1. Agenda and Organization of the Conference
The Council notes with appreciation the proposals submitted by the Director-General regarding the agenda and organization of the Fifth Session of the Conference, and requests that these proposals, as amended by the Council, be circulated to member governments.
The Council endorses the proposal of the Director-General that the Fifth Session of the Conference should again be organized in three Commissions:
The Provisional Agenda has been drawn up in such a way as to facilitate the division of work into these three categories. It will be circulated to member governments as document C49/1.
The Council has also approved for circulation to member governments a plan of organization, a timetable, and plans for documentation. These will be circulated to governments as document C49/2.
The General Committee at the last session of the Conference requested the Council to consider whether a member nation may send an “observer” rather than a “delegate” to the sessions of the Conference. Having considered this matter on the basis of legal advice obtained by the Director-General, the Council notes that nowhere in the Constitution or in the Rules of Procedure is there any recognition of the status of “observer” for member governments, and therefore concludes that there is no warrant for member governments appointing observers.
The Council recommends that the Director-General draw the attention of member governments, as well as of the Credentials Committee, to this matter.
It would of course be understood that a member government is always at liberty to instruct its delegate to abstain from voting.
3. Date and Place of the Fifth Session of the Conference
The opening date of the session has been set for Monday 21 November, 1949.
Regarding the site, the Fourth Session of the Conference has accepted the invitation of the Government of Cuba to hold its Fifth Session in Havana, Cuba, on the understanding that the cost of holding the session there would be approximately the same as in Washington. The Director-General has, in accordance with the request of the Fourth Session, carried out detailed investigations, in consultation with the Cuban Government, regarding the implications of holding the Conference in Havana with respect to accommodations, services, staffing, and financing. He has also made a detailed study of Conference requirements and costs in the light of the experience gained at the Washington Conference. These studies have shown that holding the Conference in Havana instead of Washington would involve a net additional expenditure of $ 52,000.
Such additional expenditure would be necessary mainly because these studies show that a greater number of staff would be required than was anticipated when provisional estimates were first submitted during the discussions held in Washington in November last.
The Director-General has also reported that the budget situation in 1949 leaves practically no margin for additional expenditures. New activities were entrusted to him by the last session of the Conference for which no financial provision has been made. This has compelled him to draw upon the already small Reserve for Contingencies to the point where further withdrawals would no longer be safe. Therefore, any reappropriation of funds to increase the relevant Chapter of the Budget by $ 52,000 would necessitate curtailment of program activities. Such a course would raise serious difficulties, since the Organization is already far advanced in the execution of its 1949 program.
The Council has also considered other ways and means of solving the problem. Attention having been drawn to the fact that any eventual deficit would be covered out of the Working Capital Fund, the Council has noted that such a course would in principle require reimbursing the Working Capital Fund from a subsequent budget. Therefore it would only mean postponing the issue, and in any case is not a satisfactory solution.
Possibilities of reducing the duration and the staffing of the Conference have also been examined and are considered inappropriate, since such methods could not materially affect the deficit without seriously impairing the work of the Conference.
In the light of these circumstance, the Council has agreed that in order to make provision for a session in Havana, there would be no alternative in the present circumstances but to transfer $ 52,000 from Operational Chapters of the Budget, an action which the Council is not prepared to recommend.
Lack of time and insufficient experience made it impossible at the time of the Fourth Session of the Conference to foresee all of the financial implications of holding the Fifth Session in Havana. The Council believes that in future full financial provision will need to be made from the outset for the additional expenditures involved in holding the Conference elsewhere than at Headquarters.
The Council therefore reluctantly concludes that no other course remains open at this stage but to hold the Fifth Session of the Conference at Headquarters. The Council wishes to convey its gratitude to the Government of Cuba for its kind invitation and for the cooperation which it has given the Director-General in exploring suitable arrangements for the Fifth Session.
4. Frequency and Dates of the FAO Conference
In submitting his proposals regarding the agenda and organization of the Fifth Session, the Director-General has drawn attention to the difficulties that would be experienced in holding the annual sessions of the Conference in the months of October or November, as visualized in the Rules of Procedure. Regional meetings are now scheduled to be held prior to the Conference sessions. They cannot usefully meet before September, since they need to have the reports of the FAO secretariat on the agriculture situation resulting from the summer harvest in the Northern Hemisphere, as well as the analysis of the annual reports submitted by the member governments, under Article XI of the Constitution. The time required for the FAO secretariat and for member governments to review the results of the pre-Conference meetings would make it impossible to convene the Conference before December. For the above reasons the Director-General has recommended that the next Conference should approve of the annual sessions being convened in the middle of January. This would mean that the Sixth Session would be held in January 1951 instead of November 1950. In submitting this proposal, the Director-General has drawn attention to the fact that such a procedure would be in conformity with a recommendation of the United Nations that the annual conferences of the specialized agencies should appropriately be convened during the first six months of the year.
The Council agrees that no session should be held in 1950, but questions whether the middle of January is the most appropriate time for the Conference, as some governments would experience difficulty in sending delegations at a time when they were engaged in drawing up their national programs.
The Council therefore requests the Director-General to re-examine the question of the most practical date for the 1951 session of the Conference, giving the advantages and disadvantages of alternative dates and the implications thereof, including those affecting the Constitution and the procedures of the Organization.
The Council further requests the Director-General to place an item on the agenda of the next Session of the Conference regarding “the frequency and timing of FAO Conferences,” and authorizes him to give notice to all member governments, in accordance with Rule 23, of the following draft amendment to Article III (6) of the Constitution.
The Conference shall meet at least once in every year, unless the Conference decides at any session, by a two-thirds majority of the votes cast at a plenary meeting, not to meet in the year immediately following such session.
The above draft amendment would have to be completed by a subsidiary amendment to Rule I (1) of the Rules of Procedure so that the latter might read as follows:
“In pursuance of Article III (6) of the Constitution, the Director-General shall convene the Conference to meet in regular session. The regular session of the Conference shall be held at the seat of the Organization in the first six months of the year unless it is convened elsewhere or at a different time in pursuance of a decision of the Conference at a previous session, or, in exceptional circumstances, of a decision by the Council.”
Consideration of the question of the date of the 1951 Conference has given rise to a discussion of how often the Conference should meet in regular session, but the Council believes that it would be premature at this stage to propose that it be held on a biennial basis.
In view of the fact that it might at some time be advisable to hold the Conference in alternate years, the Council recommends that the Director-General report on the administrative and financial implications of such a departure from the present system of annual Conferences, and suggest the most appropriate date if the Conference were to meet in alternate years.