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Chapter Four: Evaluation of FAO's Policy Assistance

(Cooperation with Member Countries in the Development of National Policies (1994-99) with particular attention to FAO-TCP)


i. The evaluation focused on the Organization's direct support in developing national policy, and examined FAO's past performance and capacity in meeting countriesneeds and their expectations, and those of development partners of FAO. The evaluation addressed policy work in the definition and articulation of goals, priorities, principles and strategies by government but not the detailed development of the actions and instruments for execution of those policies nor their implementation (paras. 76 and 80).

ii. The study concentrated on FAOs work in countries where there had been a relatively high policy input, with particular attention given to the Technical Cooperation Programme (FAO-TCP) funded from FAOs Regular Programme budget. One key criterion in the evaluation to assess the quality of policy work, was whether the instruments for implementation of the policy were defined and were realistic. The eventual effects and impact were judged largely in terms of the extent to which policy was translated into policy instruments (paras. 80 and 83).

iii. The evaluation was carried out through: questionnaire surveys to developing member countries; mission visits to 21 countries in each of the developing regions; and extensive review of materials and discussions in Headquarters and the Regional Offices. Independent consultants participated in the country missions. The report was also subjected to an external peer review by a panel of experts from outside FAO (para. 82).

iv. The evaluation found that the place of policy on the development agenda has been steadily increasing in importance during recent years in the context of globalization and structural adjustment processes. In particular, developing countries faced the challenge of undertaking major policy adjustments, with increasing demand for policy assistance, especially in forging appropriate interfaces between the macro policy and agriculture/rural sector policies (paras 77 and 88).

v. The evaluation concluded that:

a) FAO has a comparative strength in policy development support for the fisheries and forestry sectors and for agricultural sub-sectors, especially in the technology-policy interface. The Organization also has a valuable role to play as part of the UN team in ensuring that concerns for agriculture and food security are fully reflected in macro-policy and in developing the capacity of agricultural ministries to influence this process. The countries have well-qualified alternative sources of cooperation for agricultural sector review work (paras. 89-91);

b) Although FAO's assistance has always responded to national needs and fallen within the Organization's strategic priorities, the areas of its comparative strength are not fully reflected in the pattern of FAO's work, which has over-emphasised agricultural sector review (paras. 91 and 94);

c) Design of technical cooperation could be improved to have greater impact on the national policy process continuum (paras. 96-98). Individual policy interventions could also benefit from reduced response times, especially in internal administrative terms (paras. 99-101). The productivity and effectiveness of Regional Policy Assistance Branches could be raised (paras. 111-114);

d) The technical quality of FAO's policy work is as good as, or better than, that of other agencies, but significant areas for improvement were found, including in the integration of multi-disciplinary input and in ensuring effective normative underpinning, especially for the analysis of costs and benefits of sub-sector policies and the technology-policy interface. There were areas of sub-sector policy support, such as research and extension (innovation and learning), where FAO needs to increase its capability (para. 109);

e) FAO had been particularly effective in introducing more consultative approaches into policy making between government departments and with civil society, but this aspect could be further strengthened (paras. 116-117);

f) Joint action with development partners, particularly the IFIs and full engagement in the UN country process has been essential for effective mainstreaming of FAO's policy input and its integration into macro-policy. The FAO Representative is essential for this and in continuing dialogue with the agricultural ministries (paras. 119-121);

g) FAO'support has had substantial impact in the form of contributions to policy development processes, and in a number of cases, in terms of actual implementation of the policies formulated (paras. 123 and 124);

vi. Recommendations are made for:

a) Developing clearer priorities in policy work including:

      1. changing the balance of FAO's policy work in favour of fisheries and forestry and work at the sub-sector level and the technology-policy interface (paras. 127-129);
      2. developing priorities for groups of countries (regions, levels of development) (para. 130);
      3. emphasising the LIFDCs (para. 130); and
      4. increasing attention to advocacy and awareness raising (paras. 133-134).

b) Working in capacity-building, with the emphasis on issue identification (rather than on sophisticated techniques) and strengthening the broad-based capabilities in agricultural ministries to participate as partners in macro-policy discussion and analyse the cost-benefits of their own programmes (paras. 131-132). In training, FAO should regard itself as much as a resource for others as an executor of training and more clearly identify target audiences (para. 137);

c) Strengthening work through partnerships, with full-commitment to the UN country processes, particularly to ensure adequate attention to food security and the agricultural sector within macro policy, including policies for poverty alleviation and livelihoods (paras. 139-141);

d) Strengthening the flexibility and responsiveness of FAO technical cooperation, including:

      1. strengthening the ratio of non-staff resources to staff through elimination of posts and mobilisation of donor funds. In particular it is envisaged that the ratio of staff to non-staff resources be stabilised and the possibility considered of establishing policy cooperation funds on a global or regional basis (para. 145); and
      2. some streamlining in arrangements for FAO-TCP (para. 146).

e) Strengthening integration and working procedures in the Regional Offices with clear regional priorities, better defined lines of responsibility and more interdisciplinary work (paras. 147-150);

f) Providing greater support to FAORs in their policy role (para. 151);

g) Improving services to the CIS and similar countries through the establishment of specialist capability (para. 152);

h) Developing the quality of FAO policy development cooperation, including:

  1. the issue of guidelines for policy work (para. 153);
  2. improving project design, in particular by identifying clearly the point in the policy continuum on which the project is intended to impact, the expected policy outcome and the consultative process (paras. 154-155);
  3. improving country intelligence, using a web-based solution (para. 156); and
  4. establishing a task force for policy work to better define priorities and to develop the normative underpinning and related guidelines (paras. 157-158).

vii. The findings and recommendations were largely endorsed by the panel of external peer reviewers which concluded, given that policy was an increasingly important area for developing countries, that FAO should accord its work in this area greater overall priority. The panel also noted that the evaluation process had been exemplary.


76 . In line with requests by FAO Governing Bodies to undertake evaluation on FAO objectives as identified in the Strategic Framework for FAO 2000-2015 , this evaluation addresses Corporate Strategy B - Promoting, developing and reinforcing policy and regulatory frameworks for food, agriculture, fisheries and forestry (Objective B.2 National policies, legal instruments and supporting mechanisms that respond to domestic requirements and are consistent with the inter-national policy and regulatory framework). The evaluation focuses on FAO's work in development of national policy in particular, and examines FAO's past performance and capacity in meeting policy needs and countries'and development partners'expectations of FAO.

The Importance of Cooperation with Countries in Policy Development

77 . The place of policy on the development agenda has been steadily increasing in importance. Recently, the pace of globalisation has meant that if countries are to reap its benefits, rather than suffer from its disadvantages, they must restructure their economies to maximise trade opportunities and introduce national measures in line with their international commitments. Governments have thus been withdrawing from direct involvement in production and commercial activity, as well as the provision of certain services. The emphasis has shifted to more indirect policy instruments to provide the enabling framework for development.

FAO's Role

78 . FAO provides assistance to countries for development of national policies by:

    1. provision of a forum for norm setting and international agreement which is then reflected in countries'national policy;
    2. making available international databases drawn-on when establishing policies;
    3. awareness-raising on policy issues and experiences through publications, meetings, training, etc.; and
    4. consultancies to assist directly in policy development and in capacity-building at the national level.

79 . The evaluation concentrates on points c) and d). What FAO actually does in policy work to directly support countries, in approximate order of importance in terms of resource commitment, consists of:

    1. advisory work, financed primarily from extra-budgetary resources but supplemented by the Regular Programme;
    2. ongoing dialogue with governments supported by the FAO Representatives (FAORs);
    3. development of materials for training and awareness-raising publications on policy issues;
    4. training; and
    5. regional meetings to raise policy issues.

Scope and Methodology

80 . Scope: In order to arrive at a manageable scope for the purposes of the evaluation, policy was considered at the level of central government, government departments and inter-governmental bodies. The policy work included refers to the definition and articulation of goals, priorities, principles and strategies by government but not the detailed development of the actions and instruments for execution of those policies (i.e. resource allocation, legislation, programmes of service and infrastructure provision and projects).

81 . This having been said, one of the main criteria used in the evaluation for assessment of the quality of policy work was whether the instruments for implementation of the policy were defined and were realistic. The eventual effects and impact were judged largely in terms of the extent to which policy was translated into policy instruments. Similarly, the essential importance is recognised of the statistics, field information and other data, which must be assembled and maintained in information systems for policy making. Particular attention was given to the Technical Cooperation Programme (FAO-TCP) funded from FAO's Regular Programme budget. Policy was thus not restricted to economic policy.

82 . Methodology included:

    1. circulation of an internal questionnaire to FAO units to provide an initial database on policy activities;
    2. a questionnaire survey to government departments in the agricultural, fisheries and forestry sectors in developing countries in which FAORs are posted on their needs for, and satisfaction with, FAO policy work. This questionnaire obtained a 53% response, giving an indication that the departments with which FAO deals attach some priority to the Organization's involvement in policy work;
    3. discussion in FAO with the main units involved in policy work, including Regional and Sub-regional Offices and FAORs;
    4. field visits by two-person missions (one FAO Evaluation Service, one senior independent consultant) to 21 countries 14 covering each of the developing regions, including Europe;
    5. visits and email discussions at Headquarters, and in the decentralized offices and with development partners including the World Bank, IFAD, IFPRI and UN specialised agencies;
    6. an email questionnaire circulated widely in FAO on some initial conclusions and recommendations followed by an internal seminar; and
    7. an independent external peer review workshop of the draft evaluation report.

83 . The study concentrated on FAO's work in countries where there had been a relatively high policy input. Thus, the profile of FAO on policy work is lower in many of the 80 percent of developing countries not visited. Similarly at FAO Headquarters and in the Regional Offices, some units have developed a greater policy orientation in their work than others. This means that both inadequacies and successes are attributed in certain disciplines, while others which could be equally important, but have done limited policy work, have not received the same level of attention.


84 . Policy work is distributed throughout FAO with almost all technical units addressing certain aspects of policy. At the regional and sub-regional levels, including Europe, FAO has officers grouped in Policy Assistance Branches, specialised in providing assistance in policy and planning for the agricultural sector (excluding forestry and fisheries). It also has forestry, fisheries and livestock, nutrition officers, etc. who include policy work among their overall technical responsibilities.

85 . The number of professional staff concerned primarily with policy differs from region to region but in 1999 there were on average 4.4 policy officers in post in each Regional Office and one policy officer in most of the Sub-regional Offices (with the significant exception of the Sub-regional Office for Southern and East Africa (SAFR), which in 1999 had four). It is also pertinent to note that policy officers accounted for a very significant proportion of the professional technical staff of Regional Offices (11-57%). At the country level in most developing countries, with the significant exception of countries from the former Soviet Bloc, FAO has an inter-nationally-recruited country representative with a very small staff. However, only very limited work can be undertaken at the country level by these various units without resources additional to their regular budgets.

86 . Most country-level policy work is supported through small technical assistance grants from FAOs own funds (FAO-TCP) or by development partners providing funds-in-trust to FAO. In recent years FAO-TCP has been the most important source of assistance. The average budget on policy work per intervention (225 in total) for those reviewed by missions was US$ 270,000. The sample of interventions and projects reviewed by the evaluation missions provides an indicative breakdown of the types of assistance. It may be noted that slightly over half the work was at the general sector level. Forty-three percent of the interventions reviewed by missions dealt with specific subject-matter areas. By far the majority of projects were primarily advisory, with the principal output being reports with recommendations. Seventy-six percent of the interventions fell into this category; 5 percent were principally designed for training and capacity-building and 15 percent combined advice and capacity-building. In terms of sectoral distribution: 60% were in agriculture; 12% in forestry; 10% in fisheries; 8% in trade; 4% in livestock; and 4% in nutrition. Two percent were more generally addressing such areas as the environment and food security.


87 . Table 4.1 below summarises the assessment of the quality and performance for different aspects of the projects and interventions by evaluation missions. The picture presented by these scores will be discussed under the relevant headings below.

Table 4.1: Mission's Assessment of the Policy Component of Individual Projects and Interventions
  Africa Asia Europe Latin America Near East Total
Number of cases assessed 19 13 13 10 11 66
Percentage of cases for which:
Relevance/Priority to National Needs High 74% 38% 38% 60% 73% 58%
Satisfactory 26% 46% 62% 40% 18% 38%
Conformity to FAO's Priorities High 53% 69% 38% 80% 36% 55%
Satisfactory 47% 31% 62% 20% 64% 45%
Quality of Project Formulation Good 16% 8% 23% 20% 18% 17%
Adequate 68% 62% 62% 70% 64% 65%
Quality of Project Implementation by FAO Good 42% 23% 54% 40% 27% 38%
Adequate 53% 62% 38% 60% 73% 56%
Quality and Quantity of Output High 68% 23% 38% 80% 18% 47%
Adequate 26% 69% 54% 20% 82% 48%
Quality of the Process Good 53% 23% 31% 60% 18% 38%
Adequate 42% 46% 38% 40% 55% 44%
Effects (application of outputs) High 47% 8% 15% 80% 27% 35%
Moderate 42% 54% 69% 10% 55% 47%
Sustainable impact on policy High 26% 0% 15% 70% 0% 21%
Moderate 58% 23% 62% 20% 64% 47%

Demand for and Relevance of FAO's Work

88 . Subject-matter : As developing countries have progressed in their technical and managerial capabilities, attention and needs have moved upstream to assure the optimum policy environment. Responses to country questionnaires by 91 agricultural sector departments in 51 developing countries indicated that the highest area of demand for policy assistance was in the macro-sector interface for rural policy (e.g. implications of trade agreements for cropping opportunities). In other words, the agricultural ministries found a need for support to better engage themselves in these processes. At the same time, in defining needs it should be borne in mind that agriculture and other line ministries such as health are being called upon to extend their regulatory functions and capacities in support of macro policies, while the major policy decisions which continue with line ministries largely pertain to the public sector services which remain in their domain (such as extension, research, phytosanitary measures, forestry and fisheries protection).

89 . The World Bank, the regional development banks in Asia and Latin America and the various bilateral agencies are very active in agricultural sector policy (sometimes with FAO inputs, particularly by the Investment Centre). Ministries of Finance and Planning, which are making many of the macro-decisions for agriculture, forestry and fisheries, regard the IFIs, in particular the World Bank, as their natural partners. Countries thus generally have a choice of macro- and sector-level policy advice, with the exception of the fisheries and forestry sectors. This was reflected in demand to FAO, although particularly in the fisheries sector FAO had found it difficult to meet the demand. The IFIs, in particular the World Bank, see sub-sector policy and the policy-technology interface (including costs and benefits of policies) as the area of FAO's relative strength, rather than general agriculture sector work. At the same time FAO may be needed to provide alternative views to the government at sector level to assist the government in making choices.

90 . Missions found that overt demand for overall agricultural sector reviews from FAO was declining, although there were significant exceptions. In East and Southern Africa, FAO was not looked to as a source of general sector policy support for agriculture, which was assumed to come from the World Bank. As FAO had not provided much sub-sectoral assistance, it had become a less significant source of policy advice. In West Africa, on the other hand, the mission found that demand remained strong. In Latin America, FAO was often stated to be the partner of choice but other sources of assistance were used because of their timely availability. Line ministries frequently stated that FAO's advice was respected for its neutrality and objectivity in comparison with the IFIs and the bilaterals, a view that was repeated in questionnaire responses. Responses to questionnaires indicated that the concerned departments normally found FAO to be either as good or better a source of policy support as other agencies in most subject-matter areas.

91 . The evaluation concludes that FAO has a relative strength in terms of demand for services, absence of competitors and quality of product, in providing sector policy support for fisheries and to a lesser extent forestry, including upland management. This comparative advantage was far from reflected in the actual work carried out, where the sector emphasis was in agriculture. Within agriculture, the advantage in specific subject-matter work was not reflected in the actual pattern of activities (almost exactly half were at general sector level).

92 . Demands varied by region, for example in the transition countries there was a continuing, although declining demand for support on tenure issues. In the Near East, water and theimplications of WTO and EU trade agreements were regarded as particularly important. There is a clear differentiation in the demand for services between the low-income food-deficit countries, especially in Africa, and the more developed countries. Firstly, the least developed countries have less absorptive capacity for policy support and secondly, their overriding concern is national food security. More developed countries are involved with policy choices which need to be supported by normative work on, for example, trade or the desirable role of a small farm sector. EU accession countries, with the exception of Turkey, have adequate assistance in immediate accession issues. Reform of land tenure remains an important issue in much of Africa, Latin America and the former Soviet Bloc.

Table 4.2: Relative Strengths in Policy Work for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (comparing FAO, IFIs and Bilateral Agencies)
  Agenda Driven Capabilities Financial Leverage Access to Government
Technical Economic Analysis Bringing Together, Technical Economic and Social Normative Under-pinning Agricultural Ministries Finance and Planning Ministries

Table 4.3: Summary of FAO Strengths and Country Needs by Subject-Matter Area
Areas for advocacy in policy Food security (household and national); fisheries management; forestry management; importance of the agricultural sectors in rural development and livelihoods; pesticides and pest management; food safety and standards.
Work at the macro-sector interface (e.g. implications of money supply policies for agriculture) Need high, demand moderate, FAO capacity limited. Capacity in IFIs but attention not always given to detail of implications for agricultural sectors and thus necessary adjustments in policy.
Sector Overall Review High demand in fisheries and forestrylack of qualified supply from others. Need high in livestock but not fully reflected in demand. Agriculture, only moderate demand and many other agencies active, including the IFIs (sometimes with FAO inputs).
Sectoral subject matter areas of need and high demand where other providers lack capacity and FAO has a good track record Trade; property rights and access for land, forestry and fisheries; genetic resources; management of fragile ecosystems, especially uplands.
Sectoral subject matter areas of need and high demand where other providers lack capacity but FAO also needs to strengthen capacity in terms of quantity and sometimes in normative underpinning Water and irrigation; research and extension (innovation and learning); rural livelihoods (entrepreneurship) and non-government services for agriculture and rural development.
Sectoral subject matter areas where FAO has some capacity but capacity is also strong with several other agencies, IFIs, etc. People's participation, gender and decentralisation.

93 . Types of policy support : In their responses to questionnaires, 89% of responding agricultural ministries scored training as very useful, higher than the scores for other categories of policy support. Missions, however, urged caution on the absorptive capacity for traditional training and noted the need for alternative approaches in capacity-building.

Table 4.4: Mission's Assessment of Usefulness of Types of Policy Support
% Of countries visited where Very Useful* or Useful Africa Asia Europe Latin America Near East Total
% Very Useful % Useful
National level analysis and recommendations 33% 50% 100%* 33% 75% 18% 41%
Facilitating national dialogue 33% 50% 80% 0% 100%* 23% 32%
Regional meetings and workshops 83% 100%* 60% 33% 50% 18% 50%
Information and awareness raising on policy issues 100%* 100%* 100% 100% 50%* 41% 50%
National training 33% 50%* 40% 33% 100%* 23% 27%
* Percentage for “very useful” was equal to/ or greater than 50%
Types of policy support were graded from 1 to 3 where 3 is very useful and 1 of limited usefulness

94 . In conclusion: Although FAO's support could have better addressed priority areas and comparative advantage, the Organization's inputs into the policy process have been largely relevant to a need (Table 4.1 indicates that 58% of interventions had high national priority and relevance). In no cases did FAO support fall outside FAO's priorities, and missions found that 55% of interventions were in areas of high priority for FAO in terms of the Strategic Framework. There appears to have been reasonable-to-good partnership with the rest of the international community and little duplication of effort. FAO's role has most commonly been supportive, with the lead in agricultural sector policy support being taken by the World Bank and the regional development banks.

Design of Technical Cooperation

95 . Policies are continuously evolving and few countries have static sector policies; however, within the policy mix there are intensive periods of work on certain aspects, followed by a move to implementation. This policy process can be characterised as having the following phases which are generally overlapping and inter-active:

  • advocacy and awareness raising on policy issues;
  • information assembly and analysis;
  • initial policy design;
  • policy dialogue and draft policy revision;
  • policy decision; and
  • design of policy instruments, normally leading to some reconsideration of the policy.

In the real world, policies are often not thoroughly thought through until it comes to the design of the implementation measures and this is likely to provoke a repeat of much of the above process.

96 . The design of the policy interventions could have better stated how the intervention was expected to fit into the policy process continuum and what was expected in terms of policy results or development of strategies. Application of a logframe to interventions (which was never done in a formal sense) would have assisted this. There needed to be a better appreciation of how the policy change would take place and of how consultation, partnership and civil society involvement would be assured in the policy process. Where work was not carried out in co-operation with IFIs or other donors, there was also frequently no consideration given in the design of the intervention on how follow-up to the policy review and design work would be achieved.

97 . Almost no cases were found of FAO-TCP interventions completed in the foreseen 12 months. A weakness of project design has been a failure to identify which phases of the policy process are to be addressed and thus what can realistically be achieved. There has often been an assumption that all phases, including sometimes the design of implementation measures (such as legislation) can be tackled in one FAO-TCP project. Recognition of the longer-term nature of the policy process and the stages within it, means that individual interventions cannot generally address all stages of the process. Where feasible, interventions also need to be designed for longer periods to support an iterative process.

98 . One of the most valuable things that FAO can bring to the policy process is experience from elsewhere and a substantial input of internationally-experienced expertise (which could not be obtained at TCDC rates) was usually a necessity. Conversely, there was a strong demand for use of national consultants to work with international expertise and the high involvement of capable nationals substantially improved the policy development process.

Efficiency and Quality of Implementation for Outputs

99 . The implementation management of individual interventions has generally been adequate (see Table 4.1). However, there were problems that affected the attitude of national governments and development partners to FAO's role in policy assistance. In country responses to questionnaires, flexibility of response was found to be the weakest aspect of FAO's policy work.

100 . Response time : There are periods of policy making when what is required is a rapidly available and relatively short input addressed at specific questions. There were often delays of over a year between a request for policy support and the actual delivery of that assistance which could reduce the relevance of interventions considerably. The time-consuming internal consultation to improve project documents in FAO often did not result in significant improvements. It was observed by some persons interviewed, that a speedy negative response to a request was preferable to prolonged delays. Some changes have already been made which should assist in reducing this problem including the availability of US$ 1.5 million of TCP resources for rapid local approval on small-scale requests and a US$400,000 small-scale facility for hire of national consultants by FAORs (both figures per biennium).

101 . Administrative procedures : Governments and development partners were highly critical of the Organizations administrative procedures and lack of decentralized decision-making. It was considered very important for FAO to strengthen the flexibility of response to policy needs as well as improving financial reporting.


102 . FAO policy work builds capacity at national level through: raising awareness and making available information on current policy issues in publications in paper form and on the internet; workshop training and providing training resource materials; networks and networking; and capacity-building during advisory projects.

103 . Publications : Those countries which shared a common FAO official language at working level have the greatest potential to benefit from both international meetings and publications on policy issues. The language limitation at working level, especially in Asia and the former Soviet Bloc should not be underestimated. The lack of dissemination of FAO publications was a complaint in all the countries visited and clearly, Internet access was not sufficiently widespread to make electronic access a substitute for paper. It was also evident that there was room in published materials for a greater issue orientation, greater clarity on target audience, improved brevity and simplification of language. These problems may have, in part, explained why country responses to questionnaires identified publications as the least valuable form of policy output. It is also clear that publications alone have limited impact on capacity, especially in the least developed countries.

104 . Regional conferences and networks : Regional Policy Assistance Branches had played an active part in organizing meetings on policy topics. The extent to which the Regional Conferences of FAO had been used to develop awareness on policy issues varies. The Regional Conference was found to be a useful forum for creating awareness but not for policy discussions as political decision-makers are not always present or are reluctant to debate policy in such fora. Networks which have been established by the Regional Offices on specialist topics are another important potential forum for policy awareness-raising. These networks are largely self-financing and are orientated towards the problems identified by their members. They do not provide fora for governmental policy discussion but rather involve senior line managers at sub-sector level. They can fulfil a role in enabling managers to better understand the macro-environment and thus reduce their resistance to change or even inspire them as change agents.

105 . Training occurred both in projects which were designed to improve capacity and as a more incidental by-product in interventions designed to cooperate directly in policy development. Most countries did not rely on specialist policy units in the Ministry of Agriculture for agricultural policy development or for the information on which to make decisions. Line managers, senior officials in the Ministries of Finance and Planning and, in some cases, politicians had a much more significant voice. In all the countries visited, there was a training requirement but this was first and foremost for the development of broad-based skills in identifying issues and options and in analysis of the priorities and policy instruments in government programmes, not sophisticated techniques. Such skills are useful to managers, very senior civil servants, academic resource persons and lobbyists. They are also applicable in various positions, which is important when high staff turnover and a lack of specialisation are prevalent, as is the case in many countries.

106 . There were rather few examples of the integrated use of study tours to expose decision-makers to alternative policy options but where this was done it was found to be very useful. A lower cost possibility is exchanges using seminars to expose countries to experience elsewhere, and the FAO-TCDC formula can be helpful here.

107 . FAO was found to have developed a number of very useful training materials, for example on trade and on food security. Missions found that FAO's work in training was generally regarded as being of good standard. There were significant delays in making materials available to users because of a desire for each manual to be complete in itself and to be of a high standard.

108 . Facilitating national processes and capacities : Work in many related areas enhances national policy processes and capacities. For example, support in Mozambique to PROAGRI established a set of institutional arrangements for coordination of the policies and programmes of development partners and the government for agricultural development; support for development of information and statistics provides an essential input for policy analysis; and development of peoples organizations and participatory processes may have an indirect effect of empowering local people to take part in policy dialogue.

Technical Quality of Policy Work

109 . Missions concluded that the overall technical quality of FAO's policy work to be on average as good as, or better, than other agencies. The quality of analysis was sometimes inferior to work done by the IFIs but the relationship was closer to the working level of government, particularly the Ministry of Agriculture, and there was often a more consultative process. The policy change stance was in general forward looking, supporting a greater role for the private sector and farm families. Areas for improvement in policy work included:

  • much greater emphasis on analysis of existing government expenditure in the sector/sub-sector and the make up and performance of government programmes. It was not uncommon to suggest expansion of programmes or the addition of new programmes, without analysis;
  • more issue-oriented analysis, looking at the implications of potential policy changes;
  • reports, which need to be more precise, avoid obscure language and clearly distinguish recommendations from discussion. Where the main audience of decision makers is non-economist, professional economic language should be explained or, where possible, avoided;
  • presentation of options which facilitates non-confrontational discussion of issues;
  • ensuringthat recommendations always state how something is to be achieved. It was not uncommon to provide policy goals with little indication of how they might be implemented;
  • ensuring recommendations are fully based on analysis and neutral, in the sense of not a priori supporting a position of the government or donors;
  • avoiding, as far as possible, recommendations for substantial expansion of programmes and projects which can have the effect of rendering the policy proposals unimplementable due to lack of resources, instead placing the emphasis on mainstreaming change into existing work;
  • obtaining basic missing information for analysis, before investing substantial resources in defining solutions;
  • use of rapid consultative assessment techniques, which can inform policy teams on constraints at the grassroots level and for traders and consumers (in only one intervention reviewed by missions was such work carried out); and
  • a clear statement of whether there are environmental implications.


110 . Comparatively little work explicitly examined, or stated whether there were, gender implications in the policies. Similarly women's representatives were not generally involved in policy processes. Missions recorded no examples of this neglect actually detracting from the policy solutions but policies in areas which involve the household and small business will always have gender implications and it is essential to understand the roles of women and children.

Effectiveness of Institutional Arrangements

111 . FAO has the potential strength to bring normative work to underpin its cooperation with countries in policy development. That normative work can likewise be reinforced by the country experience. Work on fisheries and trade has achieved this synergy but the TCA Policy Assistance Branches need strengthened two-way interaction with the development of normative work in ES, SD and AG Departments. Many technical divisions have not adequately shifted resources from the more detailed aspects of technology to its policy and strategy implications. Regional Offices have technical teams of limited size and the individual sector specialists have made useful contributions on occasion to policy in their sectors. There are also useful examples of joint work between Policy Assistance Branches and technical officers. However, the full potential to provide a multidisciplinary input to policy work has not been realised. This is not facilitated by the absence of any regional programming mechanisms.

112 . FAO has been in a poor position to satisfy the needs of the CIS states and other countries of the former Soviet Union with similar problems (i.e. non-EU accession states of the former Soviet Bloc). An initial priority is for various forms of policy support. However, there are no FAORs in these countries and it is difficult to develop coherent capacity as the countries fall within three FAO regions. There are also problems of electronic and air communication.

113 . Regional Office Policy Assistance Branches have a number of functions in addition to those of providing direct policy support. In particular, they take the lead in Field Programme development and develop country briefs. In general, the Field Programme development function was not well fulfilled and required very different skills than that for policy. There could also be a conflict of interest in the offering of impartial policy support and working for Field Programme development.

114 . Policy Assistance Branches have more funds for travel and use of consultants than technical units but this is only because they do not use non-staff funds to the same degree for meetings and publications. Ratios of staff to non-staff resources averaged 1:0.31 for Regional Office technical groups and 1:0.23 for Policy Assistance Branches. In the view of the evaluation, such low ratios lead to inefficient use of staff time, making it impossible for work to be carried out at the country level without additional resources and Policy Assistance Branch staff have only been spending about 20 percent of their time in the field.

Outcomes, Effects and Impact

115 . Forty-seven percent of interventions were found to have had moderate effect and 35 percent high outcomes and effects. There was more likely to be high effect in middle-income countries and this contributes to the relatively high scores in Latin America and to some extent the Near East. Many of the middle-income countries have a greater absorptive capacity for policy advice and also greater independent capability to act upon it. In the less developed countries and low-income transition countries, follow-up was greater where work fed into a process also assisted by donors, especially the IFIs. In addition, in all countries, the process used for development of policy was particularly important in assuring national ownership and thus policy implementation.

116 . Quality of process : Missions found that although there was room for improvement in consultation in FAO policy interventions, FAO performance was comparatively good in this respect compared with others, including the IFIs. Indeed, one of the primary roles World Bank staff see for FAO in national policy work is facilitating the national consultation process. Missions found that 38% of interventions had a high quality of process, 44% were adequate, and 18% were unsatisfactory (see Table 4.1).

117 . Ideally, policy work should be undertaken primarily by national teams, with FAO and other international agencies having a supporting role. Genuine national teams are not always practical due to very limited capacity and pressures for rapid progress, but it is always possible to involve nationals from the key government departments and this also furthers the aim of capacity-building. By building workshops into projects, FAO has assisted in ensuring greater consultation with civil society. There is often some resistance by the civil service to discussions across departmental and ministerial boundaries, as well as with civil society. This resistance can be better countered if inter-ministerial and civil society processes are specified in the original project document.

118 . There were only a very few examples in the projects reviewed of rapid appraisal techniques being applied to assist policy development. Application of structured rapid appraisal techniques to primary stakeholders can form a valuable input to policy processes at all levels. In the worst cases, a lack of such processes and of consultation, contributed to overt resistance to the policy proposals.

119 . Joint action with development partners and the UN country process : The coordination of development assistance programming by the international community has become an important interface, lever and support for implementation in the policy processes 15 . Particularly in the less developed countries, it is as a member of the UN country team and through work in association with IFIs that FAO best mainstreams its concerns with WFS follow-up and the importance of agriculture, forestry and fisheries in sustainable rural livelihoods. Although FAO was often found to be a supportive member of the UN country team, both UNDP and the World Bank staff commented that FAO had difficulty in seeing how its policy input would fit into the wider issues currently on the international agenda, such as governance and privatisation. They also felt that an important potential role for FAO could be as a facilitator of dialogue between agricultural line ministries, IFIs and central finance and planning ministries.

120 . FAORs and their national professional staff were found to be central to FAO's work in policy support. Countries, in particular the countries of the former Soviet Union, where FAO was not present through an FAOR, were found to be seriously disadvantaged.

121 . A number of successful examples of FAO's joint work with IFIs on policy development 16 were reviewed. FAO's input can serve to explore and to improve the understanding of micro-issues by the IFIs and Ministries of Finance, etc and also to increase understanding in the Ministry of Agriculture of the wider policy agenda. A major issue in ensuring participation and consultation remains the institutional location for the FAO part of the intervention, which may serve to reinforce the line ministry role in the dialogue or to have direct impact on the Finance/ Planning team. FAO and the UN system may also be required to provide an alternative view from that of the IFIs to assist the government in making choices. FAO's role in each case should be clear.

122 . Cost-effectiveness of FAO's work : In comparison with other agencies, FAO has held down the cost of the international input and had also tended to follow a process at the national level, which was less expensive in proportion to outcomes than the reliance on expatriate teams, which characterises some policy assistance work. FAO could capitalise to a greater extent on the synergies between units at both Headquarters and decentralized units and on FAORs. Greater decentralisation and flexibility in operations would also reduce costs and this was a concern of both countries and international partners. FAO could also concentrate more in areas of country need and the Organization's relative strength.

123 . Sustainable impact : Although these were not the subjects of review, the most striking examples of impact at policy level were not from policy-oriented projects but from projects which demonstrated an approach. It is probable that demonstration is not only the most effective influence for policy change but also the best way of assuring that the approach is viable when dealing with institutional matters. It may also be noted that country questionnaires found the integration of FAO's policy cooperation with other project work one of the less satisfactory aspects. However, pilot testing of policies is not generally a genuine option for policies that are not area-specific. What is needed is a flexible process of adaptation and demonstration. It is also clear that policy-makers frequently do not have the possibility, and nor would it be desirable, to await the results of a pilot test.

124 . The missions found that 68% of interventions had identifiable impact in terms of implemented policy changes and in 21% of cases the impact was high (see Table 4.1). When a policy support intervention takes place, there is likely to be a lapse of time before this is translated into a policy instrument which can deliver development impact. Capacity-building is generally even more diffuse in its final results but absolutely essential to the future of policy-making. Notwithstanding the process for attaining impacts, there were an impressive number of occasions on which it could be said that a clear policy impact in terms of a definitive decision or policy instrument was very evidently accelerated by FAO policy work. Capacity-building was a significant by-product in several projects.


125 . The evaluation was looking only at FAO's policy work and had no basis for proposing resource shifts between FAO's strategic priorities. This having been said, the evaluation found that policy development is an area of continued high priority for all member countries, while as development progresses, normative work purely on technology becomes something countries can increasingly readily access. FAO needs to increase its capacity to respond to this need. The recommendations are thus not budget neutral. Also evident is that if FAO is to meet challenges, it must become a more closely networked learning organization and recommendations are designed to support this.

126 . Many of the recommendations below indicate areas where, in the view of the evaluation, there could be improvement. In examining these recommendations, there are also types of reaction that should be avoided. These include the introduction of increased clearances, checks, procedures and committees, which can only further slow responses and reduce time available for other work.

Unity of Concept and Purpose in Policy Work

127 . FAO needs to develop clearer priorities for those areas in which it will be a centre of excellence for policy support to member countries in line with country needs, FAO's Strategic Objectives and the policy support available to countries from sources other than FAO. The Organization then needs to further enhance its capacity in these selected priority areas, including the normative underpinning and build strong links between the concerned policy and technical units.

128 . While by no means excluding general agricultural sector policy work, where it is required, greater relative weight could usefully be given to the more specific issues which must be resolved if the aims of sector policy are to be achieved. For the fisheries and forestry sectors, the position is clearly different and FAO is the one agency with extensive capacity. Livestock policy is an area of comparative neglect. Resource shifts should be considered in line with these priorities.

129 . There is a priority for the Organization to strengthen its capacity in what is perceived as an area of comparative advantage, i.e. sub-sector policy work and work at the technology-policy interface, integrating costs and benefits of choices. This requires adjustment of priorities not only in policy-oriented programmes, but also in technical programmes.

130 . It is clear that there needs to be differentiation in terms of country needs. Priorities should be defined overall and at regional levels. It is recommended that:

    1. FAO give greatest priority in policy support work to the poorest and most food-insecure countries. This relative importance should be reflected in the numbers of staff stationed in the decentralized offices serving those countries and priority in use of funds including TCP. This support must, however, be linked to need and will take account of absorptive capacity, assisting LIFDCs not only to develop policy but also to translate policy into action in a few priority areas;
    2. for middle-income countries (which have greater absorptive capacity for policy development and can work on a wider range of issues and apply more sophisticated solutions), policy support can concentrate on awareness raising on policy considerations and issues and on facilitating national policy processes. Arrangements should also be developed for cost-sharing through unilateral trust funds for more continuing and in-depth support; and
    3. capacity-building suited to the stage of development in each country will remain very important for both less and more developed countries.



131 . Capacity-building to enable the agricultural ministries to better participate in the policy process is a clear priority. In almost all situations, this needs to concentrate on raising the capacity to identify and resolve policy issues, including their costs and benefits, rather than on sophisticated analytical techniques. Capacity building also needs torecognise that many of the least developed countries and some of the transition countries are not at the stage where they can develop separate policy units, especially in line ministries. The emphasis in these situations needs to be on developing the capacity of line managers and senior civil servants to provide sound input to the policy process and developing a consultative and networked culture for policy development. Even in many of the more developed countries, this aspect will be important, as well as enhancing the extent to which policy is made on the basis of in-depth analysis by both government units and groups like university think tanks.

132 . It is also necessary to support the development of capabilities for agricultural ministries to analyse the cost-benefits of their own programmes. This is important both to make them more effective and to better defend them against cuts.

Advocacy and Awareness-Raising on Policy Issues

133 . The Organization has developed clear normative positions in some policy areas. These should receive greater attention in policy assistance work. FAO should further develop positions in a few carefully selected areas, in which the Organization campaigns for policy change. Such campaigns need to be selectively targeted on countries and situations where there is a priority need. The Policy Task Force discussed below could have a major role in developing those areas in which FAO could be more active in advocacy and the Department of General Affairs and Information would be an important partner.

134 . In addition to advocating policy positions, more systematic attention can be given to raising awareness of emerging policy issues and their implications.

135 . Greater attention needs to be given to how the Organization communicates considerations on policy issues to a wider group of policy makers. This includes:

    1. greater emphasis on synthesis, presentation and communication, including the continued use of workshops, internet publications and popular leaflets. Occasions such as World Food Day also present the opportunity for reaching a wider audience; and
    2. reinforcing the moves to utilise the FAO Conference, Regional Conferences and Commissions as a means of communication, either in the meetings themselves or in parallel sessions.

136 . The Organization has a unique point of contact with the sector ministries for agriculture and it can usefully cooperate with other organizations such as the World Bank and IFPRI to utilise FAO fora for consultation on policy documents and for dissemination of current considerations in policy arising from research and experience.


137 . In training, FAO should regard itself as much as a training resource for others as an executor of training:

    1. target audiences should be clear for each intervention (including training materials) and the scope and methods of the intervention designed accordingly;
    2. where training projects are undertaken at national level, a hands-on approach which links these to actual policy work is recommended;
    3. the Regional Policy Assistance staff, with support from TCAS, can usefully become more involved in training, as has occurred in the Near East;
    4. the Policy Assistance Division (TCA) was found to have developed a number of very useful training materials in cooperation with other units, for example on trade. More products should be developed in collaboration; and
    5. for training materials, TCAS has also fully accepted that the Organization needs to move much more towards a modular approach to training material development, relying on materials from elsewhere when available and regarding the materials as work in progress which are subject to continuous improvement. There is also a need to reduce the use of academic language and separate out theory into annexes.

Capacity-Building within Policy Development Interventions

138 . In designing policy development interventions it is often possible to integrate capacity building, even though the main purpose of the project (to develop a policy) remains paramount. A consultative approach to policy development facilitates capacity building drawing analysts and decision makers into the process.


The UN and Donor Group Country Processes

139 . FAO can often be most effective in countries when it works as part of the UN country team and in working in association with the IFIs and other development partners. It may take a leadership role, where appropriate, in sector panels and round tables, and:

    1. encourage adequate attention to agriculture, the rural sector and food security;
    2. deepen and modify policy prescriptions to the needs of the rural sector and assurance of adequate food and nutrition;
    3. assure consideration to alternative view points on sector development;
    4. support national workshops and dialogue for policy development; and
    5. assist line ministries to develop their positions and facilitate dialogue with the Finance and Planning ministries (which relate most directly to IFIs and the donor community).

140 . These latter two roles should be enhanced particularly when policy development is underway with the IFIs and other development partners.

141 . In this context, the Organization needs to examine how its policy input fits into the wider issues current on the international agenda, such as governance and privatisation. It is also necessary that, without delaying the process, the Organization support the development of the poverty reduction strategies for the highly-indebted low-income countries to ensure that not only the priorities of health and education are addressed, but also food security and the development of income-earning opportunities in rural areas. In some countries, the ACC Network on Rural Development and Food Security may provide a framework for this and in other countries FAO chairs donor round-table groups. However, in many countries the Organization will need to make increased efforts in providing policy inputs to the consultation process to ensure that food security and the interests of the rural sector are given adequate attention. It is very evident that in many situations the representatives of the UN system and the IFIs are not seeking partnership and the initiative for overcoming barriers will have to be taken by FAO, without seeking to assume a leadership role. At the same time, FAO can sometimes be most useful in providing an alternative point of view.

Collaboration with IFIs

142 . Collaboration at country level can be reinforced on an ongoing basis by the FAOR, who should also identify with the IFI resident missions the needs for FAO technical inputs on policy as well as investment. In addition, discussions with IFI Headquarters need to be widened from the current discussion of Investment Centre inputs. Priority for such a widened discussion would be with the World Bank and IFAD. In working with IFIs, FAO's role should be clear. The Organizations purpose is to assist in reinforcing national development of sound policy, not the pursuit of a particular reform agenda.

143 . In cooperation with other agencies such as the World Bank, IFPRI and IFAD, FAO should seek extra-budgetary funding to develop a networked information resource for policy which could grow in an incremental way, flexibly involving other partners and where there would be a degree of quality control. Such a resource would not only directly benefit developing countries but would increase capacities in FAO and the development agencies, providing a resource to their staff.

Institutional Considerations

Technical Cooperation

144 . Arrangements for technical assistance : Within the very limited resources available, FAO has to determine ways of improving its flexible input to the ongoing process of policy development and reform at country level.

145 . Improved availability of flexible resources : In addition to efforts to develop local funding for policy assistance work from UNDP-SPPD, the World Bank, etc., more funds need to be flexibly available for policy support of all types to countries. It is proposed that:

    1. the ratio of staff to non-staff resources be adjusted to increase the proportion of non-staff resources in the Policy Assistance Branches and in the Policy Assistance Division (TCA) at FAO Headquarters. There is a danger, in times of budget stringency, that if this is a simple shift from staff to non-staff resources, the resources will be gradually reduced. It is thus essential to find a mechanism that prevents this, either through establishment of a policy development fund or the fixing of the ratio between staff and non-staff resources;
    2. opportunities should be explored with donors to establish and support policy assistance funds. Regional donors could be prepared to support regional or sub-regional funds. Where such funds can be established, there should be the option of making a Regular Programme input from the funds released to non-staff resources under a) above; and
    3. some strengthening of the FAO-TCP modality (see below).

146 . Strengthening the responsiveness of FAO-TCP : TCP has been the instrument through which FAO has carried out the majority of its recent policy support work; however, it could be made a more effective modality for this purpose as suggested below:

    1. the present intention to create a fast-track approval authority for FAORs for a limited amount of work under national consultancy per year, in addition to the small-scale facility in their regular budgets, is welcomed. A higher figure should be considered under the fast-track modality for policy and possibly certain other categories of assistance, where an FAO staff input is required;
    2. the advance authorisation procedure should be re-introduced for policy assistance TCPs, whereby a preliminary mission or consultancy can be fielded to define the project in detail; and
    3. as noted above, the requirements for equipment in policy work are minimal, whereas a high level of quality and appropriate quantities of international input are vital, as are adequate budgetary provision for national consultancy and national process. Criteria on limits for international consultancy components and inclusion of consultants recruited on TCDC terms should thus be modified for policy assistance projects (eliminating application of the standard TCDC arrangements).

Decentralized Offices

147 . Inter-disciplinary policy work and assurance of flexible resources to support activities : A common entry point is needed for FAORs and for countries in approaching the Organization for policy support. This means that Policy Assistance Branches need to be a window on the total policy assistance resources of the Regional Office and well connected into the various policy resources at Headquarters, including those in the technical divisions. Policy assistance, especially at the sub-sectoral level, can be most effective if it integrates inputs from the Regional Office Technical Department Groups (TDGs) and the Policy Assistance Branches (PABs).

148 . Clearer definition of regional priorities and joint activities for policy work : An increased emphasis on joint undertakings between the PABs and TDGs could offer the prospect of enhancing work on concrete policy options, thus providing more specific content to policy work while making technical work more effective in promoting policy reform. An element in a possible solution could include creation of a common inter-divisional MTP programme entity in the Regional Office for policy work. Such a programme entity would draw all technical officers together to define the most important policy issues for the countries of the region, to be explored in greater depth with partners through training and meetings as well as at the Regional Conferences and Commissions.

149 . Clarification of the Field Programme development function performed by the Policy Assistance Branches : There is no necessity for a uniform approach between Regional Offices but mechanisms need to be explored to strengthen the Field Programme development function while ensuring that this does not affect the integrity of policy work. Working closely with FAORs, the strengthened function of Field Programme development would include: mobilising the technical resources of the Regional Office as a whole, drawing on technical resources from Headquarters as necessary and liaising with donors especially at the regional level.

150 . Clarification of first lines of responsibility between decentralised offices in policy work : Although there have been de facto demarcation of lines of responsibility for policy work, efficiency can be enhanced if the current pragmatic arrangements are systematized, always bearing in mind the need for flexible use of resources, while avoiding duplication and bureaucracy:

    1. countries should be in one region and one sub-region for policy work, i.e. they should have a direct line of call on only one Regional/Sub-regional Office;
    2. sub-regional policy assistance officers, although having a high degree of autonomy, should have a clear line of reporting to the Chief of the Policy Assistance Branch in the Regional Office; and
    3. for efficiency, physical geography should not be the only factor in assigning country responsibilities for policy work, language should be another major factor. For example in Latin America and the Caribbean, Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries might be handled from RLC, while English-speaking mainland countries are dealt with from SLAC in the Caribbean.

151 . Importance of the FAOR : Inadequate attention has been given to the importance of the FAOR as a source of ongoing policy advice and as an interface with policy resources available from FAO. If FAORs are to more adequately fill this role:

    1. further efforts should be made aimed at keeping posts filled in key countries;
    2. improved information support and training should be provided to FAORs on policy-related matters;
    3. FAORs should meet at the Regional Offices once a year (this is important not only for policy work); and
    4. the present practice should be reinforced of profiling countries to indicate the relative importance of policy work (project operations, etc.) and this should continue to be used as a major criterion in the selection of FAORs and national staff for those countries where the policy role is important.

Better Serving the CIS and Similar Countries

152 . To improve services to the CIS and similar countries, rather than diluting staff impact by placing individual policy advisory officers in different countries, one FAO office could be established in a location where the host government is prepared to offer a substantial contribution in host facilities and where there are communication facilities with most of the countries concerned in Europe, the Near East and Asia. It could be staffed with two suitably-qualified policy officers and could also usefully include one officer for Field Programme development. If the size of the Field Programme eventually justified it, a project operations officer could also be added. Alternatively, it has been suggested that the mandate for all these countries be assigned to one Sub-regional Office and possibly a number of outposted policy officers each dealing with several countries.

Supporting the Quality of FAO Work


153 . The Organization should develop a leaflet/guidance note on how to effectively relate to, and facilitate, the policy process for all policy work at the country level to be used by the Policy Assistance Branches, technical divisions and as guidance for FAORs and TCP. A note will be prepared by the Evaluation Service as an output from this evaluation. This may form a useful input for a guidance note to be developed by the task force referred to below. Technical units and IDWGs concerned with policy should also be required to develop very short notes on policy considerations in their areas of work. Such notes should be made widely available, including on the FAO Intranet.

Project Design

154 . Recognition of the longer-term nature of the policy process and the stages within it, means that individual interventions may not be able to address all stages of the process. The emphasis on communication and process also has major implications for the design of policy assistance, away from a short intervention by an expert team, towards smaller teams making recurrent visits in the country. A larger proportion of budgets will need to be available for national participation and for translation, printing, meetings, etc. In addition to current requirements in project design for policy work (including in FAO-TCP), the design should incorporate a logical framework chart, and state:

    1. the policy outcome which it is intended to achieve (for example that the country will revise its policies in a certain area);
    2. how the work will fit into and where the project lies, on the policy process continuum;
    3. the consultative process to be followed; and
    4. how follow-up will be assured for subsequent stages of the policy process and/or implementation.

155 . Project designs should also recognise that the nature of the consultative process will generally call for a relatively high proportion of funds to be committed to national consultancy, translation, meetings and civil society processes. Similarly, both in the design and execution of policy support, it is essential to examine with realism the potential for follow-up, both in terms of the extent to which any further necessary collaboration will be available for the remainder of the policy to implementation continuum.

Country Intelligence

156 . The Technical Cooperation Department could usefully take the lead in developing a web-based system of country intelligence which will integrate inputs from throughout the Organization, especially the FAORs and steadily improve quality and analytical content.

Task Force

157 . An inter-departmental task force of limited duration to examine all aspects of policy work could be helpful, fed into by similar working groups in the Regional Offices and with sub-groups as required. If experience and a concrete work programme then justified it, the work of the task force could be extended to become an inter-departmental working group and/or policy network in FAO. The chairperson of the task force would provide the focal point for coordination of policy.

158 . Primary initial work for the task force could include:

    1. establishment of clear priorities including:
      1. subject matter and regional priorities for policy work; and
      2. an agenda for policy outreach including awareness raising and advocacy;
    2. development of an internal knowledge management framework including priorities for normative underpinning in policy work and identification of areas where inter-departmental and inter-divisional cooperation is urgent in developing normative support for the policy process; and
    3. developing support for strengthening the Organization's capacity for cooperation with countries in policy development, including:
      1. general guidelines on the approach and process for cooperation with countries in policy development;
      2. information resources, including the networked resource and the country intelligence system referred to above; and
      3. training for staff, in particular FAORs and technical staff.


i. The Peer Review Panel strongly endorses the findings and recommendations of the Evaluation. The evaluation process was exemplary. It combined the evaluation by teams, including independent consultants, of a broad sample of policy interventions/projects at country level; discussions and questionnaires with Member Governments and development partners; preliminary internal reviews of findings; and an independent External Peer Review Panel. This process provided for dialogue, a thorough exploration of issues and many valuable insights.

ii. The overall conclusions that policy development is an area of high priority in the service of member countries and that FAO should concentrate on areas in which it can develop relative strength for policy support, are shared by the Panel members. The Panel also attaches particular importance to the following findings and recommendations within the report, along with areas in which they can be strengthened, and wishes to highlight them for management's attention:

  1. The priorities within policy assistance need to be identified. In the view of the Panel, broad agricultural sector reviews should have a lower priority than supporting national policy formation processes. This can be done by assisting agricultural and rural development ministries in diagnoses of particular policy issues and in helping integrate the work of those agencies into larger national policy processes. Attention should also focus on areas that are neglected from a policy point of view, for example, livestock.
  2. Based upon FAO's Strategic Framework and mandate to work on food security and agricultural aspects of poverty alleviation, policy assistance should be oriented toward rural development policy, when appropriate, rather than just agricultural policy. We recognise the danger of the Organization spreading itself too thinly, but effective work on rural agricultural development and rural poverty alleviation does require a broader rural development orientation. This is applicable to middle-income countries, as well as lower-income countries, where rural poverty remains a persistent and under-recognised issue.
  3. FAO can play an even stronger role than it presently does in strengthening national capacity for analysing agricultural and rural policy issues. Its role in supporting national development of policy should be catalytic, thereby promoting national “ownership” of policy reforms. FAO's basic role in the policy arena is to promote sound processes of policy analysis, formulation, and implementation. In this regard, it should continue to encourage participatory modes of policy formation that include not only other line ministries, but also NGOs, the private sector, and other UN and bilateral agencies. The panel emphasises the essential role of FAO, both in providing alternative views to government, and in supporting processes that promote national ownership of policy.
  4. The Organization can play a pro-active rolevis-à-vis the UN and donor countries concerning policy formulation to ensure that the importance of food security, agriculture and the rural sector are well-recognised.
  5. In many circumstances, FAO can work in close cooperation with IFIs and other donors. In other situations, it may be called upon independently to help Member Governments formulate policy. These are not incompatible but FAO's independence and the role in which it is acting in any one situation needs to be clear both internally and to other stakeholders. This independent role is very valuable but may require careful management in situations in which FAO is also communicating with IFIs in regard to policy issues.
  6. The Panel believes that increased resources need to be made available for country-level policy work. To provide effective policy assistance, there is need for flexible mechanisms and rapid response. The TCP has been the main mechanism for policy intervention. It has serious shortcomings, in that its operational requirements in many cases are inconsistent with quick, quality response. In particular, limitations on amounts that may be spent on international expertise and requirements for use of TCDC are often not appropriate for policy work. The Panel also supports the recommendation that the ratio of non-staff to staff resources be increased under the Regular Programme, and that the ratio be protected against budgetary cuts.
  7. Policy expertise is now dispersed among many units of FAO and there is poor coordination and exchange of information across units. This could result in duplication of effort and certainly results in loss of potential benefits from cross-fertilisation of ideas and experiences. There is need for both the recommended task force with its chairperson as a “focal point” to provide linkage and coordination, and to be a clearinghouse of knowledge. The Panel recognised that within the Organization, many creative linkages exist based on personal networking and professional relationships, but these could be strengthened through a more formal structure for policy work. Such coordination is not cost-free. Additional incentives and mechanisms for facilitating such inter-unit collaboration need to be developed and the focal point must have resources for this. Its value-added has been demonstrated in several areas, for example, the work on trade.
  8. FAORs are FAO's presence in the country and the focus for continuing dialogue. They are a critical point of entry for government requests for policy assistance. Therefore, the recruitment criteria for FAORs should reflect this skill requirement. Further, training is needed to ensure that FAORs have a general awareness of policy issues, especially those which are regional priorities. They also need stronger technical support and information. The CIS and other low-income Eastern European countries should have FAORs as a matter of urgency to facilitate policy assistance work.
  9. Successful institutions are continuous learning organizations. If FAO is to strengthen its commitment to policy analysis and advice, there is an urgent need to implement enhanced training on policy issues throughout the staff of the Organization. This would include refresher training courses for existing policy specialists and attendance at professional meetings. Strengthening training has obvious budget implications, but this activity should be considered a high priority to enhance and preserve the excellence of FAO expertise. Attention to quality will also require closer matching of staff with the requirements of posts.
  10. Knowledge management, including improved country intelligence and the strong link between normative work and country cooperation needs to be strengthened. Case studies about how policy issues have been approached and successfully addressed are in great demand and should be written up for both the use of the house and clients. The Organization does not do an optimal job in learning from its own experience and that of others in making this kind of specific information widely available.
  11. The operational definition of policy should allow for inclusion of the implementation phase when appropriate. Good policy work often is built around a recognition from the beginning of the channels for implementation, and it may include assistance in designing the implementation phase and monitoring it.
  12. Finally, the Panel feels that a strengthened policy role will require larger budgetary allocations for that purpose, along with a clear institutional mandate to carry forward the reports recommendations.


iii. The evaluation is fair, thorough and objective. The recommendations made are constructive and timely. They converge, together with the ongoing internal review of Field Programme development and that of the TC Department, towards a clearer definition of the mandate of the Policy Assistance Division and its linkages with other parts of FAO. The principal findings of the evaluation are endorsed, and in a number of key areas, action has already been initiated to implement the required changes.

iv. It is agreed that agricultural and rural development policy is an increasingly important area for developing countries, and that these require assistance in formulating appropriate policies to achieve food security and sustainable livelihoods, in particular for their rural poor, and the sustainable management of their natural resources. FAO will give greater overall priority to policy work and, to the extent possible, allot larger budgetary allocations for this purpose. To this end, limited additional resources are proposed under the SPWB 2002-03, most of which as non-staff resources to the decentralised offices, an area of need that is highlighted in the report. It has to be recognised that under a reduced scenario for overall resources this increase will be difficult to maintain, bearing in mind other high-priority activities such as reversing the declining trend of FAO's non-emergency field programme, as well as the many important normative activities which are also strongly supported by the membership.

v. Priority themes for FAOs work have been established in the World Food Summit Plan of Action and the Strategic Framework. Management concurs that greater advocacy of these themes should be made, as embodied in the FAO Strategic Objective A: Central Place for Food Security, as well as the cross-organizational strategy Communicating FAOs Messages. Priorities for policy work by the Organization will be based on its comparative strengths as identified by the evaluation. Management agrees with the suggested emphasis on policies at the sub-sector level (rather than comprehensive agricultural sector reviews) and on ensuring effective normative underpinning of policies.

vi. Participatory policy formation processes, the technology-policy interface and integrating costs and benefits in sub-sector policy work will be enhanced through closer and deeper collaboration between all policy units at Headquarters and in decentralised offices. In the Regional and Sub-regional Offices, in particular, this will be achieved by a better integration of policy assistance branches and units with the technical department groups and multidisciplinary teams. The technical expertise available in the different technical divisions will be strengthened in policy work, including in the areas of extension and research, while TCA policy officers will be given, where possible, a more technical orientation. The importance of cross-sectoral aspects of policy work, for instance environmental dimensions of agricultural policy formulation and implementation and gender and HIV/AIDS issues, should also be stressed.

vii. The recommended focus on LIFDCs is very apt, notwithstanding absorptive capacity constraints that may arise. This focus will have to be properly balanced with the demands of middle-income countries for policy assistance in such areas as emerging development themes. It is also agreed that policy assistance to CIS and similar countries has to be expanded, by establishing relevant specialist capability working on these countries subject to the overall constraints of available resources. The absence of FAO Representatives in CIS countries has been mentioned in the evaluation. Although the 119th Council approved the proposal of the Director-General for the establishment of additional country offices under certain conditions, these countries have not generally come forward to participate in the scheme. Costs for liaison or representational tasks in such countries have therefore not been included in the PWB growth scenario. However, the Organization is reviewing its plan in this regard.

viii. The evaluation underlines the critical role of FAO, within UN teams and at country level, in ensuring that agriculture and food security issues are fully reflected in macro-policies, including for poverty alleviation and sustainable rural livelihoods. This role is not always recognised by some of our partner institutions or by some countries themselves. A corporate paper aiming to refine the conceptual basis for FAO's work on linkages between poverty, food security, agriculture and rural development, is being finalised by the Economic and Social Department. Arrangements are also underway to enhance collaboration with other UN agencies and IFIs in UNDAF, CCA, CDF, HIPC and PRSP exercises. Recently, additional financial support has been provided to FAO Representatives through a special TCP facility, to help strengthen their prompt response to countriesneeds and contribute to these processes.

ix. As suggested by the evaluation, FAO's contribution to promoting consultative approaches for policy development and engaging civil society will be expanded further. This will be done by implementing more effectively FAO's policy and strategy for cooperation with NGOs and civil society organizations (including rural womens organizations and groups), which was set out in the Strategic Framework and developed thereafter.

x. It is agreed that, at present, policy expertise is spread throughout many units in FAO, and that there is insufficient coordination and exchange of information despite the existing inter-disciplinary cooperation, both ad hoc and institutionalised. The recommendation is therefore endorsed to establish a policy Task Force and focal points to better define priorities; to strengthen the normative underpinning of policy work; to develop mechanisms for facilitating inter-unit collaboration; and to develop policy guidelines on how to effectively relate to and facilitate the policy process at country level. Indeed, the findings of the evaluation reinforce Managements belief that improvements in all these areas will increase the impact that FAO has made on both the process and implementation of policy in developing member countries. An inter-departmental coordination mechanism will be established to foster the interface between policy and technology as well as between policy and operational activities, with particular reference to rural development. Focal points for policy work in the Organization will, subject to the availability of resources as determined by the membership, be allocated additional resources to assure the policy interface between normative analytical work and advocacy/assistance work.

xi. The need for FAO to improve “country intelligence” is already being acted upon by the TC Department, which has initiated the establishment of a web-based country information system for internal use, primarily for enhanced country focus and Field Programme development. Once operational, this system will be managed by the policy assistance branches and units in close collaboration with the FAO Representatives. It will not cover specialised domains of information for which databases are maintained by the technical departments.

xii. Management also concurs that FAO's capacity building activities in policy formulation and analysis should be enhanced, particularly to strengthen the broad-based capabilities in agriculture ministries to participate as partners in macro-policy discussion. The focus and activities of TCA in capacity building are being reoriented, in order to reach higher-level decision-makers in government and have a better impact on both policy processes and content. This shift will be gradual, however, as it requires a strengthening of TCAs professional capability and resources to provide effective assistance to developing member countries in building up their capacities in policy development.

xiii. The evaluation states that in order to raise the productivity and effectiveness of the policy assistance branches and units, working procedures in the Regional Offices should be strengthened with a view to improving inter-disciplinary integration in their work. The analysis by the TC Department of the performance of these units and their impact on both Field Programme development and policy assistance has led to similar conclusions. Consequently, directives are being given to establish Country Task Forces in Regional Offices and to field better-targeted multidisciplinary programming missions, in close collaboration with governments and FAO Representatives. These mechanisms will help to more clearly identify and develop regional priorities, as suggested in the evaluation, and to translate them into demand-driven services to Member Nations. Management accepts the concept of a common MTP programme entity, since it would provide added incentives to carry out policy work in an integrated and effective manner. The framework for such a common programme entity will be developed in consultation with the decentralised offices. An in-depth review is also being conducted of existing capabilities in the policy assistance branches and units.

xiv. The evaluation correctly stresses that the FAO Representative is a critical point of entry for government requests for policy assistance, and is essential in assisting countries in the policy process. Management concurs with this emphasis. The criteria used in the selection of FAORs have been defined by the Organization 19 . The concerns expressed by the evaluation on the capacity of the FAO Representatives are therefore more a matter of appropriate briefing and training, and the suggestions and recommendations made in this regard have been noted. It should also be pointed out that the Organization is reviewing staff resources made available at the country level to assist with the follow-up to normative and operational activities, particularly project operations.

xv. Information and direct technical assistance that are currently provided by the TCA branches and units to the FAO Representatives have to be reinforced. These decentralised offices will give timely support to the FAORs when they request policy advice.

xvi. The recommendations to improve the design of policy-oriented projects are well taken and will be applied to future interventions. Those on the shortcomings in the design of technical cooperation have also been noted. Among these, streamlining TCP arrangements will be done to the extent that the existing rules of TCP projects will be adhered to, and keeping in mind that these projects, like other FAO projects, are formulated and executed at the request of governments. To strengthen the flexibility of response to policy needs and improve budgetary reporting, administrative procedures will be streamlined and decentralised decision-making further enhanced.

xvii. The suggestion made in the evaluation that the ratio of resources to staff be strengthened through elimination of posts is accepted in principle and will be examined on a case-by-case basis. As mentioned above, an increase in non-staff resources is proposed in the SPWB 2002-03. Finally, it is fully agreed that donor funds have to be mobilised to establish policy cooperation funds, both globally (for policy interface between normative and technical divisions in FAO) and regionally (possibly modelled on the Horn of Africa initiative).


(Report of the 85 th Session, May 2001 20 )

xviii. 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.

xix. 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.

xx. 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:

  • improved flexibility and rapidity of response, emphasising the role of the decentralized offices in this regard and building on and augmenting steps already taken to enhance the effectiveness of TCP support;
  • further measures to strengthen the central role of the FAORs, who needed both resources and additional authority to respond on request for policy support with adequate technical backstopping;
  • cooperation with other agencies and IFIs at country level as part of the UN team;
  • strengthened joint work and interface between departments at Headquarters and with decentralized offices;
  • capacity-building support for policy-makers; and
  • need to ensure country ownership in policy work.

xxi. 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.

14. Africa: Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Senegal, Tanzania (mainland and Zanzibar); Asia: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand; Europe: Estonia, Lithuania, Moldova, Slovak Republic, Turkey; Latin America: Brazil, Mexico, Peru; Near East: Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen.

15. UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF)/Common Country Assessment (CCA), World Bank Comprehensive Development Framework (CDF)/Country Assistance Strategy (CAS). The ACC Network on Rural Development and Food Security which is decentralized in its action to country level is also potentially important.

16. Egypt, Estonia, Mozambique, Turkey.

17. PC 85/4. Composition of the Peer Review Panel: Mr. Malcolm D. Bale, Sector Manager, Strategy and Policy, Rural Development and Natural Resources Unit, East Asia and Pacific Region, The World Bank, Washington, D.C.; H.E. João Carrilho, Vice-Minister of Agriculture, Republic of Mozambique; H.E. Dr. Ing Kantha Phavi (Ms.), Secretary of State for the Ministry of Womens and Veterans Affairs, Kingdom of Cambodia; Dr. Roger Norton, advisor on agricultural development policy and natural resource management; Ms. Raquel Peña-Montenegro, Director, Latin America and Caribbean Division, IFAD; Dr. Julian Thomas, agricultural development specialist and former Chairman of the FAO Finance Committee and the Africa Group of Representatives to FAO; Mr. William Valletta, policy and legal specialist for land tenure and property rights in developing and transition economies. Views are also submitted in writing by Dr. Simon Maxwell, Food Policy Specialist and Director, Overseas Development Institute, UK.

18. PC 85/4.

19. See in particular Manual Section 118 and, more recently, background documents to the 119 th Session of the Council.

20. PC/85/REP paras 42-45.

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