Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
After nearly one year in office, it is appropriate that I should look back on the achievements of 1976 in the field of food and agriculture. On the whole, the picture is not a satisfying one.
Firstly, on the broad global front of development, there has been little or no progress in international cooperation to achieve a new international economic order. Action on matters of fundamental importance to the wellbeing of millions of people in the developing countries is scarcely perceptible.
There seems to be a vicious circle in which negotiations undertaken within the framework of the present international economic order are constrained by the centripetal forces of that same system to fail to achieve results, Must we become pessimistic about the possibilities of successful evolution in international economic relations?
Let us hope that the North/South Conference will have worthwhile results in the near future. Let us hope that the rather modest targets set for financial and food aid, for world food security, and for the establishment of IFAD will not only be reached in the very near future but will also be a token of further and larger effort in these fields over the years to come. Let us hope that the Nairobi programme of UNCTAD will be energetically carried forward with the full involvement of this Organization.
Above all, let us hope that the crucial importance of food and agricultural development in the achievement of all these larger international strategies will be recognized by the governments of all countries, both as concerns their national responsibilities and their international obligations and relationships.
In this connexion, one cannot but warmly welcome the recent movement of the developing countries in Lima, in Mexico, in Colombo, and as also expressed in the Declarations adopted in FAO's recent Regional Conferences, to build upon individual and collective self-reliance among the developing countries and regions. Recognition that this is a fundamental factor for healthy economic growth must of course guard against it becoming an empty slogan or being allowed to run into the quicksands of a false or impoverishing autarchy.
Here especially, we cannot ignore either the realities or the ideal of interdependence and international cooperation.
These will be of crucial importance in attacking the world food problem, which will continue to be with us for the foreseeable future in a greater or lesser degree as harvests fluctuate from year to year. Even if recent suggestions in some quarters that world population growth for the remaining quarter of this century will not be as explosive as previously forecast, were to be soundly based, the fact remains that no strategy for development'can succeed without a tremendous effort to increase food and agricultural development over the next generation.
It is still a controversial question by what amount world food supplies need to increase over the next thirty years. But even if they need only to double, it is easy to under-estimate the amount of technical innovation as well as investment that will be required to achieve this and to ignore the structural and institutional implications of growth on a sustained and socially acceptable basis.
Turning to the more immediate situation, I will not anticipate the statement which is to be made when this item on your Agenda concerning the “State of Food and Agriculture 1976” is taken up. In this opening address, however, I do wish to stress certain points.
During the past year there has been a distinct improvement in the immediate food and agricultural situation in the world - the first real improvement since the food crisis started in 1972. Although world food and agricultural production increased by only about 2 percent In 1975, there was a heartening rise of about 4 percent in the developing countries - as much as 8 percent in the crucial Far East Region,
Our first preliminary indicators for 1976 show a further increase of between 2 and 3 percent in both developed and developing countries.
With the improvement in supplies, food prices have tended to ease, and there has been some recovery in food consumption in the developing countries. World stocks of cereals have increased for the first time in three years, and a further rise is in prospect in the current seasons. The fertilizer situation appears to be in balance, in spite of a recent upward pressure on prices.
Many unsatisfactory features however remain, especially when viewed in the longer-term perspective. Some of these I have already mentioned. As regards the growth of food production in this decade, it is still well below the target set in the International Development Strategy and reaffirmed by the World Food Conference. In Africa, south of the Sahara, increase in food production per head has fallen well behind population growth. Developments in world trade in agricultural, fisheries and forestry products remain disappointing. The market share of developing countries in world exports of these commodities is still showing signs of decrease. Though the food situation in the MSA countries shows improvement, their balance of payments problems continue to be difficult. In spite of the recent rise, cereal stocks remain well below minimum safe levels.
The Council has before it the report of the first session of the new Committee on World Food Security and the second session of the Committee on Food Aid Policies and Programmes has just concluded. Many of you will have heard my remarks at that session. Today, I will only stress that food security is a basic human right. It is fundamental to the goals of FAO.
The Food Security Assistance Scheme has been established to help advise developing countries on their food reserve programmes and to help mobilize the external support needed to implement them. It fills a practical, immediate need. I hope this fruitful working partnership between developing countries, donor countries, and FAO will continue to grow.
In this connexion, the subject of the Global Information and Early Warning System has been added to the agenda at the request of a member of the Council. This System is, in my view, working efficiently and has already proved its practical usefulness to several governments and other organizations. But it is by no means fully developed yet, nor is it truly "global" . It faces a number of constraints at the country level, and its further strengthening is closely linked to the progress made in setting up FAO offices in developing countries.
At this session, the report of the third session of the Commission on Fertilizers is before you.
There has been a rapid change in the fertilizer market, from the emergency of late 1973 to mid-1975 (when supplies were short and prices of most materials rose 4 to 5 fold over those of late 1972 early 1973) to one of adequate supplies and price levels similar to those of 10 years ago.
Stocks have now largely been worked off, as demand for fertilizers strengthened in many areas during 1975–76. A further strengthening in demand is in prospect for 1976–77, assuming generally favourable weather conditions. This could lead to upward price adjustments.
Because of their balance-of-payment problems, MSA countries will still require assistance to obtain at least a part of their fertilizer import requirements in 1976–77. The International Fertilizer Supply Scheme (IFS) estimates the import requirements of MSA countries in 1976–77 to amount to 2.4 million tons nutrients. Out of the 2.4 million tons nutrients, about 40 percent represents the target for total fertilizer aid, on a bilateral as well as a multilateral basis, in the year 1976–77 of about 1 million tons.
The Council will recall that, at its Sixty-Ninth Session, it noted the recommendation by the Commission that the International Fertilizer Scheme should be continued up to the end of 1977 at which time the Council would decide on the future of the International Fertilizer Supply Scheme.
The subject of post-harvest losses is now on your Agenda and an oral report on the measures taken in this field by the Organization and in collaboration with other agencies and governments will be made to you.
The Secretariat's report will outline activities required to overcome existing constraints to progress and the need that technical assistance should focus on the wider use of existing technology.
Before turning to the Organization itself, I should like to refer to the subject of the status and participation of women in agriculture and rural development.
I have now established an Inter-Divisional Working Group on “Women in Development” to coordinate the progressive implementation of this resolution. The IDWG will advise me on relevant policies and programmes to facilitate the integration of women into agricultural and rural development efforts in order to meet agricultural production targets, improve the family's social and economic wellbeing, and ensure that appropriate use is made of the resources of both men and women in attaining national development goals.
Turning now to the Organization itself, it is a sobering thought that already one year has gone by with so much to do in order to bring into full effect the new policies and take the new directions which I proposed and you accepted in July.
Considerable progress has, of course, been made in working out the detailed consequences of the policy decisions. As regards the Technical Cooperation Programme, a set of concise and practical guidelines were sent to Governments at the end of September, together with an explanatory letter to Ministers of Agriculture in potential recipient countries. These guidelines were also sent to Permanent Representatives to FAO.
Throughout, I have stressed that projects supported by the TCP must play the role of a catalyst, that they must prepare the ground for larger assistance programmes and filling vital gaps in the ongoing development programme within our Member Nations.
What I want to avoid, under all circumstances, is the “salesmanship” approach which in the past has so often led us to accept projects for which there was only half-hearted support on the part of the recipient governments. What we need is not salesmanship but a continuing and constructive dialogue with our Member Governments, assisting them in the proper definition of projects from which they can expect the greatest impact, particularly on food production.
Simultaneously with the elaboration of general guidelines for the TCP, we are actively working on our internal administrative procedures to adapt them to the requirements of the Programme. We shall need especially somewhat greater flexibility on procurement, with emphasis on local supply sources whenever this is feasible. It is obvious that in all of these respects the need for accountability and appropriate financial control will be safeguarded.
The execution of the Technical Cooperation Programme will require the total involvement of all substantive and operational units at FAO Headquarters and of our offices in the field.
It is my intention to maintain a full personal involvement in the approval of individual requests and to assign operating responsibility on a case-by-case basis to those units in FAO where the execution of a particular project will be most efficiently performed. These may be Headquarters' units, regional or country offices and also, to the greatest possible extent, nationial institutions.
A small unit, which has now been established in the Development Department, will coordinate the Programme and keep a close watch on its performance. Within the Secretariat, several briefing sessions have been held to acquaint staff with procedures under the TCP and to discuss some requests for assistance which have already been submitted by certain member countries.
We have already made several allocations from the TCP, of which most, in this preliminary stage, were understandably for emergencies of various types although one dealt with small-scale technical assistance and another with an urgent investment feasibility study. Now that the guidelines and criteria have been circulated to governments, I expect the 'tempo" and range of allocations to increase during 1977. About 20 official requests for projects of various types are currently under active formulation or preparation. It is, however, too soon to make forecasts about the number or cost of projects in the remainder of the biennium.
As regards decentralization to the country level, information on the new system of FAO representation has been sent to Ministers of Agriculture in member countries.
It will obviously take some time to phase out the present Senior Agricultural Adviser/FAO Country Representative system and replace it by a substantial network of FAO Representatives. Two rounds of discussions with UNDP have already taken place, at which agreement was reached to continue, during 1977, the cost-sharing arrangements for most of the present SAA/CR posts, for a total not to exceed the equivalent of 36 SAA/CR years. As UNDP has also agreed to my proposal to allow maximum flexibility in the utilization of these funds, arrangements will be facilitated during part of the transitional period. Further discussions will be held with UNDP until mutual agreement is reached on the best way to utilize all these resources up to the time when the SAA/CR will disappear as such.
The Council may be interested to know that so far I have received requests from 18 countries for the establishment of an FAO Representative office. Also six other countries may soon request FAO representation.
In a number of these countries, steps have been taken to initiate negotiations for an agreement on the location, terms of reference and mutual responsibilities in the operation of FAO offices at country level.
In connexion with the TCP and the Country Representation, I am glad to say that the misunderstandings which had arisen in certain circles about “coherence” have considerably subsided and that our objectives and intentions are now better understood and appreciated than they were a few months ago. I have no doubt, in particular, that at the level of the Administrator, Mr. Morse, and myself, there is mutual understanding and a sincere desire to be of service to the developing countries in the way that they require and expect from the United Nations system.
In fact, the Administrator, Mr. Morse, and I spent several hours together when he passed through Rome a few days ago. We reviewed a number of problems in a very frank and constructive way. I was glad to be able to suggest to Mr. Morse that in view of the present currency rates here, we could make a modest contribution towards solving the UNDP's current liquidity problems, which continue, by immediately repaying in full the outstanding amount of overdrawings due to the UNDP. Under the original arrangement for payment in five annual instalments, we have already paid one instalment of $560 000 and were due to pay another on 1 January 1977. Instead of that payment of $560 000, I am ready, if you agree, to authorize payment of the full outstanding amount of $2.2 million immediately. The difference is fully covered by the currency gains on overhead costs during 1976. It would be warmly welcomed by the Administrator.
This is only a token of my positive attitude towards the question of FAO/UNDP relationships, namely that we should work together in a spirit of true partnership, with respect for each other's roles and capacities, and with proper regard to the interests of Member States.
In this connexion, I should like to say a few words about the Regional Conferences, all of which I attended for at least part of the time. You will recall that the Latin American Conference was held early in the year, whereas those for Europe, Asia and the Far East, the Near East and African Regions were held between the July session and the present session of the Council.
Each Conference had its own characteristics and its own set of concerns. Generally speaking, one cannot say that the role and achievements of the Regional Conferences are a matter of universal satisfaction. On the other hand, they do have something in common which, though hardly quantifiable, nevertheless remains of considerable interest, if not importance.
For myself, I found that they were useful as, a series of rendezvous with the policy makers of our Member States. I had the opportunity personally to meet scores of Ministers and senior officials, not only collectively but also in intensive individual meetings.
Furthermore, on this occasion, particularly in Manila, Tunis and Freetown, Ministers and other delegation leaders not only fully supported your decisions last July; beyond these, beyond the agenda of their technical committees, and beyond the particular interests of the respective Regional Offices, they dealt with the wider question of the world food problem.
They discussed such issues as the need for collective and individual self-reliance, the flow of aid and investment to agricultural development, world food security, the lack of progress in negotiations on trade, the establishment of IFAD, and the problems of rural development, particularly concerning the small farmer.
They were not content with a mere series of monologues on such questions, but collaborated closely together to enunciate - in the respective Declarations of Manila, Tunis and Freetown – their sincere and deep concerns with the present situation and their call for action.
As I have already indicated, the Regional Conferences supported the Council's decisions in July, including those for decentralization to the country level. Since the Council met in July, I have been continuing to give close thought to the question of the future of the Regional Offices.
I spoke about this subject to the Regional Conferences, stressing that decentralization to the country level - where, after all, the action-oriented decisions that affect the national state of food and agriculture are taken - and the creation of FAO Representatives constitute the best course at this stage. I emphasized, however, that continued consideration was being given to the role, functions, and responsibilities of the Regional Offices, bearing in mind the pressure in UN circles to expand the role and activities of the Regional Economic Commissions.
Such pressures could undoubtedly have important consequences for FAO. In fact, some actions are already in train. Whilst I was in Manila, I had the opportunity to discuss the future of the FAO/ESCAP Joint Division with the Executive Secretary of ESCAP and I have since written to him to inform him of my conclusion that the FAO/ESCAP Joint Division should be wound up. This does not, of course, mean the end of our cooperation with ESCAP. On the contrary, it is my intention to confirm and strengthen this cooperation by placing at the disposal of ESCAP the whole of the resources of the Regional Office as necessary, provided, of course that we agree upon our respective functions and programmes and these are properly budgeted.
I have also come to the conclusion that the two Joint Units which at present exist in Geneva, namely the Joint FAO/ECE Agriculture Division and the Joint FAO/ECE Timber Division, should be combined into one Joint Division. The Executive Secretary of the ECE is of the same opinion.
The problem in Africa is more complicated but I have just exchanged correspondence with the Executive Secretary of the ECA concerning his rather far-reaching suggestions for changes in the Memorandum of Understanding governing our relationships. I hope to be meeting the Executive Secretary in the near future.
There will be other aspects of the Regional Offices' future work which need to be taken into account when I finalize the programme for inclusion in the next Programme of Work and Budget. It is too soon to discuss what these might be, but I can assure you that I shall continue with my pragmatic approach to this difficult and sensitive problem.
Meanwhile, in the last few weeks I have not neglected other aspects of the process of reshaping the Regular Programmes - particularly the methods of operation and the attitudes upon which the Regular Programme has traditionally been based - towards the true needs of Member Governments. In view of the constraints, the task will require sustained and determined effort. I will require your full cooperation and support throughout the process.
I need this to help me resist the pressures which continually arise, for example to hold additional meetings, or produce additional documentation, or to fill vacancies rather than abolishing activities and vacant posts which are no longer truly effective. This must be an on-going process as well as an essential element in my strategy for the next Programme of Work and Budget.
One of the items on your Agenda is very relevant to what I have just said about the on-going process of reshaping the Regular Programme and methods of work.
I refer to the item concerning Regular Programme evaluation. In the past, in FAO as elsewhere, there has been a practice of adding activities and posts to the budget on the basis of a roseate perspective of generalized benefits to come. There has been little attempt to consider in concrete, objective terms either the benefits of past activities or the alleged benefits of future activities.
In these days, this is no longer acceptable to many governments and certainly not to me. In my view, evaluation of the Regular Programme is absolutely necessary, not only as an occasional help to the Governing Bodies but also as an essential instrument at the disposal of the Director-General in his continuing formulation and implementation of the Programme of Work and Budget.
Evaluation for its own sake or in accordance with ideal models must be avoided. What we need is a practical and effective feedback into the programming process at all stages. Once again, I have adopted a pragmatic approach in my proposals which I am glad to say have been endorsed by the Programme and Finance Committees.
In line with developing new policies and methods of operation, as endorsed by the Council, I have also submitted a further document on the use of National Institutions as well as on relations with other agencies and bodies, such as the World Food Council.
As regards IFAD, I am glad to say that the latest developments, including that contained in the most impressive address given by His Excellency the President of Venezuela to a distinguished gathering in the Plenary Hall a few days ago, are most encouraging.
In addition to these more important items, there are - it would seem inevitably - a number of financial and administrative matters on your agenda. It would however appear that the greatest interest is centred, on Item 13, on the Level and Format of the Programme of Work and Budget.
As regards the format, there is a document before you (CL 70/28). From one point of view, the document deals with a formalistic question which does not of itself have any bearing on the level or content of the budget nor on the organization of Departments and Divisions. On the other hand, it is very important as the basis for conveying an understanding of our objectives and as an instrument for efficient management.
In formulating my proposals on the structure of the Programme of Work and Budget, I have tried to reconcile a number of interests, but my main objective has been to provide the governing bodies with what they want and need for reaching decisions, preferably by consensus. There is no ideal way of doing this - one has to choose the best compromise. I hope you will agree, as did the Programme and Finance Committees, that I have in fact made the best choice.
On the question of the level of the Budget there is no document, since none is required at this stage. In fact, after informal consultations with various groups, I have formed the view that the interests of the Council and all Member Governments will not be truly served at this stage by being confronted with even an indicative figure for the level of the next Programme of Work and Budget. I will say more on this when we come to the Agenda item.
In this connexion, I have the feeling that the prolonged and repetitive process of debate on the budget level which took place two years ago is not good model. We should try to return to a less time-consuming and fractious approach based on understanding and realism about needs and possibilities.
Realism must always temper our hopes and aspirations for the future. I began this statement by indicating that 1976 had been a disappointing year in many important respects. There is the possibility that 1977 will bring forth truly important advances on the front of international cooperation, through the North/South dialogue, through the discussions on commodities, through progress towards achieving self-reliance, and through the bringing into operation of IFAD. We must, however, be realistic in recognizing that food and agricultural development is a slow process in which not only resources but dedication to social ideals and efficiency in economic management are important.
Both idealism and efficiency are needed if we are ever to achieve our objectives at the national or the international level. True and lasting development can only be attained by stirring the conscience and the courage of men and women, by giving them spiritual and social aims as well as material incentives.
When, therefore, preparing the proposals which I will lay before you in due course for the future programmes of the Organization, when participating in attempts to make the whole UN System more responsive to the needs and desires of Member Governments, and above all, when dealing, individually and collectively, with Member Governments, I shall constantly bear in mind not merely the interests of this Organization as such but the basic and common aspirations of mankind.