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The beginning of the twenty-first century has been marked by the setting of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), of which the first is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, with a target of halving them by 2015. The goals, reaffirmed at the recent UN Summit, have become the driving force for the UN system, including FAO, as the first years of the century unfold. It will be a century in which FAO must work towards the permanent eradication of human hunger and a much more sustainable use of natural resources so that these remain intact for use by future generations.

There are compelling reasons for FAO to embark on a process of reform to confront these challenges. In promoting hunger and poverty reduction, and in addressing the agriculture/environment interface, FAO needs to enhance its capacity to respond to immediate problems, such as consumer concerns about food safety, the threats posed by transboundary pests and diseases of plants and animals, forest loss and degradation, overfishing, and natural and human-induced disasters. At the same time, the Organization must maintain its focus on the longer-term implications of issues such as climate change, the erosion of biodiversity, urbanization and changing consumption patterns. In so doing it must also accede to the wish of its Members that it adapt in response to their evolving requirements for services, and achieve even greater efficiency and impact in the use of its limited resources.

Convinced that change is essential - not adding and subtracting on the margins, but rather re-engineering the Organization's programmes and its structure - the Director-General submitted a package of reform proposals to the Conference of FAO's Members, which met in November 2005. The aim of these proposals is to equip the Organization to play an increasingly effective role in assisting its Members in the areas of its mandate, and in contributing to the broader effort by the UN system to achieve all of the MDGs. In its Resolution on Reforms in the Organization, the Conference welcomed this initiative and shared the Director-General’s assessment of the need to enhance the Organization’s ability to fulfil its mandate. It expressed "general support for the rationale and guiding principles underlying the Director-General’s reform proposals as a basis for further deliberation and implementation of the reform of the FAO." It looked forward to the results of the Independent External Evaluation (IEE) of FAO as "a guide to enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of the Organization", and stressed that the IEE and the reform proposals should be mutually supportive. Finally, the Conference authorised the Director-General to start progressive implementation of a number of his proposals and mandated the Council to decide on further implementation as soon as possible and appropriate.

The FAO Council will meet in November 2006, following meetings of the Programme and Finance Committees in September, 2006. In preparation for their discussions, the Director-General has prepared revised proposals based on the Conference’s decisions and guidance, and wishes to consult the Regional Conferences on them so that their views can be fed into the decision-making process.

The present document, intended to facilitate consideration of the proposals by the Regional Conferences, is based largely on an information paper entitled "FAO Reform: A vision for the twenty-first century" (C 2005/INF/19) issued in October 2005 to mark FAO’s 60th anniversary and to place the reform proposals in an historical perspective. That perspective, unchanged, is contained in Part Two of this document. Part One instead outlines the case for reform in FAO and the process followed so far, updated to take Conference decisions into account, following which it explains the revised proposals of the Director-General for changes to both the programmes and the structure of the Organization.

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