XXIV. Appendix D. Statement by the director-general
Mr Chairman of the Conference,
Mr Independent Chairman of the Council,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Just one year ago, the World Food Summit was being held in this very hall. I do not need to emphasize the importance of that event for implementation of the Organization's mandate and I should like once again to pay tribute to all those who helped make the Summit a great success: the governments, the parliamentarians, the representatives of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and the private sector, and the staff of FAO.
Now, with determination, tenacity and coherence, we have actually to put into practice the commitments that were adopted by 186 countries. It is in this perspective that the proceedings of this Twenty-ninth Session of the Conference should take place.
(State of world food and agriculture)
The state of world food and agriculture is one of contrasts. The acute pressures on the food commodity markets of 1995-96 have largely been absorbed with the good harvests of 1996. Yet, many countries still face difficulties, and early estimates for 1997 point to an increase in world agricultural output of only 1.1 percent. Moreover, cereal stocks - estimated to be 285 million tonnes or just over 15 percent of expected consumption in 1997/98 - have not resumed to the standard security threshold of 17 to 18 percent of annual needs. The high cost of food imports has caused serious problems for many low-income food-deficit countries and has slowed their progress towards food security.
While the global outlook is good, with world economic growth for 1997 and 1998 expected to be about 4.2 percent against 4.1 percent in 1996, the situation in many parts of the world is not so reassuring. Several developing countries, crushed by an external debt burden totalling US$2.177 billion in December 1996, are increasingly at risk of becoming marginalized. Many are struggling to create an environment conducive to foreign investment and to improve their competitiveness fast enough to keep up with the advance of free trade and globalization. Development aid continues to decline in real terms, having hovered at a nominal US$60 billion in recent years. At the same time, aid to the agricultural sector plunged from US$16 billion in 1988 to US$10 billion in 1995, although there are now welcome signs of a change in direction. The gap between rich and poor can only widen under such conditions, both within and between countries.
Furthermore, armed conflicts and food emergencies continue, the one very often abetting the other. Peace may be a prerequisite for food security, but there can be no peaceful life for populations affected by hunger.
(Implementation of the Summit Plan of Action)
A series of initiatives have been launched to pursue the objectives of the World Food Summit:
The drafting of documents on national strategies for agriculture and food security towards the year 2010, with 150 developing Member Nations and others in transition, provides a framework for FAO collaboration with these countries. I wish that the developed Member Nations could also join this exercise and prepare similar documents in a spirit of global approach to the problems of food security.
The development of the Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping System started early this year in close collaboration with many UN agencies and international and national institutions working in this field. The Expert Consultation organized by FAO last March determined the actions that were needed to launch this programme. These were endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security in April 1997, and an interagency working group has been formed for their implementation.
However, actually halving the total of 800 million people without adequate access to food by the year 2015 calls for more than speeches, seminars, studies and consultants' reports. Concrete field actions have therefore been conducted, spearheaded by the Special Programme for Food Security which targets rural communities in poor countries. The programme is already operational in 24 of these countries and formulation is under way in a further 42. The modest funds earmarked in the Organization's Regular Programme have had a catalytic effect in mustering bilateral and multilateral resources that will enable this vital programme to grow and reach all 86 low-income food-deficit countries.
Meanwhile, the Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases has already scored notable successes: timely interventions in emergency situations, for example, rinderpest in five countries and desert locust control in regions most exposed to this scourge, North Africa, the Sahel and the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden region. There are plans to build a world network of national units and to strengthen capacity for rapid intervention and assistance to countries for the elimination of animal diseases and the control of plant diseases.
FAO has also stepped up its normative and operational support to Member Nations for implementation of the Marrakesh Agreement. This assistance, provided by means of 18 regional workshops and 44 national projects, has focused on agricultural policy, the prospects opened up by the "Decision on Measures Concerning the Possible Negative Effects of the Reform Programme on Least-Developed Countries and Net Food-Importing Countries", intellectual property rights, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade and the international standards of the Codex Alimentarius, whose Joint FAO/WHO Commission now has 158 members. The Organization will, however, have to raise its capacity to help prepare future trade negotiations, working closely with WTO, the World Bank and UNCTAD.
The Summit placed great emphasis on the need to involve civil society in the fight against hunger and malnutrition. FAO has therefore encouraged the launching of "Food for All" campaigns and a process of national consultation to this effect is already under way in several developed and developing countries. I should like to reiterate my appeal to all governments to launch these campaigns, for example by establishing fore that will group all development players and partners (parliamentarians, NGOs, the private sector, women's associations, youth organizations, the media, universities, and so forth). It was this concern to engage world public opinion that led to "TeleFood", which was organized to mark World Food Day and which, through 100 or so television channels, brought home the problems of hunger and malnutrition to approximately 500 million viewers in more than 70 countries.
Under the auspices of the UN Administrative Committee on Co-ordination, an interagency cooperation mechanism has been put in place for implementing the Summit Plan of Action, including the establishment of a Network on Rural Development and Food Security, as proposed by FAO and IFAD.
Finally, FAO has introduced a mechanism to monitor the implementation of the Summit Plan of Action, following the indications of the Committee on World Food Security which will evaluate progress at its next session.
FAO has pursued and intensified its efforts to implement the programme of reform that was adopted by the Council at its 106th Session in June 1994 regarding the policies, priorities and structures of the Organization. It has also undertaken actions in other important spheres of its mandate.
First, initiatives for the sustainable use of natural resources have led to:
- the adoption of the World Plan of Action of the International Technical Conference for the Conservation and Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources, held in Leipzig in June 1 996;
- the revision of the International Plant Protection Convention;
- the Programme for Integrated Pest Control, successfully applied in Asia and under implementation in Africa.
Next, forests, where FAO has continued to develop a programme focusing on the contribution of forestry to food security, on effective and responsible forest management and on maintaining an equilibrium among the economic, ecological and social benefits of forest resources. It has also helped develop national forestry programmes, drawing up a blueprint for the planning of sustainable development of all types of forest and forest activities. During these last two years, FAO has made a substantial contribution to the international debate on forestry issues, and has played its expected lead role, to the full, supporting the works of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests and chairing the Inter Agency Task Force on Forests, which has prepared a plan of work to implement the Panel's decisions. In addition, less than a month ago, the Eleventh World Forestry Congress was held in Antalya at the invitation of Turkey and with the support of the Organization.
Finally, fisheries and aquaculture, where FAO's work has continued within the framework of the Kyoto Plan of Action on the Sustainable Contribution of Fisheries to Food Security, the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and reinforcement of regional bodies, in particular the recently formed Indian Ocean Tuna Commission and the General Fisheries Council for the Mediterranean. Since the last Conference, 21 technical consultations on the management of marine fishery resources have been held in the framework of regional bodies. In addition, work on aquatic genetic resources has been stepped up and studies have been carried out on the impact of "EI Niņo" on fisheries in Latin America and Africa.
(Processing, analysis and dissemination of information)
The compilation, analysis and dissemination of information in all these spheres remains one of FAO's most important activities. Its annual report on the state of food and agriculture continues to be the main source of general information in this area and now includes a section on food security as follow up to the Summit. Two new publications have also been introduced to provide an in-depth analysis of the state and specific problems of fisheries and forestry: The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture and State of the World's Forests. The Sixth World Food Survey was published in 1996, including China and the Central Asian countries in transition for the first time, employing a more sophisticated methodology and providing more detailed anthropometric information.
FAO continues to serve as a reference for the long-term outlook for agriculture and food security. Following publication in 1993 of its study World agriculture: towards 2010, there will soon be an update covering likely developments towards 2015, with a more general evaluation leading up to 2030.
(Modern information and telecommunication techniques)
In recent years, the Organization has formulated and implemented strategies and plans for the effective use of modern information and telecommunication technologies. The supply or replacement of equipment, software and applications, the improved flow of information through the Intranet and Internet and the introduction of multimedia resources have helped rationalize and modernize systems while reducing costs. The Organization now uses video-conferencing to replace the traditional interagency meetings and consultations.
Information dissemination has therefore kept pace with the times through these electronic facilities. The World Agricultural Information Centre (WAlCENT) now enables governments, institutions and the general public to have ready access to a wide range of information that is essential for food security and sustainable rural development: FAOSTAT for statistical data, FAOINFO for textual information and FAOSIS for access to specialized information systems, in particular, animal genetic resources and pesticides. Three different modes of access have been set up for the Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture.
These efforts are producing results. FAO's site on the Internet is posting more than one million hits each month and has reinforced as never before the Organization's capacity to disseminate information to English-, Arabic-, Spanish- and French-speaking users. At the same time, 2000 CD-ROMs have been distributed to all Member Nations to provide access to WAICENT in areas where the Internet is not easily or widely available. The Programme of Work and Budget for 1998-99 will further expand information services to Member Nations. More specifically, a series of FAO technical documents will be made available on the Internet and CD-ROM, and Member Nations will be helped to draw maximum benefit from the Organization's wealth of documentation.
(Grassroots participation and the role of women)
FAO attaches great importance to all members of society being fully involved in the common objective of achieving "Food for All", and actions that promote the role of women receive priority attention in this strong focus on participation in all FAO programmes and activities. Within the Secretariat, the Committee on Women in Development is successfully encouraging all FAO technical departments to bear gender parity in mind when formulating their programmes and projects. A detailed study was published on the occasion of World Rural Women's Day in October 1997 to raise awareness of the important role of women in food security. As regards training, the Socioeconomic and Gender Analysis Programme, implemented since June 1996, has affected almost 2 000 experts in 60 countries. Furthermore, the activities carried out under the Special Programme for Food Security will improve rural women's access to technologies, inputs and credit, with a special emphasis on poultry raising and market gardening which are generally within the ambit of women's activities.
Youth also needs to be mobilized and, as a first step, a network of government institutions responsible for rural youth programmes in 15 English-speaking African countries has been set up to foster the contribution of young people to food security and sustainable development. This exercise will soon be extended to other countries.
The Organization has also been energetically exploring partnership and coordination possibilities:
- with the World Bank and regional banks through new agreements, especially for implementation of the Special Programme for Food Security;
- with the food and agriculture institutions based in Rome, IFAD and WFP, thanks to regular and more frequent contact at all levels;
- with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, its Technical Advisory Committee and its institutes;
- with the other UN agencies under the Administrative Committee on Co-ordination;
- with the private sector and the community of non-governmental organizations.
Similarly, various forms of cooperation are being developed with many Member Nations: over the last three years, some 750 experts have been involved in implementing FAO programmes within the framework of the agreements for cooperation between developing countries and countries in transition; some 150 researchers have participated in the Programme of Cooperation with Academic and Research Institutions, and over 400 experts have been employed under the Retiree Programme. While maintaining quality performance, these agreements offer considerable savings against the cost of international consultants. Furthermorere, in support of the Special Programme for Food Security, a number of South-South cooperation agreements have resulted in the more advanced developing countries providing a critical mass of field technicians in rural communities of other developing countries, with support from the Organization. Finally, to increase national capacities, FAO has conducted a survey of training opportunities offered in the areas of its mandate by Member Nations for students and trainees from developing countries. Along the same lines, FAO will employ young professionals, within the limit of available resources, so that they can gain practical experience and thus build on their high level academic training.
The promotion of investment in agriculture, the theme of this year's World Food Day, is another major thrust of FAO activity. The Investment Centre has worked with the funding agencies to prepare investment projects for a total value of US$6 billion in 199596, including 3.5 billion from external funds. Activities undertaken in 1997 could lead to the mobilization a total of US$2.5 billion.
FAO's Technical Cooperation Programme continues to be a strong catalyst. Since January 1996, upon the request of the Member Nations, 350 new projects have been initiated in areas requiring preliminary, urgent or unforeseen action. The programme continues to abide by its criteria of rapid approval, limited duration, low cost and practical orientation.
Cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme is now on an upturn the sharp downward trend of recent years. FAO's role in implementing UNDP-funded projects has been strengthened, with US$40 million of new funds approved in the first nine months of 1997 - already more than for the whole of last year.
(Restructuring and decentralization)
The restructuring of FAO has been pursued during the course of this biennium with determination and with the same overriding objectives of identifying savings and improving efficiency through decentralization. This effort has, however, had to be made under severe budgetary limitations.
- The decentralization process will be completed in December of this year: all the new liaison and sub-regional offices are open; the regional offices have been reinforced; the last operations teams are being transferred; and, in 1998-99, Member Nation coverage by the network of FAO Representatives should be improved through the use of multiple accreditation, National Programme Officers and National Correspondents. The measures taken since 1994 to improve the cost-effectiveness of country offices will be continued. In January 1998, 31 percent of the posts in the Professional and Director category and 38 percent of the total establishments will be working in the decentralized offices. The decentralization of policy assistance and project operations will make FAO better attuned to the needs of its members and their rural communities in the different geographic regions.
- Staff numbers have been further reduced, with the elimination of 503 posts, or 12 percent, since January 1994 when there were 4 185 posts to the proposed 3 682 in January 1998. At the same time only seven professional posts have been abolished. The grades pyramid has been broadened, with the elimination of 37 directors' posts, a reduction of 15.6 percent. Transparency and consultation with staff representatives, to whom I take this opportunity to pay tribute, have minimized the human cost. At the same time, greater attention has been paid to staff training, to raising the contingent of women professional staff and to ensuring equitable Member Nation representation among the staff. The number of countries not represented among the staff has fallen from 54 in January 1994 to 31 in October 1997, taking into account ongoing recruitment. While staff numbers have been reduced, annual savings of US$25 million have also been made from cuts in travel, translations, publications and meetings.
(Administrative and financial reform)
The restructuring process has been echoed in the administration and finance sectors. Operational, administrative and financial responsibilities have been delegated to departments at Headquarters and teams in the field. This is reflected in the Management Support Units that have been set up at the departmental and regional office level. At the same time there has been tighter auditing in all regional, sub-regional and country offices.
FAO has also sought to simplify its administrative and financial procedures and has set about replacing the computerized financial and personnel management system with the more up-to-date Oracle system.
As regards planning, the programming and coordination methods have been revised and the Medium-term Plan improved. In addition, programming by objectives is now under trial for the Programme of Work and Budget.
(The Programme of Work and Budget)
The Programme of Work and Budget for 1998-99 is the result of careful in-house analysis and delicate protracted consultation with the Member Nations. The implications of the different budget options on the programmes have been examined in accordance with the guidelines of the Council and its Technical Committees. The Programme of Work and Budget submitted to the Conference therefore combines two scenarios, as requested by the Council: the proposals associated with a zero real growth scenario, presented in detail for a total budget of US$675.3 million, and the changes that would be needed to accommodate zero nominal growth and therefore a budget of US$650 million. A brief supplementary document has also been issued, outlining the reductions that would be needed for a budget below zero nominal growth. It is worth recalling, in this connection, that the approved budget for 1994-95 was US$673 million.
The zero real growth scenario would enable the Organization to maintain its capacity in priority areas. First, its normative work, including the International Plant Protection Convention, the Code of Conduct on Pesticides, Codex Alimentarius, the conservation and management of genetic resources, responsible fisheries and the evaluation of forest resources. Second, its technical assistance provided to Member Nations at their own request, such as in the implementation of the Marrakesh Agreement, development of non-polluting aquaculture, conservation and management of forests, control of pests and diseases, early warning of food shortages and the role of women in rural development. Finally, the zero real growth scenario would enable FAO to maintain its direct support to countries in the form of policy advice, and help with implementation of the Summit Plan of Action, investment support and field operations, particularly the Special Programme for Food Security.
With the zero nominal growth option, however, and despite all efforts to the contrary, only some of these priority areas could be maintained: forestry, Codex, TCP and the Special Programme.
Clearly - and this needs to be emphasized - the negative impact of a below zero nominal growth budget on programmes of high priority to Member Nations would obviously be aggravated.
Having outlined the budget proposals, I feel that I must also throw in some telling comparisons:
FAO's budget is equal to little more than two days' tobacco consumption in North
America and less than two months' champagne consumption in one European country.
Where, then, does the fight against the hunger of 800 million human beings fit in the scale of priorities of the affluent?
Mr Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As Director-General dedicated to the objectives of your Organization, I am both encouraged by the unparalleled mobilization generated by the World Food Summit and, at the same time, anxious that FAO should maintain its capacity to achieve the objectives that you have set for it, particularly in the Rome Declaration and World Food Summit Plan of Action.
I am convinced that the primary responsibility in this undertaking lies with the Member Nations and that it is the role of FAO to provide the services and support they require. I can only report the magnitude of expressed needs to world leaders and international opinion. As for my part, I shall continue to do all I can to ensure that the resources at my disposal are used with utmost regard to economy, effectiveness and transparency. I should like to believe that your decisions will ensure that FAO is in a position to meet the immense pressing needs that the Summit brought to light and satisfy the legitimate expectations it raised among the more vulnerable and impoverished members of our global village. Thank you.