296. In his introductory statement, the Director-General provided statistical evidence of the sharp increase in the number of meetings organized by FAO, and the consequent demand for services by the Secretariat. He referred in particular to the difficulties faced by the Publications Division in translating, printing and distributing an ever growing number of documents in time for consideration by Member Governments, as a result of the accumulation of meetings and the reduction of staff in this Division. In recent months, this acceleration had concerned more specifically the subsidiary bodies of the Council, whose reports were submitted to the present session. The Director-General suggested that the Council might select an informal group of about three Permanent Representatives in Rome, who would review the schedule of meetings and give any necessary guidance before convening dates were decided.
297. While recognizing that the increase in the number of meetings in 1975 was in part a consequence of the action of the World Food Conference held in November 1974 and its follow-up, the Council was conscious that the problem had existed before and had a number of permanent features, which affected both Member Governments and the Secretariat. The Council stressed in particular the difficulties encountered by Member Governments in participating effectively in an increasing number of sessions for which documentation was not made available to Government representatives sufficiently in advance of the sessions.
298. The Council, noting that the capacity of the supporting services in the Secretariat, in particular the Conference and Publications Divisions, was being exceeded by the acceleration in the number of meetings, indicated that the Programme of Work and Budget for 1976–77 should make adequate provision for these services, and be able in particular to accommodate any extraordinary sessions of the Governing Bodies. The Council expressed its concern at the increasing difficulties met by the Secretariat in recruiting and retaining language personnel of the required professional standards. The Council recommended that the Director-General should examine the career structure of such staff, with a view to providing the necessary incentive for highly qualified professionals to apply for appointment and to continue serving in FAO.
299. Reference was made to the related question of ensuring a more balanced use of the working languages within the Secretariat. This was an aspect of the problem to which the Director-General should pay special attention.
300. The Council considered various other possible ways of improving the situation, such as cutting down by 10 percent the number of meetings organized by FAO in 1976–77 compared with 1974–75, and reducing likewise the volume of documentation required for these meetings. The use of computer methods in the session programming process was also suggested.
301. The Council concluded that the fundamental problem was one of the number of sessions and of their programming, and decided that both short-term and longer-term measures should be contemplated. In the short-term, the Council requested the Programme Committee to examine at its Twenty-Ninth Session the overall number of meetings scheduled in the next biennium and its consequences, including the need for strengthening the translation and conference operations services in order to meet programme requirements. The Council requested that an annotated schedule for the next biennium of sessions of the Council itself and of those bodies which report to the Council should be submitted to the Sixty-Eighth Council Session for approval, after adoption by the Conference of the Programme of Work and Budget, and that this schedule should be reviewed at subsequent sessions of the Council as required.
1 CL 66/INF/11, CL 66/PV/7, CL 66/PV/8, CL 66/PV/15, CL 66/PV/20.
302. As a mid-term measure the Council requested the Director-General to examine, in consultation with the Permanent Representatives as appropriate, the whole Committee structure of FAO including the timing, number and frequency of meetings, and the question of improving the balance in the use of languages within the FAO Secretariat. These and other problems would be the subject of a report by the Director-General which would be examined by the Programme Committee in 1976, and subsequently be presented to the Council.
303. The Council was informed that Bahamas had applied for admission to membership in the Organization.
304. Pending a decision by the Conference on this application, the Council, acting in pursuance of Rule XXV-11 GRO and paras B-1, B-2 and B-5 of the “Statement of Principles on the Granting of Observer Status to Nations” authorized the Director-General to invite Bahamas to participate in an observer capacity at appropriate Council meetings, as well as at regional and technical meetings of the Organization of interest to it.
305. The Council decided that its Sixty-Seventh Session should be convened in Rome from 3 to 7 November 1975.
1 CL 66/PV/17, CL 66/PV/20.
2 CL 66/PV/17.