6.1 Current Structure of Roles and Services in the Regions

151. To facilitate the understanding of the implications of changes proposed in this report, some features of the current reporting lines and roles of the decentralized offices are summarised briefly below:

  1. The FAO Regional Offices are each headed by a Regional Representative and, with the exception of Europe (D2), these are at ADG level. The Regional Representatives, Subregional Representatives and FAORs all report independently to the Director-General, with OCD facilitating this reporting relationship, particularly for the FAORs;
  2. Within the Regional and Subregional Offices, technical and policy staff are appointed by, provided budgets by, and report to their respective headquarters technical units. The administrative staff and any information officers report to the Regional/Subregional representative. Although in the Regional Offices technical staff are grouped by technical department, officers’ reporting lines are separately to their units in Rome. These are the formal lines of responsibility, but departments vary in the extent to which they will consult the Regional Representative on staff appointments, budgets and work-programmes and for some units this can work reasonably well, although few Regional Representatives are satisfied with the arrangement;
  3. Regional/Subregional Representatives are allotted the budget for all of the staff and activities of their offices which they manage and also have administrative control over the staff in the office. This can give those Regional Representatives who choose to exercise it, considerable leverage vis-à-vis staff work plans (especially travel) and use of non-staff resources, but not over programming; and
  4. The stated principle regarding support to the Field Programme and direct technical support to countries by FAO staff is that the best quality services should be made available to the extent possible from the point nearest to where the needs are. This is intended to put the decentralized offices at the forefront in carrying out such activities. However, as lead technical units for both the formulation and technical support of the Field Programme are in headquarters, this does imply that the decision on where technical support should come from is firstly with headquarters.

6.2 The Roles of the Policy Assistance, Investment and Operations Divisions

6.2.1 The Policy Assistance Branches and the Policy Assistance Division (TCA)

152. Policy Assistance Branches: One of the major features of the 1994-95 decentralization was the establishment of the policy assistance branches in each Regional Office, with policy assistance officers also in the Subregional Offices. The evaluation team examined the work of the branches and their relation to the services provided from headquarters through their new parent division, the Policy Assistance Division (TCA). The evaluation found that the establishment of a completely new division merging the policy assistance units in the Economic and Social Department and the programme officers in the former Development Department, had inevitably produced some difficulties for the required competencies of staff, effects on morale, etc.

153. In discussion, and reviewing the outputs of the policy assistance branches, the evaluation found that there have been several changes of expectation in the work to be performed by the branches. This particularly applied to expectations for policy work, preparation of sector reviews and country briefs (the latter primarily for FAO internal use) and aspects of field programme development, including preparation of country programmes, assistance to FAORs in preparation of projects and resource mobilisation and field project pipeline monitoring.

154. The evaluation team concluded that there was some need for clarification in the underlying expectations as regards the role the policy assistance branches play in field programme development. It has been made clear that FAORs have the lead role in country but there has been some expectation that policy assistance branches would help in mobilising donor funds. With their increasing decentralization, donors make decisions either at country level, in their capitals, or both. They may have Regional Offices but their regions do not correspond to those of FAO. The role that can be played by the staff of the policy assistance branches is thus no different from that of other technical officers and is rather limited, except when they visit a country.

155. In developing country field programmes, FAORs need assistance from the whole regional technical support group and the role of the policy assistance branch in this may be to help supply a strategic perspective and to assist in the design of specific policy or strategy interventions. The idea that also seems to be sometimes current, that policy assistance branches can prepare programmes at country level which would then be provided to donors for funding is also unlikely to be very effective. Policy assistance branches together with the rest of the technical team in the region could provide very useful assistance to the FAORs in the development of the country priority frameworks discussed above. It does, however, need to be recalled that there can be a conflict of interest between providing neutral policy support to a country and trying to promote a continuing project role for FAO17.

156. In the Regional Offices, there was some ambiguity about the respective roles of the officers of the policy assistance branches and those few staff from the Agricultural and Development Economics Division and the Commodities and Trade Division. There is now a move to recruit into the policy assistance branches staff with sub-sectoral policy expertise (e.g. water management). The evaluation team found a need for sub-sectoral strategy expertise but believes that this needs to be seen in the context of the regional technical support team as a whole and that further overlaps could now arise with the duties of the officers recruited by other technical departments, such as Agriculture and Sustainable Development.

157. The evaluation concludes that the management of the policy assistance branches separately from the other technical officers in Regional Offices can contribute to duplication of function and a lack of integration in the response of the office to country technical support needs.

158. The Policy Assistance Division (TCA) in Rome, through its Policy Coordinating Service (TCAR), provides as its main function a coordination and information exchange service for the policy assistance branches. It is the centre point in preparing for briefs for FAO management on countries. It also consults with the technical departments, especially Economic and Social (ES) to provide an interface with the work of the policy assistance branches. The view of regional staff reported to the evaluation team is that the utility of this information exchange function is limited. The Agricultural Policy Support Service (TCAS) draws from normative work for country application, preparing training and information materials on aspects of policy. Training of developing country personnel is carried out in cooperation with the policy assistance branches. It also carries out its own studies for formulation and adaptation of policy. To date the role has been performed very largely drawing on ES Department but this is intended to be expanded. The decision to activate an FAO inter-departmental task force on policy assistance is very welcome. TCA divisional management wishes to move towards a more networked way of working with the policy assistance branches, transferring experience across regions. In addition, the staff of both services have supplemented the resources in the policy assistance branches for country and regional studies, particularly requests for urgent work.

159. If TCA can achieve a more networked way of working some of the present central information exchange work can be reduced and this is thus supported by the evaluation team.

160. There is scope for review of the division of work between TCAS and ESA, ESC and SDA on studies and training material development. However, the evaluation concludes that the function of producing easy-to-read policy and strategy briefs derived from the normative work of FAO, but also of others, needs to be greatly increased and the role of TCAS in this is positive. Such briefs should address sub-sectoral and sectoral issues as well as the sector- macro interface and should be directed not only at policy officers but at all technical support staff and especially at the FAORs.

161. Also at present, TCA de-facto provides a team of policy staff who can be used flexibly across the world to support the policy assistance branches as needed. The intention is to make more flexible use of staff in the policy assistance branches across continents but this could be difficult, especially if work becomes more programmed by demands in the region. There could thus be benefit in the continuation of some policy support work by staff in TCA in Rome (or alternatively TCI, which also carries out policy work), with these staff continuing to travel to the regions as required. The evaluation team concluded that there is some scope for transfer of staff from TCAR and TCAS to the regions but this is limited.

6.2.2 Operations branches in the Regional Offices

162. Operations branches in the Regional Offices have an uncertain status. In some of the offices, they have been providing a valuable help-desk function to FAORs and have provided some training and guidance notes. The evaluation concurred with the findings of the FAO internal review of Field Programme decentralization in Asia, that small field programme support groups of operations officers in each Regional Office, should have the responsibility for pipeline monitoring and follow-up together with FAORs, as well as delivery monitoring and providing a help-desk. Policy assistance groups have also been asked to monitor the project pipeline, a split in responsibilities and aptitudes of staff which the evaluation team concluded was not working well. It is possible that in some regions, transfer of this function would justify transfer of a post from the policy assistance branch to operations (where some of the incumbents with a programme background are well suited to this type of work). The evaluation thus agrees with the FAO Field Programme Committee that a small Field Programme Unit be established in each Regional Office. This clarification of roles could also have implications for TCA and TCO organization at headquarters.

6.2.3 Limited potential for decentralization of the Investment Centre Division (TCI)

163. The Investment Centre Division (TCI) has had staff members working as liaison officers with the World Bank in Washington and the Asian Development Bank, as well as one staff member located in SAFR (east and southern Africa). The evaluation team reviewed with the World Bank and IFAD in their headquarters and with their country offices and those of other IFIs, the value of these liaison officers, which was found to have been limited partly by the competencies of the individuals and their lack of knowledge of FAO as a whole and what it had to offer. With regard to the further decentralization of TCI personnel to country or regional level, the IFIs felt that this would be a negative move. They found it easier to interact with central teams and did not feel that individual TCI staff would have the same value if limited to one country or region, or if associated with the office of one or another IFI at country level. In short, everyone spoken to was against any further decentralization of TCI.

6.3 Issues in Adequate Technical Support to Countries18

6.3.1 Views of countries and FAORs

164. FAORs varied greatly in the extent to which they felt support was available from the Regional and Subregional Offices. Overall, 53 percent reported that there had been no major change in the speed of response since the decentralization, while 34 percent felt that there had been an improvement. Sixty-five percent felt that there had been no significant change in quality. The two regions where the largest proportion of FAORs reported a decline in speed of response were Africa (19%) and Latin America (18%). FAORs were also asked if they preferred technical support from headquarters or the Regional Office. In the Near East, there was a strong preference for headquarters (63%). In Africa, 70 percent had no strong preference but 22 percent preferred headquarters. In Asia and Latin America, the balance of preference was in favour of the Regional Offices. Overall, 23 percent of FAORs found that obtaining adequate technical support was a major problem and a further 46 percent found it to be a significant problem.

165. In summary, taking the findings of the questionnaires in conjunction with the information gained through country visits: overall levels of satisfaction by FAORs and governments were reasonable in South East Asia, China, South America and the Caribbean. The South Pacific was a special case, as there are no FAORs but services were found by the visiting mission to be good, although some of the very small islands receive limited visits, as does Papua New Guinea. Dissatisfaction with FAO technical services was high in Africa, even in countries with a close proximity to Regional and Subregional Offices (8 countries visited). FAORs were very strong in their statements that they did not get the services they needed from the Regional and Subregional Offices and saw very little of their staff. There was also limited satisfaction in central Asia and to a lesser extent central America by FAORs. Most of the CIS countries, especially those of central Asia were receiving limited attention and also had no FAORs.

6.3.2 The quantity of technical support available from the Regional and Subregional Offices

166. The actual volume of supply of direct assistance services to countries and the Field Programme from Regional and Subregional Offices is determined by a large number of factors, apart from the actual number of staff available (which has increased by 65 percent since the decentralization of 1994/95). In terms of volume of technical and policy staff available in the regions, ratios in terms of numbers per country are more or less uniform for Africa, Asia, the Near East and Latin America, varying from 1.2 to 1.4 per country. These ratios for Caribbean and the Pacific are much lower in view of the large number of small countries (0.6 and 0.4 respectively). In terms of ratios to population in agriculture, the figures are much lower for Asia, and relatively high for the small island states. Figures for Europe and the CIS are low on any basis of calculation.

167. Regional technical staff often report only having sufficient Regular Programme funds available for one or two trips a year. This clearly means that these staff are unable to operate effectively. Table 5 supports this. The travel allotment per post averages US$ 10,600 (enough for two to four trips per year). Overall, the lowest amount in Europe (REU) allows for roughly one trip while the maximum in the Pacific (SAPA) for two or three (given the distances involved). Actual travel from the Regular Budget for technical/advisory support at country level are very low indeed, taking into account that this allotment is also used for travel for meetings and training (which is a substantial part of the missions). There is some fungibility in non-staff resources which can allow increases in travel. However, such a transfer would be done at the expense of meetings, training, etc. If deficits occur in the Regional Offices, they can only be covered by further cuts in non-staff resources.

Table 5: Travel allotment per year average for technical and policy posts by office

Regional/Subregional Office

US$ (000)

Regional/Subregional Office

US$ (000)





















168. Staff also travel on project budgets. For each project in FAO, a lead technical unit is appointed for backstopping. This unit is a headquarters unit and although sometimes the unit may designate its regional officer as the lead technical officer, this is often not the case. Regional officers complain that a disproportionate share of the travel in support of projects is undertaken by headquarters officers, thus denying the opportunity to the regional officer to combine other country support activities with project travel, gain country knowledge and earn income from secondment. They also point out that travel by regional staff is generally cheaper.

169. The guidance provided to the Regional Offices is that technical staff should devote at least 50 percent of their time to direct support activities. Under the work measurement survey, regional staff report just over half their time on direct support. However, notwithstanding the data staff report in the work measurement survey, this seems to vary substantially between offices and individual staff, as does the actual requirement of the region for more normative work. Also important is the instructions to individual regional officers from headquarters to undertake normative work as part of global programmes, and the interest of individual offices in direct support to countries or normative work. Over 70 percent of regional technical staff stated in their responses to questionnaires that they should be more heavily engaged in providing direct advice and project support to countries. Seventy-one percent also stated that they should devote less time to global normative Regular Programme activities. While Regional Representatives and technical staff report that the demands on officers from headquarters can limit the time they have available for direct support to countries, headquarters sometimes complains that regional officers can spend very little time on their programmed normative work because of ad-hoc requests from regional representatives (a majority in questionnaire responses).

6.3.3 Country visits by regional staff

170. Balance in distribution of country visits: There is a disproportionate concentration of country visits on a limited number of countries in all groups of countries except for the south of Latin America where the problem is less. In each of the country groupings, the 25 percent of countries most visited receive more than half of both the visits and the total duty travel time by regional officers. The top ten most visited countries include those for which communication is easy and tend to be middle-income countries which are also regional centres for conferences, meetings and workshops. The least visited 25 percent of countries received no visit days at all in the CIS and only one percent of the total visit days in central America; and four percent in both Asia and Africa. The reasons countries had not been visited at all, or very little, during 2003, included emergencies or visa difficulties, but this was not generally the case.

171. Time devoted to country travel: Nearly 60 percent of regional staff spend more than 60 calendar days per year travelling, and those travelling for more than 90 days made up 33 percent of the total. In the view of the evaluation, it would be desirable for regional staff to spend at least 100 calendar days of travel per year directly serving countries. Officers are most active in travelling in Asia (RAP) and the Pacific (SAPA). The Latin American figures reveal the greatest spread with 50 percent travelling for less than 30 days. In Europe, the Subregional Office (SEUR) figures show one third of staff travelling for less than ten days per year.

Table 6: Number of Days Spent on Duty Travel per year by Regional Technical and Policy Staff


Percentage of Staff Spending Days on Duty Travel Per Year 2002


<30 days

31-60 days

>60 days

Africa (RAF and SAFR)




Asia (RAP)




Pacific (SAPA)




Europe (REU and SEUR)




Latin America and Caribbean (RLC)




Caribbean (SLAC)




Near East (RNE and SNEA)








172. One of the factors in the ease and extent to which countries receive technical services is the geographical placement of the office in terms of centrality to the area, but even more important the best available airline connections. Thus, Bangkok is well placed, especially for South East Asia where it is an airline hub for the zone, and the same applies to Cairo for most of the Middle East. Travel in Africa presents particular problems, as it does in the CIS.

6.3.4 Demand and supply for country work by regional technical staff

173. FAORs wish to access both direct technical support and support for field programme development and implementation. Virtually all developing member countries stated in response to questionnaires that more authority should be given to FAORs to obtain short-term technical inputs from FAO staff. Donor involvement in country field projects with FAO usually arises from a process of partnership and dialogue at country level, right from the identification of the idea. Thus, FAORs need to be empowered for field programme development in country through technical support which FAORs and member countries in questionnaire response indicated was most useful in the form of relatively short recurrent visits. Policy and strategy dialogue also requires continuing support.

Table 7: Distribution of Time when on Duty Travel by Regional Technical and Policy Staff

% of Total Time on Duty Travel

Support to Projects (national and regional)


Project and Programme Development


     Total Field Programme


     Policy and Technical Support to Countries
     (independent from projects)


Attendance at Meetings and Workshops


Support to normative Regular Programme work (apart from meetings) and other activities


     Total normative


Grand Total


Source: Staff questionnaires

174. As reported in staff responses to questionnaires, more than half of the time on duty travel by regional technical staff is devoted to the Field Programme. The proportion is significantly higher for Latin America (RLC) but much less for the Caribbean (SLAC). For the Near East (RNE), attendance at meetings and training workshops is nearly equally important as project and programme development. Normative activities occupy 34 percent of travel time. However, an analysis of actual travel data carried out by the evaluation team shows that attendance at meetings has a much larger part in the overall time than Table 7 indicates. Both sources of data reveal the small proportion of time during duty travel spent on direct support to countries on policy or technical work independent of projects. This corroborates what the evaluation team heard from FAORs, who report that they get very little direct support in response to a demand unless this can be funded through a field project which also reimburses staff costs.

175. The FAO work measurement survey indicates that regional technical staff spend 57 percent of their time on project support and only eight percent on non-project related direct support to countries. RLC reports 71 percent of time on projects and only four percent on direct support but there is a relatively uniform response from other offices, with RAF and SAFR reporting slightly higher than average figures for both project and direct support.

176. It was concluded that FAORs and countries have a relatively weak voice in determining the provision of technical services by the regional technical staff. FAORs request technical units at headquarters and regional representatives to deploy staff to spend time and scarce resources in responding to direct country needs but these have their own programme of work. In the Field Programme, some resources and reimbursement of staff costs is possible but the evaluation concludes that direct support to countries outside the Field Programme is more supply than demand driven and there are no major financial or substantive incentives for the provision of technical support which is independent of the Field Programme.

6.3.5 The subject matter mix of available expertise

177. The subject matter mix of technical staff in the regions has been arrived at through a combination of factors. These include:

  1. a survey of needs for disciplines by countries at the time of the 1994-95 decentralization;
  2. views formed on needs by the Director-General and senior staff, on their visits to countries; the assessments of the Regional and Subregional Representatives; and the views of the Regional Conferences;
  3. historical, in that the Regional Offices already had posts in 1994-95 and these have generally been maintained;
  4. the assessments of technical programme managers and their willingness to place staff in the regions. With significant exceptions, they have been very reluctant to do this (which most admit, citing the need for critical mass at headquarters, difficulty of adequately supervising outposted officers, and the possibilities for providing technical services directly from headquarters); and
  5. the major policy decision at the start of the decentralization process to place policy officers in new policy assistance branches in the Regional Offices.

178. Technical officers in the Regional and Sub-regional Offices are appointed by and report to headquarters at the level of service or division and in the case of a few forestry officers at the department level. The evaluation found that as the staff members are charged against the programme entities of their parent technical units, those units expect them to work on their area of subject matter specialisation and their terms of reference also limit the staff to working as outposted officers of one headquarters service or division. The specialisation of the staff is thus not always in line with the requirement for a front-line technical response which should be able to take into account broader policy and strategy considerations, in line with countries’ growing demand for upstream inputs. The demand is also for staff with a broad perspective who can cover a wide range of issues within a relatively broad technical area (e.g. livestock, fisheries and forestry), identifying needs for specialist expertise as necessary. The evaluation team noted that sometimes individuals might fit the required profile, but their terms of reference were, nonetheless, unit-specific.

6.3.6 Multidisciplinarity in direct support to countries and normative work

179. The technical officers in the regions are responsible to individual headquarters units. In the Regional Offices, there is normally a senior officer who is intended to have a coordinating role vis-à-vis the staff originating from a headquarters department, but they have no direct authority over their colleagues at regional level from that department. The Regional Representatives are consulted to varying degrees by the technical departments on the programmes of technical officers but also have no formal authority over their work.

180. The Regional Offices have now established country task forces in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Near East, but these task forces are only really operative when a specific mission or visit occurs and do not in general appear to be working at the strategic level. In Latin America and the Caribbean, groups have been established for each grouping of countries and the countries within it. In Latin America, seminars were held in the Regional Office with government and other representatives from the countries concerned, following changes in government to prepare a number of country strategies. In Asia, and to some extent Africa, country approaches have been discussed in the Regional Office with the FAOR.

181. The evaluation found that in the small Subregional Offices, in Latin America and to some extent Asia, Regional/Subregional Representatives were able to bring together staff for multi-disciplinary discussion of country issues and organize some inter-disciplinary missions. It was reported that this collaboration did not include normative work and that most country work was also undertaken by individual officers. In some cases, officers play-off headquarters against the Regional Representative to do work of their own choosing or to limit the amount of work they did. Despite the finding of the evaluation that most of the regional normative needs and much of the need for direct country work is multidisciplinary, the FAO organizational lines of reporting and terms of reference of regional technical staff do not facilitate multi-disciplinary action.

182. Finally and perhaps most importantly, the mix of technical disciplines provided is the result of the factors discussed above and not entirely needs and demand based.

6.3.7 Role of the Regional Representatives

183. FAORs often told the evaluation team that they would find it very useful to have a senior officer’s support at critical stages of policy or programme discussions, including the potentially important role of mobilising funds from donors. They wanted senior back-up in advocating the Organization’s main messages but this was not generally available. FAORs also said that they would find it useful to input into a dialogue on problems affecting similar countries in the region and this could best be coordinated by the regional representative. The Regional/Subregional Representatives do not generally travel widely in the region. They have limited budgets and clearance is difficult to obtain from headquarters for familiarisation visits. Regional Representatives are thus limited in their knowledge of the countries in their regions and their opportunity to discuss policy issues with ministers. They often do not have a close working relationship with the FAORs and this limits their understanding of their needs, including needs for technical support. One regional representative told the evaluation team that he could not go to countries but could pay for ministers and FAORs to come to the Regional Office. He was authorising travel of groups of people from countries to the Regional Office at considerable expense rather than visiting the countries himself.

184. Regional Representatives also do not visit headquarters very frequently or as a general rule attend FAO governing body meetings. This would be important for face-to-face discussions and mutual understanding between senior staff in headquarters and the representatives on organizational and regional programme priorities. It would also be important for Representatives’ wider understanding of the FAO context and in ensuring the unity and coherence of the Organization, which is sometimes reduced by their comparative isolation.

185. The evaluation concluded that regional and sub-regional representatives are under-utilised in support of countries and in development of a responsive FAO programme for the region. The Organization’s unity, as well as the pertinence and effectiveness of its programmes as a whole, would benefit from their closer integration into the Organization19.

6.3.8 Conclusions - Ensuring and strengthening convergence between FAO regional technical support and needs

186. There is now a need to improve the convergence between regional staffing and the technical support requirements of countries. While there are major differences between regions, certain characteristics are common, including the requirement for more upstream policy and strategy oriented expertise and a requirement for staff with this senior sector strategy perspective who are knowledgeable in their sector/sub-sector and can identify the needs for more specialist expertise where necessary. The evaluation concluded that in summary there was a sub-optimal use of available resources and that the present arrangements for provision of technical staff in the regions suffered from the following problems which need to be addressed:

  1. staffing profiles need to be better balanced with needs of the region for normative work and countries for direct assistance;
  2. capacity for a multi-disciplinary response needs to be increased;
  3. response needs to be both more demand driven and based on a prioritised work-plan;
  4. technical officers need to be able to travel more easily, have more resources for travel and spend more of their total time in countries; and
  5. Regional Representatives need to be able to travel widely in the region.

187. The evaluation notes that with such constrained resources any solutions to this mix of problems will be less than ideal but provides the following recommendations to make more effective use of available resources and provide a strengthened response to countries.

Recommendation 8 (for implementation by 2007): Those posts in the Regional and Subregional Offices which are fully needed for headquarters-based normative work, such as servicing fisheries bodies, should be designated as out-posted technical staff working strictly under the direction of their technical units. The budget allotments from these staff would also be retained by the headquarters technical units. For planning purposes the budgets, for all remaining technical staff in regions (the great majority) should be transferred from the headquarters-based programmes of the Organization to regional programmes. This would allow posts to be planned on the basis of an overall analysis of the needs of the region and global normative work. Once the staff mix is determined for each biennium, a proportion of this budget should be at the disposal of the technical programmes to utilise regional officers for this global normative work. The possibility could be considered of also retaining the allotment for this with the technical divisions. The remaining budget allotment should be with the Regional Representative.

The Regional Representative should have the final responsibility for defining and overseeing the work-programmes of the staff for regional normative and country support work.

188. In making this recommendation, the evaluation is aware that within the FAO secretariat, this may be the most controversial recommendation in its report. Staff in headquarters technical units and the Regional Representatives hold diametrically opposed views. Headquarters senior technical staff in their responses to questionnaires favoured a lesser role for Regional and Subregional Representatives than they have at present in determining the work programmes of staff. Over 60 percent of the respondents among HQ senior staff wish to retain the present balance in decision-making on posts in Regional Offices, as well as in staff selection and appointment. Regional technical officers on the other hand feel that they should be entrusted the overall lead for work in their regions/sub-regions (78%), the lead for support to countries with direct advice (82%) and the lead for support to national field projects (88%). Conversely, HQ senior technical staff consider that the overall lead for work at country level should remain in HQ, though by a smaller majority (60%).

189. The evaluation team has concluded that the shift proposed in Recommendation 8 is one of several changes necessary for the FAO decentralization to deliver the expected technical response to country and regional needs, rather than being primarily driven by the equally important global normative agenda. It would strengthen the unity of purpose in the Regional Offices and build up team spirit and inter-disciplinary work.

190. However, this change also has potentially negative implications, including a reduced sense of commitment to the regional staff and regional programmes by the headquarters technical units. The adjustment of job descriptions to provide broader sector expertise, as discussed above, would mean that officers would relate technically to a headquarters department as a whole or to a division, not normally to a service, also perhaps reducing feelings of direct ownership and belonging. The evaluation found that this sense of commitment at present is variable. In Regional Offices, many of the technical staff reported feeling disconnected from their units in Rome. The appreciation of regional technical officers’ roles and work by headquarters is considered a significant problem by 66 percent of them when responding to questionnaires. This was especially the case in Africa and the Near East. In headquarters, 45 percent of respondents among senior technical staff consider that the limited opportunities for interchange with technical colleagues in the region constitute a major problem.

Recommendation 9 (implementation by 2007 in parallel with Recommendation 8): It is recommended that in order to offset the dangers posed by the proposed adjustments in the budgeting, programming and reporting lines for regional and sub-regional technical officers the following complementary changes should be implemented (a number of these are also the subject of separate recommendations in other sections of the report):

  1. Headquarters technical units should retain a significant role in the selection and technical performance assessment of regional staff. Performance assessment would include the monitoring by headquarters of the technical quality of outputs;
  2. Headquarters departments should continue to participate in the establishment of the regional work programmes, including the technical support to countries in which headquarters officers should also be involved;
  3. The visits of technical officers to headquarters for interchange (which has been strengthened by all departments and now works well in several) should be the norm and should be annual;
  4. A rotation policy should be instituted between headquarters and the regions;
  5. As regional officers will in many cases no longer have a directly corresponding unit at headquarters (they may be more inter-disciplinary), each regional technical officer should have a focal point officer in headquarters and also a wider technical support group of designated officers. This group should provide support but also monitor the technical quality of work and be consulted on major pieces of technical output;
  6. Headquarters units may, where appropriate, have the lead role for regional normative programme entities or major outputs and this should always be a joint endeavour; and
  7. Regional Representatives, who would be fully involved in programming and work-planning, should report on the adherence of the office and its staff to organizational priorities.

191. Support to countries by regional technical staff should be largely demand, rather than supply driven, with the regional representative being ultimately responsible for managing a demand driven work-programme. FAORs currently have no resources outside projects to buy-in staff time from within FAO and TCP could be more important than it is in this (for ease of presentation TCP is considered as a whole in Section 9.1.1).

192. Demand would gradually be reflected in the staff mix available from the office and assessing needs should be an ongoing process. In addition to the measures recommended below, balancing staffing with needs could be facilitated by periodic country support assessments. Care would need to be taken to ensure that the assessment process was: adequately consultative within countries and went beyond the main line agricultural ministry; sufficiently involved FAORs; consulted the international community; and did not force responses to be along disciplinary lines through the nature of the questions. Written questionnaires are, it is believed, unlikely to be helpful in this regard.

193. FAORs feel a major need for discussion amongst themselves and with the regions. Thirty six percent said that absence of meetings for this was a major problem and a further 28 percent felt it to be a problem.

Recommendation 10 (immediate implementation): Support to countries by regional technical staff should be largely demand driven. To this end:

  1. Rolling work programmes of technical support should be drawn up for technical staff on the basis of requests from FAORs. These plans should be discussed with FAORs from groups of countries at meetings convened by the regional representative to agree priorities. The meetings should also discuss common issues and have a role in developing the normative programme. The work-programmes would naturally be subject to adjustment in the light of developments (this is the practice in WFP for Asia and WHO consolidates country and regional planning); and
  2. To help determine the demand for different technical disciplines and the demand for particular professional officers, monitoring should be introduced of requests by FAORs for person-days of input by technical/policy discipline and by professional officer. This should include requests which could not be met. The results of this demand monitoring should be tabulated and available to managers to assist in adjusting the disciplinary and skill mix available.

194. In order to improve the Organization’s responsiveness to demands, the evaluation team also explored possibilities for expanding FAO’s internal market in services to member countries. Internal markets mean that staff have to earn a proportion of their staff costs and, in the view of the evaluation, can form a valuable tool in delivering greater responsiveness. There have been difficulties with existing systems for reimbursement of staff time (largely from projects) which need to be addressed20. It is thus suggested that a scheme be piloted to test an internal market for the demand driven provision of services. Under this scheme, only 40-50 percent of technical staff salaries and non-staff resources for support to countries would be allotted to the Regional Office for the biennium. The balance of these resources would then be allocated to the FAORs to buy in the staff resources they required. It is suggested that this scheme be piloted in the Pacific where the FAOR and the Subregional Representative would be held by one person and two or three of the technical hub groups (if the principle of such groups is accepted – see below). Alternatively, it could be tried for one Regional Office, e.g. RLC.

195. Regional officers complain that the headquarters lead technical units shut them out from project support work. This begins with project design, when lead units naturally influence projects towards their own areas of expertise and interest. As projects move more upstream, support by single technical units becomes less appropriate and the multi-disciplinary expertise and broad perspective advocated by this report for the Regional Offices would often mean that the lead would most appropriately be assigned in the Regional Office at the level of the regional representative, in order to coordinate the work, calling in headquarters expertise as necessary. In other cases, projects continue to be more narrowly technical, and if Regional Office staffing moves more upstream, this type of expertise may become less, rather than more available. In such cases, lead responsibility belongs in headquarters.

Recommendation 11 (early implementation): When projects are designed and declared operational lead responsibility should preferably be assigned to the Regional or Subregional Office, but this decision will be made on the basis of technical content and the availability of expertise. Regardless of where the lead is, networked cooperation in technical support between headquarters and regional specialists should be the norm.

196. In order to ensure an increase in the multi-disciplinary quality and expertise in groups of countries, arrangements in the Regional and Subregional Offices need to go beyond the country-task forces which are too numerous to really engage officers and which generally only meet around a specific action or event. The example of RLC in setting up task-forces for specific groups of countries deserves emulation.

197. There is a need for placement of staff in closer proximity to countries, especially in parts of the world where travel is time consuming and expensive. Technical groups of FAO senior sector specialists are recommended for some groups of countries to support the FAORs. It is envisaged that a technical group would normally be situated on an airline and telecommunication hub and their ease of communication by telephone and to visit countries frequently for just a few days would be a particularly valuable feature. It has been suggested to the evaluation team that such technical groups should be placed with regional economic groupings to reinforce their development. The evaluation concludes that where this coincides with a geographical hub it could be desirable but the overriding principle is to improve national access to technical support. Both their proximity and the more limited number of countries they would deal with should facilitate flexible response and in-depth country knowledge. Each group would have 5-7 senior technical sector specialists with policy and strategy expertise defined on the basis of a needs assessment. They would cover such areas as food security, institutions, land, livestock, forestry and fisheries as appropriate. They would be sufficiently senior in their field to be able to provide both a strategic overview and identify what more specialist expertise was required in any given situation. The team should be kept flexible as to staffing in line with needs (moving to fixed term contracts) and could be supplemented with more short-term staff as necessary and when resources permitted for new issues affecting the group of countries. Teams should also be flexibly relocated where necessary in line with changes in logistics and needs. The teams would be housed and administratively supported by an FAOR and would execute work programmes agreed by the regional representative.

Recommendation 12: Over the two forthcoming biennia (2006-2009), it is recommended that technical groups be established in airline hubs through re-definition of existing regional posts. Six to seven such technical groups are proposed below for areas of the world with particular travel difficulties and a need to make more policy/strategy and general expertise readily available to FAORs.

198. As an alternative to technical groups and various measures to improve the demand driven response, it was suggested that the evaluation examine the potential for short-term posting of technical staff to priority countries to meet specific needs. This would be in line with the need for greater proportionality in FAO’s response in terms of country needs and potentials. It would allow the FAOR to be supported for a sustained period. The evaluation team concluded that this could be an appropriate action in certain situations and generally endorses the flexible use of diverse measures. It, however, does not consider this a mainstream alternative to integrated technical support from regional structures. It would limit the number of countries with access to technical services at any one time. Unless there was a major adjustment in the expertise available, there would be a shortage of staff with the necessary overview in their sector. It is doubtful whether large numbers of staff would be willing to spend extended periods of many months away from their duty stations. It also does not take account of the view expressed by FAORs, governments and the international community, that the need is often not for full-time expertise, but for sustained support through relatively short, but relatively frequent visits.

199. A major reduction in regional and sub-regional structures was suggested to the evaluation by some FAO headquarters staff, as an alternative to tackling the issue of improving services from regional structures. It was argued that this would allow the Organization to concentrate resources on countries which are the front line in any decentralization. It would facilitate maintenance of adequate critical mass for global normative work; simplify lines of command; and allow for major savings in senior posts. Some also felt it would strengthen the direct link between global normative work and country needs. The evaluation team did recognise some attraction in this approach and felt that every effort had to be made to involve headquarters staff in normative work for groups of countries as discussed above (Section 4.4.2). However, the evaluation concluded that overall the disadvantages considerably outweighed the advantages and included:

  1. a loss of regional and inter-disciplinary perspective, and with it reduced possibilities to tackle the common normative issues of groups of countries;
  2. reduced detailed knowledge of countries; and
  3. increased costs of providing technical support, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean and in Asia and the Pacific.

200. Most importantly, it would tend to shift the balance away from countries and in favour of global normative work and a supply driven agenda.

201. Also to improve the quantity and immediate responsiveness of technical staff support to countries, the evaluation has concluded that the issues need to be addressed of funds available for travel in addition to that of the placement of staff in closer proximity to countries. Travel is the most single expensive item in the adjustments suggested here for technical servicing, but there are other costs. A reduction in the number of technical posts in Regional Offices is thus proposed. Such a reduction is necessary to enable the remaining officers to be effective and is possible if posts are adjusted to provide broader up-stream expertise, in line with demand.

Recommendation 13 (over the forthcoming biennium 2006-07): In order to free resources for staff travel (including travel by the Regional Representative); improved consultation with FAORs and headquarters; and greater use of regional expertise, FAO should reduce the number of regional and subregional technical posts by 15-20 percent.

202. A further need for clarification and specialisation of that expertise for the countries of the region is in the effective use of expertise in the country coverage of offices. It is recommended that no country should fall in two regions for technical support (without prejudice to their freedom to choose their region for Council representation). The exact country coverage of the Sub-regional Offices should be specified and the first line of call should be on the Subregional Office (the only sub-regional offices where there is at present some ambiguity are those for central and eastern Europe (SEUR) and East and Southern Africa (SAFR)). The coverage of proposed technical groups should also be clearly specified.

6.4 Increasing the Use of Local Expertise for Technical Response in the Regions

203. In their responses to questionnaires, member countries virtually all felt that more use could be made of regional and national expertise, although in Europe and the Near East support for use of national experts by countries was less.

Table 8: Use of national and TCDC expertise

Use of national experts since the decentralization

FAORs who report use as



About the same


Regional technical officers who report use as



About the same


Regional technical officers who report calibre as






Use of TCDC experts from within the region since decentralization

FAORs who report use as



About the same


Regional technical officers who report use as



About the same


Regional technical officers who report calibre as





Regional technical officers who report low fee rates as a problem

Major problem


No problem


204. Responses to questionnaires indicated that there had been an increase in the use of both national expertise and TCDC expertise from within the regions since the decentralization and related reforms. The lowest reported rate of increase in national expertise was in Africa and the highest in Europe. The Near East had the lowest increase in use of regional TCDC expertise. Similar data collected from headquarters staff showed that they were less likely to have made use of national or regional expertise than their colleagues in the regions. In general, the ceiling on fee rates was regarded as a problem in recruiting TCDC experts of the required calibre and this problem tended to be regarded particularly seriously in headquarters, but was also a significant problem for the regional technical officers, as can be seen from the table. Asia was the region which found this to be least of an issue. Calibre of the TCDC experts was also an issue. While the largest number were rated adequate by respondents, Asia and Europe found a quarter of them to be poor.

205. The evaluation concluded from its discussions that there was the opportunity to make more use of national and regional expertise but the present arrangements for its use are limited by each assignment being a stand-alone consultancy. Thus, the individuals feel no particular loyalty in terms of making themselves available to FAO; it is difficult to use them flexibly for very small pieces of work; and a good deal of administrative work is required each time an individual is employed. TCDC arrangements require clearances and secondments not required in other forms of consultancy. Also, the rates paid for TCDC or national consultants can be a barrier to use of individuals of international calibre in their own country or region. Adequately flexible arrangements tailored to individual medium-income countries which would like to provide expertise as donors are not available. The evaluation was informed of one trust fund designed to facilitate this from the Czech Republic and a large number of middle-income countries which would like to develop donor relationships in cooperation with FAO for use of technical expertise outside the existing TCDC scheme.

Recommendation 14 (start of implementation 2006-07): Regional specialists on call: Groups of countries should have some type of call-down (retainer) contractual arrangement with resource persons who would be available to a group of countries. The specialists would provide a flexible extension of FAO’s overall capacity and they would be made to feel part of FAO, perhaps through an annual meeting and by an information network. The panels would be coordinated by the technical staff in the region (Regional Offices). Such individuals would provide ad-hoc short-term support to FAORs, comment on drafts, etc., but should also undertake more substantive pieces of work, and could be engaged in recurrent activities such as dialogue on aspects of strategy. It must be borne in mind, however, that for a variety of reasons, including language and stage of development, this arrangement with regional/country group specialists will not be equally pertinent in all regions.

206. The concept of regional specialists on call was generally welcomed by those with whom it was discussed. As call-down (retainer) contracts would be for a year or more rather than for a single assignment, the individuals would be available for ad-hoc consultation and very small jobs (which would normally not justify the paper work of a contract). A further advantage of call-down contracts is that once the contract is awarded, the person concerned can be used much more rapidly than is the case when a new contract is required. The team was warned against too great a reliance on FAO retirees in such arrangements as it was suggested that these were of mixed quality and their knowledge could be out-of-date. An alternative to the use of individuals is arrangements with institutions, but there is a clearer line of response and accountability, ownership and assurance of a known quality with individuals. However, this does not rule out better development of the centres of excellence with designated relations and service agreements with FAO.

Recommendation 15 (for early implementation): FAO should flexibly develop country specific arrangements with new donors for supply of technical expertise, particularly drawing on the willingness of middle-income countries to take on this role. In some cases, these could be linked to regional specialist on-call arrangements.

6.5 Implications for Regional Structures

207. Evident from the above discussion is the need for FAO to move towards more flexible structures which can serve the specific needs of different groups of countries and also adapt over time as those needs change. With the measures discussed above, including the development of technical groups for some country groupings and the appointment of regional expertise in panels, it is envisaged that structure would change in the following major ways.

208. Africa is a priority in terms of all indicators and the decisions of the FAO Governing Bodies as embodied in the Strategic Framework. However, the differentiation between the treatment of countries needs to be brought more in line with the size of the problems they are addressing. The level of dissatisfaction with the present technical support arrangements was found to be very high, with most countries finding it very difficult to obtain the technical support they required in a timely way. Africa is thus one of the regions in which the most substantial changes are proposed.

209. In Asia, the basic structure of the decentralization was found to function well. There is a higher requirement for more normative work than in continents dominated by LDCs. There has, however, been a lack of concentration to priority countries in the work of regional staff. The LDCs merit special attention.

210. In the Near East, the need for major change is not envisaged, but it is noted that the Sub-regional Office (SNEA) serves five countries for which the language requirements are not uniform21. The countries are also easily reached from either Cairo or Rome and the group of staff is very small (three professionals, smaller than the technical groups proposed above).

211. In Latin America, the small states of central America have particular needs but are quite distant from the Regional Office and receive proportionately less visits. The Regional Office has established working groups to particularly address issues of each of the sub-regions.

212. The CIS is the other group of countries where a major problem of FAO country coverage and technical support was identified. Two technical groups should probably cover the Caucasus countries and the central Asian CIS countries22. Flexibility would need to be maintained on the sighting of technical groups with the changing needs of the region and the possibility of additional countries becoming FAO members. The FAOR function for the countries covered by the technical group should be vested in the office and there should be a dedicated operations officer (who could be a national) but whether he/she should be stationed in the hub or in the Regional Office could depend on issues of connectivity.

213. A significant issue for the effectiveness of the decentralization is that of the location and independence of the European Regional Office. Advantages of the location in Rome include: i) some possible efficiency gains from use of HQ administrative and communication facilities (offset in the case of an alternative eastern or central European location by higher GS costs in Rome); and ii) greater possibilities to interact on all matters with HQ, including with the technical units (but the European office still experiences difficulties in mobilising HQ interest). The disadvantages are that it gives the office little visibility and status and it dilutes focus on the office’s mandate with headquarters type concerns. There is also a complete overlap between its work and that of the Subregional Office in Budapest. The disadvantages of an alternative location are that a separate MSU would need to be established. Alternatives suggested to the evaluation team were:

  1. Location of REU in Brussels with LOBR. The case for this is mainly based upon the argument that the venue for the majority of the European countries’ discussions is Brussels on matters of agriculture, trade in agricultural and food products, and to some extent aid. Costs would be relatively high in Brussels, including probable rental costs for a building. The danger would be that REU became focused on the EU, to the neglect of the European and other CIS states in most need of FAO cooperation. It would have an image as a “rich country office”; and
  2. Location of REU in Budapest. The advantages of this are that, there is a very adequate building available and Hungary is prepared to provide services. Electronic communication is excellent. Location in the new accession states might enable the office to obtain additional staffing on a no-cost secondment basis. The office also provides a good location to mobilise resources from the new EU states to assist the CIS. These countries have shared a transition experience with the CIS countries. It is a reasonable centre for meetings, etc. Unification with the Subregional Office would provide the opportunity to save on senior posts. However, two offices are still left inside the EU (as well as headquarters) and the office would not be able to directly support a technical group serving the CIS.

214. The evaluation concluded that the Regional and Subregional Offices should be combined and the immediate advantages of Budapest outweighed any disadvantages. The Regional Office should probably be located there for the immediate future, recognising that the bulk of its work is likely to gradually be focused further eastwards and most staff would be in two technical groups serving the CIS.

215. Both the offices in the Caribbean and the Pacific function well. There are areas for improvement including:

  1. FAO Representative functions: The Subregional Representatives should be the FAOR for all countries in the Pacific. Papua New Guinea may justify a national programme officer;
  2. Project operations: In these two sub-regions, the budget holding and operation of projects in the Regional Offices for countries without FAORs or for sub-regional projects leads to duplication of effort. Budget holding and operations should be transferred to the Subregional Offices. The one operations officer in Bangkok dealing exclusively with the Pacific islands would be better placed in the Subregional Office; and
  3. In the Caribbean, there are gains to be made from specialisation in language. The evaluation team found that English language skills were not always strong in the Regional Office (RLC). Although officers were making a major effort to upgrade Spanish skills in the Subregional Office, the pool of qualified people to recruit from is much greater if there is not a requirement for dual language capability. English-speaking countries in the southern Americas share a cultural identity and should thus come under the Subregional Office, while the Spanish-speaking islands should be serviced from the Regional Office, through a central America technical group (ideally located in central America).

Recommendation 16 (for implementation by 2009): In all cases, the Regional Offices should retain their secretariat functions for the regional conference and support of other fully regional activities and continue to provide regional MSU support:

  1. in Africa, four technical groups should be established covering, with a reduction in the staffing of the Accra and Harare offices: i) Anglophone west Africa and Francophone central Africa, housed in Accra; ii) southern Africa; (two further technical groups on air and telecommunication hubs from which member countries can be better served); iii) Francophone west Africa; and iv) Anglophone central and eastern Africa23;
  2. in Asia, a group of experts on call-down contracts should be established to serve the technical support needs of south Asia, including Afghanistan. This could be supported with some coordination capacity and possibly a policy specialist;
  3. for the CIS countries of Europe and Asia, two technical groups should be established. The countries of central Asia should now be included in FAO’s European region, as is the practice for other UN agencies. The technical staff posts of the Regional and Sub-regional Office should be almost entirely placed in technical groups based on airline hubs covering the neediest countries (the technical groups will require transfer of resources from the other regional offices covering the CIS, in addition to the European office). The remaining transition states in Europe, including those in the Balkans, should be covered by the establishment of a task force of technical officers in headquarters;
  4. for central America and the Spanish and French- speaking Caribbean, a technical group supported by a regional experts as well as staff should be considered, preferably sited in central America. The possibility for such services to be co-located with IICA should not be excluded; and
  5. for the small island states see detailed suggestions for improvement immediately above.

6.6 Communication Strategy and the Information Officers in the Regions and in the Liaison Offices

216. There are information officers in each of the Regional Offices and an information function in the Liaison Offices, with an information officer in Washington and a consultant in Tokyo. The information officers in Africa and in Europe are outposted in Nairobi and Paris, respectively. There is a problem that not all the information officer posts are filled by information professionals and the concerned staff may be used for other functions like organizing publications and office information.

217. The evaluation concluded that the importance of the information function in communicating FAO’s messages and ensuring the visibility, and thus support for the Organization’s objectives, has been underestimated in some regions. A lot of issues are local and the response is much better understood locally than in Rome but there is also a need for coordinated and informed presentation of corporate messages and releases. There is, therefore, a need for differentiated lines of reporting which are well-coordinated, but office-specific. Also:

  1. The actual location of officers is an issue of how best to reach the regional and global media and in this context, locations in Nairobi and Bangkok are particularly appropriate. In Europe, London and Paris could be valuable points of entrée for the international media;
  2. The regional representative, senior staff and directors of Liaison Offices need to be fully utilised as spokespersons, a function to which they can bring a depth which cannot be achieved by the information officers. LOWA, for example, functions well with the director maintaining very close contact with GII in Rome and being the main spokesperson;
  3. The particular needs of countries have to be recognised in website development, including those of Japan and China, where nationals find it difficult to use the FAO website which cannot be accessed entirely in their national script. Also access to national sites is sometimes easier than to international.


17 see also Evaluation of FAO’s Policy Assistance (Cooperation with Member Countries in the Development of National Policies (1994-99) with particular attention to FAO TCP) – PC85/4.

18 Unless otherwise stated the discussion in this section of the report applies equally to technical staff under the five main technical departments of FAO (AG, ES, FI, FO, SD) and staff in the Policy Assistance Branches.

19 The JIU in its 2002 report wrote “Limitations on the authority delegated to the RRs, as well as the use of confusing and contradictory language in the main internal document outlining their responsibilities, have restricted them in their ability to perform their duties effectively. As a result, the decentralization of the Organization’s activities has been limited in effect to their operational and some of their administrative aspects, while policy decisions remain strongly centralized at headquarters.” JIU idem.

20 These problems have included: i) difficulties with reimbursement for work undertaken near to the end of a biennium (a problem for 72% of regional technical officers responding to questionnaires); ii) an apparent problem some experience with administrative systems in charging back; and iii) the fact that reimbursements often do not accrue to the group of staff who earned them because they have to be utilised to cover shortfalls in earnings or over-expenditures elsewhere (a problem for 58% of the regional technical officers).

21 Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia

22 The Caucasus countries (Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan) and Moldova and Ukraine; Central Asian CIS countries: Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.


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