Hundred and Twentieth Session
Rome, 18-23 June 2001
PROPOSED REFORM OF THE GENERAL DEBATE AT CONFERENCE
1. Since 1998 both the Joint Meeting of the Programme and Finance Committees and the Council have examined the working procedures of Conference sessions in order to find ways of achieving greater interaction among Ministers during the General Debate during Conference sessions (document CL119/15, paras 1 to 6, contained in the Appendix to this document refers).
2. While the Council at its Hundred and Nineteenth Session (20-25 November 2000) called upon the Secretariat to provide additional information on the Round Table option proposed by the Joint Meeting of the Programme and Finance Committees in May 2000, it also noted that if the Thirty-first Session of the Conference (2-13 November 2001) were used as a forum for the World Food Summit: five years later, ad hoc arrangements would need to be made, including the potential implementation of the Round Table option.
3. In the light of the above, it is suggested that any further discussion on the proposed reform of the General Debate through the introduction of Round Tables be deferred until the May 2002 Joint Meeting of the Programme and Finance Committees. By such time the Secretariat will be in a position to draw lessons from experience gained from the Round Tables held on the occasion of the examination of the Review of Progress in Implementation of the World Food Summit Plan of Action item on the Conference Agenda. Furthermore, the Secretariat will also have had the opportunity to further investigate ways of fine tuning this approach to encouraging interactive debate.
Extract from CL 119/15
1. In September 1998 the Joint Meeting of the Programme and Finance Committees examined the Working Procedures of Conference Sessions and considered options for the modification of the general debate by Heads of Delegation in order to allow for greater interaction among Ministers, namely:
a) Holding the Sessions in two stages (the first at Senior official level, the second at Ministerial level);
b) Setting aside one or two days for Ministers and Heads of Delegation to hold an open debate on a specific subject, or subjects, of international importance selected by the Council in June;
c) Selecting a few topics which Ministers could address in separate but simultaneous meetings.
2. In November 1998 the Hundred and Fifteenth Council Session, while generally agreeing that it would be desirable to achieve greater interaction among Ministers, did not adopt any of the options proposed under paragraph 1 above.
3. In response to the Hundred and Fifteenth session of the Council's request, the Joint Meeting in May 1999 examined two alternative possibilities: (a) Three Simultaneous Ministerial Meetings without parallel Conference sittings; (b) Three Simultaneous Ministerial Meetings with parallel Conference sittings. Under both scenarios it was assumed that country statements would continue to be delivered in Plenary and thus the additional meetings, while providing for greater interaction, would not in fact replace the General Debate. Both alternatives would result in supplementary costs for servicing additional meetings as well as timetable constrictions.
4. In June 1999 the Council at its Hundred and Sixteenth session requested the Joint Meeting of the Programme and Finance Committees to further examine the possible reform of the General Debate at Conference. Since such a review could not be implemented in time for the 1999 Conference Session, the Joint Meeting in September 1999 decided to postpone consideration of this item to 2000 and to submit a report thereon to the Hundred and Nineteenth Council session.
5. In May 2000 the Joint Meeting examined the proposal to set aside half a day early in the Conference for delegation heads to have round table discussions in order to promote greater interaction among Ministers.
6. In September 2000 the Joint Meeting further examined the proposal of setting aside half a day early in the Conference for delegation heads to have round table discussions following the "closed door meeting" formula used during the 2000 Regional Conferences. This was seen as an initial step towards moving away from the traditional practice of the Conference dedicating four days to statements in Plenary, and to encouraging an intellectually stimulating debate that would lead to greater commitment to the Organization at ministerial level. The Joint Meeting noted that the Council at its Hundred and Nineteenth session will have before it a series of options for the format to be used at the Thirty-first session of the Conference, taking into account that the Council may also decide to use the latter session as a forum for World Food Summit: five years later. The Committees also discussed the merits of the format adopted for the United Nations Millenium Assembly (New York, September 2000), in which four separate regionally-represented round tables were attended by Heads of State and Government. The delegate of the United Kingdom conveyed his government's willingness to finance an expert study on the available options.