Hundred and twentieth Session
Rome, 18-23 June 2001
Report of the Eighty-fifth
Session of the
MATTERS REQUIRING ATTENTION BY THE COUNCIL
Major Programme 2.1: Agricultural Production and Support
Major Programme 2.2: Food and Agriculture Policy and Development
Major Programme 2.3: Fisheries
Major Programme 2.4: Forestry
Major Programme 2.5: Contributions to Sustainable Development and Special Programme Thrusts
Matters requiring discussion and/or decision
|Summary Programme of Work and Budget 2002-03||
Matters for information
|Evaluation of FAO's Policy Assistance||42-45|
|The Evaluation Website||46-47|
|Follow-up to the Synthesis of Recent Field Project Evaluations||48-51|
|The Level of FAO's Field Programme||52-59|
|FAO Gender and Development Plan of Action||60-64|
|Report on Important Programme Developments||65-67|
|UN Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) Reports||68-69|
|Progress Report on Follow-up of Past Programme Committee Recommendations||70|
|Review of the Working Methods of the Programme Committee||71|
|Possible Items for Discussion at the Next Session||72-73|
|Any Other Business||74
1. The Committee submits to the Council the following report of its Eighty-fifth Session.
2. The following Members were present:
3. Mr. M.T. Kima replaced Mr. T.N. Mokake as representative of the Government of Cameroon on the Programme Committee.
4. Mr. S. Baharsjah, the Independent Chairman of the Council, was present at the meeting.
5. The Agenda and Timetable for the meeting were approved.
6. In accordance with the Rules of Procedure, Ms. S. Nyamudeza (Zimbabwe) was elected Vice-Chairperson for 2001.
7. The Committee appreciated the clear presentation of proposals, observing that they were firmly rooted in the Medium Term Plan 2002-20073 and the longer-term orientations of the Strategic Framework 2000-2015.
8. The Committee also welcomed the detailed information on planned activities in the next biennium under the Priority Areas for Inter-disciplinary Action (PAIAs) which had been highlighted in the Medium Term Plan.
9. Bearing in mind the joint discussion with the Finance Committee, the Committee addressed the substantive thrusts in the relevant parts of section IV: Programme Budget and made the following observations.
10. The Committee considered that the proposals for the next biennium were well balanced, both in addressing emerging global issues and regional priorities in a changing environment, and in building on past achievements. The Committee noted the extensive normative-operational linkages and the anticipated extra-budgetary support needed to achieve the outputs in some entities. However, it suggested that a clearer and more consistent approach to the inclusion and reporting of extra-budgetary resources be pursued in future documents.
11. The Committee appreciated the attention given to enhancing coordination of activities within the Agriculture Department (AG), particularly through the new intra-departmental Programme 2.1.0. It was informed that the programme entities for the Secretariats of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) and the Committee on Agriculture (COAG), as well as for technical services for partnership and information enhancement, regrouped resources from other entities to improve coherence. At the same time, attention was also being paid to active involvement of the regional teams, taking account of the substantial level of decentralization under this major programme. It welcomed the significant commitment of resources and outputs to the achievement of the objectives of all pertinent PAIAs.
12. The Committee endorsed the relative priorities assigned to work under Major Programme 2.1. It received clarification on the increased attention given to work on Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES); conservation agriculture, as a means to reduce fertiliser use; mitigation of the effects of natural disasters such as droughts and floods; plant genetic resources; pest control strategies including bio-pesticides; Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and related capacity building; promotion of alternative crops such as date palms in Africa; soil salinity reduction and development of salt-tolerant crops; as well as development of integrated information systems.
13. Regarding ongoing negotiation on the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources, the Committee was informed of the intention to submit to the Thirty-first session of the Conference in November 2001, a negotiated text for consideration and decision.
14. The Committee also took note of the efforts made to shift resources to higher-priority activities through de-emphasis of work in a number of areas, such as large-scale irrigation; water-health issues; location-specific animal production technologies and less important animal species; general livestock sector analyses; farm structures; large-scale farming practices; and crop insurance.
15. The Committee endorsed the priority attached to the recognition of food security as a key element in poverty reduction strategies; food safety and consumer protection, including Codex; capacity building for World Trade Organization (WTO) trade negotiations on agriculture; monitoring the achievement of the World Food Summit (WFS) target at national and global levels, including through FIVIMS; improving the coverage and quality of statistics; and responding to the increasing number of food emergencies.
16. The Committee noted the steps to restructure and strengthen the Codex Secretariat while reiterating the desirability of World Health Organization (WHO) honouring its share of contributions to the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme. The Committee supported enhanced information exchange on food safety and plant and animal health, including a rapid alert system on food safety emergencies.
17. The Committee welcomed the reforms underway in conducting commodity meetings at reduced cost and with expanded language coverage, and the proposals aimed at implementing the recommendations of the 63rd session of the Committee on Commodity Problems (CCP) to enhance the effectiveness of the intergovernmental commodity bodies.
18. The Committee stressed the importance of entity 224A2, Commodity and Trade Policy Support to Developing Countries for Trade Negotiations, observing that such assistance was already being provided to a wide range of countries, including CARICOM4, but that efforts would need to be intensified over the period of WTO negotiations on agriculture.
19. The Committee noted that the budgetary provision for the Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) might still be inadequate if man-made and natural disasters continued to increase.
20. The Committee endorsed FAO's efforts to ensure that the WFS target of halving the number of hungry be recognised within the context of International Development Goals and reflected in poverty reduction strategies.
21. The Committee was informed of the urgent need to modernise the Corporate Database for Substantive Statistical Data (FAOSTAT) to bring it up to current "state-of-the-art" technical software standards, and recommended that this need be more explicitly stated in the full Programme of Work and Budget (PWB).
22. The Committee noted the attention being paid to balanced language coverage, but encouraged further efforts in this direction, particularly in the FAO website including the World Agricultural Information Centre (WAICENT). The Committee was informed that, thanks to funding from the entity for the Programme for the Improvement of Language Coverage (222P5), WAICENT had developed tools and methodologies for language support. It also received clarification about effective division of work, whereby technical units are responsible for production of statistics and information including their collection, analysis and technical quality whereas WAICENT provides the corporate mechanism for managing and disseminating that information, but expressed concern that the presentation made it difficult to appreciate WAICENT as a comprehensive activity.
23. The Committee received clarification in particular on the rationale for proposed shifts of resources between programme entities, as well as on the assistance to be provided in connection with International Plans of Action. It was informed that further refinements and clarifications would be brought into the full PWB.
24. The Committee was informed about cooperation with regional and international fishery bodies and the scope of World Trade Organization (WTO)-related training activities. It stressed the need for selectivity in approaching cooperation with, and support to, fishery bodies.
25. The Committee noted that the impact of recommendations of the Twenty-fourth session of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) had been anticipated to some extent in the proposals, but that additional extra-budgetary resources would be required for those recommendations to be fully accommodated.
26. Subject to the above remarks, the Committee endorsed the priorities proposed for the Fisheries Programme.
27. The Committee considered that the major programme well reflected the substantive priorities identified in the Medium-Term Plan 2002-07. It was advised that many apparent programme changes were the result of consolidating several smaller programme entities in the Medium Term Plan, in order to provide more flexibility and to encourage inter-disciplinary work, and that the total number of forestry entities had been reduced from 28 to 21.
28. The Committee recommended that the important contributions of forestry to food security be better explained in future Programme of Work and Budget documents.
29. The Committee sought clarification on the relationships between the Sustainable Development (SD) and other departments, particularly with regard to biotechnology, biosafety, and genetically modified organism (GMO)-related issues. It recommended further harmonisation of efforts in order to avoid duplication.
30. The Committee reiterated the importance of FAO's contributions to and active involvement in the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) activities. It sought reassurance that there was no potential conflict in respective mandates between the CGIAR and the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR). It recommended that FAO continue to be actively involved in the CGIAR and in the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) mechanisms.
31. The Committee urged that links to food security issues be better illustrated in relation to environment-oriented activities under Programme 2.5.1. It expressed concern about the reduction of resources to programme entities that link research and extension to food security.
32. The Committee sought clarification on the relationships between FAO HIV/AIDS activities and those of the United Nations system at large. It expressed concern about the long-term viability of FAO's population work, given the significant reduction in contributions from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
33. The Committee was informed of latest developments regarding the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS), including mobilisation of extra-budgetary resources and the expansion of South-South Cooperation (SSC) agreements. It reiterated the importance of the SPFS, and recommended that the Programme pay due attention to marketing and other support services.
34. The Committee examined this major programme in more detail in conjunction with agenda item 4: Evaluation of Policy Assistance. It looked forward to the recommendations of the evaluation being more fully addressed in the Programme of Work and Budget.
35. The Committee noted with interest the Investment Centre's active involvement with the World Bank/International Monetary Fund (IMF) heavily-indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative and related Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP), as well as FAO's cooperation with International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and World Food Programme (WFP) to promote debt reduction linked to food security programmes in low-income countries. The Committee was informed that FAO had recently been designated as an implementing agency of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), for example in the area of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), which should enhance the Organization's ability to leverage resources for the environmental aspects of food security and rural development.
36. The Committee addressed work under this major programme in more depth during its consideration of items 6 and 7 below.
37. The Committee noted that the additional resources were aimed at strengthening the network and providing the capacity to those offices taking on operational responsibility for the implementation of the field programme in their respective countries. It reiterated in this connection the importance of appointing qualified representatives.
38. The Committee enquired about the precise breakdown of the indicated net increase in resources and the post changes contemplated. It received assurances that these would be more amply explained in the full Programme of Work and Budget document.
39. The Committee also received clarifications about the planned number of countries to be covered in the next biennium, under a variety of arrangements including those which would benefit from the scheme of outposted technical officers approved by the 119th FAO Council.
40. The Committee was informed of the intent to carry out a review of the functions of two major units budgeted under this major programme, TCDN5 and TCDM6. It welcomed efforts to augment the field programme, including the expanding dialogue with donors, forging of strategic alliances around key substantive areas of recognised priority and ongoing contacts with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to reverse the sharp declining trend in UNDP/FAO field activities.
41. The Committee encouraged further cooperation with Non-governmental and Civil Society Organizations (NGOs/CSOs) as well as the private sector. It received clarification on the proposed increase in resources related to the World Food Day and TeleFood support structures.
42. The Committee welcomed the evaluation report, which it considered a model for future programme evaluations in the context of FAO's Strategic Framework and the Medium Term Plan. It appreciated, in particular, the evaluation's strategic and forward orientation as well as its in-depth, frank assessment and well-focused recommendations. The evaluation had combined questionnaire surveys to developing member countries, review of work by missions to 21 countries in each of the developing regions, and extensive review of materials and discussions in Headquarters and the Regional Offices. The use of external expertise in the form of independent consultants to the country missions and of a peer review panel strengthened both the quality and credibility of the evaluation. While recognising the cost implications of such a comprehensive evaluation, the Committee emphasised the importance of quality and integrity rather than the quantity of evaluations.
43. The evaluation found that FAO's policy assistance was widely appreciated by the countries and international partners and that its technical quality was as good as, or better than, that of other agencies, making considerable contributions to the policy making processes. FAO had comparative strength in agricultural subsector work, fisheries and forestry as well as in its consultative approach in working with the governments. It concluded that policy assistance should be given priority commensurate with its importance and should be further strengthened. It should focus on its comparative strengths and remedy its weaknesses, especially improvements in its capacity for flexible and expeditious response through better coordinated work among the many parties involved at the country, regional and Headquarters level.
44. The Committee agreed with and endorsed the evaluation's recommendations. In particular, it urged that the Secretariat implement the lines of action outlined in the management response with particular attention to the following:
45. The Committee also appreciated the forthcoming nature of the management response to the evaluation with proposed lines of action for implementing many of the recommendations. The Committee recognised that action was already being taken to follow through on the evaluation findings and requested that the measures being taken should be reflected in the full PWB proposals for 2002-03. At the same time, however, it felt that some of the evaluation recommendations were not fully addressed. The Committee therefore requested a follow-up report in about two years time on the progress made in implementing the recommendations.
46. The Committee welcomed the launching of the Evaluation Website and appreciated the efforts to enhance the dissemination of evaluation results in the interests of sharing experiences and increasing the transparency of the Organization's operations.
47. The Committtee also welcomed the policy of maximum disclosure as applied to Regular Programme evaluation reports and supported the extension of a similar policy to field project evaluation summaries subject to the Secretariat obtaining the necessary agreement of the parties concerned. It was informed that a clause in future project agreements was intended to cover this aspect.
48. The Committee welcomed this progress report in response to its earlier request. It took note of the measures aimed at improving the formulation and appraisal process, including the preparation of updated guidelines, a web-based formulation tool-kit training of staff in formulation techniques and strengthening existing mechanisms for project review and appraisal.
49. The Committee recognised the importance of clear division of responsibilities over the various phases of the project cycle, and looked forward to the contribution of a new Service within the Field Operations Division in monitoring the project cycle, preparing guidelines and procedures and ensuring quality of project documents. The reduced operational units that would remain in the Regional Offices, would also have a key role, including review and operational clearance of project documents, whereas the in-country appraisal by FAORs of all new projects would be made more rigorous.
50. The Committee agreed that it would need to return to this question at a future session once the appropriate mechanisms were in place and the reorganisation of the TC Department completed.
51. The Committee considered that improving the quality of project design was important in enhancing the Organization's competitiveness for declining technical cooperation resources as well as its role in providing support to member countries in meeting their agriculture development needs.
52. The Committee expressed serious concern at the continuing decline of extra-budgetary resources for non-emergency technical cooperation, as reflected in the data on field programme delivery provided by the Secretariat. The Committee noted that since 1996 such delivery had decreased by approximately ten percent per year and that the non-emergency field programme had lost half of its volume since that year.
53. The Committee recalled FAO's constitutional mandate to furnish technical assistance and emphasised that this declining trend, if it were to persist at a similar rate, would not only have a negative impact on FAO's field activities but also on the quality of its normative work, as well as on its effectiveness in reducing hunger and malnutrition.
54. The Committee noted the analysis of external and internal factors carried out by the Secretariat and the efforts being made by the Director-General to increase the share of ODA devoted to agriculture and rural development. Among the measures taken or being planned by the Secretariat to halt and reverse the declining trend, which focused on the internal factors, the Committee welcomed, in particular, the targeting of priorities, the decentralization of project responsibilities, the search for new partnerships and the improvements to field programme management.
55. The Committee noted that, due to the strong reliance of the field programme on donor contributions, particularly in view of the dramatic decline in the share of UNDP funding, the distribution of extra-budgetary resources to countries and projects was largely beyond the control of the Organization. This had resulted in certain imbalances and a growing concentration of project delivery in a reduced number of countries.
56. The Committee cautioned that potential conflicts of interest between donor preferences and recipient country priorities should be avoided in FAO-executed projects. In this connection the Committee drew attention to the need to ensure that the decisions of FAO's governing bodies as well as its mandate and comparative advantage were duly taken into account in the process of project formulation and approval.
57. The Committee regretted the low level of resources that the Organization had at its disposal for project identification and formulation and encouraged donors to increase their support to these activities which it considered crucial to field programme development. The Committee recommended that ways and means be explored to increase the allocation of RP funds to project preparation, in addition to those already available for the Special Programme for Food Security and through TCP in particular for emergency operations.
58. The Committee recommended fuller disclosure and dissemination of project data and information and increased availability of project documents through electronic networks and that criteria be developed to this end.
59. Having reviewed Items 4, 6 and 7 related to evaluation of aspects of the field programme, the Committee requested that it be kept informed of future developments in the field programme and the restructuring of the Technical Cooperation Department.
60. The Committee welcomed the opportunity to review the draft Plan of Action on Gender and Development and considered that it generally responded to critical remarks made by the Committee and the FAO Conference concerning the Previous Plan of Action on Women in Development. It was pleased to note the more explicit linkage established between the new Plan and the main corporate planning and programming processes of FAO, in particular the Medium-Term Plan 2002-07.
61. While endorsing the overall structure and content of the Plan, the Committee underlined the need to ensure accountability of all managers through effective monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the Plan, given the apparent lack of concrete indicators that would be used to measure progress made over the three biennia, 2002-2007. The Committee stressed that the responsibility for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the Plan should be shared between PBE and SDW, as PBE would be better placed to assume the responsibility for evaluation of the Plan of Action and of Gender Mainstreaming in its on-going evaluation work.
62. The Committee welcomed the illustrative examples given during the discussion and was reassured of the firm commitment expressed by the various Technical Departments for implementing the Plan of Action, reinforcing the general declarations and intentions articulated in the Plan. The Committee also called for more involvement by non-technical units, such as AF, GI, LEG and Internal Audit, in support of the Plan of Action.
63. The Committee was informed that more detailed information, including indicators to measure progress, remained under development and would be entered into the electronic database of the MTP. The Committee also noted with interest the information provided by AFP on specific measures envisaged related to internal training and to the improvement of gender balance in staffing.
64. The Committee urged that its views be taken into account in the final version of the Plan of Action to be presented to the Council/Conference for discussion and approval.
65. The Committee received additional clarification from the concerned departments on the activities covered in this report. In connection with forest fires and trade-related policy, it took note that the growing requirements for assistance by Members would be addressed in the Programme of Work and Budget 2002-03 (PWB).
66. The Committee was informed about current preparations for the World Food Summit: fyl to be held during the next FAO Conference. It recalled that the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) and the Council would shortly address these preparations in a comprehensive manner. The Committee took note of current efforts to seek extra-budgetary support, from donors and from the private sector, to enhance the impact and resonance of the event.
67. The Committee noted that an inevitable consequence of responding to changing circumstances and adding activities to the programme during a biennium was that it usually resulted in the cancellation or postponement of other work. The Committee requested that a document be prepared for its next session describing the existing mechanisms designed to enable FAO to deal in a flexible manner with urgent additional demands while protecting the implementation of the approved Programme of Work.
68. The Committee took note of the Annual Report of the JIU for 1999 and the work programme of the Unit for 2000 and beyond.
69. The Committee decided to defer consideration of the JIU Report on "Young Professionals in Selected Organizations of the UN System: Recruitment, Management and Retention" to its September 2001 session, when it could possibly be examined jointly with the Finance Committee.
70. The Committee took note of this progress report and requested that an update on the decentralisation process be presented to the Joint Meeting of the Programme and Finance Committees at the September 2001 session. The Committee also noted that the Evaluation of the Special Programme for Food Security, would be presented to the Committee in May 2002.
71. The Committee agreed to continue the practice of individual Members accepting the responsibility for preparing sets of initial questions which could be put to the Secretariat following their introductions. Responsibilities would continue to be assigned in advance by the Programme Committee Chairman.
72. The Committee agreed to draw to the attention of the Council that, besides the standing items on its agenda, it would need to discuss the following subjects at its next session:
73. It also noted that the Joint Meeting with the Finance Committee was scheduled to consider the Programme of Work and Budget 2002-03 and the standing item on Savings in Efficiencies in Governance. In addition, the Committee suggested that the Chairman of the Programme Committee liaise with the Chairman of the Finance Committee with a view to:
74. The Committee engaged in a preliminary discussion on several key aspects of FAO human resources management policy and practices. These included grading of posts in both the professional and general service categories and promotion from the latter to the former. The Committee was informed of the steps introduced to provide more flexibility to managers, and of the measures to ensure effective succession planning in the light of the anticipated turnover of staff. It agreed that it would return to these aspects at its next session, preferably in the Joint Meeting with the Finance Committee.
1 PC 85/1 - PC 85/INF/1
2 CL 120/3
3 CL 119/17
4 Caribbean Community (CARICOM)
5 Unit for Cooperation with Private Sector and NGOs
6 Unit for Cooperation with Multilateral and Bilateral Agencies