The Programme Implementation Report (PIR) is the prime accountability document submitted to the Governing Bodies of FAO. It focuses on the effective use of resources entrusted to the Organization under both the Regular Programme appropriation and extra-budgetary funding, and on the major achievements during the biennium. Due to the zero-real growth budget approved by the Conference in November 2001, the 2002-03 biennium brought some respite to the regime of cuts and associated staff retrenchment which characterized the previous biennia.
Unlike its predecessors, this PIR builds on the benefits from the major changes in programming and budgeting practices introduced at the behest of both Governing Bodies and management in the recent past. The Strategic Framework for FAO 2000-15, approved by the FAO Conference in November 1999, provided the foundation for proposals in the Medium Term Plan (MTP) 2002-07 and the Programme of Work and Budget (PWB) 2002-03. The new programme model, which is also one of the major methodological improvements endorsed by the Conference in the Strategic Framework, was applied rigorously to the technical programmes in Chapter 2 and Major Programme 3.1. To match these developments, the supportive information system (PIRES) now incorporates more elaborate coding functionality to facilitate analysis across many dimensions. Therefore, it is now possible to report for the first time achievements against plans which have been designed to respond to the corporate strategies contained in the Strategic Framework.
Given the expectations for a revamped PIR, the advice of the Programme and Finance Committees was sought at their sessions of May 2004 on desirable changes to its format. The Committees endorsed the proposed results-based orientation for the PIR and concurred with new features such as reporting on Strategic Objectives, regional dimensions and interdisciplinary actions.
Hence, preceding the usual coverage of the overall “Organizational Performance” and the “Summary of Programme Implementation” based on the PWB programme structure which appeared in previous versions, a new section reports on “Progress towards Implementation of the Strategic Framework”, which includes reporting on the Priority Areas for Inter-disciplinary Action (PAIAs). Heeding the advice of the Committees, another innovation is the section on “Regional Dimensions” which aims at meeting the legitimate expectations of those Members who want to have a feel of the activities carried out in the biennium of direct interest to respective regions. Following established practice, it may be noted that the list and status of outputs planned in the PWB 2002-03 are available on the FAO Internet Web site.
What marked the years 2002 and 2003 in terms of major achievements? As recalled above, largely free from the straightjacket of budgetary constraints, FAO’s units could work towards full implementation of the programme of work specified in the PWB.
Among the most important international events with which FAO was associated was of course the World Food Summit: five years later (WFS:fyl) which it organized and which reiterated the importance of renewed concerted action to reach the WFS target. But FAO also played a very active role in the preparations for and outcome of the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, and successfully exercised its lead agency responsibility in organizing the International Year of Mountains.
The Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) continued to spearhead direct action in countries. The Programme expanded its coverage, being operational in 75 low-income food-deficit countries and other developing countries by the end of 2003, while 28 South-South Cooperation agreements were concluded during the biennium. Equally important was the move to the upscaling phase in 30 countries. Another telling measure of the catalytic role of the SPFS is undoubtedly the mobilization of commitments from multilateral, bilateral and unilateral donors and international financial institutions which reached over US$ 382 million at the end of 2003, a 59 % increase over the same figure two years before.
The trilogy of World Food Day, TeleFood and the Ambassadors programme continued to underwrite FAO’s essential awareness building role, also assisting with collecting funds for small scale but particularly concrete field work. What indicator can provide a better proxy of this awareness building role and the complementary information dissemination role of FAO than the over 40 million monthly “hits” to its Internet Web site achieved in 2003, in the most part to access the World Agricultural Information Centre (WAICENT)? A guarantee of even more impressive future success was the initiation of the FAOSTAT2 project to modernize FAO’s corporate data bases.
Beyond its well recognized focus on fighting hunger, the Organization has continued to demonstrate its lead role in food and agriculture through key normative activities. The ratification process of the landmark International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture adopted by the FAO Conference in November 2001 proceeded unabated, resulting in the entry into force of this Treaty at the time of writing. Similar good progress was achieved in relation to the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Pesticides and Chemicals which reached the necessary fiftieth ratification in November 2003. In the realm of normative work, one can also mention the first FAO/WHO Global Forum of Food Safety Regulators held in Marrakech in January 2002 and the adoption of a Strategy for Improving Information on Status and Trends of Capture Fisheries by the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) in 2003.
At the same time, FAO’s regular publications such as the State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA), the State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI), the State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) and the State of the World's Forests (SOFO), have continued to serve policy makers and other users throughout the world with their contents.
In the 2002-03 biennium, the decentralization process reached a mature phase, whereby all three layers: Headquarters, Regional and Sub-regional offices and FAO country offices were able to overcome the transition problems experienced in past periods. They are working now in a complementary fashion on the design and implementation of projects. The delivery of policy advisory
services to Members as well as to their regional associations also required complementary inputs from these three layers. This collaborative process was no doubt greatly facilitated by more effective and rapid communication through the wide area network.
In closing these brief introductory remarks, I am confident that the information in this document will be found of particular interest by the concerned Bodies. The Membership needs to be satisfied that the Organization is working well in implementing its approved longer-term corporate strategies and attendant objectives, while meeting the varied expectations of its stakeholders within the limits of the resources placed at its disposal.