PC 85/9


Eighty-fifth Session

Rome, 7 - 11 May 2001

Report on Important Programme Developments

Table of Contents


1. At its 81st session of May 1999, the Committee requested that an annual report be henceforth submitted "to indicate important programme changes that had occurred during the year". Following the first report of this type submitted to its May 2000 session, the present report covers developments during the year 2000 and their implications.

World Food Summit: five years later

2. The Council's decision at its session in November 2000 relating to the World Food Summit: five years later is already well known to FAO Members. One important reason for the decision to hold it during the forthcoming session of the FAO Conference was cost-effectiveness. The 2001 Conference is already budgeted and would, in any case, have considered follow-up to the World Food Summit, as it did in 1997 and 1999. The higher profile given to the agenda item, formally entitled "Review of progress in implementation of the World Food Summit Plan of Action", through the participation of Heads of State and Government, brings with it some additional funding requirements, particularly concerning logistics and infrastructure, which are expected to be met from extra-budgetary sources.

3. Beyond this, the preparations will involve some refocusing of various parts of the programme of work in order to ensure that the Organization's substantive output contributes, to the maximum extent possible, to enhancing the resonance and impact of the event.

4. As was done for the World Food Summit itself, incremental costs will be tracked and reported upon irrespective of the source of funds. The approach, including the scope and definitions of costs, will be consistent with that applied in the audited report on the World Food Summit (see Information Note on the World Food Summit Preparation Process and Outcome including Costs CFS: 97/Inf.10).

Work on food safety (Major Programme 2.2)

5. The year 2000 witnessed significantly increased demands by countries for comprehensive, scientifically sound, and up to date information and advice on food safety, as exemplified by the following developments:

Trade-related policy assistance

6. Also affecting primarily Major Programme 2.2, there has been an intensification of trade-related policy assistance work since March 2000, associated with the launching of a new round of WTO negotiations (MTN) on agriculture. This has implied timely analysis of crosscutting issues of importance in the negotiations, as well as handling a substantial volume of requests for briefings and policy advisory support for individual or groups of developing countries and countries in transition. The first phase of the negotiations will come to an end in March 2001, with all proposals having been tabled. The subsequent phase will include the assessment and evaluation of proposals, with effective negotiations expected to begin after the Fourth WTO Ministerial Conference scheduled to be held in Qatar in early November 2001. In order to meet this surge of demands for trade-related assistance, staff resources have been augmented through shifts from other activities, coupled with the addition of a short-term P4 post dedicated to providing support to developing countries on WTO issues.

Work on Forest Fires (Major Programme 2.4)

7. The problem of forest fires has had a particularly high profile during the year. There were major concerns about their recurrence in the future, as drought spells are likely to become more frequent and more complex interactions between expected population increases and forest and range resources management could be expected.

8. Accordingly, the Forestry Department elaborated concrete proposals for action, and an (unscheduled) Expert Meeting on the subject was held in connection with the 15th session of the Committee on Forestry (March 2001). COFO was informed of the results of the International Expert Consultation on the Management of Forest Fires, took note of the conclusions and recommendations of the meeting, and urged that FAO take follow-up action to support efforts in fire management.

9. As for work on the two preceding areas (food safety and trade-related policy assistance) the longer-term implications will be taken into account in the Programme of Work and Budget 2002-2003, to the maximum extent possible.