The SPWB 2006-07 within the Enhanced Planning Process

1.     In 1999, the FAO Conference endorsed strategic planning principles and a results-based approach in the formulation of the programmes of work of the Organization, leading to an enhanced process to define goals and achieve measurable results through a hierarchy of logically linked objectives and activities. The Conference adopted in particular a 15-year policy document, the Strategic Framework, together with a programming and budgeting system comprising a six-year, rolling Medium Term Plan (MTP), updated every two years, and a biennial plan in the Programme of Work and Budget (PWB). The governing bodies also endorsed a new programming model that aimed at clearly articulating time-bound and relevant objectives for individual activities together with verifiable quantitative and qualitative indicators and measurable targets as well as a more comprehensive evaluation regime.

2.     The application of the new programming model has been progressively improved over the years, for example through better design of objectives, indicators and targets, and mainstreamed by extending the new model across all programmes and organizational units. Concomitant developments in programme and financial management policies, procedures and information systems are also improving performance monitoring and accountability for results.

3.     The Secretariat has adapted the format and content of the main planning documents, the MTP and full PWB, to this new strategic planning and results-based framework. However, no re-examination of the purpose of the Summary PWB (SPWB), nor of the type of information it should contain, has been carried out.

4.     A SPWB was first submitted in connection with the PWB 1974-75. Before that, the full PWB was prepared much earlier, to enable the Committees and the Council to consider it at their Spring sessions of Conference years. Although no strict definitions of the format and content of the SPWB were ever adopted, the expectation was that a summary document would facilitate preliminary dialogue among Members. The preparation of the full PWB at a later stage, after advice from the technical committees, Programme and Finance Committees and the Council, enabled the Secretariat to take better account of developments that had a bearing on the biennial budget estimates and made the contents of the full PWB more relevant and precise.

5.     A SPWB that better addresses the present needs of Members is submitted for 2006-07. Its primary purpose is to serve as a bridge between the two main planning documents now in place, i.e. the MTP and the PWB, while recognising that the SPWB has a shelf-life of barely three months, after which it is superseded by the full PWB.

6.     This function of “bridge” derives directly from the strategic planning principles adopted by the Conference in 1999:

  • the MTP is FAO’s main vehicle for programme formulation and prioritisation over a six year horizon; its high-level and tentative resource estimates do not qualify it as a decision document on the biennial budget level;
  • the PWB embodies the two-year tranche of implementation of the programmes described in the MTP, setting out the products and services to be delivered to the membership over a biennium, and the required staff and non-staff inputs; it provides the basis for the Conference resolution on the biennial budget level.
7.     The Summary PWB 2006-07 therefore draws from, and expands on considerations in the MTP 2006-11, for example by including different resource scenarios and illustrating their impact in broad terms. It presents key policy issues with direct bearing on eventual decisions of the Conference on the budget for the next biennium and on which the guidance of Council is invited. It does not, however, go into detailed programmatic and budgetary proposals that would be presented in the full PWB 2006-07, thus avoiding duplication in the internal formulation process and review by governing bodies. For instance, this SPWB does not present resource allocations below the programme level and refers instead to the main substantive thrust of the proposals for the biennium, including the import of scenarios. The full PWB will provide detailed proposed resource allocations at the programme entity level.

8.     The present, redesigned SPWB 2006-07, therefore, aims to:

  • focus on key issues for the upcoming biennium, i.e. those having a major impact on the next PWB;
  • provide an effective bridge between the essentially programmatic dimension of the MTP and the necessarily more strict budgetary focus of the PWB; and
  • reduce duplication in the collection and presentation of programmatic and resource data, as well as document length.
9.     The focus on key issues is reflected particularly in the sections entitled Budgetary Framework and Financial Framework, covering:

  • Risk assessment;
  • Efficiency savings;
  • Approach to priority setting;
  • Impact of resource scenarios;
  • Decentralization;
  • Capital budgeting;
  • A Security Expenditure Facility for the security and safety of staff and assets;
  • Overview of cost increases; and
  • Financial analysis of the General and related funds.
10.     The main programme thrusts and impact of resource scenarios at major programme level are provided in the much reduced section Programme Budget Proposals.

11.     Regarding document length, the first version of the Summary PWB was 53 pages1. However, in seeking to anticipate many details presented in the full PWB, and despite the addition of a revamped MTP document since 2000, the SPWB has moved away from the concept of a concise document. The nearly 200 pages of the 2004-05 version are at variance with the normal expectations for a “Summary”.

12.     A recent progress report on efficiency savings submitted to the Finance Committee2 identified one potential area as “the reduction in length of planning documentation”. In response to Members’ request for shorter documents, the trend of a SPWB of ever-growing detail and size has been reversed for 2006-07. Beyond the self-evident impact on document costs, this has also permitted to streamline the planning process by obviating the need for FAO units to develop detailed planning information more than a year before the start of the biennial period, thus ensuring that staff time is devoted to putting together the required details only at the stage of the full PWB.

13.     Building on efforts to reduce the length of SPWB documentation, the governing bodies may wish to encourage the Secretariat to further streamline FAO’s planning documents. Apart from a 200-page SPWB, the FAO PWB 2004-05 had 298 pages, supplemented by extensive additional information on the FAO Web site available in the five official languages. Efforts at reducing the length of planning documentation have already been successfully pursued by other organizations of the UN system:

  • in the United Nations (UN) itself, the rough equivalent of the Summary PWB is only six pages (Outline PWB 2006-07);
  • in a very large specialised agency such as World Health Organization (WHO), there is no practice of a Summary and for the last two biennia its full PWBs are impressively short documents (119 and 157 pages);
  • another comparable agency, the International Labour Organization (ILO), also has no practice of a Summary, and the latest version of the full PWB has only 144 pages, less than half the size prior to the introduction of strategic budgeting in 1999.
14.     In view of the above, it would seem reasonable for FAO to aim at curtailing the length of the PWB 2006-07 to around half the size of the PWB 2004-05. However, the need for economies in document production and the desirability of emulating comparable agencies through a shortened PWB 2006-07 must be balanced with the requirement to continue to satisfy Members through adequate information, and preserve transparency and trust in the exchange of information between the membership and the Secretariat. The Secretariat would, therefore, welcome feedback and guidance from the Committees and Council on the length and content of both the Summary and full PWB 2006-07.

1 For illustrative purposes, the indicated page numbers of various documents refer to the English version.

2 FC 108/14