JOINT MEETING OF THE
Rome, 7 May 2003
Proposed Reform of the General Debate
1. The Joint Meeting will need to make a recommendation regarding whether or not to convene Ministerial-level Round Tables during the Thirty-second Session of the Conference in November-December 2003. Should the Joint Meeting make a recommendation in favour of convening Round Tables, two possible scenarios for their conduct are presented by the Secretariat for consideration.
2. On considering the Report of the September 2002 Joint Meeting,1 the Council, at its Hundred and Twenty-third Session (28 October - 1 November 2002), requested the Secretariat to further study the option of holding simultaneously the General Debate and thematic Round Tables, for which a discussion paper would be prepared, while taking into account such practical factors as timing, space availability, attendance by Ministers and incremental costs. The Council further requested that the Secretariat report to the June 2003 Session of the Council, through the Joint Meeting of the Programme and Finance Committees in May 2003, on its findings.
3. Although the thematic Round Tables held during the World Food Summit: five years later were a success, some Members of the Council voiced concern, during its Hundred and Twenty-third Session, that debate at Round Tables would follow the same pattern as the General Debate during Conference, with prepared speeches and no lively interaction. It is understood that there were also some misgivings about the difficulties of smaller delegations participating in Round Tables, given their commitments to participate in the Plenary and Commissions I and II during the Conference session.
4. At its Hundred and Twenty-third Session, the Council considered that in the event that a decision were to be taken to convene Round Tables, they:
5. In the context of the Timetable of the Conference, and given the above-noted considerations, it would be possible to hold three Round Tables, accommodating 30 participants each, on December 1-3, from 17:00-19:00. This time period would not conflict with the work of Commissions I and II, and would not involve incremental interpretation costs because interpretation expenses for three Round Tables, meeting individually on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday after the normal working hours of the Conference could be absorbed by the current Conference budget. However, the cost of producing a four-page discussion paper in the five working languages of the Organization (US$2,450) and of servicing the three Round Tables (recruitment of 12 messengers at US$70 per day) would amount to US$840, for a cumulative total of US$3,290.
6. The disadvantage of Scenario I is that not all FAO Members could be accommodated, and a selection process would therefore be necessary to limit the number of participants in each scheduled session at the level specified by the Joint Meeting. In addition, participants would not be afforded any flexibility in scheduling their attendance, as Round Tables would be held only at the end of each day, from Monday to Wednesday.
7. Scenario II calls for six Round Tables, accommodating 30 participants each, on December 1-3. Three of these six Round Tables could be scheduled from 17:00-19:00 as the work of the Plenary and Commissions would be nearing their end. Their scheduling would entail no incremental interpretation costs as mentioned above, but would entail US$840 for servicing charges (recruitment of twelve messengers at US$70/day) and US$2,450 for the preparation of the discussion paper in the five official languages of the Organization.
8. The other three proposed Round Tables (from the total of six envisaged in this Scenario), however, would need to be scheduled from 14:30-16:30 on December 1-3, and would entail in addition to the cost of the discussion paper and the servicing charges indicated in paragraph 7 above, incremental interpretation costs of US$9,600 per Round Table (total of US$28,800), as well as servicing charges (recruitment of twelve additional messengers at US$70/day) of US$840. These incremental costs result from the need to schedule the other three Round Tables in question concomitantly to sessions of the Plenary, and to Commissions I and II. Thus the cumulative cost of the six Round Tables, including interpretation, discussion paper and servicing would be US$32,930.
9. The drawbacks to this Scenario are two. Firstly, an additional US$32,090 would have to be calculated into the Conference budget to pay for them. Secondly, the work of the Commissions could be disrupted by lack of a quorum due to Member Nations’ participation in the three Round Tables scheduled during the day. This would pose particular problems for Commission II, whose work would need to be completed before the vote on Budgetary Appropriations 2004-2005, scheduled for the morning of Friday 5 December 2003.
10. Given these considerations and the costs implied, the Joint Meeting could make a determination that, while Round Tables could be envisaged for special thematic events at Headquarters, the General Debate during the Conference should proceed as per standard FAO practice, without any Round Tables.
11. Should the Joint Meeting recommend the adoption of either Scenario I or Scenario II by the Council, adequate preparatory time would be required to ensure the success of the meetings. Regardless of the format that would be ultimately decided, it would be necessary to initiate the following organizational arrangements well in advance of the Conference:
12. The Joint Meeting would also need to provide guidance on the application for the Round Tables during the Conference, of the ground rules adopted for the Round Tables that were held during the World Food Summit: five years later, namely:
13. Should the Joint Meeting wish to recommend to the Council that Round Tables be scheduled during the forthcoming Session of the Conference, it is requested to make a recommendation regarding either Scenario I or Scenario II. Should the Joint Meeting instead wish to recommend to the Council that no Round Tables be scheduled, it should make a
1 CL 123/9.