Hundred and Twenty-seventh Session
Rome, 22 – 27 November 2004
Report of the Ninety-first Session of the Programme Committee
Major Programme 2.1: Agricultural Production and Support Systems
Major Programme 2.2: Food and Agriculture Policy and Development
Major Programme 2.3: Fisheries
Major Programme 2.4: Forestry
Major Programme 2.5: Contributions to Sustainable Development and Special Programme Thrusts
Matters for information
Adjustments to the Programme of Work and Budget 2004-05
4 – 28
Review of Programmes
29 – 34
Major Programme 2.3 – Fisheries
29 - 31
Major Programme 2.4 – Forestry
32 - 34
35 – 37
The Evaluation of Programme 2.3.3 (Fish Exploitation and Utilization)
Appointment of Chief, Evaluation Service (PBEE)
38 – 40
Priority Setting in the Context of Programme Planning
41 – 51
Possible New Format for the Programme Implementation Report
52 – 54
Progress Report on the Follow-up to Past Programme Committee Recommendations
Review of the Working Methods of the Programme Committee
Possible Items for Discussion at the Next Session
1. The Committee submits to the Council the following report of its Ninety-first Session.
2. The following Members were present:
H.E. E. Wermuth (Netherlands)
H.E. M. Arvelo (Dominican Republic)
Mr A.R. Ayazi (Afghanistan)
Mr B.J. Hughes (Australia)
Mr B.G. Hankey (Canada)
Mr G. Nair (India)
Mr F.B. Zenny (Jamaica)
Ms W. Dikah (Lebanon)
Mr R. bin Khalid (Malaysia)
Mr G.G. Lombin (Nigeria)
Ms M. Mohapi (South Africa)
3. The Agenda and Timetable for the meeting were approved.
4. The Committee examined the proposed adjustments to the Programme of Work and Budget 2004-05, as mandated by operative paragraph 2 of Resolution 7/2003 of the last FAO Conference. Bearing in mind the joint discussion of the same subject with the Finance Committee, the Committee focussed its examination on the negative effects of the adjustments on Chapters 2 Technical and Economic Programmes, 3 Cooperation and Partnerships and 4 Technical Cooperation Programme, as reflected below.
5. The Committee recalled that the adoption of a total net Appropriation of US$ 749.1 million for the 2004-05 biennium reflected a political compromise at the time of the Conference. While recognizing this fact, many Members expressed deep concerns about the damaging impact on many valuable programmes of keen interest to developing countries, stemming from the required cuts of US$ 51.2 million from the ZRG proposals in document C 2003/3. These Members stressed that the cumulative budget restrictions experienced by the Organization over recent biennia had led to a much weakened capacity to meet recognized challenges and to assist the Membership in the implementation of such international pronouncements as the Plan of Action of the World Food Summit and the Millennium Development Goals. The Committee draws the attention of Council to this serious concern. Other Members generally accepted the proposed adjustments, as a balanced package developed in difficult circumstances, while reflecting various interests of the Membership.
6. The Committee sought clarifications on the approach used by the Secretariat in reaching the required resource cuts. It also enquired about the rationale of the choices made which led to differentiated net changes across Major Programmes and Programme Entities (for substantive programmes) and the consequential effect on support for the field programmes as well as on the adjustments to planned outputs vs. the ZRG proposals as appeared in the document. In this regard it was noted that the technical and economic programmes under Chapter 2 of the PWB had had to absorb more than half of the total reduction, while Major Programmes 2.1, 2.2 and 2.5 had been proportionally hit harder than 2.3 and 2.4, Fisheries and Forestry. The Committee welcomed in this connection the frank exposition by senior managers of the difficulties they had encountered in reconciling mandatory resource reduction targets with known expectations of Members over such a wide range of activities.
7. The Committee recognized that the analytical approach relied on a combination of tools, including expressed priorities, as transpired in official records of recent sessions of FAO Governing Bodies, the results of internal criteria analysis and the conclusions of evaluations. At the same time, the Committee appreciated that due latitude was given to the concerned senior managers to modulate the impact of reduction targets at the level of individual entities. This had enabled them to take more fully into account various factors, such as the incidence of vacant posts to limit staff separation or redeployment costs. The Committee recalled that it would return to the issue of priority setting, including perceived shortcomings in some of the above techniques, when discussing document PC 91/7.
8. The Committee welcomed the incorporation of further efficiency savings in the proposals and the intent to pursue the search for additional savings, including in particular through structural change. It also encouraged a proactive approach with donors who could be interested in entering into strategic partnerships with FAO by complementing scarce Regular Programme resources with their voluntary contributions.
9. The Committee took note that consultations had been held with decentralized offices in deciding on resource allocations. However, it urged that the needs of specific regions should be more fully taken into account during implementation despite the limitations of lower resource levels.
10. The Committee recalled the importance of normative activities under Major Programme 2.1, including the servicing of a number of international regulatory instruments, e.g. IPPC, the Rotterdam Convention and the International Treaty on PGRFA. It recognized that this Major Programme also needed to be able to respond to emergencies and rapidly evolving situations, such as locust upsurges and zoosanitary crises. Hence, the Committee took note of the difficult decisions that had had to be faced, since a number of high-priority areas had to be protected to the maximum extent possible, but regretted the detrimental impact on the remainder of the activities.
11. The Committee was particularly concerned about reductions of several outputs dealing with capacity building. It stressed that normative activities needed to go hand in hand with support for national policy development and attendant capacity building, so that developing countries might be in a position to fully participate in and benefit from a rapidly globalizing world economy. The Committee was reassured that capacity building was still an integral dimension of many Programme Entities. It also noted that in the process of needed adjustment, recourse had been made to enhanced partnerships with other specialized centres of excellence, including the International Centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research and the Office International des Epizooties (OIE), and with relevant regional and national organizations so as to minimize impact of reductions.
12. Given the substantial contribution of Major Programme 2.1 to the backstopping of the field programme including TCP projects, the Committee expressed concern about the impact of declining staff resources on the quality of technical support. It noted that it would be useful to analyze the most frequently requested types of assistance under the TCP, in order to match the Major Programme’s expertise and capacities to the needs of countries.
13. The Committee noted with concern that, as a result of above average reductions, this Major Programme could have reached the “bottom line” in its ability to deliver significant and multifaceted outputs in a number of key areas, for instance as related to dissemination of information, important policy studies and advice to Members.
14. The Committee was advised of the special efforts made, including through reallocations between entities, to protect – to the extent possible – several high-priority areas such as Codex, Codex-related activities, the Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping Systems (FIVIMS), the World Agricultural Information Centre (WAICENT) and trade policy advice to developing countries. It also received clarifications on measures taken to further delineate the scope of policy analysis and assistance work between ES and TC Departments, to the benefit of recipient countries. Despite the expected further strong demand for Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture (GIEWS) missions to conduct food security and food supply assessments, the Committee noted that such missions would have to depend more on TCP resources to partly compensate for the budgetary adjustments made.
15. In recalling the importance of statistical data collection, processing and dissemination, the Committee emphasized the risks to FAO’s credibility in this area, if resource constraints were to continue.
16. The Committee welcomed the relatively “favourable” treatment afforded to these important Major Programmes, taking account of consistent expressions of support in Governing Bodies. As regards fisheries, the Committee sought clarification on the scope and impact of the most severe reductions, particularly with regard to demand-driven work such as direct support to Member countries, as well as activities related to the implementation of the Code of Conduct on Responsible Fisheries.
17. In respect of forestry, the Committee noted the relatively limited impact on staff levels of lower resources (two Professional and four General Service posts), while regretting the apparent reductions under work for desertification control and the several entities devoted to field programme support.
18. The Committee cautioned about the effects of the budget cuts on the capacity of the Sustainable Development Department (SD) to continue to promote FAO’s work on gender, population, rural youth and capacity building activities in a number of key disciplines. The Committee also noted the Department’s involvement with the implementation of UNCED Agenda 21, including its collaborative work with other UN agencies, which remained of particular importance but would be hampered by budget restrictions.
19. The Committee recalled the valuable supportive role of FAO to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) system, while observing that FAO’s contribution to the Secretariat of the CGIAR Science Council had been duly protected.
20. The Committee was advised about an on-going internal review of the Department and its programmes in order to reorient, refocus and revitalize the SD Department’s activities. It expressed interest in the findings of this review, when available.
21. Regarding Programme 2.5.6 SPFS, the Committee was reassured that the reduction under entity 256P2 SPFS formulation was expected to be compensated by the commitments of partner financial institutions and other sources.
22. Within Major Programme 3.1 Policy Assistance, the Committee expressed serious concern about the reduction of 14.3 percent in Programme 3.1.2 Policy Assistance to Various Regions, as it accorded high priority to delivery of policy advice to Member countries through decentralized offices. The Committee requested that the reduction be brought in line with the average for the Organization at the approved budget level for 2004-05, that is 6.4 percent below Zero Real Growth. It requested that the resulting need for an additional US$ 1.34 million for Programme 3.1.2 should be found through reallocation of efficiency savings expected to be generated by measures to be taken by the Secretariat within the biennium.
23. The Committee emphasized the importance of decentralization and looked forward to its consideration of the evaluation report on decentralization to be presented to its next Session in September 2004.
24. As regards Major Programme 3.2 Support to Investment, the Committee regretted the heavy cuts for Programme 3.2.2 Investment Support Programme, while recognizing the importance of the long-standing contractual arrangement of FAO with the World Bank, which led to a much lower reduction under Programme 3.2.1. It noted that the extra-budgetary funding of the activities carried out by the Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division (TCE) had spared the latter division from the reduction exercise.
25. As regards Major Programme 3.4 FAO Representatives, some Members expressed concerns about the substantial cut and its potential impact on the performance of the network of country offices. The Committee received additional clarifications on the measures taken to alleviate such negative impact to the extent possible. It recalled that the country offices will be an important dimension of the independent evaluation of decentralization, scheduled for discussion at its next Session in September 2004.
26. Many Members welcomed the full protection given to the TCP allocation even if this fell short of their expectations for an even higher level of resources for this key programme. Other Members, however, questioned this level of protection of the TCP Appropriation, as it entailed higher sacrifice to other priority areas.
27. The Committee recalled that it should consider at its next Session a review of the TCP, including inter alia, an examination of the allocation and expenditure of TCP resources, its importance in relation to other Major Programme areas and the criteria that are used to determine TCP eligibility.
28. In conclusion, besides the specific request regarding policy assistance, the Committee expected that every effort would be made, should possibilities of reallocation of additional resources materialize during the biennium, to address the above areas of concern.
29. The Committee was advised that although the Major Programme had suffered a reduction of US$ 2.8 million, as compared to the level of the Zero Real Growth scenario, a large number of priorities identified by COFI and its two Sub-Committees had been incorporated under the adjusted budget. It was satisfied in particular to see the increased emphasis on IUU fishing, support to regional fisheries management organizations and aquaculture. Concern was however expressed that the high number of technical requests which continued to flow to the Fisheries Department in a period of reduced Regular Programme funds could impact the balance in the programme of work, particularly if donors provided large extra-budgetary support to areas in which they had a special interest. The Committee was reassured that donors were not in a position to influence priority setting under the Major Programme.
30. The Committee enquired about steps being taken to provide statistical information on fisheries subjected to particularly intense pressures. Concern was expressed about the possible adverse impact of budget cuts on activities related to the provision of fisheries information and statistics, small-scale fisheries and the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. The Committee recognized the broad range of activities in support of the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries which went beyond the coordinating role of entity 234A1. While it was clearly necessary to strengthen support to aquaculture, it was observed that it was important to avoid treating aquaculture as a sort of comprehensive remedy or even replacement for capture fisheries.
31. The Committee welcomed the presentation by the Secretariat of core activities and emerging issues to be considered for the formulation of the next Medium Term Plan 2006-11. Clarifications were also provided on the main elements of Programme 2.3.1 Fisheries Information and in particular the biennial outputs of 231S1 Advice and Technical Support to Member Nations and Regional Fisheries Bodies, which were linked to the Strategy for Improving Information on Status and Trends of Capture Fisheries. The Committee expressed satisfaction with the efforts made towards maintaining a focussed and well balanced Programme of Work for fisheries.
32. The Committee was informed of the broad strategies being pursued by the Forestry Department and of the successful re-organization of the Department in 2003, which was accompanied by a re-structuring of Major Programme 2.4 Forestry. Mention was made of new entities introduced in the Medium Term Plan 2004-09 in response to emerging global issues in forestry, including Forests and Climate Change; Forests and Water; Forest Policies and Governance; and Forests, Poverty Alleviation and Food Security. The Committee also noted that the Department had given due attention to recommendations by forestry statutory bodies.
33. The Committee commended the Department on a well formulated programme which reflected guidance from COFO and Regional Forestry Commissions. It supported the balanced approach to the economic, environmental and social functions of forests. The Committee was satisfied that both normative and operational activities were being addressed, and that most important themes had been relatively protected from budget reductions in the current biennium. It appreciated that FAO had actively responded to requests from its Governing Bodies to support the international forest policy dialogue, while at the same time ensuring support to countries. The Committee endorsed the emphasis on national capacity building activities, particularly with regard to Forest Resource Assessments and through the National Forest Programme Facility.
34. The Committee requested and received clarification regarding specific activities, namely the role of forestry in desertification control, especially in the Near East Region; whether the FAO Forestry Strategic Plan would be revisited and adapted to new challenges; and if the budget was adequate for providing support to forest plantations development. It also enquired about the degree of participation of the Forestry Department in missions of the Investment Centre and the experience in interacting with the Global Environmental Facility.
35. The Committee appreciated the quality of the report, stating that the evaluation was appropriately placed within the context of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, focused on the key issues in the programme area and made convincing recommendations. The Committee also was satisfied with the thorough coverage and the transparent process followed in the evaluation.
36. The Committee generally concurred with the recommendations of the evaluation, including the need to focus more on small-scale fisheries and capacity building. Some Members expressed concern that Regular Programme design was cited as an area requiring improvement and also stressed the importance of including a full range of member states in questionnaire surveys.
37. The Committee noted that the management response did not agree fully with certain recommendations and felt that it was the responsibility of FAO management to decide the best way to implement the recommendations. In this connection, the Committee requested that a follow-up report should be presented in two years, describing how the evaluation recommendations had been implemented.
38. The Committee recalled that in the context of earlier discussions and decisions in Governing Bodies related to the independence of FAO’s Evaluation Service, it was scheduled to consider proposals as to how it could be involved in the appointment of the Chief of that Service.
39. The Committee was advised of the vacancy created by the retirement of the incumbent of the post. It recognized the urgency of filling the position and appreciated the initiative of the Director-General in consulting it prior to the appointment of the person selected. The Committee noted the choice made, observing that it was the result of a thorough search for suitable candidates.
40. The Committee looked forward to considering the issue of its involvement in future appointments to this position based on a proposal to be submitted by the internal Evaluation Committee.
41. The Committee addressed document PC 91/7, the contents of which reflected the specific request made at the previous session of September 2003.
42. The Committee noted that the document contained useful elements of information. However, the Committee again recognized the extremely complex nature of the subject of priority setting in FAO’s context. There were, in fact, critical aspects such as:
43. The Committee also observed that heightened attention to priority setting in Governing Bodies was due in great part to the prolonged period of budgetary constraints experienced by FAO. It expressed concern that a consequence may be that resources were too thinly stretched over a broad range of activities.
44. In view of the complexity of the subject, there was a general feeling that the Committee should not rush into hasty decisions. Caution was invited by many Members on the suggested courses of action contained in the document, as they did not feel ready to make the sorts of judgements expected of them at programme entity level. On the other hand, the Committee recognized that there was some urgency in the Secretariat having to embark on the formulation of the Medium Term Plan 2006-11, which was scheduled for consideration at its next session.
45. During the discussion, opinions were expressed on the various sections of document PC 91/7 as follows.
46. The Committee generally welcomed Part I “Evolving External Context and Resource Allocation by Strategic Objectives” in its attempt to present an updated and concise view of the major challenges faced by Members in the areas of FAO’s mandate and consequently by the Organization. It was observed that a missing dimension in the analysis was to put these challenges in the context of the growing convergence of assessments and pronouncements made by the international community in a number of fora including, in particular, the Millennium Development Goals.
47. The Committee confirmed the continued validity of FAO’s Strategic Framework 2000-15 which, while not a priority-setting instrument per se, provided a solid vision for the work of the Organization over the longer term. The Committee recognized that renewed discussion among Members of major challenges facing FAO was particularly germane to the intended mid-term review of the Strategic Framework and requested the Secretariat to present at its next session a possible time table for such an exercise.
48. The Committee confirmed that the compendium of views expressed by Members, as had been derived from interventions at and records of recent intergovernmental fora and as provided in Part II, was useful but not sufficient to support decisions on priorities. It was observed that its value would somewhat improve if a longer time period than just one biennium were to be adopted. Some misgivings were expressed on the three categories used in the compendium, and suggestions offered on possible alternatives.
49. As to Part III “Complementary Analysis of Other Programme Areas”, the Committee agreed that it was not in a position to attempt to establish relative priorities among such a large group of Programme Entities. Additional analysis to inform proper choices was necessary. While the Committee felt that it may be appropriate to address priorities at a more aggregated level, it was also recognized that this would not preclude assessment at Programme Entity level, as necessary.
50. The Committee was advised that the enhanced programming process now in use in FAO foresaw the conduct of systematic auto-evaluation of entities which should provide the firm basis for managers to decide on the continuation or elimination of individual entities. It recognized that it would have the opportunity of reviewing the results of that process and of commenting on them.
51. Therefore, the Committee agreed that more work was required to develop the type of information and level of aggregation which would facilitate its task of advising on priorities in the context of the MTP and PWB exercises. It welcomed a stepwise development of additional information suggested by the Secretariat to the effect that:
52. The Committee endorsed the proposed evolution of the Programme Implementation Report (PIR) towards a more results-based format based on a structured monitoring and assessment process as outlined in document PC 91/8. It appreciated the new reporting on Strategic Objectives, regional dimensions and interdisciplinary activities. It was understood that the PIR will report progress towards achieving the Strategic Objectives in terms of outputs produced, and feed into the medium-term evaluation of outcomes and impact. Reporting on the regional dimension will initially provide a description of selected achievements with regional benefit, with eventual reporting against more specific regional priorities identified in the planning process. It was suggested that reporting on organizational performance should eventually include information on cost efficiency and effectiveness.
53. The Committee emphasized the strong link between normative and operational activities. It noted that, while the PIR reported on the evolution of total resources from the Regular Programme Appropriation and extra-budgetary funds and provided summary information on the Field Programme delivery, comprehensive reporting on field projects was beyond its current scope. It noted that all field programme funding is subject to rigorous evaluation, on which it receives reports (see document PC 91/INF/3).
54. The Committee was informed that the Field Programme Management Information System (FPMIS) provides information on field projects, and that a version tailored to Members’ needs was in pilot testing. Concern was expressed that not all Members had access to the Internet and that other means would have to be found to make this information available.
55. The Committee took note of this progress report.
56. The Committee agreed to consider this matter between sessions and that Members could contact the Chairperson with any recommendations or comments which would be taken into account or discussed at the 92nd Session.
57. The Committee agreed that, in addition to the standing items on its agenda, it would discuss the following subjects at its next session:
1 PC 91/1 – PC 91/INF/1
2 PC 89/4