I am very pleased to welcome all the representatives of the Members of the Council to this Fifty-Second Session and all the observers who are present here today.
When I first addressed the Council as Director-General some eight months ago now, I was in the pleasant position of being able to confirm a certain improvement in the world food situation. I was mainly referring, as you may recall, to the year 1967 when there was such a marked upsurge in food production in comparison with the two black years that had gone before. Our present figures, which will be revised before the publication of The State of Food and Agriculture, indicate that the year 1968 was neither so bad nor so good as the three previous years. Food production increased overall by between 2 and 3 percent, although the picture varied quite widely from one region to another. In the Far East, which is the world's major food-deficit area, there was a substantial and encouraging increase. In Latin America, on the other hand, widespread drought appears to have led to an actual decline in production. Taking the world as a whole, however, 1968 can be regarded as a normal year, with food production keeping at least abreast of population growth.
The question, Mr. Chairman, is whether “normal” is enough. If we look at the estimates that the food requirements of the developing countries are going to increase by between 3 and 4 percent per annum over the next couple of decades, I think the answer must definitely be that it is not. In my previous opening statement to the Council, I said that the improvements in the world food situation enabled us to look toward the future with what I called “cautious optimism”. I still hold that view and have restated it on several occasions. I should not, however, like it to be misinterpreted. For some reason - perhaps because a positive word has more force than a negative one or perhaps because, after the bleak outlook in the two previous years, people were ready to seize on any note of hope - there has been a tendency to attach much more weight to my optimism than to the caution with which I qualified it. This is not just a question of words. There are solidly authentic grounds, well-known to the Members of this Council, for confidence that food production can be sharply increased - technological progress as evidence in the high-yielding varieties and the greater emphasis that governments have recently been placing on agricultural development are just two of them. But it is equally clear that a continuous increase in production on the required scale is going to need massive investment and an enormous amount of concerted effort over a long period of time. This fact is also, of course, well-known to the Council. I stress it now to correct any impression that we can in any way afford to relax our efforts. It is only too evident that the contrary is true.
I do not propose to say anything more at this stage by way of a review of the general world food situation. It has not changed radically since the last Session of the Council and it would in any event be more profitable to discuss it later in the year when The State of Food and Agriculture has been published. I would prefer to confine my present remarks to what is happening in FAO.
Broadly speaking, Mr. Chairman, 1968 was the year of reorganization, while 1969 is the year of consolidation. It is a year which I hope and believe will produce positive and useful results for the Organization and its Member Governments.
I should like, in the first place, to mention our Indicative World Plan for Agricultural Development, on which I count heavily for the long-term orientation of our work. The world study, on which we are still engaged, will be distributed in the summer and will thus be ready for consideration by the Conference later in the year. This is a birth which has been long awaited and, as is often the case in such circumstances, a great deal is expected of the event. While the Plan will, I believe, prove an extremely valuable document, I should warn against too much being expected of it. It is, in fact, not a plan in the conventional sense of the term, but rather an analysis of the major issues which will be facing world agriculture in the 1970's and the early 1980's, together with some suggestions regarding the most important directions in which efforts will need to be made. While I am convinced that it contains a great deal of valuable material put together with a considerable degree of intellectual skill, I should not like exaggerated hopes to arise that we are producing something which obviously could not be produced - namely, a complete and detailed blueprint for agricultural development throughout the world for the next decade or so. Indeed, this was never envisaged. Basically, the IWP is an effort to provide a framework within which the developing and developed countries may better see their own particular problems, and it is of course clear that detailed planning must for the most part come at the country level.
Another important aspect of our work this year is the gradual implementation of the new strategy - the five Areas of Concentration which received the general blessing of the Council at its last Session. Inter-divisional Action Groups have been at work within the Organization drawing up detailed analyses of the problems, and suggesting lines of attack, in each of these five Areas. The policy papers they have prepared will be circulated to Governments in the near future, and will also be made available to a wider public in printed form. We are asking individual countries, once these policy papers have been studied in the appropriate quarters, to let us know what sectors of the five Areas correspond to their particular preoccupations and where FAO can be of assistance.
While initiative for action in the Areas of Concentration will come mainly from Governments, I believe that FAO, for its part, can and should develop a limited number of major initiatives, in particular at the world-wide or regional level. I am thinking, to give one example, of a systematic attempt to strengthen the seed multiplication industry in countries introducing high-yielding varieties of cereals. Well-organized multiplication and distribution are essential if HYV seed is to be protected from degeneration and deterioration, and this appears to us to represent perhaps the weakest link in the HYV programme as a whole. Another and somewhat more complex undertaking I have in mind is the promotion of livestock production, not only for domestic requirements but also for export. This involves simultaneous action on the technical, financial and commercial fronts if it is to be carried through successfully. We are making a start in Latin America, and hope to extend our action to other regions. I have mentioned these two examples of possible major initiatives merely as an indication of what I have in mind. Our thinking is still in the formative stage, and I shall be submitting a comprehensive document outlining our ideas for consideration by the Technical Committee on Areas of Concentration and by the Conference itself later in the year.
I should now like to turn to the structural changes that we are making. In the first place, I should mention one that has not been made. You will recall that the Council at its last Session left open certain important questions concerning FAO's regional and country structure. One of these was whether or not FAO's Regional Offices should merge with the Regional Economic Commissions of the United Nations. At the recent series of Regional Conferences, the consensus was that FAO should retain its Regional Offices and not merge with the Economic Commissions, although it should continue and indeed intensify its cooperation with them. I have therefore assumed that this solution was the choice of our Member Governments and have acted accordingly.
A second important consensus of opinion that emerged from the Regional Conferences was that the role of the Regional Representatives should be enlarged to give them a greater voice in FAO's policies, particularly, of course, within their own regions. Moreover, it was felt that the Regional Offices should contribute more effectively to FAO's activities in their respective areas.
Both these ideas are, as I think you know, very much in line with my own views. I have long held that, as a world organization, FAO should devote more of its own resources to work in the field. The days when the Organization's work throughout the world emanated almost entirely from a central brains trust located in one city are definitely over. While there must always, of course, be direction from a single headquarters, we are only going to achieve the greater dynamism that is required of our practical activities in the countries themselves if we de-centralize responsibilities in several ways. To give effect to this, I have recently taken steps, after consultation with the Regional Representatives, to strengthen their role as my main advisors in the formulation of policy towards their region, the individual countries composing it and the other organizations active there, and as my main negotiators with the governments of the region on important matters affecting the relations of the countries concerned with FAO, including questions concerning the overall and regional strategy of the Organization. I have laid down the specific responsibilities of the Regional Representatives and the jurisdictions which they will exercise. With their increased responsibilities, I have stressed that they should be kept fully informed by Headquarters of all important developments and initiatives. In their turn, of course, I expect them to keep in close consultation with Headquarters - particularly the Development Department - so that the Organization works as a team and speaks with one voice. The basic philosophy for relations between Headquarters and the Regional Representatives should be one of creative cooperation.
So far as the Regional Offices are concerned, I am proposing that their staffs should be more closely integrated under the leadership of the Regional Representatives and strengthened in terms of quality and efficiency. I am also proposing the abolition of all Sub-Regional Offices and their transformation into Country or Group-Country offices. This is in line with recommendations that emerged from the various Regional Conferences.
This leads me to another question which was extensively discussed at those Conferences. This is the matter of Country Representatives. I think that the Council generally agrees with me that FAO's rapidly expanding field programmes make it necessary to have an extensive corps of Country Representatives in the developing countries. I have calculated that the minimum number required is fifty-five and I am thus making a proposal to that effect. The question at issue is whether these Country Representatives should form part of the administrative structure of FAO itself, or should, like the Senior Agricultural Advisors appointed under the UNDP/FAO Agreement of 1966, come within the administrative structure of the United Nations Development Programme. I had originally decided to propose that the fifty-five Country Representative Offices should be financed under our Regular Programme, this number including the twenty-eight Senior Agricultural Advisors at present financed by UNDP under its administrative budget, the two full-time Country Representatives hitherto financed under the UNDP Technical Assistance Sector and the four Deputy Regional Representatives in charge of the Sub-Regional Offices which are to be converted into Country Offices. In order to facilitate the financing of this new proposal, I decided to find approximately half of the cost through the redeployment of Headquarters resources to the field. This, I think I may say, marks a quite radical shift of policy and is concrete evidence of my intention to place greater emphasis on our activities in the developing countries. A further quarter of the cost would be met by redeploying resources now in large part used for Sub-Regional Offices, leaving the final quarter to be provided from the new resources which I have proposed in my Programme of Work and Budget.
An important element in these calculations was that the transferral of the cost of the twenty-eight Senior Agricultural Advisors from the UNDP to FAO meant, in effect, no substantial difference in the financial outlay of the international community as a whole. The issue was not one of cost but rather of policy - should the FAO Country Representatives be employees of FAO or employees of the UNDP?
Since I advanced my original proposal in the Programme of Work and Budget, the question has been examined further both in individual discussions with a number of Governments and also in the Programme and Finance Committees. The two Committees, while recommending endorsement of the principle of establishing fifty-five FAO Country Offices, also specifically recommended that I re-open negotiations with the Administrator of the UNDP, Mr. Hoffman, with a view to reaching mutually acceptable cost-sharing arrangements. This I have done, and, following lengthy discussions and an exchange of correspondence, Mr. Hoffman and I have agreed to propose a somewhat different arrangement to our respective governing bodies. Under this arrangement, the fifty-five posts that I have mentioned would all carry the title of Senior Agricultural Advisors/FAO Country Representatives. Twenty-eight of these posts would continue to be financed, as at present, by UNDP. My proposal for the financing of such posts under our Regular Programme for the biennium 1970–71 would thus be limited to the other twenty-seven, although I am also proposing that FAO cover the additional cost involved in work by the UNDP-financed officers on purely FAO activities that do not form part of the UNDP field programme. Finally, Mr. Hoffman and I agreed that the functioning of this dual system would be reviewed towards the end of 1970.
The practical effects of this proposed arrangement perhaps need to be elaborated a little. The fifty-five Senior Agricultural Advisors/FAO Country Representatives will be responsible for all activities of FAO and, as regards both UNDP-financed and other activities, will work in close cooperation with the Resident Representatives. They will receive their instructions from, and will report directly to, FAO, copying all correspondence on matters concerning UNDP to the Resident Representative, and will also keep him informed of all the non-UNDP activities of FAO in which he may have an interest. The officers financed by FAO will be selected by FAO after consultation with UNDP and will be administratively responsible to me. Those financed by UNDP will be nominated by FAO and appointed by UNDP, to which they will be administratively responsible.
I do not need to enter further into the details of the new arrangement, which is explained in an addendum to the Programme of Work and Budget. I should, however, like to point to the main object of the arrangement which has, I think, quite important implications for the future. Mr. Hoffman and I are agreed that, to make the battle for economic and social development now being waged by the entire United Nations system more effective, it would be extremely valuable if the Representatives of the various United Nations agencies and programmes in any given country should act together as a "cabinet", presided over by the Resident Representative. It is in this spirit that I am proposing that the twenty-seven officers financed by us will act, not only as FAO Country Representatives but also as the Senior Agricultural Advisors to the UNDP Resident Representatives. I am confident that his scheme, if approved by the governing bodies of the two agencies, will work out to the satisfaction of our member countries. Although in itself it is only an interim arrangement, I believe that it represents a step toward closer cooperation and integration of all our efforts on behalf of development, and can lead to a viable and definitive system of country representation.
There is one further aspect of this new proposed arrangement which may have already occurred to Members of the Council. In my original proposal for financing fifty-five FAO Country Representatives under the Regular Programme, I had envisaged, as I said, that approximately three-quarters of the cost would be met through redeployment of our present resources and that the remaining quarter would need to be provided by new resources. I do not intend to alter my plans for redeployment. The overall result is that the expansion in my budget proposals for the biennium 1970–71, as shown in the Programme of Work and Budget, will be reduced from 21.4 percent to 18.2 percent. The greater part of this consists of increases which are either mandatory or result from decisions of the last Conference. In terms of real programme expansion, my proposals represent an increase of 8.3 percent for the biennium, or an annual growth rate of just over 4 percent - which is, I think, a very modest figure.
The foundation of my proposed Programme of Work and Budget is, of course, the reorganization plan considered by the Council at its last Session. While the greater part of the approved plan has already been put into execution, and indeed was already in effect at the time of the last Council Session, one or two important elements are scheduled for implementation only from 1970–71. Chief among these is the establishment of a Department of Forestry, a proposal which was unanimously endorsed by the Ad Hoc Committee-of-the-Whole on Forestry at its recent meeting. I may also mention the establishment of a three-divisional structure in the Fisheries Department.
Another aspect of the reorganization plan was a proposal that the number of units and branches in the various Departments should be reduced by consolidating them. In my Programme of Work and Budget I have proposed to meet this request through the creation of larger units called services, which would absorb the existing smaller units.
We have also started to change the shape of our grading pattern towards a pyramid structure. As the Council will see, the great majority of the new posts proposed - except for the Country Representatives - are at the P-2 level. I hope that in this way we can succeed in bringing a substantial number of valuable young people into the Organization. Since the professional posts to be abolished at Headquarters in order to finance our network of Country Representatives are all at a higher level, there will be a significant shift in the overall pattern of our staffing. Both of these moves - the accent on junior posts and the transfer of resources to the field -are very much in line with the wishes frequently expressed by our Member Governments and with my own philosophy.
I am sure you will also wish me to say something about the progress achieved by the management consultants whom we have engaged, with the approval of the Council, and who are working with our Management Services Division. As yet, the consultants have not been able to complete their study of the complex array of questions put to them, and it is therefore too early to assess whether any changes they propose will have a significant impact on the level of the Programme of Work and Budget. I shall, however, report during the summer on any modifications that I feel it necessary to make in the light of their advice.
Mr. Chairman, the greater part of our reorganization at Headquarters has now been in effect for almost a year - sufficiently long to obtain an impression of how it is working out. The results, to my mind, are clearly positive. For instance, the Development Department, and particularly the Area Services Division, are gradually bringing about that integration and geographical focus of our activities which are among the main objectives of the whole reorganization. The creation of seven Operations Offices has permitted a clear assignment of responsibility for the management of operational projects. While there is still room for considerable improvement in our performance, I remain convinced that we are working on the right lines and moving in the right direction.
Perhaps I might also say a word about our field projects. Since the last Session of the Council, I have devoted a substantial part of my time to visits to member countries, and particularly to developing nations in the Far East, the Near East, Africa and Latin America. On all such visits I try to make as detailed a survey as time permits of the projects being executed by FAO in order to obtain a clear impression of the strength and weaknesses of our programme. I can say unhesitatingly that here again my views are very positive. We do, of course, have failures as well as successes, but the failures, I am glad to say, are relatively few. In general, the quality of our experts seems to me to be high, and the impact of our projects to be considerable. It is my firm opinion that FAO, the UNDP, the other agencies with which we work, and above all the recipient governments themselves, have much to be proud of.
Mr. Chairman, I think I should briefly mention one or two other matters that will be considered by the Council. As you know, in about a year's time the Second World Food Congress will take place in The Hague. I should like to report that I have now completed the plan for the Congress and that it will be sent out on 1 July. This will give all the participants ample time to study it and fully prepare themselves for this extremely important event. As at the First Congress, the participants will include people from governments, from organizations, from industry and from other backgrounds, but they will all attend in their personal capacity. The other preparations for the Congress are also proceeding satisfactorily, thanks in very large part to the full cooperation which is being proved by the Host Government.
Another question is the future of the Freedom From Hunger Campaign. We are, I think, all agreed that it should continue. What we have to consider are the main lines along which it should work in the coming decade. You will, of course, know that the Committee-of-the-Whole met for three days last week to consider my proposals on this subject. The Committee has drawn up a Report which is before the Council for discussion and I do not feel that any further comments of mine are needed at the present stage.
I should also like to say something about my negotiations with the Executive Director of UNIDO, on which a report is also before the Council. I had very much hoped to be able to inform this Session that a definitive agreement between the two Organizations had been reached. Unfortunately, we have not yet managed to achieve full agreement on all issues. I remain firmly convinced that relations between our two Organizations, and the coordination of the services we give to member nations, cannot be placed on a clear and orderly basis until a formal agreement has been concluded and endorsed by our respective governing bodies. I submitted our proposal for the text of such an agreement to UNIDO last January, and am hoping to receive their comments on it. I know that my friend and colleague Mr. Abdel-Rahman, the Executive Director of UNIDO, shares my desire to reach an accord, and I am confident that through further discussion the various complex points still at issue can be resolved. I shall be seeing Mr. Abdel-Rahman in Vienna at the beginning of July, and I hope that at that time we can reach full agreement. I do not wish to minimise the difficulties which the present situation is causing, but I do hope that governments will give some more time to the two executive heads to reach this agreement.
I should like to mention one final point about which the Council will rightly expect me to say something - and that is the lateness with which Members have received their documents for this Session, including the Programme of Work and Budget. I need hardly say that we very much regret this unusual delay, which has in large part been caused by postal difficulties which were beyond our control, although, in the case of the Programme of Work and Budget, the preparation of the document itself was delayed by the lengthy and complicated process of reorganization.
I have now, Mr. Chairman, covered the main points which I wished to bring to the attention of the Council at the present time. I think I can say in general that, having now adopted our new course, the Organization is moving forward steadily and purposefully. The full impact of the changes in strategy and structure will not be felt for a little while yet. I am nevertheless encouraged by the general progress that has so far been made in increasing the value of the Organization to its Member Governments as a striking-force in the battle against hunger and malnutrition throughout the world. I look forward with great interest to hearing the Council's views on the number of important issues that are before it.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.