82. The decentralization team was conscious that the ultimate measure of FAO’s effectiveness in its decentralized work, is its success in helping member countries to achieve their goals as set out in its Strategic Framework, i.e.:
83. Above all, the team considers that FAO is bound to give attention to the first goal, namely that set at the World Food Summit of 1996 “Access of all people at all times to sufficient nutritionally adequate and safe food, ensuring that the number of undernourished people is reduced by half by no later than 2015”. The evaluation recognises that for this goal to be achieved, due attention must be addressed to countries and regions with large numbers of undernourished people. At the same time, FAO has to make appropriate responses to other countries and regions, where numbers of undernourished may be smaller, but where there are large agriculturally-dependent populations and other problems and areas of potential that clearly fall within FAO’s mandate.
84. Ministers and top officials stated in their meetings with the evaluation team that they would value more emphasis from FAO in developing and/or taking forward their national policies and strategies. They valued FAO as a provider of information and knowledge, particularly on cutting edge issues (trade issues and help in understanding the implications of new technologies, e.g. GMOs were frequently mentioned). Headquarters technical officers also attached high priority to the policy and strategy areas and FAORs emphasised facilitating national policy dialogue. Country responses to questionnaires, which probably reflect the interests of ministries of agriculture at all levels, in general emphasised the need for a broad range of assistance. They tended to place less emphasis on policy and strategy and the facilitation of policy dialogue and more emphasis on specialist expertise. Requirements for project and programme development were in general given the highest ratings.
85. Trade, and in particular issues of sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards (SPS) and technical barriers to trade (TBT) (including GMOs, food safety and plant and animal pests and diseases) tend to be important for all regions. On other matters, however, the evaluation found that there were substantial differences between levels of development and regions on the policy subject-matter for which inputs are sought. Questionnaire responses from countries did not indicate a high demand for sector and macro policy specialists and this corresponds with the desire for policy and strategy assistance to be in technical, institutional or sub-sectoral areas. While countries which have or are developing PRSPs, particularly in Africa, are often seeking support at sector and inter-sectoral level as well as on rural poverty and household food security, elsewhere more specific policy-geared inputs are looked for on such issues as land tenure (CIS and Africa), water management, fishery and forestry. The evaluation noted that the populous countries have policy and policy-related issues at provincial level. In addition to trade issues, many Latin American countries are addressing pockets of rural poverty and hunger.
86. In general, neither senior government officials nor donors viewed FAO as being a major mobiliser of funds or implementer of assistance. Responses to country questionnaires generally did not emphasise an FAO role in implementing large-scale projects. Countries were also found to vary in their demand and need for pilot activities designed to demonstrate policies and approaches. Pilots are undertaken by FAO in such areas as integrated pest management and water management, as well as being the starting point for the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS). In Burkina Faso and in China, the evaluation found that pilot activities had shown an impact, but the pilot had to be lifted to a critical mass of demonstration effect and only those aspects of the pilot experience which were found valuable would be replicated, not the overall package. In responses to questionnaires, middle-income countries gave low priority to pilot activity. In countries where NGOs or stand alone bilateral projects are prevalent, this need can often be met by them. Senior government officials sometimes told the evaluation team that they saw little role for FAO in piloting and demonstration for this reason. Many officials within the UN family and donor community were strongly critical of pilot activities, stating that they have no impact and that work must be at the strategic level. The evaluation team observed that pilot project design should always incorporate elements which facilitate replication and upscaling.
87. Middle-income countries also look to FAO very much as a two-way channel of communication for experience between countries and continents. They feel in this regard that they have something to offer to the rest of the world and that FAO should be a channel for that knowledge.
88. International development partners (UN system, donors, IFIs) were also consulted at country level on their priorities for FAO, and thus the areas in which they might be expected to support FAO work. Their emphasis was almost universally in seeing FAO’s comparative strengths in policy and institutional development for its areas of mandate, where the Organization’s neutrality and knowledge of global trends and the implications of technology are important. They too stressed FAO’s normative function and its role in making countries aware of comparable experience elsewhere.
89. International development partners saw a strong role for FAO in the UN country team in providing focus and coordination for harmonization of work by the international community in all areas of FAO’s mandate. Contribution to the content of PRSP design and more detailed operationalisation of the strategy was particularly emphasised. They also pointed to the importance of FAO working with the full range of relevant ministries, which did not always happen. Finance and planning ministries also emphasised that FAO needed to work as an integrated part of the UN system if it was to influence the development agenda in favour of rural development and the place of agriculture in overcoming poverty and contributing to economic growth. Government officials and international partners noted that in many countries, there are difficulties in line ministries, including agriculture, in dialoguing across sectoral lines and at the senior policy level and that the international community can help to foster internal dialogue if it works together.
90. The evaluation examined, through statistical analysis, the relation between FAO’s country response and the Organization’s overall priorities in terms of meeting needs and supporting development potentials. FAO resources put at the disposal of countries (in terms of the size of the FAOR offices and the resource which FAO has flexibly at its direct disposal, i.e. TCP), were examined against a set of criteria. These criteria included: the numbers of malnourished; the size of the agriculturally dependent population; the size of the FAO Field Programme; and the volume of development assistance flowing to the country. The evaluation also considered other less tangible factors, such as the availability of the countries’ own expertise and the extent to which they were able to tap into other sources of technical support.
91. The evaluation found that low-income countries as a group receive more resources per country from FAO than the average for all countries. It also found that the needs of Africa are recognised in the level of resources made available, and indeed that the most important share of resources goes to Africa. With the exclusion of China and India from the analysis, the strongest correlation is with TCP resources and the agriculturally dependent population, with a weaker correlation on TCP resources and the number of malnourished. Although on neither of these indicators does the correlation explain most of the variance between countries, there is substantial differentiation in TCP allocations between countries7. The trend in resource allocation is thus moving in the right direction, focusing on LDCs and the size of population dependent upon agriculture, but the correlation with food security status and with poverty, especially in large countries, needs to be reinforced.
92. Between them, India and China account for 44 percent of the world’s undernourished (about 350 million people). Poverty in these two countries is also a predominantly rural phenomenon. This poverty is also concentrated in particular states and provinces which have populations (around 100 million), the size of many medium-sized countries. Both countries have sensitive policy issues where they can draw on the rest of the world and valuable experiences to share with other parts of the world. They also have vast intellectual and financial resources of their own, although India continues to be in the per capita income level of an LDC. The team concluded that FAO has a particular contribution to make in these two countries and the numbers of rural poor and hungry qualify them for a somewhat greater concentration of resources than they are currently receiving (from the point of view of staffing the FAORs, TCP allocations and use of RP resources). However, within the countries, FAO must prioritise its areas for action geographically based on poverty and in terms of subject matter.
93. Five CIS countries are in FAO’s European region8. Other CIS countries of central Asia9 are in FAO’s Near East and to some extent Asia10 regions. Although the CIS countries have in some cases received substantial technical support, none of them has a resident FAOR and there is a shortage of staff specialised in their problems. Eight countries covered by REU/SEUR joined the European Union on 1 May 2004 and will no longer be eligible for FAO TCP assistance11. This gives a new configuration to the region. The CIS countries have historical, cultural and linguistic links with central and eastern Europe. Moreover, they face typical issues of transition countries that are similar to those of other CIS countries of the Caucasus and the Balkans, as well as sharing a similar process of transition to that already undergone in the eastern European countries which have joined the EU. The common language (at least within the government sphere) in the CIS is Russian.
94. The evaluation concluded that in its decentralization FAO must work to provide a strengthened technical response in line with the priorities of the Organization and more proportionate to the needs and requests of individual countries, especially in terms of food insecurity and dependence upon agriculture. While taking full account of FAO’s priorities, this response should be both demand driven and focused.
95. Although the evaluation could not make the type of needs assessment which would inform a detailed matching of capacities and requirements, it was able to form overall judgements on the basis of sample country visits, which were further informed by the questionnaire responses. The evaluation found that patterns of demand from countries have a high degree of coherence with the goals of Member Nations which FAO is striving to support, as defined in the FAO Strategic Framework. Within this context, with a few exceptions, those countries with high proportions of malnourished people attach the highest priority to FAO’s support in overcoming hunger and rural poverty. Other countries tend to place their priority with respect to FAO on the second of the goals of Member Nations as defined within the Strategic Framework, i.e. agriculture’s contribution to economic and social development.
96. FAO’s comparative strengths and the demands of countries require that FAO give greater emphasis to upstream support to countries. Such support needs to be able to provide inputs for the design and operationalisation of policies and programmes to combat poverty and hunger (e.g. PRSP) but also importantly for sub-sectoral policy and trade development. Also the evaluation concluded that:
97. The evaluation found that the smaller the field programme in a country, the lower was FAO’s visibility and ability to respond as a partner with government and the international community. From discussion with donors, there is scope in many countries for expansion in FAO inputs if the Organization demonstrates its willingness for flexible partnerships, playing a supporting and not exclusively leading role, and demonstrating its technical and delivery capability.
98. The change process for the decentralization of the Field Programme has produced some negative effects as well as positive outcomes and potentials for the future. Perhaps most notably, the disruptive effects in the early stages of the process are seen as having contributed to a decline in FAO’s extra-budgetary Field Programme delivery, though this no longer seems to be the case and the causes for this are complex. The major factor was the the UNDP decision to discontinue UN agency execution. It was important at a time when FAO’s overall budget reduction meant it could no longer support the same level of operational capacity it had previously maintained at headquarters. Donors were giving less attention to agriculture. There was a move away from project-based funding to various forms of programme and budget support. National execution became a preferred modality and several donors themselves decentralized responsibility to country level. The latter meant that FAO’s own decentralization was increasingly important if the extra-budgetary Field Programme were to be maintained and new sources of funding mobilised.
99. These effects can, also be exaggerated, as the relationship is complex. The best indicator of the extent to which the change process during the decentralisation was reducing the Field Programme is the TCP, which is financed from FAO’s own resources and, therefore, is not subject to external factors. Following the completion of the most recent decentralization measures, TCP is now showing a marked upturn in expenditure and approvals. Further, it is apparent that the overall system for processing TCPs is operating better. TCP expenditure, which was US$ 37.2 million in 1995, fell to a low of US$ 22.8 million in 2000, but since has recovered, reaching a high of US$ 51.4 million in 2003. Although problems remain with aspects of TCP, including delays, the evaluation thus concludes that decentralization of field project implementation to the FAORs is now in place.
100. FAORs now develop a programme framework for FAO in the country as part of their annual reporting and some FAORs (e.g. Mozambique) have prepared country programme documents. As of May 2004, 49 programme frameworks had been circulated. In southern and eastern Africa and in Latin America, a limited number of inter-disciplinary programming missions led by the Policy Assistance Branches have taken place and elsewhere some missions have been undertaken by the Branches without participation from other technical staff. FAORs reported that a national strategy paper for FAO action had been elaborated in 38 percent of countries with an FAOR. The great majority of FAO Representatives (90%) and National Coordinators responded that it would be useful to have such a framework (only half of HQ senior technical staff share this view).
101. The evaluation team did observe ways in which FAO could better support Field Programme response to country needs in the context of decentralization. The first is matching FAO’s response to the priorities of countries. This can only be done through sustained dialogue at national level. The FAO country level presence has to be capable and mandated to carry out this dialogue and follow through on it to the establishment of priorities for FAO’s work in the country, development of specific FAO activities and management of the project cycle.
102. The evaluation team found that all these efforts move very much in the right direction. Nonetheless, it observed and was informed by development partners and governments that rather than empowering the FAORs to engage in the continuing national dialogue required to develop the Field Programme and investment opportunities in the context of the PRSPs, NEPAD, etc., FAO was often relying heavily on short-term inputs from the policy assistance branches, and TCA and TCI in Rome. The evaluation team also reviewed some of the programme-type documents prepared by these missions during its country and Regional Office visits and found that many of these lacked prioritisation or real strategy. These documents were not generally widely known and often lacked ownership by the parties who did not produce them, including in some cases the FAORs and the countries themselves, the wider FAO and the donors. With the exception of Latin America, the team found the involvement of countries was in general only that they were consulted by the mission which prepared these documents. The team found no examples of them being developed in close consultation with donors. The biggest problem, however, was that they lacked any formal status in the country or in FAO. There is no acceptance, or even wide knowledge, of these documents as representing FAO’s strategy in the countries concerned.
103. FAO’s TCP is a very important tool for the Organization in developing a Field Programme response but the evaluation found that limits to the flexibility of the TCP, lack of FAOR authorities for decision in its use and delays, all work against it fulfilling its potential. For ease of presentation questions relating to TCP are addressed in one place in the report (Section 9.1.1).
Recommendation 1 (for early implementation): Driven by country needs and under the responsibility of the FAOR, four-year rolling FAO national priority frameworks should be developed with government and, as appropriate, donors, supported as necessary by FAO technical and policy inputs. Such frameworks should define flexibly the FAO priorities in support to national strategies, including PRSPs and national food security strategies developed with FAO assistance. The priority frameworks should be rolling (reviewed once every one or two years). They should not be considered plans or programmes, as the Organization does not dispose of substantial core funds but should specify intended outcomes. Care needs to be taken that they do not develop into shopping lists. For each framework, agreement should be sought with the government and formalised where possible. Frameworks should have official status in FAO and be approved by the Programme and Project Review Committee (PPRC). They should be tools against which to mobilise funds for FAO execution or execution by others and to assign TCP funding, improving the Organizationís impact, coherence and image. They should also be used in defining regional priorities for more normative work and to assist in forward planning of technical support needs.
104. The evaluation team found that although this had not always been the case in the past, FAO is now usually regarded as a cooperative player in the international community, in particular in the UN country-team where it was generally as much involved as other UN specialised agencies. However, 19 percent of FAORs responding to questionnaires did regard the quantity of requests from the UN Resident Coordinator as a problem.
105. Significant examples were found by the evaluation team of FAO playing a coordinating role for food security and rural development, either directly or as a facilitator to government or the UN Resident Coordinator. It was recognised by international partners that the other UN specialised agencies do not have funds similar to TCP, which could be used to facilitate partnerships. However, a number of factors were noted that reduced FAO’s possibilities for leveraging resources through partnership. The most important of these was often stated by international partners to be the overall lack of authority vested in the FAO Representative which meant that FAO tended to be sidelined. They also emphasised the following factors as, in their view, significant in limiting country level partnership:
106. In addition to general issues of partnership in relation to decentralization, the evaluation examined particular potential partnerships at country level which had been referred to it by various Member Nations and which had received attention in the Governing Bodies. The question of shared UN premises was also examined (see Section 5.5). This importantly included IFAD and WFP and also partnership with IICA, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture in Latin America.
107. After a period of reduced collaboration the evaluation found that partnering with WFP at country level by FAO was improving particularly in the context of emergencies. There had been close collaboration and shared premises with WFP and other UN agencies for the emergency response in southern Africa. There was now scope to further strengthen collaboration at field level in the areas where the two Organizations’ mandates closely interface, in particular food security assessment and programmes to improve nutrition in especially disadvantaged populations, including those affected by HIV-AIDS.
108. IFAD is piloting various forms of country presence. The evaluation found that although FAO and IFAD have been greatly improving their partnership at global level, where together with WFP they are carrying forward the Alliance Against Hunger, the picture at national level was less encouraging. In the view of the evaluation, there is a natural synergy between IFAD at country level and FAO which is failing to be realised. IFAD is often the largest donor to agriculture. FAO has both technical expertise and a country office and yet the IFAD piloting of country presence has tended to be with UNDP, WFP or other agencies, not with FAO. FAO, admittedly extremely short of resources, has not been prepared to provide any services, including technical without charge. IFAD has thus looked to organizations which will provide free services and partner on projects. This could be an opportunity missed for both FAO and IFAD to maximise on their comparative advantages.
109. The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) concentrates on promoting sustainable agricultural development, food security and prosperity in rural communities, operating through a network of country offices spanning Latin America and the Caribbean. Some of those consulted by the evaluation team compared FAO’s responsiveness in providing policy inputs negatively with that of IICA. The coincidence between the mandated areas covered by IICA and FAO led to an agreement on cooperation being signed between the Directors-General of the two Organizations in 2002. The evaluation found that although the two organizations keep each other informed at country level, this has not as yet led to significant joint action. Nonetheless, IICA was keen to deepen collaboration. A few countries have suggested that the relationship should be moving towards merger on the WHO-PAHO model. The evaluation did not conclude that this would be advantageous, given the distinctive orientations of the two Organizations and the diverse expectations of Member Nations from them.
110. The evaluation believes it important that the two Organizations should continue to dialogue and avoid overlap, and favours strengthened efforts to identify areas where benefit would accrue from working together on particular issues, whether at the policy/strategic level, or at the project level, particularly where FAO has a comparative advantage in one aspect of a question to be covered and IICA an advantage in another. This should be followed up not only by continued active efforts at country level, but also through discussions between IICA and the FAO Regional Office in Santiago (RLC). The evaluation also considered that the extent to which joint or back-to-back meetings would be useful should be reviewed, including of the two Organizations’ regional conferences.
111. Similar considerations for improved partnership apply to other regional agricultural organizations, for example those in the Near East.
Recommendation 2: It is recommended that FAO continue to strengthen partnerships at country level and in regions, importantly including with WFP and IICA. In particular, it is recommended that the Organization actively pursue possibilities for increased cooperation at country level with IFAD, including in country representation. This requires flexibility and a willingness by both FAO and IFAD to sometimes accept the other’s leadership.
112. During country visits, the evaluation team found a mixed picture with regard to the availability and use made of FAO information and publications (both electronic and paper). This material was generally welcomed, and in some cases valued highly by national professionals. The evaluation team heard several times from both donors and countries that the only source of some essential statistical information was FAO. However, in many countries, even middle-income countries, access to and use of the internet is difficult, even at senior levels and especially in the provinces. In other cases, there are language difficulties in accessing material. Hard copies of FAO publications often seem to end up not receiving wide in-country distribution and several copies may remain with an office in the central ministry.
113. The evaluation was unable to systematically review FAOR libraries in the countries it visited but the impression was that these libraries are, with exceptions, not very well run and receive a limited number of visitors. The network access from the library to the FAO website is often poor. Considerations of increased physical security for UN personnel are also making it more difficult to provide easy access to FAO buildings.
114. The evaluation concluded that FAORs need to give more attention to assisting the targeted distribution of FAO technical information in country and publicising the availability electronically of materials from FAO. On the other hand, expenditure on trying to improve FAOR libraries may not always be cost-effective.
115. Normative work was found to be essential in all regions on common problems for groups of countries and, although important for all, is of particular interest to medium-income countries. Work on the border line between normative and technical support for such things as food security assessment or development of sub-regional trade often has a particular application in the least developed countries, including those of Africa. Some global normative work has had a particular input into work at regional level, for example that on: forest sector review; fisheries management; and food security assessment. Other normative work has fed strongly through into training and awareness building, such as that on trade issues in the light of WTO negotiations and for non-tariff issues in agricultural and food trade. Also, some headquarters-based technical programmes may have a need for outposted officers working directly on aspects of such programmes, for example the regional fisheries bodies or regional development of FIVIMS.
116. The evaluation team found that at present, programming of normative work is undertaken by the technical departments in Rome. The Regional Offices’ input into the programming of this work in two ways. Individual services and officers consult their officers in the regions to varying degrees on the programme, but generally the regional officers’ role in this is very limited. Also, regional representatives provide the headquarters departments with a view of regional priorities, taking account of the views of regional conferences. These vary in usefulness and can sometimes almost be shopping lists, reflecting a compilation of the inputs of the regional technical officers. The Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific has developed a strategic framework document and the Regional Conference for Europe confirmed priorities for Europe within the overall FAO Strategic Framework. The Organization’s intranet based programme planning, implementation reporting and evaluation support system (PIRES) enables the regions to see what is being proposed by the headquarters departments. There are no regional FAO normative programmes (programme entities) at the present time, although there is nothing to specifically prevent these.
117. The evaluation found that integration of the Regional Offices into the programming process had improved since the 1994-95 decentralization but, on the whole, regional views were poorly articulated and were given rather low priority by the headquarters departments. FAORs can indicate what they consider to be priorities for FAO assistance in their reports and OCD apparently draws these views to the attention of headquarters departments but as far as the evaluation could determine, the formal role of FAORs in normative planning is currrently minimal and their views are not consolidated at regional level.
118. The evaluation concluded that strong links between global normative work and the specific normative requirements of individual countries, groups of countries and regions are essential. However, the present arrangements are not fully achieving this, due to an inadequately interactive system for consolidated analysis of regional needs for normative work, and a need for stronger links between the decentralized offices and headquarters in the planning and execution of normative activities.
Recommendation 3 (from the 2006-07 biennium): For normative work and work in support of groups of countries at strategy level:
119. This is not expected to result in a rigidly integrated vertical model for programming FAO’s work from the country level up. The evaluation noted the dangers of the inflexible budgeting of programme funds at country level in certain of the other specialised agencies. The proposed model for FAO would feed country needs into regional and global programmes. Regional normative work would form part of an integrated FAO programme. Global normative work should continue to be a mixture of global potentials, opportunities and comparative advantage but the country and regional perspective within this should be enhanced.
120. The proportion of resources for normative work should not be uniform by region or sub-region. It is also the case that if the recommendations of the evaluation are accepted for the organization of technical services to countries, the balance will shift to varying degrees towards direct support to countries by the regional technical staff. The discussion of country needs made it clear that in Africa and the Pacific, the emphasis was very much on the demand for technical support services. Elsewhere, considerable value was seen in normative activity, especially the type which is on the border between normative and technical support to a group of countries with common issues to address. This type of work should also be supported through the regional programme entities.
121. Members of the evaluation team observed two of the FAO Regional Conferences12 and views on the regional conferences were also obtained from Member Nations during country visits and through questionnaires. The format of regional conferences has evolved but members consider that these are still too standardised in their agendas and approach and do not always adequately facilitate real dialogue in line with the cultural norms of the region. Member Nations attach importance to the Organization listening carefully to their views in preparing the conferences. While 47 percent of countries responding to questionnaires found the overall usefulness of Regional Conferences to be good, in Latin America this figure was only 13 percent and in Asia 25 percent. The single biggest problem for countries was that the conferences were not sufficiently focused on areas of regional priority. Members also consider inadequate attention is given to the views of Regional Conferences in determining FAO’s work programme.
122. The conferences have a potential to highlight key issues within a region, but this potential has not been not fully realised. The evaluation found that members consider that it is important for conference papers not to duplicate issues which are being handled in many other regional fora and to lead to clear and precise conclusions and recommendations by the conferences. They need to form part of a process which leads to action by FAO and the members. FAO is not the only regional body for agriculture in many of the regions and if the Regional Conferences are to re-emerge as “the agricultural forum for each region”, partnership with other organizations and inclusion of other organizations in the proceedings could be important. In so far as is possible, timing should facilitate their involvement in the FAO programme planning process.
Recommendation 4 (for early implementation): Regional Conferences should be flexibly designed in format and content to meet the needs of the region and their voice should be institutionalised in the Organization’s programming, planning and budgeting processes, particularly with respect to activities for the region.
123. Capacity at country level is closely linked to issues of staff competencies, technical and administrative support and to the delegation of authority, which are discussed separately in Sections 6.3.8, 8.1, 9.1 and 9.2. This section of the report examines the modalities for country presence and ensuring adequacy of resources.
124. Through various forms of representation, country coverage has increased by about 23 percent since 1994. With the 2004-5 budget cuts, the FAOR network is now over 10 percent under-funded against the original budget, which itself was premised on high rates of vacancies in posts. In addition to the relatively small size of offices (typically an FAOR and 7-10 national staff), the overstretched resources are demonstrated by the gaps in filling FAOR posts, and to a lesser extent senior national posts, which the evaluation team was informed had become a necessity of budget management. Such periods of vacancies were reported by all those consulted to have very serious and negative implications for FAO’s effectiveness. In responses to questionnaires, 57 percent of FAORs reported leaving FAORs vacant to be a moderate to major problem. Field programme development, policy dialogue and partnerships were all very deleteriously affected, as was FAO’s reputation. FAO has been to some extent covering key vacancies by the use of FAO retirees for short periods. This is preferable to leaving the post fully vacant, but far from satisfactory (although use of a retiree for a longer period (e.g. 12-18 months) would be a possible solution on occasion).
125. During the course of 2003, 37 percent of FAOR posts13 were vacant for some part of the year. The average duration of the vacancy was 5.3 months. The longest single vacancy was 13 months. The 2004-05 budget cuts may worsen this situation further. Also, if steps are only taken to replace an FAOR after the incumbent has left this can make clearance of candidatures for the incoming FAOR with the country more difficult.
Table 4: Duration of FAOR Vacancies
Duration of vacancy
more than 7 months
Percentage of vacancies
126. FAO offices have a maximum of 22 national staff in one Latin American country and a minimum of five in several countries. Within this spectrum, offices with 15 or more staff make up eight percent of the total and are all found in Latin America where governments contribute to the provision of national staff. Thirty-two percent of offices have 10-14 national staff and this group includes a few African countries with relatively large numbers of undernourished people and a high dependence on agriculture. A further 40 percent of offices have from 5-9 national staff. OCD distinguishes three categories of FAO Representation and their staffing is intended to be based on a set of criteria related to the country which OCD states include proportion of agricultural labour force in the total population, GDP and the size of the field programme, as well as additional countries covered through multiple accreditation, but it is also stated that budget cuts have eroded this differentiation with the need to retain a minimum of staff in each office. The evaluation statistically examined personnel resources devoted to each FAOR against criteria of the size of the FAO Field Programme and country needs in terms of the number of malnourished and the number of people dependent on agriculture. No clear relationship was discernable between these.
127. The evaluation has concluded that the decentralized structure must be designed for maximum effectiveness within the available budget. FAO’s country presence is increasingly thinly and unevenly spread with over-stretched resources. There has not been an adequate recent profiling of FAO country offices, matching needs and available resources. Given these overstretched resources, in a number of countries funding absorbed by FAORs and the new Outposted Technical Officer/FAORs is not balanced with requirements (given the relatively small numbers of malnourished people, small agricultural populations and agricultural economies, and in some cases relatively high GDPs per capita (excluding countries with special needs such as the small island states)). At the same time, some countries with large absolute numbers of malnourished people and with large numbers of agriculturally-dependent people are not receiving the attention in terms of the size and capacity of country offices, which they merit. Some countries, notably the CIS group, are not adequately covered at all.
128. It is concluded that attempts to maximise the number of countries with an FAOR have resulted in a heavy price in effectiveness. It was noted that there were examples of UN specialised agencies, in particular, UNESCO, which had closed a number of country offices in order to obtain greater effectiveness within available resources. Among the UN funds and programmes, UNDP and WFP had also closed country offices.
129. FAORs with multiple accreditation were unanimous in their responses to questionnaires, in their view that the other countries to which they were accredited did not need a full-time FAOR. Key informants, particularly the responsible FAORs, felt that while the principle of multiple accreditation was sound, national programme officers in the countries of secondary accreditation had generally been recruited at too low a level. For multiple accreditation to work optimally, there is a need for the FAOR to visit the country frequently, which may be difficult, but should be clearly required in the workplan. An international officer with responsibility for Djibouti, who visits it frequently, is stationed in Addis Ababa and this arrangement was reported to work well. It was also noted that one FAOR post had been left vacant where the FAOR office had a very senior national deputy in place and this seemed to work to the satisfaction of all parties. In other words, this country can manage well with a de-facto national FAOR. There is also some room for adjustments to render the system more efficient. For example, the FAOR for Botswana is based in Harare, which normally requires a change of plane in South Africa where there is also an FAOR who is one hour’s flying distance from Gaborone.
130. There are several relatively small countries with capitals within a few hours drive, or one hour’s flight, of each other which currently have separate FAORs. In examining possibilities for increased multiple accreditation in terms of proximity and workload, the evaluation estimates that, in an appropriate manner, multiple accreditation could be used for five of the countries currently staffed by FAOR/OTOs and 5-6 of those countries which currently have a resident FAOR. Improved coverage through technical groups on airline hubs headed by FAORs with multiple accreditation is also a possibility, particularly in the CIS.
131. UN Resident Coordinators suggested to the evaluation team that rather than being housed in separate offices, national programme officers in countries covered by multiple accreditation could often be more effective if they were placed with UNDP, which would exercise some supervision and this would favour their integration into the UN country team and status vis-ŗ-vis government. This, they also argued, would facilitate the payment transactions which UNDP may carry out in such countries on behalf of FAO. While the costs of this would depend on the arrangements to be made with UNDP, the idea does have merit and should be further examined.
132. The evaluation found that the posts for international administrative officers in FAOR offices, of which there are 16, were being used for a mixture of programme responsibilities and administration but that the officers concerned were not always well suited for the posts. The evaluation team was also informed by FAO that international administrative officers were sometimes used to assist with training and systems in neighbouring countries. The evaluation could not see why, in a situation where the multinationals are able to staff their offices to very senior levels in most countries with nationals, as do the IFIs, FAO is unable to do the same. In both emergencies and situations where FAO has a large Field Programme, it may be possible to hire the international administrative input against extra-budgetary funds. This does, however, require FAO to adequately grade such national staff, though they would still cost substantially less than the internationals they replace. The evaluation concluded that this is an area for savings, and for replacement of internationals by nationals, except in complex emergencies and some other special situations.
133. National correspondents are government officers who handle FAO contacts and correspondence in developing countries, where there is no FAOR or national programme officer. There are currently 24, of whom all but eight report to an FAOR under multiple accreditation arrangements. They are paid a small honorarium by FAO based on the government salary for the proportion of their time spent on FAO business (this ranges from a minimum of 20 percent to a maximum of 60 percent of their time). In general, they do not appear to receive recognition from the UN community in the country. The national correspondents, in their responses to questionnaires, stated that the inadequacy of FAO support is a major problem in terms of office accommodation (50%) and transport (67%) but they generally reported that computers and communications were satisfactory. Inadequacy of briefing, orientation and training from FAO was considered a major problem by 29†percent. They also reported that they lacked an individual point of contact in FAO. As might be expected, the national correspondents were found by the evaluation to vary greatly in their performance. It may also be noted that the role of national correspondents would be reduced if the recommendations for coverage of the CIS countries were accepted (see Section 6.5).
134. UNDP has suggested that in some situations, for example where it is difficult to find a person in the Ministry of Agriculture who has the necessary skills, there could be merit in employing a UNDP Programme Assistant part time. This deserves to be examined on a case-by-case basis.
135. Some of the measures discussed above could free greater resources for countries. The evaluation also noted the willingness of countries to cover office space and other facilities for FAORs in several countries and under the new FAOR/OTO scheme. Many countries are also providing national staff and in some countries this provides the opportunity to reduce FAO’s own provision of national staff, freeing-up resources for use elsewhere. Apparently, government cash counterpart contributions currently cover eight percent of FAOR office costs.
136. The evaluation also considered a number of other possibilities for FAO to increase country office resources:
Recommendation 5 (for early and continuing implementation): The evaluation team is of the firm belief that the decentralized structure must be designed for maximum effectiveness within available budget. FAO should rigorously and flexibly pursue measures to achieve greater proportionality14 and effectiveness in resource use. Strengthening should include:
137. Proposals for this approach to staffing country offices with international staff were considered by the Council in November 2000 on the basis of the report of the previous joint session of the Programme and Finance Committees15, which “agreed that they be implemented with caution”. The scheme essentially has two components: i) a technical officer is outposted to a country with no FAOR where that country requests it; and ii) the country is prepared to provide basic facilities of office, telephone, car, secretarial support, etc. The evaluation team interviewed all FAOR/OTOs through country visits or by telephone16. The FAOR/OTOs also completed questionnaires. Initial experience is discouraging. All FAOR/OTOs reported in their questionnaire responses that the budget for FAOR functions and balancing technical work with FAOR functions were a moderate or major problem.
138. Most countries have met their basic obligations to provide office facilities and staffing, but often only to the minimum level. FAOR/OTOs thus reported difficulties with staff who did not work, vehicles without fuel, poor email services, etc. This can result in a situation where the FAOR/OTO is unable to work effectively as he/she lacks basic facilities and has to spend a great deal of time trying to overcome difficulties. These difficulties would apply to any form of FAO representation which relied entirely on national facilities.
139. The willingness of countries to provide offices, etc., is something to be very much welcomed whether for FAOR/OTOs or other forms of representation. However, the team concluded that full government funding of office support should not be strictly linked to the FAOR/OTO form of representation. There is always the need for some supplementary funding to enable the FAOR/OTO to run the office, even if they are eventually reimbursed by government. They thus need to have an imprest account, which apparently is not the case at present. On the other hand, in middle-income countries, there should be greater expectation that FAOR office costs will be borne by the government.
140. The second issue concerns the use of technical officers in this way. Of the nine FAOR/OTOs (May 2004) three were drawn from the Policy Assistance Division (TCA) and five from the Agriculture Department. One is funded from project funds and here the formula seems to work relatively well, with sufficient office resources also assured. For the remainder they, and their parent units, in general, report that they are currently unable to carry out technical work to any significant extent, in particular outside the country in which they are stationed. One water officer found the situation more satisfactory and was able to serve four countries. TCA is trying to develop technical workplans for these officers but finds, in common with the other parent technical divisions, that the country in which the officer is stationed may not be a priority for that discipline. The establishment of FAOR/OTOs is thus a transfer of resources from technical work to the FAOR function while the budget remains largely within the technical programme. It is also noted that several of the FAOR/OTOs have been placed in countries with limited needs in terms of size of the agricultural sector, number of malnourished, etc. and also that several of the countries concerned have very highly-qualified nationals available who could serve as Deputy FAORs under multiple accreditation arrangements.
141. Elements of the underlying philosophy for combining FAOR and technical capacities are captured in proposals made by the evaluation. These include the suggested extension of FAOR responsibilities for the Subregional Offices in the Caribbean and Pacific and the new technical hub groups with FAOR responsibilities suggested for the CIS and Africa.
Recommendation 6 (for early implementation): While understanding the concern to extend FAO’s country presence and couple it with technical expertise, the evaluation concludes that the FAOR/OTO scheme should be discontinued in its present form and the countries covered through a combination of the other means, discussed in this report (including multiple accreditation, transfer of a full FAOR from a lower priority country, or servicing by a designated officer from the regional/ sub-regional offices or the proposed technical groups).
If the FAOR/OTO scheme is continued:
142. Some member countries have proposed that FAO offices should normally be housed jointly with other UN organizations at country level in a UN House. The evaluation team found the importance of this issue to be exaggerated. FAO currently has a mix of stand-alone premises (often provided by the government), offices in ministries of agriculture (which is relatively uncommon), and offices in shared UN premises. The main consideration in the choice of housing for FAO has been cost. Shared UN premises can frequently be more costly than those which FAO obtains for itself, especially when the government provides assistance. OCD states that the preferred option is no cost and located in the Ministry of Agriculture. WHO, a comparator agency, is normally housed in premises provided by the ministry of health. The evaluation found that housing FAO in the ministry of agriculture can lead to insufficient attention to other sector ministries concerned with water, livestock, environment, forestry and fisheries. It can also reduce access to ministries of finance and planning. A single UN home is simply not available in many countries. While UN premises do give a better interface with other UN agencies and may promote the image of unity in the UN system, the main factors in interchange between agencies were reported by all partners at country level to have little to do with the location of premises. While access to other UN partners may be facilitated, access for government officials and the public are generally reduced, particularly with recent security considerations. Security considerations are also important in the calculation as to whether UN personnel are safer in one location or being scattered.
143. In short, the evaluation concluded that the issue of housing for the FAO office needed to be handled on a case-by-case basis but accommodation within the ministry of agriculture was not generally desirable.
144. In countries in crisis with natural disasters or complex emergencies enduring over several years, FAO has a role in the coordination of the international response to help maintain food production, and in agricultural rehabilitation, including ensuring adequate information on the agricultural and food situation. FAO also plays a direct role in supporting households to maintain production.
145. Complex emergencies generally last for several years. They fall into two categories, as regards country level support, i.e. those which can be handled from the capital of the country concerned and those which must be supported from outside the country, either because there is a complete breakdown of government or because the part of the country requiring assistance is in civil strife with the government. Thus, flexibility of arrangements from the side of FAO is essential.
146. In all emergencies, delays in implementation have more serious consequences than in development situations. This is particularly the case with emergencies involving pests and diseases such as locusts which get worse if not addressed immediately. Strategic thinking on the immediate situation and the future is essential but time lost in re-establishing or continuing agricultural production can lead to permanent marginalisation of households and almost always to increased food aid requirements. This requires specialist expertise and management capability.
147. Emergency and rehabilitation work is currently handled through the Emergency Operations Division (TCE) in Rome, which deploys emergency staff to respond, as well as providing operational support in headquarters. FAORs, with support from these emergency staff, take responsibility for contracting and purchasing within the limits of existing authorities. However, the evaluation found that in some countries, there were conflicts of authority between FAORs and the emergency coordinators employed by TCE (which is budget holder for the funds). There were also divergences in emergency – rehabilitation and development strategies (the first of these driven by TCE and its emergency coordinators, and the second by the FAORs supported to varying degrees by Regional and Subregional Office teams).
148. In the UN structure in emergencies, UNDP and the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) now generally field a joint UN coordinator and there is not a separate UNDP Resident Representative/UN Resident Coordinator. FAORs frequently lack the rapid “can do” skill set essential for emergency and rehabilitation work and also are unfamiliar with the policy considerations important in rehabilitation strategy. Training could assist in this regard.
149. The evaluation concluded that in countries dominated by complex emergencies, the first priority is to unify the lines of command and responsibility, rather than having divergent arrangements for the emergency work and continuing development projects, which can and do cause tension.
Recommendation 7 (implementation by 2007):
150. The success of these measures depends, however, on agreement to raise FAOR budgetary authority levels and authority to agree projects at least in emergency response (see below). It also depends upon the willingness of FAO to display a decisiveness in moving in the necessary FAOR/Emergency Coordinators which it has found difficult in the past. If this transition cannot be made, it would be counter-productive to move away from the present arrangements with TCE which work reasonably well. Mobilisation of funds for emergencies will continue to require central capacity in TCE, as well as clear responsibility and authority to mobilise funds in the country or region.
7 With 2003 expenditures (excluding emergencies) per country averaging per quartile: top quartile of countries- US$ 0.64 million; upper quartile - US$ 0.34 million; lower middle quartile - US$ 0.06 million; and lowest quartile US$ 0.035 million.
8 Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine - the Russian Federation and Belarus are not currently FAO members
9 Central Asia CIS countries include: Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.
10 Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan
11 They will still benefit from regional projects and other services of FAO.
12 Latin America and Caribbean and the Near East.
13 This is based on countries with a resident full FAOR, not being covered from a Regional or Sub-regional Office, and excludes Iraq which was vacant for special reasons.
14 A view shared by the JIU in 2002 when it stated “The Council may wish to formally define a set of objective criteria to determine the nature and extent of FAO country representation. These criteria should reflect not only the specific needs of the countries as measured by their indicators of human development and designation as low-income, food deficit countries, but also the cost-effectiveness of FAO activities at the national level”. Joint Inspection Unit, REP/2002/8, Geneva.
15 Joint Meeting of the Eighty-fourth Session of the Programme Committee and the Ninety-fifth Session of the Finance Committee, September 2000, JM 2000/2 – “Taking into consideration the concerns expressed by some members, the Committees agreed that the proposals should be implemented with caution paying due attention to: the need to appoint to these new positions fully qualified staff members with both technical and managerial expertise; the application of existing mechanisms for regular performance appraisal; the need to ensure that FAO Representatives continue to discharge their functions independently; and the capacity of recipient countries to fulfil their obligations which will accrue from the implementation of the proposals.
The Committees suggested that at some future date they should receive a progress report based on an evaluation of the new arrangements.”
16 Algeria, Argentina, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Jordan, Libya, Panama, Paraguay, Qatar.