I take pleasure in submitting to the Council, through the Programme and Finance Committees, the proposed Medium Term Plan covering the period 2002-2007.
In approving the Strategic Framework 2000-2015 at its November 1999 session, the FAO Conference also set in motion implementation arrangements in which the rolling Medium Term Plan has a key role. In effect, the Plan is expected to provide the necessary bridge between the Corporate Strategies in the Framework and the biennial proposals in successive Programmes of Work and Budget.
In developing the Plan, full attention has also been given to the requirements in the Strategic Framework for the application of the new programme model and its results-oriented approach, as well as for the essential emphasis on inter-disciplinarity.
Regarding the substance of the Plan, the fact that the still slow pace of reduction in the number of undernourished people in the world is grossly insufficient to meet the target established by the World Food Summit, was clearly a dominant consideration. In this light, it was imperative to strengthen the various forms of direct FAO assistance to Members to increase food production in a sustainable manner and to improve the livelihoods of the poor. This emphasis should not detract from the Organization's efforts to assist Members in fulfilling the other two goals adopted by the Conference in the context of the Strategic Framework; that is, to assist them in assuring the contribution of sustainable agriculture and rural development to economic and social progress, as well as the conservation, improvement and sustainable utilisation of natural resources including land, water, forests, fisheries and the related genetic resources.
However, if we truly intend to meet the reasonable expectations of Members, particularly those from developing countries, then I am duty-bound to raise the critical constraint; that is, the level of resources.
While being proud to serve in my capacity as Director-General, I have had the misfortune of having to preside over four consecutive budgets, covering the eight years from 1994 to 2001, each involving an effective reduction in resources. In real terms, these reductions have accumulated to the extra-ordinary amount of US$ 95 million per biennium. In other words, had Members agreed to restrict the Organization to no-growth in real terms, the budget for 2000-01 would have been US$ 744 million, instead of the US$ 650 million actually approved.
I should repeat, for those that are new to the process, that this represents the most severe reduction versus that experienced by any other equivalent UN agency in the same period.
Nonetheless, I think we can be proud of how we have coped in such a tight budgetary context, simultaneously restructuring Headquarters, decentralising much of the operational work and modernising management while, at the same time, increasing efficiency and reducing costs. Much greater detail on how this was achieved has been published in "Reforming FAO into the new Millennium".
But where are the benefits from this process? True, the Organization is leaner, sharper and more responsive. But what happened to the US$ 95 million in budget reductions? In practice, this is now an effective reduction in the assessed contributions of the Members; that, ceteris paribus, Members will henceforth pay US$ 95 million less each biennium to meet their financial commitments to this Organization. Of course, a reduction in assessed contributions is a desirable objective. However, it is questionable whether it is the most important aim at a time when there is so much demand for FAO's services both from developing countries in need of assistance, and from developed countries seeking more normative outputs from the Organization. Hence, I find it difficult to accept that such substantial savings over the last four biennia should result in such limited benefit to most Members of this Organization. Of the US$ 95 million reduction in assessed contributions, approximately US$ 87 million will benefit the OECD group, and not those in the greatest need.
For these reasons, I feel obliged to invite the membership to redress the situation, and thus have proposed that it should, over the planning period of the Medium Term Plan - the next three biennia of 2002-07 - consider increasing the level of resources available to FAO to the amount that would have now been reached, if a zero real growth budget had been maintained.
Throughout the document, Members will see clear evidence of the benefits of such a budget level. However, I would draw attention to some of the key elements:
Without wishing to pre-judge the reactions of the Committees and the Council, I hope that the results of the thorough reflections carried out throughout FAO in formulating the proposals set out in this document, will be found broadly acceptable as to the general directions the Organization should be taking in the medium-term. In effect, consultations with the membership will not stop there, as the views of the Committees on Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry will be sought at their sessions of early 2001 on those activities falling under respective mandates. While these views will be given due consideration in the budget preparation process for 2002-03, they will also be influential in the development of the next rolling Medium Term Plan that will be prepared during 2002.
Nevertheless, the implementation schedule included in the Strategic Framework quite rightly foresaw the need for the Council to approve the Plan at this November 2000 session, so that it could give guidance to the Secretariat for the preparation of the Programme of Work and Budget (PWB)
Thus, having taken into account the results of the review by the Programme and Finance Committees, the Council may wish to record its approval in principle for the Medium Term Plan 2002-07 - subject to its own conclusions being taken into full consideration in the PWB preparatory process.
In this sense, the expectation of an articulated "family" of documents, from the Strategic Framework to individual Programmes of Work and Budget, through the rolling Medium Term Plan, would be effectively fulfilled.
It is pertinent to recall that in the various experiments tried in the past, it became generally understood that resource projections as may appear in FAO long- or medium-term planning documents are to be considered indicative, and not binding on the membership - in contrast to when the membership approves Budgetary Appropriations for a given biennium. There is no breach of such understanding in this document.
However, I would urge Members to seriously consider the need to move away from a policy which might have been justified in the face of mounting public deficits and high inflation, but which is hard to accept in these years of resumed rapid economic growth, of public finances under control and, at times, leading to healthy surpluses, and of increasing wealth in many parts of the developed world, while at the same time inordinate numbers of people elsewhere are trapped in abject poverty and do not have access to sufficient food.
I wish to conclude this Introduction by calling attention to the triple intent behind the proposals in this Medium Term Plan which is to satisfy the membership:
In this light, I look forward to fruitful discussion of this document in the Committees and the Council.