CL 129/3


Report of the Ninety-fourth Session
of the Programme Committee

Rome, 19 - 23 September 2005

Table of Contents

Matters requiring attention by the Council

Matters requiring discussion and/or decision



Item 2: Programme of Work and Budget 2006-07 4 – 31
Item 3: Independent Evaluation of FAO’s Decentralization – Further Management Response 32 - 40
Item 4: Policy and Operational Framework of the Technical Cooperation Programme – Management’s Recommendations 41 - 47

Matters for information

Item 5: Evaluation of the Cross-organizational Strategy on Communicating FAO’s Messages 48 - 53
Item 6: Implementation of Priority Areas for Inter-disciplinary Action - Achievements and Issues 54 - 57
Item 7: Formats and Coverage of the Programme Implementation Report (PIR) and the Programme Evaluation Report (PER) 58 - 62
Item 8: Possible Items for Discussion at the Next Session 63
Item 9: Review of the Working Methods of the Programme Committee 64
Item 10: Any Other Business 65


1. The Committee submits to the Council the following report of its Ninety-fourth 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 2: Programme of Work and Budget 2006-073

4. In the light of the Director-General’s emphasis on his proposals for reforms, the Committee focussed its discussion on the Supplement presenting these proposals, also referring as appropriate to the substantive activities of interest to them, as described in the main PWB document.

5. On the invitation of the Chairperson, Members gave at the outset an indication of eventual positions on the budget level for 2006-07, either individually or in relation to respective regional groups. These positions ranged from support for various growth scenarios, including 2.5 and 9.25 percent, as well as scenarios in the range of zero nominal growth.

General reactions

6. The Committee acknowledged the need to strengthen the work of FAO at this critical juncture and was broadly supportive of the timeliness of the Director-General’s initiative to present substantial reform proposals. It recognized that although some of the reform proposals were within the authority of the Director-General, the package had the merit of consolidating action being discussed or contemplated on a number of fronts such as enhanced assistance to countries in the implementation of the MDGs, more integrated country level action for the whole UN system, follow up to the evaluation on decentralization, streamlining of administrative processes and increased efficiency and improved Human Resource Management.

7. Subject to the reactions and the decisions of the Conference, the Committee considered that many of the proposed reforms allowed, at face value, for a good start towards a reinvigorated and more responsive Organization. It stressed the need to ensure that eventual implementation of changes in 2006-07 be harmonized with other important exercises such as the Independent External Evaluation and the revision of the Strategic Framework and the Medium Term Plan 2008-2013.

8. However, the Committee stressed the limited time available for careful consideration and full analysis of the package of reforms. Members, therefore, expressed preliminary views subject to consultations with their capitals. Moreover, the information provided in the Supplement did not furnish the same level of detail on proposed programme content as the main PWB document, which was also based on the programme entities formulated in the Medium Term Plan 2006-11. Therefore, the Committee recognized the need for more information and dialogue to deepen understanding, ensure acceptance in capitals and facilitate discussions at the next Council and Conference.

9. The Committee also stressed that, aside from the eventual decisions to be taken by governments, adequate participation of staff in both the formulation and implementation of reforms was an important consideration to ensure their “buy-in” and should not be overlooked.

The rationale for reform and guiding principles

10. The Committee was in general agreement with the rationale, subject to inclusion of the economic dimension of sustainability alongside environmental and social aspects and the importance of trade liberalisation. The accent put on a reduced role of the State seemed somewhat excessive since in many countries, the State had essential responsibilities for ensuring the application of complex regulatory frameworks to support economic activity and development. The section on globalization was also considered too negative in tone.

11. The Committee noted that the Director-General had underlined that consideration of the reform package should not be linked to or dependent on a precise budget level. Nevertheless, it was clear that the implementation of reforms would be influenced by the total resources eventually available to the Organization.

12. The Committee also expressed general support to the guiding principles underlying the reforms. However, it was not always clear how these principles had been effectively translated into the various facets of the reforms: e.g. the new programme and organizational structures, the treatment of priorities and the resource allocations.

13. The Committee queried the emphasis on Alliances as they did not see a major comparative advantage for an inter-governmental organization in carrying out advocacy activities of this type and at such a scale, as opposed to other more effective change agents.

14. As regards capacity building, attention was drawn to the need to address it more in the context of strengthening institutional arrangements and capabilities rather than in terms of training in the conventional sense.

Programmes and priorities

15. The Committee recognized that the new chapter structure and programme headings presented a clearer indication of the main emphases and priorities for FAO’s work. However, it reaffirmed the role of programme entities as the main building block and observed that until these were more fully developed, it would be difficult to easily track present activities and entities and, therefore, to fully understand the new structure. The Committee noted the potential benefit of the reduced number of programme headings and appreciated the increased emphasis on interdisciplinary work. It considered that supplementary information on content should allow the Membership to better assess relationships between the old and the new structures.

16. Some Members expressed doubts about the coherence of the programmes proposed to be included in the new Chapters 3 and 4. It was considered highly desirable to make the title of the latter chapter (Decentralization, UN Cooperation and Programme Delivery) more informative about its intended aims.

17. The Committee welcomed the effort at priority setting as evidenced in the identification of new areas of emphasis, the significant shifts in focus, the adjustments to enhance efficiency and effectiveness, and the reduction or elimination of work in some areas. It stressed the difficulties in understanding which activities fell into these categories in relation to the existing programme structure. It expected that supplementary information would enlighten the Membership about the effective treatment of priorities and the shifts in emphasis implicit in the reforms.

18. Members raised several issues on the substance of Chapter 2: Sustainable Food and Agricultural System to be taken into consideration in further refining the proposal. These include the location of IPM in the programme structure and the extent of balancing of work on fisheries and aquaculture. Particular concern was expressed about the proposed consolidation (which was interpreted as reduction) of “traditional” nutrition activities such as: assessments of human nutrient requirements, food and nutrition assessments and nutrition education for the general public, a move which seemed at variance with the emphasis given to nutrition in the MDGs.

Organizational structure

19. Regarding the proposed new structure at Headquarters, concerns were raised by many Members of the Committee, including:

20. As to the new field office structure, Members expressed concern about the large number of Sub-regional Offices and attendant risk of spreading limited financial and human resources too thinly. They enquired on:

21. In relation to monitoring and evaluation, the Committee was reassured that further accent was put on these aspects under the reform proposals than in the main PWB document, including the continued role of the Office of Programme, Budget and Evaluation and increased resources to support auto-evaluation. In addition, a new unit for monitoring and inspection was included in the new department for outreach programmes, while it was intended to strengthen design procedures to pay more adequate attention to sustainability of projects and assessments of impact which would be systematically carried out soon after their completion.

22. The Committee commended the intended actions to streamline processes and achieve further efficiency and performance gains, as outlined in section III.c, while also noting innovative proposals made in this regard in the main PWB document.

Other aspects

23. The Committee noted that increasing non-staff resources was intended to provide managers with the needed flexibility to implement their work in line with results-based principles. Some members cautioned that good quality non-staff human resources were not easily available at short notice.

24. The Committee took note of the ideas mentioned under section V, regarding opportunities for rationalizing governance structures and various bodies while recognizing the role of the IEE and Members themselves in exploring options for more effective governance.

25. Regarding section VI. Managing the Reform Process, the Committee noted that the Director-General would seek voluntary contributions to cover the yet to be estimated transition costs. Members requested the Secretariat to provide estimates of these transition costs.

26. The Committee was advised of the current status in relation to the questionnaire addressed to Member Nations on the role of FAO. Replies were still being received, and the deadline had been extended to 15 September 2005. The Committee was informed that a synthesis of the results of this exercise would be communicated to Member Nations.


27. In the light of the above, the Committee agreed that additional information would be required to enhance understanding of the Membership at large of the implications of the reform proposals, based on the same 2.5 percent real growth assumption used in the Supplement in order to maintain consistency with the document, ahead of the next sessions of the Council and Conference:

28. The Committee noted that, in view of the scheduled dates of the sessions of the Council and Conference, this information would need to be made available to Members by mid-October 2005.

29. Beyond the initial consideration of the reforms by the Programme and Finance Committee at the present sessions, and the identified requirement for additional clarifications to be provided in the near future, the Committee addressed at length how the Membership could engage in necessary consultations to ensure broad acceptance of the reforms and how the Governing Bodies would be involved in related decision making.

30. In the first instance, the Committee stressed that meetings of the Regional Groups ahead of the sessions of the Council and Conference could provide opportunities for further dialogue and exchange of views. This dialogue could also seek to develop the views of the Membership and culminate in more informed discussions among Members at the Conference.

31. Depending on the decisions of the Conference, the Committee expected that an adequate process would be put in place for the 2006-07 implementation of the approved budget. It noted that the substance and refinement of programmatic and staffing details would depend upon the resources available and acknowledged that the formulation of such detail would be an integral part of the implementation plan to be prepared by the Secretariat.

Item 3. Independent Evaluation of FAO’s Decentralization –
Further Management Response

32. The Committee was satisfied with the management response and felt that the Secretariat had embraced the general thrusts and most of the evaluation’s recommendations.

33. The Committee noted with particular interest the three fundamental pillars provided by the spokesperson of the evaluation team, in particular on:

      1. staff competence and performance;
      2. sound national priority frameworks;
      3. sound management with appropriate balance between Headquarters and the field.

34. The Committee noted that some of the evaluation’s recommendations fall within the Director-General’s authority and were already under implementation. The Committee further noted that a number of the evaluation recommendations had been incorporated into the Director-General’s reform proposals contained in the Supplement to the Programme of Work and Budget, the implementation of which would depend on approval of the reform proposals.

35. It noted the Secretariat’s recommendation that changes in decentralization be implemented in a phased and holistic manner as an integral component of the Director-General’s reform proposals. It was informed that the expansion of the number of subregional offices was proposed to bring technical support closer to the countries where it was needed and that their location would be decided taking into account factors such as: the location of the headquarters of the concerned Regional Economic Integration Organizations (REIO); ease of travel connections; and location of the existing FAO offices.

36. The Committee emphasised once again its support of the evaluation recommendations and underlined in particular:

    1. that the main purpose of decentralization is to improve FAO’s performance at country level, especially to assist countries in achieving their MDG targets;
    2. sound national priority frameworks for FAO activities;
    3. transparent competency-based selection, skills development, and ongoing performance assessment and management of staff;
    4. increased delegation of authority accompanied by strict personal accountability;
    5. enhanced staff mobility within the region to fulfil their duties and increased face-to-face contact with HQ;
    6. sound management with a move from a risk averse culture to ex-post rather than ex-ante control measures.

37. The Committee requested that further clarifications be provided on the following issues when considering the reform proposals:

38. The Committee expressed some concerns on the following:

39. The Committee particularly welcomed the progressive introduction of National Medium-term Priority Frameworks (NMTPFs) and underlined their importance as a critical instrument for prioritizing FAO’s work, for aligning it with national priorities and for harmonizing it with the approaches of the other development partners as, inter alia, contained in the United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAFs) and Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRSs) as well as the MDGs. The Committee felt that NMTPFs should be formulated quickly with minimum transaction cost and without duplicating existing planning documents.

40. The Committee concluded its review of the management response to the Independent Evaluation of FAO’s Decentralization per se, as further follow-up would be addressed in the context of the Director-General’s reform proposals included in the Supplement to the Programme of Work and Budget. The Committee requested to receive a progress report ondecentralization in two years as part of the Director-General’s overall reporting on the implementation of his reform proposals.

Item 4: Policy and Operational Framework of the Technical Cooperation Programme – Management’s Recommendations5

41. The Committee welcomed the document prepared in response to the request for clarification and information made at its Ninety-third Session, and expressed general support for the recommendations made.

42. Regarding country eligibility, the Committee reviewed the three options for access to TCP-supported technical assistance submitted by the Secretariat, based both on the guidance provided by the governing bodies at their recent sessions and on the outcome of a review of the approaches used by 30 UN and non-UN international development partners. Members agreed that universality remained a basic principle of the Programme and therefore supported the proposal that all FAO Members be eligible for access to TCP assistance. In line with FAO’s strategic focus on reaching the World Food Summit (WFS) target and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Committee recommended that special attention in the allocation of TCP resources be given to the neediest countries, especially the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Land-Locked Developing Countries (LLDCs), Small-Island Developing States (SIDS) and Low-Income Food Deficit Countries (LIFDCs). The Committee also recommended that 15 percent of the TCP appropriation be earmarked for emergency projects, accessible to all Members. Given the grant character of the TCP, the Committee indicated that access by high-income developing countries and developed countries to FAO technical assistance through the TCP modality should only be on a full cost-recovery basis.

43. The Committee endorsed the elements of a strengthened TCP as proposed by the Secretariat. In particular, it agreed that the Programme’s overall strategic direction should focus primarily on the WFS target and the MDGs, consistent with the Organization’s Strategic Framework and its commitment to the MDG process. The Committee further agreed that country-level priority setting for the use of TCP resources should be fully integrated into FAO’s National Medium-Term Priority Frameworks, as they are put in place, and that both should involve low transaction costs.

44. The Committee agreed on the need for further delegation of TCP-related responsibilities and authority to FAORs (and Regional and Subregional Offices). In this regard, the Committee welcomed the Secretariat’s proposals to delegate full authority to FAORs for approval of commitments under the TCP Facility up to US$ 200 000 per biennium and per country as an immediate first step. The Committee emphasized that the Secretariat should, in the future, continue to decentralize TCP responsibilities as part of the ongoing process of FAO decentralization.

45. The Committee endorsed the Secretariat’s proposal to progressively shift the main emphasis of emergency TCP projects towards technical assistance and away from the provision of material inputs. The Committee also supported the Secretariat’s proposal to set aside an indicative amount of 15 percent of the Programme’s resources for emergency TCP projects, but underscored the indicative character of this earmarking and that the precise amount would vary according to the level of demand for emergency TCP assistance during a biennium. The Committee agreed that the Secretariat explore opportunities for selective reimbursement of emergency TCP resources and co-financing. The Committee also supported the Secretariat’s proposals that requests for regional projects could be submitted either by established regional bodies (including FAO regional statutory bodies) or by groups of governments.

46. The Committee highlighted the need to emphasize and assess impact and sustainability in project design, implementation and eventual evaluation, in line with recommendations made at the Committee’s 93rd Session. It endorsed the Secretariat’s recommendations regarding TCP procedures and guidelines.

47. The Committee welcomed the Secretariat’s proposals for modified criteria to be used to appraise all requests for TCP assistance. In applying the modified TCP criteria, the Committee stressed the need for the Secretariat to communicate clearly to Members how the criteria have been applied, and their relationship with the Programme and Project Review Committee (PPRC) criteria. The Committee agreed on the proposed increase of the ceiling for all TCP projects, with the exception of the TCP Facility, to US$ 500 000. The Committee also agreed that, under normal circumstances, 24 months should remain the maximum duration for TCP projects but that the duration may be extended to 36 months when justified, and on a case-by-case basis.

Item 5: Evaluation of the Cross-organizational
Strategy on Communicating FAO’s Messages

48. The Committee welcomed the evaluation, noting the key role of communication in providing the Organization with legitimacy and visibility, conditions that were vital to its continuity and credibility. While recognizing that FAO is an important source and repository of information in its field, delegates expressed concern that careful consideration and review be given to the various communication instruments in reaching general audiences through the media, versus the FAO Ambassadors’ Programme and TeleFood, and to a certain extent questioned the value added by these tools in awareness-raising and advocacy. It was recognized that implementation of some of the recommendations in the evaluation was already under way and had been taken into account in the context of the Director-General’s reform proposal.

49. The Committee found the evaluation comprehensive, bringing out a number of key issues, in particular the inadequate overall understanding of and commitment to communication throughout the Organization and the relative fragmentation of effort. Although the Organization had a corporate communication policy and strategy and annual corporate communication plans, most staff were not familiar with these and they were not being implemented in an integrated way. The primary challenge was to build the institutional approach to communication horizontally.

50. The Management Response had largely accepted the findings of the evaluation and there was broad agreement to implement its recommendations. The Committee considered that the response could have been articulated more in terms of an operations plan and also felt that the recommendations of the evaluation itself could have been more operational. It considered that the evaluation should have provided more data on the effectiveness of FAO’s communication activities, including the effectiveness of different communications tools, such as the Ambassadors’ Programme. However, the cost implications of more in-depth study of effectiveness was also recognised.

51. In the debate, Members raised a large number of issues relating to communication. Several members felt that the Organization’s visibility had been declining. It was suggested that separate, although interlinked, strategies were needed for advocacy, public awareness and fund raising. The Committee also acknowledged that in order to ensure the efficacy of the communication function, adequate resources needed to be allocated for the purpose The Committee agreed on the following issues:

    1. the relation of the evaluation findings to the Director-General’s reform proposals. While members noted the increased emphasis on advocacy and communication in the proposals, some also expressed the view that the reform proposals did not adequately address the need for integration of effort in communication through the proposed new institutional arrangements;
    2. with respect to World Food Day, that this should be a genuinely world day and that it should involve all the UN food agencies and possibly others. Regional Offices should have a role in developing materials specific to their region;
    3. the role of both advocacy and communication needed to be more clearly defined;
    4. more impetus and flexibility to encourage communication activities by staff to diverse audiences and fora. Training to support this was essential. The FAORs required more support as they were in the forefront of communication but did not necessarily have the relevant tools and competencies;
    5. the need to make the FAO Homepage on the Internet more accessible, while recognizing the wealth of information generally available on the FAO Web site as a whole;
    6. more attention needed to be given to improving the quality of translation on the technical department Web pages, particularly into Arabic. It was also queried whether FAO should cease distribution of FAO’s publications, in view of the fact many audiences in developing countries did not have effective computer access nor the financial resources to ensure such access;
    7. the need for FAO to contribute to the development of a UN system-wide advocacy and communication strategy which focused on the internationally agreed development goals, in particular the MDGs;
    8. the need for a greater share of resources to be devoted to monitoring uptake of FAO’s communication outputs, as without this feed-back loop the strategy could not be improved; and
    9. a more focused approach in the FAO Ambassadors’ Programme.

52. The Committee requested more information on the efficacy of TeleFood. Some Members also queried whether FAO should be putting limited resources into direct fund-raising. This evaluation was requested for consideration by the Programme Committee, if possible in May 2006. The forthcoming evaluation of both the fund-raising and advocacy dimensions of TeleFood was thus welcomed. At the same time, the Committee would like to consider a time-bound implementation plan for management in response to the current evaluation and that of TeleFood. The Committee would require a follow-up report after two years on the implementation of this plan, as is its normal practice, and would also consider at that meeting whether more in-depth study was needed on any other aspects of the Communication Strategy.

53. Furthermore, the Committee requested the Organization to consider how it could strengthen the operational nature of management responses to evaluation findings to include an implementation plan. In this respect FAO’s Evaluation Service was asked to consider the experience of IFAD and make recommendations to the Committee at its next meeting for consideration.

Item 6: Implementation of Priority Areas for Inter-disciplinary Action – Achievements and Issues7

54. The purpose of the document on this item was to seek general guidance from the Committee and suggestions to improve PAIA implementation. The Committee observed that the reform proposals contained in the Supplement to the main PWB put considerable emphasis on fostering inter-disciplinarity and improved management of PAIAs. In this light, it decided to consider the issue of inter-disciplinarity under Item 2, where the Committee would consider the PWB proposals for the next biennium.

55. Among the various suggestions made, the Committee agreed in particular with the need for greater selectivity in the themes for PAIAs and for the formulation of clearer criteria in this respect. It emphasized that as a general principle the implementation of PAIAs should be adequately mainstreamed, inter alia by ensuring that the necessary resources be provided by the concerned units themselves. In this connection, attention was drawn to useful lessons which may be learned from a number of scientific or research institutions which had been successful in dealing with inter-disciplinary issues, including enhanced team spirit and culture change.

56. The Committee also endorsed the proposed search for extra-budgetary support in well justified cases. It supported the continued provision of “seed money” to facilitate PAIA work, as done hitherto under the central catalytic entity 210S5while still ensuring that the concerned Departments remain fully committed to implementing PAIAs.

57. The Committee agreed that PAIAs could be addressed in the context of the Independent External Evaluation of FAO and that the Committee could give higher priority to selected evaluations of PAIAs when considering future evaluation programmes of the Organization.

Item 7: Format and Coverage of the Programme Implementation Report (PIR)8

58. The Committee reviewed the Secretariat’s proposal to prepare a more focused and shorter Programme Implementation Report (PIR) for the 2004-05 biennium. It recalled that the PIR was the main quantitative accountability document of FAO against the two-year business plan, complementing the Organization’s financial reports. It welcomed the survey of results-based reporting practices of several other United Nations agencies that accompanied the secretariat’s proposals.

59. The Committee expressed general agreement with the proposed format of the PIR 2004-05, which built on the experience of adapting the PIR to results oriented reporting and took account of the Committee’s comments on the PIR 2002-03. It agreed that summary reporting of programme implementation in the next PIR should focus on key achievements, emphasizing success stories and lessons learnt along with challenges faced, and include progress towards the achievement of outcomes where possible. It emphasized the importance of highlighting the regional dimensions of programme implementation, linked where appropriate to information provided to the Regional Conferences.

60. The Committee expected the standing section on organizational performance would include reporting on efficiencies and productivity gains, as well as on progress in the implementation of results based management in the Organization. It looked forward to the continued development of the Programme Entity database on the FAO Web site, which would include details on the status of output implementation.

Format and Coverage of the Programme Evaluation Report (PER)9

61. The Committee endorsed the revised format for the biennial Programme Evaluation Report (PER) as contained in PC 94/7 b). The revised PER format would contain the following sections, each of which would be available separately, as well as being part of the PER:

62. The Committee also took note of the query put to it by the Evaluation Service on the form in which it wished to receive evaluation reports to facilitate their effective consideration while containing reproduction costs. It requested a short paper on this issue at its next session and clarified that pending its consideration by the Committee, evaluation reports should continue to be presented to the Programme Committee in full.

Item 8. Possible Items for Discussion at the Next Session

63. The Committee took note that, in addition to the standing items on its agenda, it may be called upon by the Conference to consider exceptional matters pertaining to the implementation of the programme of work in 2006-07, as well as items under the following broad headings:

Item 9. Review of the Working Methods of the Programme Committee

64. As it was the last meeting of the biennium, recognising that the Members of the Committee could change before the May 2006 session, the Committee agreed not to consider this matter.

Item 10. Any Other Business

65. The Committee agreed that, in order to avoid waiting for the statutory break required by interpreters, it would continue working in the English language. This was regretted by the Committee.

1 PC 94/1

2 PC 94/INF/1

3 C 2005/3 ; C 2005/3 Sup. 1

4 Doc. PC 94/3–FC 110/26

5 Doc. PC 94/4

6 Docs. PC 94/5; PC 94/5 Sup. 1

7 Doc. PC 94/6

8 Doc. PC 94/7 a)

9 Doc. PC 94/7 b)