CL 128/11


Hundred and Twenty-eighth session

Rome, 20 – 25 June 2005

Report of the Ninety-third Session
of the Programme Committee
Rome, 9 - 13 May 2005

Table of Contents

Matters requiring attention by the Council

Matters requiring discussion and/or decision



Item 3: Summary Programme of Work and Budget 2006-07


Item 4: Auto-evaluation in the Context of Priority Setting 26-33
Item 6: Policy and Operational Framework of the Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) 38-43

Item 7: Follow-up to the Independent Evaluation of FAO’s Decentralization


Item 8: Indicative Rolling Workplan of Strategic and Programme Evaluations 2006-2009



Matters for information



Item 5: Evaluation of Livestock Production, Policy and Information (Programme 2.1.3)


Item 9: Reports of the United Nations Joint Inspection Unit


Item 10: Progress Report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Process


Item 12: Any Other Business




1. The Committee submits to the Council the following report of its Ninety-third Session.

2. The following Members were present:


H.E. E. Wermuth (Netherlands)


H.E. M. Arvelo Caamaño (Dominican Republic)


Mr A.R. Ayazi (Afghanistan)


Ms J. Barfield (Australia)


Mr J. Melanson (Canada)


Mr G. Nair (India)


Mr F.B. Zenny (Jamaica)


Ms W. Dikah (Lebanon)


Mr J. Ramli (Malaysia)


Mr G.G. Lombin (Nigeria)


Ms M. Mohapi (South Africa)

Adoption of the Agenda1 and Timetable2

3. The Agenda and Timetable for the meeting were approved.

Item 3: Summary Programme of Work and Budget 2006-073

4. The Committee appreciated the brevity and clarity of the SPWB document, particularly the overall approach and content of the first 165 paragraphs. It recalled that a detailed review of the proposals programme by programme had been covered in its examination of the Medium Term Plan (MTP) 2006-114 at its September 2004 session, and noted that the outcome of the recent discussions in the technical committees of the Council such as COFI5, COFO6 and COAG7 could not be reflected in the SPWB, but would be taken into account in the full Programme of Work and Budget (PWB). It, therefore, agreed that a programme by programme review should be deferred to its September 2005 session, based on updated information, in connection with its consideration of the full Programme of Work and Budget 2006-07. The Committee’s attention was drawn to the fact that the matter of COAIM8 would be considered in the Joint Meeting.


5. In line with the Director-General’s specific request for feedback and guidance, the Committee addressed the desirable formats and contents of the SPWB and full PWB documents.

6. The Committee recalled that, under the Strategic Framework as approved by the FAO Conference in 1999, the suite of planning documents, particularly the MTP and PWB, had distinct and complementary roles. It endorsed the general principles of avoiding to the maximum extent possible the repetition of information presented in the various documents, and of keeping their size to manageable proportions.

7. The Committee stressed that under the results-based approach now applied in FAO, the MTP should be strengthened as the prime vehicle for presenting and discussing programme formulation and prioritisation. The SPWB and PWB should in turn provide to the Membership the proposed business plan for the first two years of the MTP.

Contents of the full PWB 2006-07

8. As the Secretariat was about to embark on preparations for the full PWB, the Committee agreed on a number of desirable features. The full PWB would need in the first instance to expand as appropriate on the contextual orientations given in THE SPWB as pertained to issues for the next biennium. In addition, proposals would have to be analysed according to dimensions of major interest to the membership, specifically regional perspectives and distribution of resources by Strategic Objectives. The PWB should also explain how recommendations of Regional Conferences and of the technical committees (received subsequent to the preparation of the MTP) have been taken into account, and more clearly associate the expressed priorities of Members with the biennial resource allocations.

9. The Committee further agreed that the PWB 2006-07 would not need to repeat programmatic details by entity provided in the MTP. The programme budget proposals would, therefore, be confined to the main thrusts for the biennium, with proposed resource allocations indicated down to programme entity level. The list of outputs to be achieved in the biennium would be provided in the programme entity database on the FAO Web site in all languages, along with details on programme entity formulation.

Possible Contents of the SPWB 2008-09

10. Subject to any further guidance to be provided at the Joint Meeting of the Programme and Finance Committees, the Committee encouraged the Secretariat to continue, in the next SPWB, to focus on identifying key financial, budgetary and operational opportunities and constraints for the biennium, as those would not normally be examined in the MTP. The SPWB should, moreover, include proposals for further improvements in programme and financial management that are within the decision making authority of the governing bodies. The SPWB would also highlight any material changes to substantive thrusts and resource allocations, in response to developments in the external environment or recommendations of evaluations taking place or completed after the preparation of the MTP.

11. The Committee stressed that the SPWB should contain adequate summarised information explaining and justifying proposed resource allocations. It agreed that it would be possible to exclude in future SPWBs descriptive and tabular programme by programme expositions, as was done in the Programme Budget section of the present document from paragraphs 166 onwards.


12. The Committee recognised that the document aimed to respond to the request of the Council at its last session. Accordingly, it contained three scenarios, i.e. real growth (RG), zero-real growth (ZRG) and zero nominal growth (ZNG).

13. The Committee noted that ZNG had required the identification of reductions amounting to US$ 43 million from the programme of work. It took note that some areas such as TCP and the Liaison Offices had been exempted from these reductions, while other areas had been negatively affected to varying degrees. The Committee also noted that among the technical major programmes, those on Fisheries and Forestry had received slightly less cuts than others. One Member felt that insufficient information had been provided in the ZNG scenario, in comparison with the other two.

14. Several Members considered that the rate of growth proposed under RG was not commensurate with the pressing requirements of the Membership, particularly in view of the commitment to implement the Millenium Development Goals. They questioned the rather limited RG growth rate proposed in the SPWB which was based on average GDP growth forecast for one group of countries.

15. The Committee noted that both the ZRG and RG scenarios were closely based on the proposals in the MTP 2006-11, subject to some minor amendments. It appreciated the reversing of cuts made necessary by the reduced PWB 2004-05 in relation to policy advisory teams in the regions, as previously recommended by the Committee.

16. In relation to the section entitled “Approach to Priority Setting”, the Committee recalled that it had been discussing the complex issue of priority setting in the context of programme planning over several sessions. While the continued application of Council approved criteria was appreciated, there were still expectations that the basis for overall resource allocations should have been more explicit in the SPWB.

17. Among other aspects, the Committee appreciated the section on “Risk Assessment”, while stressing that the considerations raised there covered both opportunities and risks. It welcomed the continued attention given to identifying further efficiency savings. The Committee recognised that major savings had been achieved in the recent past and it, therefore, requested that the efficiency savings targets for 2006-07 should be realistic.

18. Many Members expressed concern at the potential negative effects of the new Security Expenditure Facility on the substantive programmes of the Organization.

Key Aspects of the Budget Process

19. The Committee felt that it was opportune to review the planning and budgeting process of the Organization. The present difficulties included decisions on the overall budget amount coming late in the cycle, the consequent need to formulate multiple budget scenarios throughout the planning process and the resulting diversion of staff time from technical to administrative tasks.

20. Members expressed differing views on the value of scenarios. Some felt that scenarios tended to polarize discussions around known political positions, and other Members considered that scenarios were useful to inform their eventual budget level decisions.

21. Many Members expressed frustration with the way the final budget decision is taken, in their view, without relation to the preceding planning and scenario-setting process.

22. The Committee noted that there was concern among many Members in seeing that the final decision on the budget level at the Conference was the result of last minute negotiations which had led to the biennial implementation plan being reformulated in rushed conditions.

23. The Committee concluded that the Membership should start to discuss possible ideas about how to improve the programme budget process of FAO, building on its existing strengths while addressing perceived weaknesses and problems.

24. The Committee considered that it was useful to encapsulate the situation in terms of four dilemmas, as follows:

  1. how to better articulate the various planning documents and possible streamlining of the overall programme planning and budgeting process;
  2. how to enhance and modify the format of individual documents to meet more closely their intended purpose within the Strategic Framework;
  3. the burden stemming from the current practice of preparations of scenarios; and
  4. aligning more closely programme planning effort and decision-making on the budget level.

25. The Committee decided to address these dilemmas in the Joint Meeting with the Finance Committee on the following day, and depending on the Council reactions, discussions would be pursued at future sessions.

Item 4: Auto-evaluation in the Context of Priority Setting9

26. The Committee reviewed the experience of the first full year of auto-evaluation as well as its potential usefulness in the context of priority setting. In a discussion with Assistant Directors-General of technical departments, the Committee was informed that the department heads had found the process very useful, although they acknowledged its limitations and the additional input of staff time required to undertake auto-evaluations. Despite severe budgetary constraints, the ADGs had supported the proposal to earmark scarce resources for auto-evaluation in the 2006-07 biennium.

27. The Committee agreed that auto-evaluation was a valuable tool for learning and decisions on individual programme entities and clusters of programme entities. Auto-evaluations also contributed to accountability and the experience had been that it facilitated the reassessment of programmes by staff as well as wider communication of issues arising in programmes.

28. The Committee noted the need for various improvements in auto-evaluation, including the strengthening of the indicators used and greater attention to gender aspects.

29. The Committee noted that the use of external consultancy inputs and peer reviews had assisted the process, but if learning was to be maximised the participation of staff and their ownership of the process was essential. It was informed that auto-evaluations remained the responsibility of individual managers and that the related reports were received and responded to by division directors and departmental managers. For these managers the reports added to their overall knowledge base and hence became one of several sources of information influencing decisions made on the future of individual entities.

30. However, the Committee agreed that the results of auto-evaluation at the programme entity level could not be used in overall priority setting. The results were partial covering only a small portion of the total programme each year, but in any case attempts to make a direct link between auto-evaluation and resource levels would detract from its role in learning and improvement. Auto-evaluation was thus an essential element in the FAO results-based management system and formed a valuable complement to independent evaluation.

31. The Committee endorsed the institutionalisation of auto-evaluation as described in PC 93/4 a) and PC 93/4 b). Independent programme evaluations could often obviate the need for auto-evaluations but the reverse was not the case.

32. The Committee agreed that it was valuable for it and the FAO membership to be informed of the results of auto-evaluations and looked forward to receiving the Secretariat’s proposals on the form and content of the Programme Implementation and Programme Evaluation Reports in September.

33. The Committee also held a preliminary discussion on the issue of potential fragmentation of the programme and loss of critical mass, particularly in the light of the continuing reductions in resources. It agreed that there was no direct linkage between auto-evaluation and the issue of critical mass as a priority setting criterion. It, therefore, agreed to receive a separate document from the Secretariat at its next session on the issues of fragmentation and critical mass in relation to programme viability and priority setting.

Item 5: Evaluation of Livestock Production, Policy and Information
(Programme 2.1.3)

34. The Committee found the report useful, noting the near full agreement of senior management and the Peer Review Panel with major recommendations. Members appreciated features such as scoring tables for performance in both the field- and headquarters-based activities and the cross-referencing to other evaluations.

35. Members generally concurred with the recommendations of the evaluation, including strengthening inter-disciplinarity and the usefulness of the divisional strategic vision in setting priorities for the livestock field programme. The Committee appreciated that the extent of extra-budgetary resources mobilised by the programme, in particular for normative work, was a demonstration of the programme’s importance for Members and the high regard in which they held its work. However, there was some concern over the reliance on extra-budgetary funds to finance core posts in normative work. The Committee agreed with the need to increase visibility of livestock work in FAO and that livestock should become a standing item on the agenda of COAG.

36. The recommended shift of emphasis from technology-based to more policy-based support was discussed, with general agreement that the goal is to achieve the right balance between the two. Members agreed that attention should be given to supporting livestock diversification within the SPFS and were informed of the planned up-scaling of this work in two countries. Members emphasised the importance of effective decentralized services for livestock work and expressed a range of views on the proposals for establishing core teams in an additional two Regional Offices. Reservations were expressed by some Members on transferring existing Regional Office posts to achieve this. They agreed that this needed to be considered in the context of the Organization’s overall decisions on decentralization, following that evaluation.

37. In line with normal practice, the Committee requested that a follow-up report be presented in two years on the progress in acting on the agreed findings and recommendations of the evaluation.

Item 6: Policy and Operational Framework of the
Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP)

38. In reviewing management’s proposals for strengthening the TCP, the Committee expressed its appreciation for the consultative process from which the recommendations had been drawn and welcomed the valuable inputs that had been provided by the internal consultation and the independent review of the TCP.

39. The Committee noted the importance of the TCP to member countries as a means for gaining access to FAO’s normative work and technical expertise in support of their food security and poverty reduction needs and priorities, within the overall context of the FAO Strategic Framework and MDGs. It also, however, emphasised the need for reforms to the programme as it is currently conceived and implemented, in order to enhance its effectiveness. It noted, in particular, review findings of the the need to strengthen the sustainability and impact of TCP projects, improve project design and implementation processes and increase the catalytic effects.

40. The Committee noted that the primary challenge facing the programme was to align it with National Priority Frameworks and to ensure that FAO’s normative activities and technical assistance are mutually reinforcing.

41. The Committee reviewed management’s eight recommendations to strengthen the TCP and provided the following guidance:

42. The Committee also requested the Secretariat to provide further information and clarification on the question of the use of TCP in co-financing for consideration at its next session. It also noted the importance of increased delegation of TCP-related responsibilities to FAORs, in particular as regards recommendations 11, 13 and 15 of the Independent Review12, in line with the ongoing process of FAO decentralization. The Committee urged action as outlined in the management proposals to streamline the internal approval and implementation procedures as well as improved reporting through the PIR13.

43. The Secretariat was requested to prepare final recommendations for strengthening the TCP for consideration at the 94th Session of the Programme Committee and, if agreed, for consideration and approval at the 129th Session of the FAO Council in November 2005. The Secretariat agreed to develop a work plan and implementation schedule for review and endorsement by the Programme Committee at its 94th Session, including the identification of appropriate internal arrangements within the Organization to ensure the successful implementation of the agreed changes to the programme.

Item 7: Follow-up to the Independent Evaluation
of FAO’s Decentralization

44. The Committee examined the document prepared on this subject in response to its request at the last session. It welcomed the presence of the two leaders of the Independent Evaluation team, Mrs Chinery-Hesse and Mr Sands Smith. The Committee was advised at the outset that the complexity of the issues meant that the present follow up management response was to be seen as work-in-progress and that a more substantial response would be prepared for the September 2005 session, reflecting management’s commitment to translate the findings and recommendations from this important exercise into strengthened FAO action and presence at field level.

45. The Secretariat explained that there was a critical need to accurately identify country level demand in terms of the types of service (i.e. policy, technical and operational) by discipline before new decentralized staffing models could be developed and compared to the existing skills mix in decentralized offices. In this regard, the Committee was informed that a questionnaire had just been addressed to all Member Nations and that inter alia, it sought this information. The response to this survey would provide necessary information to support further analysis of the demand for FAO services in countries and regions.

46. The Committee appreciated the informative presentation of the Independent Evaluation team leaders and took note of the clarifications provided by the Secretariat. In expectation of a more thorough presentation and discussion at its next session, it highlighted several key areas requiring action by FAO, including: National Priority Frameworks, as a fundamental building block of a decentralization vision; appropriate geographical coverage giving emphasis to areas with greatest needs to reduce hunger; flexibility in staff skill mix and mobility in and across regions as country needs evolve over time; adequate resources for staff travel to ensure timeliness of response by FAO technical services to beneficiary countries; more direct reporting relationships for decentralized technical officers; measures to assess and manage risks that will allow for increased delegation of authority for FAO country offices; and an appropriate balance of resources and technical staff between countries, Regional Offices and headquarters units.

47. The Committee was disappointed that more progress could not be achieved since its previous session and with the lack of vision in the follow-up management response, but also recognised the complexities inherent in the decentralization review’s recommendations. Some Members recommended a prudent approach to substantiate possible options with adequate analysis and to take full account of FAO’s support to the MDGs and the fast-evolving contexts for the entire UN system. There was, however, general agreement that it was essential to move forward on the recommendations towards an enhanced policy of decentralization, with the full involvement of the pertinent inter-governmental bodies of FAO.

48. The Committee noted the attempt made in the document to regroup the many recommendations and sub-recommendations contained in the evaluation report into a fewer number of coherent headings reflecting the key issues to be addressed. While appreciating that this facilitated thinking and discussion on the matter, the Committee stressed that this should not detract from the possibility to refer to the original recommendations, as required.

49. In anticipation of the more thorough discussion to take place at the next session, the Committee agreed that it was important at this juncture that Members put across their views on issues of particular importance. The Committee felt that the management response should have been bolder in proposing more far-reaching actions, particularly in areas of streamlining and delegation of authority to Regional Offices and FAORs. It questioned the continued emphasis on ex-ante control. The Committee stressed that decentralization should not be perceived just in terms of structural arrangements and geographical locations. The Committee recognised that it would also require a major shift in organizational culture, including greater empowerment of the concerned staff in field offices within appropriate accountability safeguards, so that they could be afforded more autonomy in decision-making and flexibility in deployment of available resources. At the same time, the Committee emphasised the need to ensure greater visibility of the Organization at country level and broadening of links to national authorities beyond its traditional counterparts, to include, among others, Ministries of Finance and Planning.

50. The Committee emphasised a more active role of FAO in providing countries with policy assistance and advocacy in order to raise the profile of the food and agriculture sectors in the formulation and implementation of Poverty Reduction Strategies. In this context, it would need to become a more effective partner with other UN agencies, multi-lateral organizations, donors and other stakeholders. It would also need to move away from dealing with stand-alone technical cooperation projects towards more “upstream” work. The Committee underlined expectations by many Members that FAO should also focus on catalysing further inter-country cooperation and exchanges of experience.

51. The Committee felt that these challenges required the Organization to significantly adapt its human resource management practices. The Organization should be able to adapt the current mix of skills among the staff and to supply sufficient high quality human resources at short notice. This required staff with the mobility and skills to understand regional contexts and to provide solutions adjusted to local conditions. It agreed with the evaluators that FAO needs to pay greater attention to the competency profiles of FAORs and other decentralized staff and to undertake their selection in a transparent and competitive manner.

52. The Committee acknowledged that decentralization should remain compatible with the Organization’s normative work. It stressed that effective action at country level was clearly dependent on FAO remaining a centre of excellence and a respected source of information and knowledge in its mandated areas.

53. In conclusion, the Committee expected to receive a further, more thorough response at its next session. It expected to see a clearer vision and conceptual approach and the identification of timeframes and cost implications in the short and medium term. It decided that adequate time should be given for this and requested the presence again of the two team leaders. The Committee also requested to be informed at its next session, when the management response would be sufficiently developed for consideration by the Council.

Item 8 – Indicative Rolling Workplan of Strategic
and Programme Evaluations 2006-2009

54. In deciding on the evaluations required by the governing bodies over the period 2006-09, the Committee noted that there would be need for a certain flexibility dependent on other demands placed upon the Evaluation Service and the capacity of the governing bodies and Secretariat to cope with reports requiring major decisions, particularly resulting from the Independent External Evaluation of FAO.

55. The Committee was informed of the proposed 2006-07 budgetary provisions for evaluation under the zero real and zero nominal growth budget scenarios, following an increase of 27% in 2004-05 and took note of the additional resources proposed to be allocated for the separate activity of auto-evaluation. The Committee expressed concern at the implications for non-staff budget resources to carry out evaluation work, which could arise in the case of less than zero-real growth budget and urged that the budget for independent evaluation be protected in real terms at its 2004-05 level. Some Members considered that the support provided to the Independent External Evaluation of FAO should not be allowed to negatively impact on the regular Evaluation Service work-programme and it should thus be compensated for such support. Some other Members felt that this was a normal part of the Evaluation Service’s work.

56. The Committee defined its priorities for evaluations, agreeing that the programme would need to be handled flexibly over the period 2006-09. It agreed that it should receive an evaluation work-plan for information at its next meeting based on its priorities. High priority was assigned to:

57. As a second priority for coverage if possible, the Committee referred to:

58. In concluding its discussion, the Committee re-emphasised the important contribution independent evaluation made in strengthening the Organization’s programmes. The volume and quality of the Evaluation Service’s work was appreciated. The Committee looked forward to discussing the evaluation function in FAO in follow up to document JM 03.2/3 (September 2003).

Item 9: Reports of the United Nations Joint Inspection Unit

Reports on Managing for Results in the United Nations System
(JIU/REP/2004/5, 6, 7, 8)

59. The Committee took note with interest of this suite of JIU reports and endorsed the Comments of the Director-General thereon.

Report on Follow-up to Joint Inspection Unit Recommendations17

60. In observing that this was the first time such a follow-up report was issued, the Committee took note with appreciation of the information therein.

Item 10: Progress Report on the
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Process

61. The Committee received an oral presentation of the process which had been followed in response to the Director-General’s request that a review be carried out to determine the nature and extent of FAO’s contribution; and to examine where and how FAO should change its programmes and structures to allow it to contribute more effectively. It was informed that the result of this process would be presented at a Special Event to be run during the CFS in late May.

62. The Committee was informed about the data collection exercises which had been undertaken to identify the direct and indirect contributions to the achievement of the MDGs currently being made by FAO through its regular and field programmes. It was also advised of the second questionnaire addressed to decentralized offices and dealing with FAO’s participation in UN system and related activities at country level, including in the Resident Coordinator system, Common Country Assessments (CCAs), UN Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAFs), Joint Programmes, Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) and sector-wide Approaches (SWAps). The results of these two questionnaires have been used in the development of the report for the Special Event.

63. The Committee noted that a further questionnaire had just been sent to all Member Nations dealing with inter alia the role of FAO in the implementation of the MDGs.

64. The Committee was informed that the purpose of the exercise was to have an informal round of consultations with a wide range of stakeholders leading to the development of mature proposals which would be submitted to the governing bodies in due course. The Committee welcomed this intention and hoped that these proposals would be put to the governing bodies as soon as possible.

Item 12: Any Other Business

65. Some Members felt that the quality of the translation of documents from English into Arabic fell short of the required standards and that inaccuracies had also occurred in the simultaneous interpretation. The Secretariat undertook to look into the matter with a view to eliminating the problem.

1 PC 93/1

2 PC 93/INF/1

3 CL 128/3

4 CL 127/7

5 Committee on Fisheries

6 Committee on Forestry

7 Committee on Agriculture

8 Consultation on Agricultural Information Management

9 PC 93/4 a); PC 93/4 b)

10 PC 93/5; PC 93/5 Sup. 1; PC 93/5 Sup. 2

11 PC 93/6 a); PC 93/INF/4; PC 93/INF/5

12 PC 93/INF/4

13 Programme Implementation Report

14 PC 93/7 – FC 109/26

15 PC 93/8

16 CL 128/INF/10; CL 128/INF/10 Sup. 1

17 PC 93/9 – FC 109/14 c)