PC 89/6 (c)

Programme Committee

Eighty–ninth Session

Rome, 5-9 May 2003

The Evaluation of FAO’s Policy Assistance:
Progress Report on Follow-up Action

Table of Contents


1. At its Eighty-fifth Session in May 2001, the Programme Committee welcomed the Evaluation Report of FAO’s Policy Assistance and considered it as a model for future programme evaluations. It also appreciated the forthcoming nature of the management response which contained proposed lines of action for many of the recommendations. The Committee requested a follow-up after about two years on the progress made in implementing the recommendations. The purpose of this report is to present the steps taken by the Organization to address these recommendations.


2. A number of recent developments contribute to changing the context in which agriculture operates. Paired with changing perceptions of the importance of hunger, this fact points to the need for increased assistance to the national agricultural development and food security strategies and policies. Agricultural trade-related issues have been given prominence in the next round of WTO negotiations agreed at Doha. The momentum generated at the Monterrey Conference was carried through to World Food Summit: five years later at which governments re-affirmed their commitment to achieve the goal of cutting by half the number of undernourished people by 2015, acknowledging the need for a higher level of political commitment to reducing hunger. The summit participants re-affirmed that a renewed commitment to agriculture and rural development is needed to make substantial and sustainable reductions in hunger and extreme poverty. Such a commitment would include policy actions, investments and institution building. At the same time, the importance of measures to enhance direct access to food and improve the nutrition and productivity of the most hungry and vulnerable were recognized.1

3. Accordingly and within the context of the Strategic Framework and the programme model adopted by the Organization, priority areas were defined regarding: a) sustainable rural livelihoods and more equitable access to resources; b) access of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups to sufficient, safe and nutritionally adequate food; c) preparedness for, and effective and sustainable response to food and agricultural emergencies; d) international regulatory frameworks and instruments concerning food, agriculture, fisheries and forestry, and the production, safe use and fair exchange of agricultural, fishery and forestry goods; e) national policies, legal instruments and supporting mechanisms that respond to domestic requirements and are consistent with the international policy and regulatory framework; f) policy options and institutional measures to improve efficiency and adaptability in production, processing and marketing systems, and meet the changing needs of producers and consumers; g) adoption of appropriate technology to sustainably intensify production systems and to ensure sufficient supplies of food and agricultural, fisheries and forestry goods and services; h) integrated management of land, water, fisheries, forest and genetic resources; and, i) conservation, rehabilitation and development of environments at the greatest risk.


4. Following the Evaluation Report’s recommendations, the programme related to fisheries policy was confirmed as a major priority, providing Members, IGOs and regional fisheries bodies with advice on fisheries policy and management. In the case of forestry, the related programme was defined to assist with building institutions in the forest sector, including cross-sectoral linkages, with focus on improved governance. In the case of agriculture, food security and trade policy, priority has been given to analytical work assessing the impact of policies on agriculture and food safety, as well as on issues related to resource mobilization for agriculture and rural development. Analysis of current and emerging issues, including trade-related policies, coupled with comparative analysis of food security and agricultural development experiences, aim at informing policy assistance and advice, thus underpinning the multi-disciplinary service to Member Nations at national and regional level. As recommended, the programme on livestock was significantly restructured to provide decision support through information and to enhance capacities in animal production and health technologies and policies, with emphasis on the contribution of the sub-sector to poverty alleviation.

Policy Assistance Work at Regional Level

Multidisciplinary policy assistance work is underway in support of most of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) active world-wide. Currently, 12 of these RECs have prepared Regional Programmes for Food Security (RPFS), which constitute a concerted effort to promote food security in the member countries of these RECs, in particular in low-income, food-deficit countries (LIFDCs), on an economically and environmentally sustainable basis, through a multidisciplinary and participatory approach. Food security is to be ensured through a combination of production and productivity increases at the level of small farmers, development of the domestic market, and of regional and international trade. Priority will be given to structural reforms for sustainable growth, harmonization of policies, reduction of barriers to trade and development of human resources at both national and regional level. Interventions will take into account, and be responsive to, the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable. In most cases, the RPFSs consist of three main components: trade facilitation; harmonization of national agricultural policies; and support to national food security efforts.


5. As a result of the internal review of Field Programme development and that of the Technical Cooperation Department, new functional statements for the Policy Assistance Division have been developed and approved. In particular, the role of the decentralized Branches and Units was underscored to promote technology-policy interface.


6. Taking into consideration regional priorities recommended by the FAO Regional Conferences, Regional Field Programme Development Strategies and Action Plans were prepared in 2001 by all the Regional and Sub-regional Offices, based upon information on priorities identified at national level. Typically, policy-related issues, mostly at sub-sectoral level were identified and provide the country-driven demand for policy assistance work around a few major development priorities. Policy assistance is further implemented within the multi-disciplinary approach facilitated by specific country task forces in the Regional and Sub-regional Offices.


7. While capacity building for the policy formation/implementation and evaluation process has been emphasized in all the normative and operational activities directly involving or underpinning the policy assistance work, Major Programme 3.1 Policy Assistance was confirmed as a central corporate programme for capacity building in the formulation of strategies, policies and programmes aimed at sustainable agricultural and rural development and food security.


8. During the last two years, FAO has played a major role in advocacy and awareness raising regarding policy issues. The World Food Summit: fyl provided a world-wide opportunity for that purpose; information campaigns on the principal subjects under discussion (political will and promotion of investments) were implemented at global, regional and national level. A number of events, including the participation of NGOs, private sector and other development players, including twenty Regional Economic Organizations were organized alongside the Summit. All of these events contributed to raising awareness of and commitment to the need to reformulate and implement national and regional policy frameworks addressing food security and agricultural/ rural development issues, with particular emphasis on water resources, poverty alleviation in rural areas, community development, sustainable rural livelihoods, food safety and agricultural trade facilitation.

9. Outstanding advocacy activities were implemented in partnership with the African Development Bank in support of African countries with special reference to the NEPAD Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme, at regional and national level, including Ministerial Conferences and High Level Technical Meetings. The advocacy effort is however world-wide in nature, covering small island countries, countries in transition and countries in sub-regions like Central Asia, which present specific needs and demands. In Latin America and the Caribbean, in association with financial, development agencies and bilateral cooperation mechanisms, High Level Meetings on Regional Rural Development and Food Security were organized in association with the Interamerican Development Bank.


Policy assistance to Cambodia

FAO has provided continued policy assistance to Cambodia in articulating its policy and strategies for a broadly based agricultural growth and rural development for poverty alleviation and household food security. The agricultural policy and strategy document was adopted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries as the framework for strategic actions for the development of the sector. Assistance was provided to Cambodia in incorporating the agricultural policies and strategies in the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper and the Second Socio-Economic Development Plan for the country. With UNDP’s funding support, a policy assistance activity is under implementation to assess the localization of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on poverty reduction and food security. It will assess the present situation and trends, in relation to poverty reduction and food and nutrition security with a view to localizing feasible and realistic MDG targets. This provides a unique opportunity to review and update the policy and strategies for agricultural development and food security and to advise the government on policy and institutional reforms, adjustment of the public expenditure framework and investment priorities as well as establishment of mechanisms for monitoring of progress towards the achievement of the MDGs.


10. Additional support has been provided to FAO Representatives in their involvement in national processes such as CCA/UNDAF and PRSP. This support was backed by the production of a number of conceptual papers that have constituted background material to the World Food Summit:fyl and by a review of food security, agricultural and rural development issues in PRSPs. FAO actively participated in the UNDAF process in 5 priority countries for testing the revised the CCA and UNDAF Guidelines as well as in the Task Force on Quality Support and Assurance System for the CCA and UNDAF Processes and Products set up in the framework of the United Nations Development Group.


11. FAO has intensified its cooperation in the field of policy with the World Bank and Regional Development Banks, along the lines of the Evaluation Report’s recommendations. In addition to the sustained contribution to the formulation and evaluation of investment projects under the Cooperative Programme, FAO has increased collaboration with the World Bank and regional banks such as the African Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, the Interamerican Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Asian Development Bank. FAO participated in the discussions organized by them on the rural development strategy. In the case of the World Bank, FAO participated in the updating process of the Bank’s Rural Development Strategy at global and regional level, and produced a study on Farming systems and poverty, considered as a major input in the reviewing exercise.


12. Through the FAO internet site all technical and economic departments are providing up-to-date information on their respective normative knowledge and information on the more important operational activities, including extensive utilization of virtual conferences and other modern communication and knowledge sharing tools. During 2003 it is expected that a new version of the Policy Assistance Division (TCA) internet site, will be developed to provide detailed information on corporate policy assistance related availabilities as well as on-line training in food, agriculture and rural development policy and planning. In Latin America, the FODEPAL project is providing continental-wide opportunities including distance learning, focussed on policy makers in public and non-governmental organizations.

Decentralized Offices and FAORs

13. The new TCA functional statements specify strengthened linkages between the policy assistance and field programme development functions, as well as attributing to the division the role of providing the interface between normative policy work conducted in the Technical Departments and the policy assistance provided to member countries through the decentralised Policy Assistance Branches and Units located in the FAO Regional and Sub-regional Offices. In addition, the function of mobilisation of funding has been integrated into the TCA division so that it can be more closely associated with the field programme development and policy assistance functions. Workshops were organised with the participation of FAORs in the five Regional Offices and one Sub-regional Office to inform and reflect on the implications of the reform of the Technical Cooperation Department in general, and the Policy Assistance Division in particular. Further, Global TCA Workshops have been organized to address common issues and to facilitate the coordination and complementarities with Technical Units both at HQs and the decentralized offices. Ensuring participation of FAORs has been a consistent policy when organizing these events.

14. To ensure a better integration of Policy Assistance Branches and Units with Technical Department Groups and multidisciplinary teams, post descriptions of vacant positions have been amended to give them a more technical orientation, in line with regional priorities. Country Task Forces have been established and are operational in the Regional and Sub-regional Offices and special meetings are organised during FAO Representatives visits. In one Regional Office multidisciplinary working groups have been established on priority policy-related regional themes.

15. Simultaneously, a shift in resources has been made in the Programme of Work and Budget under Major Programme 3.1 Policy Assistance to strengthen activities of the decentralized Policy Assistance Branches and Units, particularly as regards project identification and formulation. The result is a strengthened field programme that can deliver the policy advice support and capacity building with much larger funding at its disposal than under the Regular Programme alone and with the effective participation of the FAORs.

Supporting the Quality of FAO Work


16. The Agriculture and Economic Development Analysis Division (ESA) prepared a Concept Note on national agricultural development and food security strategies and policies, and a Guidelines document aimed at facilitating the operationalization of policy assistance work is currently under preparation by TCA. While these region-sensitive materials are intended primarily to facilitate the implementation of the Initiative to review and update National Agricultural Development and Food Security Strategies and Policies2 following the WFS:fyl, they are considered as a substantive normative contribution to the enhancement of the continuing process of policy assistance at the national level.


17. Due to the increased complexity and multi-dimensional nature of agricultural and rural development, project design should be based upon a multi-disciplinary analysis of major objectives, goals and that the policy and its related instruments are intended to address. Taking into consideration, in particular, the on-going experiences of up-scaling national food security efforts in Latin America, a new approach to focussing constraint analysis is currently under preparation. This exercise is expected to provide valuable inputs for further project design improvements. In addition, with a view to enhancing the preparation of projects financed by the FAO Trust Fund on Food Security and Food Safety, an improved project formulation framework with emphasis in monitoring and evaluation aspects was adopted. This framework is also underscoring the policy-related aspects, including an effective process of consultation with concerned stakeholders during the preparation. Following guidance received from the Field Programme Committee, a Project Design Advisory Group was established in the TC Department, aimed at reviewing and assessing quality aspects of projects before final approval.


18. A Country Information System (CIF) is now available on the intranet which gathers key policy and strategy related material. Comprehensive Country Briefs are now accessible on the intranet by all senior officers and FAORs to facilitate policy dialogue with high level representatives from member nations and to facilitate access to updated information on policy related needs and developments at the national level. Additional information on major development frameworks, including PRSP, CCA and UNDAF is also available through the CIF.


19. In Headquarters, the Policy Task Force was established at ADG level, supported by a Working Group of Policy Focal Points. The Task Force will comprehensively address issues and needs including mechanisms and procedures for improvements, with respect to policy development assistance work; inter-departmental co-ordination; normative work in support of national policy development; priority setting, aligning FAO’s comparative strengths with country’s needs; the ability of staff to undertake policy work (including immediate initiation of guideline development and the development of staff training); monitoring and assessment of the conduct and results of national policy work; and continuing institutional arrangements. As a consequence, a number of policy-related activities involved intense interdepartmental cooperation. For example, the preparation of the NEPAD Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme was a cooperative effort of the Technical Cooperation Department, the Economic and Social Department, the Agriculture Department and the Sustainable Development Department. Policy related publications were prepared on concepts and experiences related to agricultural development policy and on reform and decentralisation of agricultural services, under the leadership of the Policy Assistance Division, in close cooperation with normative technical divisions. Enhanced cooperation also occurred between the Technical Cooperation Department and the Economic and Social Department, particularly on the identification of current and emerging regional policy issues.

Expansion of policy assistance support

20. There was an intensification of policy assistance activities at the country level. This assistance was provided through Projects funded under TCP or extrabudgetary resources as well as through Regular Programme missions. For example, 75 on-going projects are currently providing technical assistance in agricultural development or food security policy and strategy formulation. During the last two-year period, around 250 missions were fielded to countries aimed at providing services in policy assistance with the participation of TCA officers and officers from other Technical Departments.

21. At regional level, FAO is providing policy assistance to Regional Economic Communities in the formulation of Regional Food Security Programmes (RPFS). This support was underpinned by a conceptual paper on regional integration and food security. These programmes, based on regional food security strategies developed with FAO assistance, were presented during the World Food Summit:fyl. In the case of Latin America and Africa, these programmes have been discussed with Regional Banks (Interamerican Development Bank and African Development Bank) and member countries. Recently a project supporting the CARIFORUM/CARICOM RPFS was prepared and declared operational. The RPFS UEMOA is under implementation and, in the case of the Pacific Island Forum, the RPFS project is under preparation. In Africa, the discussions were set in the context of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the agricultural component of which – the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CADDP) – was elaborated with FAO technical support. FAO will continue to provide support to translate this programme into an Action Plan and national programmes. Policy assistance to CIS countries was also considerably strengthened and work has been initiated in the area of development and implementation of common agricultural policies.


1 . This “twin-track” approach to hunger and poverty reduction was largely adopted in food security strategy papers prepared for WFS:fyl by the European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom.

2 In Africa, the Initiative is implemented within the framework of the preparation of NEPAD Agricultural Development Programmes at the national level.