proposal to strengthen FAO's work in support of investment in agriculture, in cooperation with the various international and regional financing institutions. One of these was the new International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), whose establishment had been recommended by the World Food Conference and which came into being in December 1977.

During 1975–81, a number of other areas of work were singled out for special attention, over and above the level of activity originally foreseen for them in the Programme of Work and Budget: seed improvement and development; prevention of food losses; nutrition; the Food Security Assistance Scheme; trypanosomiasis control in Africa; continuation of the International Fertilizer Supply Scheme; and assistance to governments in the management and development of fishery resources in the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). Locusts again threatened, particularly in the Horn of Africa and in West Africa, and earlier programmes to combat them were re-activated. Further, FAO organized during 1979 a World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (WCARRD), which focused particular attention on the problems of the smaller and poorer farmers and provided the basis for strengthening FAO and national efforts aimed at more effective rural development.

Two other events during this period had adverse rather than positive effects upon the development of FAO's programmes.

Near the end of 1975, UNDP faced a financial crisis and a consequential reduction in the projects it could finance. This resulted in a substantial cutback in FAO's UNDP-financed field programme staff during 1976, and some further reduction during 1977. Although the financial crisis in UNDP has since been alleviated, and the Field Programme rebuilt, there are uncertainties for the future, and this crisis underlined not only the fragility of the present methods of financing development assistance, but also the importance of maintaining a varied base for such financing, including the trust funds, from many sources, that are administered by FAO.

Despite the favourable impact of the recommendations of the 1974 World Food Conference on FAO, there was one negative effect that should be noted. Since the Conference was organized by the United Nations, many of the political approaches that had characterized discussions and negotiations in New York in recent years were adopted. The Conference having been held in Rome(although not at FAO Headquarters), with many national participants who were also regular participants at the FAO Conference, Council and other FAO sessions, these political approaches were picked up and adopted in subsequent FAO meetings as well. Thus FAO, which by comparison with other international organizations had hitherto been relatively free of political influences, became more politicized, probably more rapidly than would otherwise have been the case. Other factors at work during the 1970s also contributed to this process. Such an injection of political considerations into sessions through which governmental support for the activities of a technical organization is ensured can only lead to deterioration in their effectiveness.

Evolution of the Budget

The resources available to FAO under its Regular Budget for the conduct of its Regular Programme of Work are voted by the FAO Conference, which also fixes the scale of contributions of the individual Member Countries. In order to ensure reasonable consistency within the UN system, the Conference has elected to use a scale derived from the United Nations' scale of contributions, adapted to take account of the differences in membership between the two organizations.

Extra-budgetary resources are provided through many channels. Some of these resources are used in support of activities closely associated with the Regular Programme, but most are devoted to the conduct of the Field Programme. The sources of these funds include, among others, UNDP for the conduct of the UNDP-financed aspects of FAO's Field Programme, and for so-called “overhead costs”; donor governments, for the conduct of many types of field projects and schemes, and some Regular Programme-related activities; donor governments in support of the Associate Expert Scheme; other international organizations, e.g. IBRD for its share in the cost of the Investment Centre, and the UN, from its Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), for FAO's work relating to population and improved family life; governments and nongovernmental organizations for the conduct of the Freedom from Hunger Campaign; WFP and IFAD for services rendered to their programmes; governments who wish international technical assistance that they themselves finance; and grants from various funds, foundations and other bodies for a broad range of activities.

Up until the early 1970s, extra-budgetary resources came largely from UNDP or its predecessor organizations. For the 1956–57 biennium, for example, $16,643,000, about 95% of the Organization's total extra-budgetary resources, came from EPTA, and in 1966–67, $97,213,000, over 86%, came from UNDP. By 1974–75, however, the situation had changed materially. For this biennium, when $382.4 million in extra-budgetary resources were available from a variety of sources, only $198.3 million, or about 52% were for the conduct of UNDP-financed projects, while $184.1 million, or about 48%, were derived from trust fund sources. As UNDP recovered from its financial crisis of the mid-1970s, its share in FAO's extra-budgetary resources increased somewhat, but without reaching the earlier high proportion. In 1976–77, the total extra-budgetary funds amounted to $389,783,000, of which $236,104,000, about 60.6%, came from UNDP, while in 1978–79, the total was $437,168,000, with $280,790,000, or 64.2%, being derived from UNDP and 35.8% from trust-fund sources.

The overall trend in the financing of FAO's programme is indicated in Table 1, which shows summary data for four biennia, at ten-year intervals, together with figures for the most recent completed biennium and estimates for the current (1980–81) biennium. The amounts voted by the Conference for 1946 and 1947 were quite modest since, during these early years, the staff was small and the nucleus of a programme of work was still being evolved. The expansion of the budget during the next ten years was also modest, perhaps for three main reasons. Member Governments were still feeling their way as to just what they expected in the form of services from this new Organization, so they were cautious in the allocation of funds. Further, the United States Congress had placed a dollar ceiling on the amount it would appropriate, and since the United States was the largest contributor, furnishing in those years about one third of the Regular Budget, this in effect placed a ceiling on its overall size. Finally, as mentioned above, EPTA was the main source of Field Programme financing during these years, and its resources were themselves still modest.

Table 1: Resources Available to FAO for Selected Biennia
(in US dollars)

BienniumRegular BudgetExtra-budgetary resourcesTotal

1 During 1947, $1,135,000 were transferred from UNRRA to FAO for technical assistance to nine countries. Some initial expenditures were made that year, but the bulk of this fund was expended in subsequent years.

2 Estimated

The level of support for the Field Programme from UNDP resources began to increase rather rapidly in 1959, and in 1961 the US Congress eliminated its dollar ceiling (although it retained a percentage ceiling) on United States contributions to the Regular Budget, opening the way for the FAO Conference to agree upon more substantial increases for subsequent biennia. From this expanded base the Regular Budget has grown at a more adequate rate in recent decades, although a substantial proportion of these more recent increases was, of course, needed to cover cost increases resulting from inflation, so that real increases continued to be modest.

The Staff

When FAO first set up shop in its temporary Washington Headquarters following the Quebec Conference, the staff was very limited indeed. In addition to the newly-appointed Director-General, it consisted of some holdovers from the Interim Commission's staff and a few persons recruited during and immediately following the First Session of the FAO Conference. Even a year later, at the end of 1946, it was possible for the Director-General — who liked to follow the British practice — to have most of the staff for afternoon tea in one quite modest-sized meeting room.

From 1947 through 1950, the staff expanded as the programme of work and budget grew, and by the end of this period all or parts of a half-dozen buildings in the Dupont Circle area of Washington were being used by the Organization. With the transfer to permanent Headquarters in Rome at the beginning of 1951, there was a sharp reduction in numbers, since many staff members did not make the move to Italy, but thereafter the dual process of rebuilding and of further growth began.

It is hardly feasible to recall here the various stages and trends in that process over the following years. It will suffice to point out that the growth in staff numbers mirrored the growth in the programme of work and budget up to 1975, after which the relative increase in staff numbers was substantially smaller, as a determined effort was made to maintain greater flexibility by committing a smaller portion of the budget to continuing posts, and to contain the overall size of the Headquarters and Regional Office staffs.

Table 2: FAO Staff as of 30 April 1981

LocationType of post
Professional and Higher CategoriesGeneral ServiceTotal
Posts filledVacanciesTotalPosts filledVacanciesTotalPosts filledVacanciesTotal
Regional Offices and Joint Divisions*
Country Offices87872831129437011381
Field Projects228780830956106967928978773774

* Divisions maintained jointly by FAO and Regional Economic Commissions.

The present size of the staff, as indicated by the numbers in terms of established posts, is shown in Table 2. Of the professional posts filled or vacant, 31.5% were at Headquarters and the remaining 68.5% were in the field or in the regional offices, joint divisions, country offices and field projects, the latter alone accounting for about two thirds of the total.

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