|PC 93/4 b)
Rome, 9-13 May 2005
Summary of Auto-Evaluations
Annex 1: Auto-Evaluations Conducted in 2004
Annex 2: Summaries of 2004 Auto-Evaluations
1. As discussed in PC 93/4 a), the first full year of auto-evaluations has just been completed in the technical programmes of the Organization, with support from the UK Department for International Development (DFID). Each auto-evaluation was conducted by the manager of the programme entity with technical support and guidance from the Evaluation Service. Nineteen auto-evaluations were completed in 2004 and as programme entities were clustered in one auto-evaluation where there were strong similarities and complementarities between them, 28 programme entities were covered in total (a list is provided in Annex 1). Auto-evaluations have now been agreed for 2005. Ultimately, all programme entities and PAIAs of the Organization will be covered through either auto-evaluation or by the Evaluation Service at least once in every six year period.
2.Table 1 summarises the coverage of auto-evaluations by technical major programme in 2004.
Table 1. Summary of Coverage of Auto-Evaluations in 2004
|Major Programmes||Total number of Technical Project and Continuing Programme Entities in the Major Programme (MTP 2002-07)||Number of Technical Projects and Continuing Programme Entities auto-evaluated in 2004|
2.1: Agricultural Production and Support Systems
2.2: Food and Agriculture Policy and Development
2.5: Contributions to Sustainable Development and Special Programme Thrusts
3.1: Policy Assistance
3. Auto-evaluation proposals for 2004 were elicited from technical departments in September 2003, discussed with the Evaluation Service and finalised by the concerned Assistant Directors-General (ADGs) in the last quarter of 2003. Most auto-evaluations took place over a period of eight to ten months, but six started late in September/October and had to be somewhat rushed to completion. Not surprisingly, auto-evaluations which considered clusters of programme entities took longer to complete than single entities.
4. All auto-evaluations received financial support from DFID or from the Evaluation Service Regular Budget to provide matching funding to the resources allocated by divisions, primarily as staff time, but a few units put in considerable funds. These funds were used mainly to hire consultants contracted to carry out part of the analysis. The average financial support per auto-evaluated programme entity was US$ 9,800.
5. Auto-evaluation guidelines were developed by the Evaluation Service, in consultation with users, and finalised in November 2003 following experience in developing initial terms of reference (TORs) for auto-evaluations. These guidelines remain a living document and are periodically refreshed. The guidelines were posted on the Evaluation Service website in April 2004, and have been downloaded about 1,000 times since then.
6. The Evaluation Service supported the development of, and cleared, the terms of reference (ToR). Each ToR included a budget used as the basis for allocation of financial support to the auto-evaluation. The Evaluation Service also provided briefings for auto-evaluation managers and consultants on the general principles of auto-evaluation and quality assurance criteria. These briefings are also useful for further planning the auto-evaluation. Methodological assistance was provided to help draft questionnaires, analyse surveys, facilitate SWOT1 analyses, focus group interviews and comment on draft reports as they became available.
7. The Evaluation Service has analysed the experience with the first round of auto-evaluation, also through circulation of a questionnaire addressed to those directly responsible for, and engaged in, auto-evaluation [77 replies] and to the responsible managers (ADGs and division directors) [17 replies]. These questionnaires were designed to gain feedback on the perceived usefulness of auto-evaluation and on ways to cost-effectively improve the process.
8. In conducting auto-evaluations, all evaluators tried to collect feedback from users, partners and peers, but not all were equally successful in doing so. When asked: “How much did the auto-evaluation process canvass the perceptions and feedback of external partners and beneficiaries”, 39% of the 77 respondents to the survey answered “much”, while an equal number (38%) answered “somewhat”, a further 11% replied either “not much” or “not at all” and the remaining 12% “do not know”.
9. A wide array of evaluation tools were used in each evaluation, and Figure 1 illustrates the usefulness of the most important techniques as perceived by respondents who used the tools in the conduct of auto-evaluations. On average, each auto-evaluation used about five different tools. Three basic evaluation tools were used by all or almost all auto-evaluations: individual interviews of staff or stakeholders (all 19 evaluations); questionnaire surveys (17 evaluations, eliciting feedback from some 4,300 staff, partners and users) and in-depth desk studies of programme documentation (14 evaluations). Web access statistics come as a distant fourth, and were used by only nine auto-evaluations in 2004. Other tools such as SWOT analysis and focus groups were seldom used. Some evaluation tools not originally suggested by the Evaluation Service were introduced by the auto-evaluators themselves, including: click-stream analysis for web-based information systems2, usability testing for information systems (tried for WAICENT in Ghana) and citation analysis (promoted by the David Lubin Library for a number of auto-evaluations).
10. Review of programme entity relevance and design: In general, design issues were adequately covered and many auto-evaluations offered useful recommendations on how to improve programme design.
11. Implementation constraints and opportunities: Constraints and opportunities were only significantly addressed through SWOT analysis, which directly focuses on such issues. However, SWOT analysis was not frequently used, apparently due to a common perception that the main constraints faced by programme managers and staff were well-known, but cannot be addressed at the level of individual departments. This having been said, those who chose to organize a SWOT session were satisfied with the results and its further application will be encouraged in the future, with concentration on factors specific to the entity, rather than the overall FAO context.
12. Outcomes and progress on objectives: Only a small minority of evaluation reports failed to characterise outputs in quantity and quality, and did not describe at least a few outcomes. Concrete, if anecdotal, evidence of successful outcomes is often provided and, in the best cases, the line of causality is clearly documented. A few auto-evaluations documented instances of achievements at the programme entity objective level, normally for policy or decision-making. For instance, the recent entry into force of the Treaty on International Genetic Resources constitutes a clear achievement at the international and national policy levels, and a well-documented contribution to the FAO Strategic Framework.
13. Contribution to the Gender Plan of Action and contributions to other PAIAs: Only three auto-evaluations mentioned gender as a dimension in the analysis and contribution to PAIAs was rarely discussed. In the future, gender should remain as an important dimension in auto-evaluations to highlight the need for further progress in gender mainstreaming.
14. Clarity and potential for practical application of findings and recommendations: Auto-evaluation reports were in general readable and of an appropriate length for internal use in the Secretariat.
15. The reports varied considerably in their critical content. Generally, those managers who felt confident about the usefulness, performance and/or continued funding of their programme entities were more prepared to be self-critical in the findings and recommendations than those who felt less secure. The choice of the external consultant also played an important role.
16. With many auto-evaluations it was difficult to arrive at precise recommendations. Sometimes, clear-cut recommendations were prepared during the process, but later attenuated. In other cases, a final participatory meeting or retreat is envisaged to fine-tune a list of recommendations.
17. Summaries of the auto-evaluations conducted in 2004 are provided in Annex 2. The largest area of common findings emerged with respect to the dissemination of written outputs. Many auto-evaluations emphasised the importance of setting up good dissemination mechanisms for the information and advice generated by the FAO normative programme. The general picture is one of numerous and often very interesting information products that tend to be poorly distributed or disseminated to their target audience. They also found that more attention should have been given to assessing users’ requirements and feedback on products.
18. Indexing and streamlining websites and information systems emerged as a major need. The FAO website has grown in a decentralized manner, each department, division, service or individual building their own pages and databases with distinct content, lay-out and software packages. While this has allowed for a rapid growth in the amount of information available, it has also generated an exceedingly complex website and a need for rationalisation is generally recognised. The auto-evaluations reported progress on this in the Fisheries, Forestry and Sustainable Development Departments. However, significant discrepancies were found in style and a lack of cross-referencing could sometimes occur between the systems developed or maintained by a single programme entity. Evidence was reported that this was frustrating to users who found information difficult to access. The poor performance of corporate search tools was considered to compound the problem, but was also found to be a consequence of poor indexing.
19. One type of web page that appeared to be in very high demand across sectors is a compendium of data and analysis at the national level. Such country profiles have been developed by several units including, the Forestry and Fisheries Departments, the Land and Water Development Division and others. All of them are accessible through the central WAICENT portal. The high demand for these products reflects the fact that many development decisions are made at the country level, and indicates that users need geographically-based cross-sectoral information.
20. Many auto-evaluations tried to profile their user groups. They found that FAO information was used by: 1) government officials, policy makers or analysts, who accessed statistical information, technical guidelines, policy documents, country information and standards; 2) academics, researchers, teachers and students in developed or medium-income countries, who tended to be interested by flagship publications, maps and geographic datasets, and statistics; and 3) programme planners or managers and development practitioners in NGOs, CSOs, field projects and international aid organizations, with an interest in FAO technical guidelines, events, news, and information on FAO programmes and projects. The balance between these three groups depended on the type of information or advice concerned.
21. Neutrality, a known comparative advantage of FAO, was confirmed as a key factor. Government officials, development practitioners and academics in all walks of life repeatedly stated that neutrality and objectivity were among the main reasons why they turned to the Organization for information and advice. However, it should be noted that neutrality can also be seen as a disadvantage when it comes to be associated with the absence of a clear message. Two auto-evaluations noted that other organizations may capture greater media attention than FAO thanks to their issuance of more opinionated reports. As shown by one auto-evaluation on expert consultations, neutrality is not a passive characteristic but a strength which has to be actively built and defended.
22. Another rather frequent observation was one of insufficient collaboration and information sharing between headquarters and decentralized offices, as well as across decentralized offices, resulting in a reduced sense of purpose and team spirit, overlooking of potential synergies between the normative programme and field work, and lack of exploitation of lessons from the Field Programme.
23. As indicated in PC 93/4 a), it is further suggested that the Committee may wish to consider at its next session, when it discusses the formats and coverage of the Programme Implementation Report and the Programme Evaluation Report, the form in which it wishes to continue to receive information on auto-evaluation.
|Clusters (one auto-evaluation and one report per cluster):|
|AG Department Genetic Resources and Seeds Cluster:|
|210P1 -||Secretariat of the CGRFA (AGD)|
|212A7 -||Strengthening Sustainable Seed Production and Seed Security Systems (AGPS)|
|212P4 -||Support to the FAO Global System on PGRFA (AGPS)|
|213A5 -||Developing the Global Strategy for the Management of Farm Animal Genetic Resources (AGAP)|
|AGL Information Systems Cluster:|
|211P7-||Land and Water Information Systems, Databases and Statistics|
|211P8 -||Knowledge Management and Partnerships|
|ESC Commodities Cluster:|
|223S1 -||TSS to Member Nations and the Field Programme (CCP and IGGs)|
|224P4 -||Analysis and Consensus Building on Emerging Commodity and Trade Issues|
|224P5 -||Enhancing Diversification and Competitiveness of Agricultural Commodities|
|TCA Advice and Training in Agricultural Policies Cluster:|
|311A1 -||On-line Training in Food, Agriculture and Rural Development Policy|
|311P3 -||Training Materials and Methods in Food and Agriculture Policy Analysis|
|312P3 -||Advice, Support and Training in Agricultural Policies|
|GILW WAICENT Cluster:|
|222P6 -||WAICENT Corporate Information Management and Dissemination Systems|
|222A3 -||FAO Country Profiles and Mapping Information System|
|Auto-Evaluations covering single programme entities (one auto-evaluation and one report per programme entity):|
|213P1 -||Global Livestock Information System and Knowledge Framework (AGAL)|
|214A5 -||Agricultural Services - Data and Information Systems (AGST)|
|221A1 -||Human Nutrition Requirements (ESNA)|
|221A4 -||Community Action for Improved Household Food Security and Nutrition (ESNP)|
|231A1 -||Development of the Fisheries Global Information System - FIGIS (FIDI)|
|232A4 -||Monitoring and Reporting on Global Marine Resources and Relevant Environmental and Ecological Changes (FIRM)|
|234P2 -||Global Analysis of Economic and Social Trends in Fisheries and Aquaculture (FIPP)|
|242A1 -||Environmental Aspects of Forests (FORD)|
|243A1 -||Forestry Sector Outlook Studies (FOPD)|
|243P1 -||Formulation of National Forestry Programmes (FONP)|
|244P1 -||Forestry Information Management (FODA)|
|251P1 -||Environmental Geo-information Infrastructure and Service (SDRN)|
|251P3 -||Information and Communication Technologies for Agricultural Research, Extension and Education Systems (SDR)|
|253P1 -||UN Network on Rural Development and Food Security (SDAR)|
24. FAO’s involvement in genetic resources for food and agriculture dates back to its origins. Important milestones include the founding of the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) in 1976, the establishment of the Commission for Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) in 1983 and of its Intergovernmental Technical Working Groups on Plant and Animal Genetic Resources (ITWG-PGR and -AnGR) in 1997, and the 1996 Leipzig Conference which received the first report on the State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources and the Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (GPA). 210P1 supports the CGRFA and its Secretariat. 212P4 supports global initiatives in the context of the GPA implementation and the ITWG-PGR. 212A7 aims at strengthening seed systems at the country level and supports seed-related emergency projects. 213A5 assists in the conservation and sustainable utilization of genetic resources of important farm animal species, notably through the implementation of the Global Strategy for the Management of Farm Animal Genetic Resources (AnGR) and the elaboration of the first report on the State of the World’s Animal Genetic Resources (SoW-AnGR) and supports the ITWG-AnGR.
25. The successful negotiation of the International Treaty on PGRFA stands out as a major achievement during the evaluated period. It provides an international framework for the conservation and sustainable utilization of PGRFA and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their use. It also provides a funding strategy to support developing countries in this regard, an important element of which is the Global Crop Diversity Trust Fund set up by FAO and IPGRI to provide perpetual support for gene bank conservation and capacity building in developing countries. Members of the Commission praised the Secretariat’s diligence and professionalism, and the way it had been able to mobilize the technical expertise from within and outside FAO. A total of 36 organizations report to the CGRFA.
26. In general, governments have in the past paid more attention to conservation than to utilization of PGRFA and AnGR. Questions of access and benefit-sharing arising from the use of genetic resources are often contentious and the debate, further complicated by trade negotiations, takes place across various fora (CBD, FAO, WIPO, WTO).
27. The GPA is now a significant framework for action in many countries, but the CGRFA pointed out that more implementation is still required. Thirty crop-related networks were identified, reviewed and supported at various degrees by FAO. Many of them were established in recent years and may need strengthening.
28. The World Information and Early Warning System on Plant Genetic Resources (WIEWS) was released in 1998 as a web-based information resource and regularly improved ever since. The “early warning” component has proven difficult to implement.
29. Some 300 field projects were technically supported by 212A7, pertaining to strategies and regulatory frameworks, seed production and emergency seed relief. In response to the request by Member Nations to better integrate genetic resources conservation and sustainable use in a holistic framework, 212A7 was replaced in 2004 by 212A9, which integrates major outputs related to seed systems, plant breeding, biotechnologies and crop-related biodiversity.
30. The main focus of 213A5 during the period evaluated was on the development and implementation of the Global Strategy for AnGR, adopted earlier. National reporting and management structures (150 National Focal Points and Committees) were set up and mobilized to produce 139 country reports so far, from an expected total of 170. Together with thematic studies, these will form the basis for the SoW-AnGR report to be presented in 2007 at an International Technical Conference (ITC) comparable to the Leipzig Conference for PGR. The Domestic Animal Diversity Information System (DAD-IS) was developed; it serves as an information and communication tool and helps support the preparation of country reports. DAD-IS covers 6,000 breeds from 35 domestic species in some 180 countries, and was recently auto-evaluated as part of 213P1. A World Watch List for Domestic Animal Diversity was developed in partnership with UNEP.
31. The initial programme of work for 213A5 was over-ambitious for such a small programme entity. Some activities had to be put on hold: success criteria and indicators for the Global Strategy, breeding strategies for low to medium input environments (including the DECIDE decision support system), and economic valuation of AnGR at field level. Attempts to establish regional focal points were not sustainable except in Europe. Support to country-level activities has been limited so far. A follow-up mechanism to the SoW-AnGR report is envisaged, in order to mobilize resources, provide support in project design, and enhance communications on the importance of AnGR.
32. Collaboration was found poor between plant genetic resources activities (AGPS) and utilization/breeding activities (AGPC), and almost non-existent between AGP and AGA. The staff of these services are doing a remarkable work but are stretched to the limit. At present, the Biodiversity PAIA is the main platform through which they interact.
33. The objective of the two programme entities is to support decision making and raise awareness of land and water issues at global and national levels, through provision of a series of multi-scale and multi-purpose water and land resource information systems, participation in and informing of international fora and national institutions, notably in the context of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), the International Fertilizer Industry Association or the World Water Forum, and responding to ad hoc requests and information needs of Member Nations and institutions.
34. Overall, the evaluation made a positive assessment of the results produced by the programme entities, while providing an opportunity to harvest insights for improving databases and information systems, the web site, publications, partnerships and training efforts. AGL information systems have a potentially significant role in fostering a greater awareness of the role of agriculture in the achievement of Millennium Development Goals in relation to poverty alleviation, food security and environmental sustainability. They have informed policy decisions and been used for educational purposes, provided a unique global perspective, and have been found reasonably user friendly.
35. AGL information systems and databases play an important role within FAO as they provide the base maps in the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) that are used to analyse trends related to food insecurity, poverty and environment. AGL is providing on a regular basis most of the land and water related information for SOFA and contributed to the UN World Water Development Report, to the CGIAR-FAO Comprehensive Assessment on Water Management for Agriculture, and to Agriculture – Towards 2015-2030. A series of AGL publications and CD-ROMs were also published during the evaluation period.
36. A considerable amount of the Web traffic is generated by AQUASTAT, an integrated package of databases, country profiles, maps and other information on agricultural water management. In contrast, AGLL has so far chosen to stage the numerous land and soil fertility databases as separate identities.
37. The evaluation identified data and information gaps, reflecting an inherent problem of maintaining and updating complex databases in a timely fashion in a context of decreasing human and financial resources. Staff time is further reduced due to the obligation to respond to increasing ad hoc demands.
38. The three programme entities (PEs) are directed at providing governments with opportunities to exchange information and collaborate on emerging commodity and trade issues and to taking concrete action on such issues. 223S1 covers ESC inputs into servicing the Committee on Commodity Problems (CCP) and its Intergovernmental Groups (IGGs), as well as divisional contributions to PAIAs. 224P4 covers the substantive work of the CCP and IGGs. 224P5 supports commodity and trade development mainly through projects for the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) formulated and/or supervised by ESC and implemented through national and international organizations.
39. The PEs are perceived as highly relevant by Member Nations, especially by developing countries where agricultural commodities and processed products continue to make an important contribution to the economy. Programme priorities are largely determined by members: the three PEs are examined from a substantive point of view by the CCP and its IGGs before, during and after implementation, in addition to the normal FAO programme review procedure.
40. Yet, major changes are taking place in the international commodity environment – in the role of government and International Commodity Councils and the international legal framework under the World Trade Organization (WTO) – and in commodity fundamentals (development of single origin and organic products, sanitary and phytosanitary concerns, demands for traceability and changing distribution methods). WTO negotiations could, for instance, have an impact on the role of the CSSD, a CCP subsidiary body directly mentioned in the WTO's Agreement on Agriculture.
41. The CCP/IGG system was totally revamped in the late nineties and there seems to be little scope for further efficiencies there. Most of the expansion in activities in recent years has been in the holding of informal, non-IGG consultations. The output of 224P4 in terms of market reviews is extremely large and much appreciated by members. Partner organizations also found the meetings useful and stressed that they appreciated ESC statistics, market reviews and short-term outlook for their neutrality, credibility and global scope.
42. The benefits from CFC projects are generally considered to be high by the recipient countries, but ESC staff members view the costs of their inputs as inadequately compensated for by the CFC, and recommend that the Memorandum of Understanding between FAO and the CFC be re-negotiated. The CFC itself presses for FAO to do more on project formulation and cover what they call orphan commodities, though this would be difficult in the face of declining FAO resources.
43. Another highly effective activity has been the work of the PAIA on support to WTO negotiations, implemented with participation of academia and regional bodies. The Umbrella Training Programme trained over 800 people from 162 countries, 10% to 37% of them female depending on the region. Advice to countries has been incorporated in official negotiating positions at the WTO. The PAIA on organic agriculture has also been active in organizing expert meetings and preparing basic materials on this relatively new area.
44. Major commodities such as grains, meat and bananas are discussed in many private sector meetings. The PEs maintain close links with the various International Commodity Councils and Bodies as well as private sector commodity organizations, though such contacts could be strengthened. The level of active involvement of government decision makers on commodity issues during the CFC/IGG meetings could also be improved. Needs for prior discussion of the agenda with participants and for better focus in the meetings were expressed. Trade discussions do not interest technical institution representatives who come mainly to discuss CFC projects, and the review of CFC projects may be of little interest to some representatives of countries not directly involved in the projects.
45. TCA is the central FAO channel for providing policy assistance to its members. The Division works through Policy Assistance Branches and Units (PAB/Us) in each Regional/Subregional Office to assist countries in the formulation of strategies, policies and programmes aimed at creating a socio-economic environment favourable to sustainable agriculture, rural development and food security. The three evaluated programme entities centre mainly on capacity building activities and material.
46. From 1998 to 2003, TCA generated 12 publications and 28 working papers used as resource and training materials, distributed in print and on the Internet. TCA is currently developing EASYPOL, a web-based documentation repository to enhance dissemination and facilitate networking with other institutions. Capacity building materials are elaborated on the basis of country and fieldwork demands more frequently than as the result of an organized anticipation of needs. TCA publications are appreciated by their users but not sufficiently disseminated. This detracts much from the value of producing quality and costly materials. EASYPOL may change this profoundly, but it will take time before a significant resource becomes available this way, and web access still remains a distant option for many would-be users.
47. Concrete evidence was found that the results of TCA policy assistance and capacity building activities have been fruitful. With government officials as its natural counterparts, TCA has also broadened the range of stakeholders associated with its policy assistance delivery, to include development practitioners, academics and the civil society. The efforts at better adjusting documents style and contents to varied audiences may call for additional specialized expertise in publishing.
48. Notwithstanding a general situation of work overload, TCA has been able to respond to most demands received from countries and from management, at the cost, however, of some delays or lesser depth in analysis and of difficulty in investing for the future. Excessive work pressure, particularly from ad hoc demands, prevents a sound organization of the work and results in dispersion of efforts, dilution of the sense of purpose, and eventually lower effectiveness. Prioritization appears critical in enhancing the service rendered to Member Nations.
49. The comparative advantages of FAO were mainly identified in its neutral, concrete and participatory approach to policy assistance. However, exchange of information among the different decentralized units of TCA, and also between decentralized and headquarters officers, should be reinforced to capitalize on the rich experience generated through the Field Programme.
50. The changing nature of policy assistance requirements calls not only for staff training in particular subject matters, but also for enhanced familiarity with up-to-date “delivery techniques” in advocacy, management, communication and facilitation.
51. Action has been taken, generally in collaboration with the Gender and Development Service, to advocate and mainstream gender considerations in policy work in a limited number of training materials and policy assistance activities. Nevertheless, the message that a gender perspective in policy work often helps to redress not only a social injustice, but also an economic mistake, still has much ground to gain.
52. The evaluation drew a “policy map” of who-does-what on policy in FAO, which illustrates that all policy topics on which TCA intervenes are also touched upon by sectoral departments. TCA’s policy assistance, mainly oriented by countries’ demands, is concentrated on the more “upstream” policy priorities of the FAO Strategic Framework, with in-depth advice on sub-sectoral areas being taken up by other FAO units. TCA has a comparative advantage in promoting trans-disciplinary assistance, an area which appears in need of greater attention in FAO policy work.
53. An interdepartmental Policy Task Force was established at the ADG level, aiming at overall coherence and coordination of policy work at FAO. This body, re-launched in 2004 after a period of inactivity, is assisted by a working group at the director level and working teams with time-bound responsibility for addressing issues of immediate concern.
54. Programme entity 222P6 (WAICENT) intends to facilitate access by such groups as researchers, planners, advisors or evaluators to multilingual information on food, agriculture and rural development, allowing them to better assess the state of food, agriculture and natural resources in countries. Technical departments contribute content and remain the “data owners”. GIL is responsible for knowledge organization, advice on ease of access and information management standards, and system development for textual information. 222A3 attempts to build a system pulling together information available from numerous sector-specific information systems into comprehensive country-level view, enabling users to take a coordinated approach across sectors and better define technical or emergency assistance.
55. The WAICENT systems have gone through continuous growth and enhancement. At the end of 2003, a subject classification was developed in consultation with the departments and used to categorize 250 major FAO sites selected among the key entry points to subject-matter information. EIMS and the Document Repository have been adopted by all departments, even if coverage of the information produced is not complete. The value added by GIL in advising and supporting technical departments on information dissemination is increasingly appreciated. Governance has become more participatory since the introduction of the WAICENT Committee and Advisory Group, although it needs improvement in the specific case of the Country Profiles. The WAICENT acronym generates a certain degree of confusion both inside and outside of FAO, the difference with the FAO website being unclear.
56. The Information Finder (search engine of the FAO site) remains an important known weakness. WAICENT systems do not seem to increase traffic toward specific information resources. Their role is in speeding the workflow for timely release of major publications online, ensuring some standardization to allow for thematic or geographic aggregation, and providing access to publications in all languages when departments do not make websites available in all official languages. Profiles of FAO website users started to emerge: they are regular visitors and find it easy to locate information. Their interest is high in statistics, SOF publications and project/programme information.
57. The Country Profiles were completed in their key components by the end of 2002 and have been enriched ever since. They reach beyond their initial target audiences and are widely linked by development-related sites as well as in media and reference sites.
58. FAO’s Livestock Programme (213) was restructured in 2001. All of the division’s information activities previously distributed over various sub-programmes were bundled into programme entity 213P1. The programme entity aims at providing objective, comprehensive and timely information on livestock sector resources and production, livestock-environment interactions and animal health to support Member Governments and the international community in the formulation of policies and strategies required to successfully respond to the challenges posed by the dramatic increase in livestock demand and production.
59. Systems developed prior to establishment of the programme entity (AFRIS, PAATIS and DAD-IS) are completely independent, while newer products (GLiPHA, EMPRES-i and the underlying Livestock Information System) show much better integration. Regular Programme resources available in support of the various information products vary and mainly reflect the ‘historical’ levels of funding of individual products prior to the creation of the PE. Some systems have clearly defined external linkages to partner institutions that provide data and collaborate in the further development, but the majority of the collaborative linkages are informal. The frequency of updating varies, depending on resources and institutional linkages.
60. Website statistics indicate that PAATIS has the lowest (and declining) interest, while DAD-IS had the highest visitor numbers. Visit duration tended to be shortest for AFRIS and longest for GLiPHA. The AGA website, very successfully revised recently, is now one of the best in FAO, and is attracting an increasing number of visitors. The total number of downloads of electronic documents ranges between 40,000 to 60,000 per month. A peak of more than 105,000 downloads was observed in February 2004, likely due to the occurrence of avian influenza outbreaks in Asia.
61. About half of the information users work in universities or research centres, some 20% work in governments and the rest work for international organizations, NGOs or as private consultants. Animal scientists and veterinarians constitute the bulk of users. Developing countries are under-represented, which holds true particularly for Africa where internet access may be scarce and too slow to browse graphics-intensive web pages or interactive applications.
62. During the 2000 programming cycle, seven databases and information systems in four distinct areas of work within Programme 214 - Agricultural Support Systems (Farm Power and Mechanisation; Post-harvest Operations; Rural Finance; Agricultural Marketing and Farm Economics) were brought together under the evaluated programme entity, with the following objective: “Enhanced capacity in countries for data collection, information access, and decision making in agriculture”. Major outputs in the MTPs 2002-2007 and 2004-2009 tend to reflect the distinct origins of the products.
63. Outputs are for the most part in line with PWB commitments. The high level of co-operation with external partners in the conduct of work was noted. The majority of the respondents to questionnaires reported that the system was useful and well organized. However, there is need for greater coherence among the evaluated systems and with the ongoing work of Programme 214 to achieve economies of scale.
64. In some cases, there was a failure to link information and data generated to its dissemination. On the other hand, the programme entity disseminated information and publications produced within other parts of Programme 214. It was not feasible to assess the outreach of the systems and the effects and impact of the dissemination.
65. Declining budget support exacerbated problems with keeping information systems current and in having access to specific expertise in information dissemination and communication techniques. The breadth of coverage of highly specific information systems currently provided by the PE is unlikely to be sustainable.
66. Since 1949, FAO has convened groups of experts to evaluate the current body of scientific knowledge in order to define human energy, protein and other nutrient requirements. WHO joined this initiative in the early 1960s and the United Nations University in 1981. The objective of the programme entity is to update the estimates of human nutritional requirements (both macro and micro), for use by Member Nations in national policy formulation and by other stakeholders such as nutrition projects.
67. The work on human nutrition requirements and its related reports are of crucial value in the work of most respondents to the questionnaires. The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) tables are used in a variety of ways: governments use them to elaborate their own regulation and RDA tables, NGOs and UN agencies to analyse nutrition deficiencies and design and monitor nutrition programmes, and academics as a reference in their teaching.
68. A key point raised throughout this auto-evaluation is one of growing concern regarding the increasing influence of the private sector on the development of food and nutrition policy, which may threaten the primacy of good nutrition and health of populations. The evaluation documented instances of industry influence over some of the expert consultations.
69. 221A4 provides guidance and direct assistance to national and international development institutions and NGOs to support participatory and community-based programmes aimed at improving the nutritional well-being of their populations, especially the poor. Its activities fall in three main areas: provision of technical assistance to field activities, development of information and training materials, and advocacy for the mainstreaming of household food security and community nutrition issues.
70. The PE objectives are at the core of FAO’s mandate to help ensure humanity’s freedom from hunger. The three areas of work are inter-linked. Normative work is tied with field activities in a strong and explicit connection. Technical assistance to field projects is recognized as being of high quality, comprehensive, practical and innovative, with sensitivity given to gender and vulnerability issues (e.g. persons living with HIV/AIDS). Some respondents expressed the need for more timely support and frustration at bureaucratic procedures in the disbursal of funds. Providing technical support to field programmes, ensuring institutionalisation of lessons learned and building capacities are highly time-consuming tasks, and great care must be taken to ensure that they do not overwhelm the PE staff.
71. Publications and resources are highly valued and have been used in a variety of contexts, from training of female entrepreneurs in Namibia to university classes in Norway. However, the effectiveness of the PE community action planning approach for raising nutritional status needs to be more clearly demonstrated in-house and especially among senior management.
72. The PE collaborates with a number of FAO services and UN agencies, bilateral agencies, academic institutes and NGOs, and some partners would like to strengthen their collaboration. Significant extra-budgetary resources (e.g. from the Belgian Survival Fund and Germany) have been received to support field projects, thus increasing demand for technical support at a time when Regular Programme funds for ESNP are being severely reduced.
73. Initiated in 1999, the Fisheries Global Information System (FIGIS) is an integrated web-based resource allowing users to retrieve, from various FI Department systems and external partners (mainly regional fisheries bodies), a wide range of data on fish biology, resource levels, fishing technology, vessels, management systems, aquaculture, products and markets.
74. FIGIS is the backbone of an ambitious strategy to provide a versatile fisheries knowledge resource for a broad global clientele. It could lend further authority to the Fisheries Department and change the way it interacts with its sponsors and clients. Great strides have been made, yet functionality and content are still only partial. Development costs, complexity and delays have done little to erase concerns among many FI professionals that the system is too ambitious for the resources of the department and the needs of its clients.
75. Partnerships with external agencies and within FI have been developed satisfactorily, though some found it difficult to commit information and resources to a partially developed system. Development problems were compounded by the need to fund FIGIS from a range of sources, including from other services, and by a lack of continuity for contract staff. As FIGIS is maturing, its protocols becoming better developed and its systems more reliable, a greater emphasis has been placed on consolidation and process documentation.
76. An important feature of FIGIS is its inter-operability, its potential to provide gateways to other FI products and share data with external partners. In this respect, FIGIS made significant contributions to FAO corporate systems. FIGIS should be seen as a process rather than a product. While it generates information products, the way it does so is most important institutionally. The building of shared goals and approaches should be a critical measure of its performance.
77. There is evidence of growing external use of FIGIS. Respondents to the online questionnaire noted usability issues that should be easy to solve. Users’ needs and usability constraints should be better understood, particularly in poor countries with less developed ICT resources.
78. The following recommendations are provisional. The AE process still needs to be completed with further consultation with FI staff at all levels and with donors.
79. 232A4 provides information regarding major trends and events relative to the state of world fishery resources, including impacts of human activities on the marine fishery production system, habitats and ecosystems, in order to foster awareness by national planners and policy makers, international organizations, regional bodies, NGOs, the fishing industry and the general public, and promote improved policies and practices for sustainable use and exploitation of world fishery resources.
80. The monitoring of the state of world marine fishery resources is considered a core activity of the Fisheries Department. Thanks to its privileged access to national and regional data providers, its global mandate and neutrality, FAO is in a unique position to collect, analyse and disseminate such information. Many international initiatives (the UN Fish Stock Agreement, the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, the Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development pledge to reduce the number of over-fished stocks, etc.) can be linked directly with the work under review. A substantial number of national plans for research or fishery management also make explicit reference to the results of this PE.
81. This is therefore a high-profile activity with a bright future, but it may be time to re-think the products and form of delivery. The main product – the Review of the State of World Fishery Resources – was last issued in 1997 (a new issue is in print), and the risk exists of other organizations being perceived as able to provide similar information on a timelier basis. Currently, FIRM professionals collect and analyse the information and draft their individual chapter(s) independently for the regions and/or species groups under their responsibility. The chapters are then edited and standardised, mostly for style, by a co-ordinator or a small editorial team. Various options to broaden the ownership of the product and make the process more transparent were explored, together with their financial and practical implications.
82. Reporting on the status of stocks and fisheries will become increasingly difficult with the move towards an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries and the need to monitor marine ecosystems and their impact on the state of fishery resources. This will require significant additional funding and research, as there is globally little experience in monitoring, assessing and reporting on marine ecosystems.
83. The purpose of 234P2 is to produce information on global issues and trends for use by decision-makers in promoting sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. The programme entity (PE) plays a central role in the work of FI and contributes to the FAO interdisciplinary work on assessments of the long-term outlook for the world’s food supplies, nutrition and agriculture. It covers country-specific reviews, global status reports and forecasts of likely future supply and demand scenarios. The information is published in print and on the FAO website.
84. The overall objective of the PE is important and its rationale is sound. FAO is in a unique position to collect, analyse and publish such information. A great deal of work and dedication was invested in these publications and the results are impressive. SOFIA is a popular, high-profile reference document that brings together expertise from the entire FI Department and provides visibility to the department’s work. SOFIA is published in five languages, and the popularity of the Spanish version is increasing. SOFIA 2000 received from 2,000 to 3,000 visits per month during 2001, while SOFIA 2002 was accessed from 3,000 to 4,500 times per month during 2003. Respondents to the web survey indicated that the most common uses of SOFIA are as reference material for reports and publications, and as background information for decision-making. However, a number of organizational constraints were identified in the production of the document, notably insufficient peer review at the end of the process and uneven sense of ownership across the department.
85. The FCPs constitute a valuable source of country-specific information, but the profiles are difficult to find on the FI website. Work is currently underway to integrate the FCPs with FIGIS and this should improve accessibility. The fish consumption analysis and demand forecasts provide potentially valuable information for decision-makers. However, they require improved planning and more consistent economic modelling techniques. Several FIPP studies carried out a few years ago still remain unpublished. Improved coordination would also appear in order. FIDI is currently in the process of producing a similar study and the Global Perspective Studies Unit intends to add fish and fishery products to their forecasting modelling work.
86. Climate change has emerged as one of the great environmental threats of the twenty-first century. Forests, agricultural land and other terrestrial ecosystems will be strongly affected but also offer significant potential for removing excess carbon from the atmosphere. FAO has been involved in these issues since the 1980s. Established in 2000, 242A1 focused on: i) integrating climate change (CC) into relevant FAO forestry activities; ii) contributing to international negotiations and advocating forestry concerns; and iii) supporting members in the negotiations and implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. A Senior Forestry Officer for Forests and Climate Change was appointed in 2001. The programme entity (PE) was closed in 2004 and a new one created: 241A8 - Forests and Climate Change.
87. Considering the limited resources available to the PE, the volume of outputs has been very high, including consultancy studies, publications, and inputs to workshops, to international processes and field projects. COFO at its 16th session, users and partners of the PE commended FAO’s work on the subject, in particular for FAO’s role in the harmonization of terms and definitions, awareness raising, capacity building in Member Nations, support to international processes and to Member Nations’ participation to the latter. CLIM-FO is now read by more than 1,700 people. Questionnaire respondents found the bulletin very useful and made some suggestions for improvement, notably to better index and summarize the vast body of articles available.
88. Many FAO programmes touch upon CC and carbon sequestration. The PE itself links to nearly all forestry fields and to many sectors outside forestry. While this allowed the PE to draw in a few instances on in-house technical and legal expertise, it also required significant inputs to integrate climate change concerns into these related fields. The IDWG/PAIA on CC facilitated exchange of information and coordinated FAO representation at Conferences of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
89. Since 1996, FAO has been undertaking global and regional forest sector outlook studies indicating the emerging opportunities and challenges to help improve national forest programmes, enhance strategic planning in the sector at different levels, inform the international policy dialogue on forests, and help investment planning. 243A1 was created in the PWB 1996-97, updated in the MTP 2002-07 and reformulated as 242A3 in the MTP 2004-09.
90. All the outputs envisaged in the PWB and the MTP have been produced and a number of high-quality global and regional studies delivered, each consisting of an in-depth analysis of the current situation, assessment of key driving forces that impact the future developments in the forest sector, possible future scenarios and options available to governments and other agencies to enhance the contribution of the sector. Both quantitative (for example econometric modeling to project demand and supply of wood and wood products) and qualitative approaches were used depending on the issues addressed and the availability and quality of data. All the outlook studies have been undertaken with the full involvement of the countries, as well as other partners including bilateral and multilateral organizations. Regional Forestry Commissions have played a lead role in guiding the outlook studies. Substantial efforts were made to build up country capacity in strategic planning through numerous regional and sub-regional workshops.
91. Response to the web-based questionnaire survey indicated that 89% of respondents (out of 246) rated the studies as good or very good. Eighty-four percent indicated that the outlook studies have enhanced their knowledge of emerging forestry issues and trends. Most indicated that no other organization, public or private, is providing such broad-based, objective and neutral studies. Academic and research institutions (40% of respondents) as well as government and other public sector organizations (24%) are the main users of the studies. Non-governmental organizations and consulting companies are other important clients. A few organizations or consulting firms use the studies as a regular input in their work. Since policy formulation and sector planning depend on several other factors and is a protracted process, it is difficult to assess the direct and immediate impact of the outlook studies. A major concern in this regard relates to the inadequate efforts to market the studies, especially to policy-makers outside the forest sector and to intergovernmental organizations.
92. 243P1 was created in the PWB 2000-2001, updated in the MTP 2002-2007 and abolished in the MTP 2004-2009. The Programme Entity (PE) aimed at supporting formulation, implementation and monitoring of forestry policies and programmes that promote conservation and sustainable use of forestry resources in developing countries. The work conducted under this PE has been absorbed into other PEs as a way to streamline the work programme.
93. Achievement has been particularly substantial in the provision of technical support to countries initiating national forest programmes (NFPs). Some 27 countries were directly assisted, contributing to the strengthening of their institutional capacity, particularly in approaching policy formulation and implementation in a holistic and participatory manner. Such technical support also included provision of concrete policy, legal and programme tools as well as training of key national stakeholders. A large number of activities (30) were implemented for training and information sharing through workshops, seminars and expert consultations at national and regional levels, and have contributed to greater recognition and awareness on the integrated policy approach offered through NFPs. However, a clear strategy was missing to guide the selection of countries for support.
94. The programme fell short in the preparation of several key technical studies and documents. Although many studies planned on key thematic issues have been produced, others fell behind schedule, such as the revised guidelines on NFPs.
95. A major achievement under this PE was the establishment of the National Forest Programme Facility hosted by FAO and funded by a variety of donors. Leveraging this extra-budgetary support made it possible to conclude the PE in 2003. However, NFPs remain an important internationally endorsed framework for addressing sustainable forestry management, and there is a potent rationale for maintaining strong support to NFPs both through the normative programme and through the National Forest Programme Facility.
96. 244P1 covers broad, multi-disciplinary information about the forestry sector, including department-level information products such as the quarterly journal UNASYLVA, the State of the World’s Forests, and the FAO forestry website. The entity also includes planning and coordination of forestry communications and the FAO Forestry Branch Library.
97. Sixty percent of the respondents in the Asia-Pacific study indicated that FAO was a primary source of forestry information that they used on a regular basis. Seventy-four percent identified at least one FAO publication that had contributed directly to his or her work. FAO forestry information is being quoted in policy drafts or influenced national policies, as seems to be the case for the Philippines decentralization policy. National Codes of Practice were based on FAO’s in the Philippines and China. However, FAO forestry information is often difficult to access or not sufficiently advertised. The most widely recognized publications were the State of the World’s Forests (SOFO), the Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA), the Forest Products Yearbook, and the State of Forestry in the Asia Pacific Region. UNASYLVA was the most recognized periodical, followed by Tiger Paper, APANews and Non-wood News.
98. Among respondents to the UNASYLVA survey, 63% read it in English, 24% in Spanish and 13% in French. The publication is much appreciated by its readers and all features received high marks. Ninety-seven percent find UNASYLVA to be accurate and reliable. Forty-nine percent read the printed version, and 51% access it on the web.
99. The FAO Forestry web presence is comparatively new. Most of the content has been updated, revised, and/or translated during the last 3 to 4 years. The Forestry website has a consistent “look and feel” due to the FORIS approach. All of the “high-level” pages are available in the five official FAO languages. The average number of page views increased from about 10,000 to 30,000 per week since the introduction of FORIS in 2001. The most visited sites are the country profiles, the forestry home site, SOFO, FRA, publications, forest products and trade, and UNASYLVA. Most Forestry publications are available on the web through the corporate document repository. The content of the site could, however, be expanded, for instance by adding a “newsroom”.
100. A large majority of respondents to the Forestry Library user survey rate library services as good or excellent. The most frequently used materials are journals and books, often accessed through electronic means. Respondents stated that they used Google or other Internet search engines much more often than the FAO library electronic search system.
101. The programme entity (PE) develops, maintains and provides house-wide access to a variety of geo-information databases (Agromet, ARTEMIS, GeoNetwork, GLCN, GTOS, etc.) derived from ground and satellite sources and feed into FAO food security, early warning and sustainable development activities. The PE is also a major contributor to the PAIA on Spatial Information and Decision Support Tools (SPATL), chaired by the Director of SDR.
102. The design of the PE conforms well to FAO’s mandate and its comparative advantages. However, the objective of the PE is somewhat vague and PE-level indicators are neither time-bound nor quantitative. The design fails to articulate an adequate framework for maximizing internal SDRN synergies and lacks clarity concerning areas of potential overlap in mandates across the Organization. However, management has engendered considerable convergence of purpose over time among distinct units and groups clustered under the PE umbrella at its set-up. As a result, synergies within the PE and across the Organization have grown and organization-wide coherence is high.
103. Declining Regular Programme budgets and increasing extra-budgetary funding has significantly affected the balance between staff and consultants. While this has distinct advantages in keeping pace with a rapidly evolving technology, there are disadvantages, not least the loss of corporate memory and the potential deflection from medium and long-term goals of the Organization.
104. Overall performance in output production has been impressive. Many of the developed methodological tools and software are at the cutting edge of geospatial technology. Quality, timeliness and relevance of outputs are considered high by users. Geographic data management have become central to FAO normative and field activities and to those of international, regional and national partners. The PE tools and enhanced capacities in Member Nations assist policy-makers, planners and researchers to improve natural resources management, sustainable agriculture, poverty and food insecurity mapping and to deal with agricultural emergencies and natural disasters.
105. In general, the PE has been a poor communicator, under-selling much of the excellent work it is doing. The traditional audience of internal, UN system, international, government and official research users has somewhat expanded with the spread of web technology, to include a wider scientific and research community and public interested in environmental issues.
106. The objective of 251P3 is to develop and promote the application of innovative, cost-effective and sustainable information and communication technologies (ICTs) for the improvement of national agricultural research, extension and education systems and their clients. The programme entity (PE) was conceived as a multidisciplinary initiative with important support from FAO’s Regional Offices. Outputs include the Virtual Extension and Research Communication Network (VERCON), Simbani (a community radio news agency whose members produce content related to gender, environment, sustainable development, food security and agriculture, and HIV/AIDs) and Dimitra (a network of women’s organizations sharing information on the work of NGOs and CSOs on gender and rural development).
107. The PE is meeting its intended objective. Its thoughtful and multistakeholder planning and governing processes yield appropriate, cost-effective and relevant results, unlike “magic boxes” approaches to ICT development. The VERCON approach focuses on fostering linkages between research and extension through collaborative development and implementation of appropriate information networks. Its careful multistakeholder needs assessment and planning phases effectively help bridge the gap between extension, research and clients long before an ICT is put in place. The concept has been successfully tested in Egypt and is now being developed in other countries, through TCP, GCP or UTF funding in excess of US$4 million. Simbani, though assessed positively by users, is too young yet for a more accurate assessment.
108. The isolated major output on gender may encourage a “silo mentality”. The projects focused on women alone, e.g. Dimitra and the Gender in Distance Education Programmes in India and Sri Lanka, are admirable initiatives, but women are not well represented in other PE elements focused on agricultural knowledge and information systems. Gender equity is not mainstreamed in VERCON-related initiatives, and virtually absent in VERCON-Egypt.
109. Another important issue is the challenge of administering a shared PE within FAO, when the internal procedures do not favour multidisciplinary work. In a resource scarce environment, competition for resources can work against collaboration. Insufficient recognition is given to collaborating divisions in corporate planning and financial information systems.
110. The UN System Network on Rural Development and Food Security was created in 1997 by the UN Administrative Committee on Coordination as a “mechanism to ensure appropriate inter-agency coordination for World Food Submit (WFS) follow-up at field-level”. A two-tiered mechanism, it is composed at the country level of National Thematic Groups (TGs) within the Resident Coordinator System, and at the international level of a network of 20 UN agencies to support the TGs. Its objectives are to (i) mobilize support for government efforts to implement the WFS Plan of Action; (ii) coordinate UN and other stakeholders’ activities related to rural development and food security at the country level; and (iii) exchange information, experiences and best practices at national, sub-regional, regional and global levels. Its Secretariat is housed in FAO’s Rural Development Division (SDA).
111. The existing network and the 40 TGs presently active constitute a precious asset to achieve the Network objectives. The TGs have provided an effective framework to discuss and plan collaborative activities in rural development and food security, including in a few cases by promoting new projects or contributing to the CCA, UNDAF and PRSP documents. The coordination objective has been met in most of the countries where TGs have been created. All partners, including the UN Resident Coordinators, agree that this TG function is critical. If the Network’s member organizations had provided more concrete support to the TGs, the Network would have achieved this objective even more effectively.
112. The Network’s website has a large audience, but it remains supply-driven and does not sufficiently promote knowledge and experience sharing to meet fully the third objective. A number of interactive networks on rural development and food security have been developed by communities of practitioners to meet their needs. Users are requesting a clarification of the respective roles of all these networks, including of the International Alliance Against Hunger, created in 2002 to follow up on the political and resource mobilization dimensions of the WFS.
113. There is no clear sense of ownership of the Network by UN member organizations, including the three Rome-based organizations that undertook to manage it. The Secretariat has been very short of resources, all the more so since SDA – the sole source of funding – reduced its contribution due to sharp cuts in its Regular Programme budget.
|DFID||Department for International Development (UK)|
|ES||Economic and Social Department|
|FAO||Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations|
|GI||General Affairs and Information Department|
|PAIA||Priority Areas for Interdisciplinary Action|
|PBEE||FAO Evaluation Service|
|PWB||Programme of Work and Budget|
|SD||Sustainable Development Department|
|SWOT||Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis|
|TC||Technical Cooperation Department|
|TORs||Terms of Reference|
|WAICENT||World Agricultural Information Centre|
1 Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
2 WAICENT and Fisheries Global Information System (FIGIS)