Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my privilege and pleasure to welcome you to the Seventy-First Session of the Council.
I pride myself that I devote a considerable portion of my time, more so - I am told - than perhaps any Director-General in the past, to consulting Member Governments.
This is because I consider it to be my primary duty to understand and promote the substanti ve interests of Member States. These are varied and often difficult to reconcile, but all are con cerned with the world situation of today. Rarely has the world - developed as well as developing - be en at such a juncture as it is now.
I have analyzed in past speeches the nature of the situation. I do not propose today to repeat the grim comparative statistics of GNP per caput, rural income or protein consumption. We cannot.h owever, ignore the facts that while there is a world recession, there is also world inflation; that as well as the perennially higher unemployment or underemployment in developing countries, there is serious unemployment in most developed countries; that no way has yet been found to give a fair deal t o the exports of developing countries, while at the same time burden of debt to the rich countries; that, as recently said by the President of the Council of Minister s of the European Economic Community, the growing gap between the richest and poorest nations "is morally unacceptable, demeans human dignity, and is a force for unpredictable tensions..." I was just quoting.
In this connexion, it has been suggested in some quarters that there are too many reference s in the Summary Programme of Work and Budget to the New International Economic Order. I make no apology for this. The New International Economic Order is not just an empty slogan, comforting to the ears of some and irritating to those of others.
It is in fact very important; it is relevant; it is called for by resolutions of the General Assembly and of the FAO Conference. In these resolutions, progress in various specific aspects of the food and agricultural sectors is recognized as crucial to the achievement of the overall objectives.
The dialogue we can have here about solving the problems of food and agricultural developmnt reflects some of the vital roles and functions of this Organization. Even more important are action programmes that we can continue and initiate to show concrete results at the country level.
An important aspect of. the dialogue will be consideration on a system-wide basis of the parameters and prospects of the Third Development Decade and beyond. We will be making an important contribution to this normative work, mainly through our prospective study "Agriculture: Towards 2000". This and other useful studies will continue to have priority in our work. I repeat the word "useful". The tendency to allow the programme bo become the slave of planning - in vacuo and for its own sake - must be checked. This is not what Member Nations need or want.
Of much more relevance to them are FAO activities such as the Global Information and Early Warning System and the work of the Committee on World Food Security, which met recently. Whatever the prospects for good crops, grain supplies, and reserves, we must not be complacent. We cannot f ail to face up to the underlying and continuing threat of world food shortages in the years to come.
The Committee on World Food Security recommended greater efforts to ensure food security an d added that unless production is stepped up in developing countries, their dependence on cereal imports an d food aid would not only continue but also increase in the future.
The Committee on Commodity Problems also recently considered the gravity of the present agr icultural trade situation and the disappointment and frustration of developing countries with the lack o f tangible progress towards solutions.
The CCP, perhaps not surprisingly, held different views on the reasons for this slow progress, but it did reach a consensus on a number of points. I hope the Council will endorse the recommendatio ns of the CCP.
The work of our other main Committees is also of great interest to Member Nations, as their attendance and interest at the recent mmetings of the Committee on Fisheries and the Committee on Agriculture show.At its last session, the Committee on Forestry endorsed the proposed priorities which are elem ents of the programmes now submitted for your consideration.
The Committee on Fisheries, which was attended by over seventy Member Nations, held its Eleventh Session in April. As you will see from its Report, the Committee on Fisheries considered in de tail the implications for fisheries of these developments in the regime of the sea and indicated th e general lines of action for FAO in this respect.
The Committee on Agriculture concluded a fruitful session, perhaps the most successful sinc e its inception, in early May. It reviewed the implementation of the current programme and medium an d long-term problems, and assessed the proposed programme of our two main departments for the ne xt biennium.
In addition, the Committee dealt with certain special subjects of great importance. The sub ject of Small Farmers' Development should form a practical platform for fruitful discussion at the Wor ld Conference tor Agrarian Reform and Rural Development in July 1979.
This Conference can be of great importance in shaping policies for progress and really effe ctive social as well as technical action at the grass roots level. We must guard against the Confere nce simply being a vehicle for the exponents of semantics and sociology. I intend to do all I can, together with all my colleagues in other Agencies. to ensure that the Conference is productive of concr ete and crisp results.
The other special subject with which COAG dealt was Reduction of Food Losses. The idea of r educing food losses, particularly post-harvest losses, is not of course an original one. And, in this connexion, Mr. Chairman may I recall that the subject was of lively interest at the World Food Conference. that the Seventh Special Session of the General Assembly called for a 50 percent reduction of post-harvest losses by 1985, and that you requested me last November to present a proposal for a $20 million fund at this session.
I am glad that my proposals were endorsed by the Committee on Agriculture and by the Progra mme Committee, both of which made helpful comments and suggestions. The Finance Committee were sat isfied as to their practicality and economy of operation. It has fully endorsed the proposed Fund and the use of an amount of $10 million from the sum accumulating in the current Suspense Account to i nitiate the Fund.
I am sure that the Council will agree that we should now go forward quickly and courageously with this imperative, action campaign. I trust it will receive added and increasing interest and support from Member Governments, since it is necessary to make a weighty and sustained attack over several biennia on the presently criminal loss of available food.
There may be other priority programmes, particularly food production which still comes firs t. There may be other similar campaigns which we ought to wage in future. There can however be little d oubt that by cutting down avoidable waste of food we will be saving many lives. The conquest of eas ily avoidable food losses can be one of the gratest achievements which FAO will spearhead through the next decade.
Before turning to the Summary Programme of Work and Budget. I would like to say something a bout other important matters. One of these is the report of the CCLM, which is also submitted to you.
The report of the CCLM will enable you to fulfil your responsibility of preparing for the Conference the constitutional amendments necessary to implement such decisions as may be taken on some im portant issues, including the constitution of the Council itself.
The issues are few but fairly straightforward. Some are, of course. more controversial than others. For example. I would hazard a guess that the most controversial will prove to be the question whether there should be any change in the constitution of the Programme and Finance Committees.
I am somewhat tempted to give views on this issue, but they are of particular interest, of a largely political character, to Member Governments. I shall therefore not say more at this moment, alt hough I will be following your debates very closely.
I should next like to say something about recent developments in the UN System which are of importance to FAO.
About IFAD, (International Fund for Agricultural Development) there is little to say except that we eagerly await the time when it emerges from the cradle and begins to walk and then - we hope - to take giant steps forward towards its declared objectives. Meanwhile, we are doing all we can to support the Preparatory Commission and Interim Secretariat. An increase of $60 000 in our financial contribution has been requested and readily agreed to, together with other facilitites; and close and cordial relations continue with His Excellency Ambassador Sudeary.
The resources of IFAD will not, of course, meet all the needs. I am therefore happy to be able to say that when I met Mr. McNamara a few weeks ago, on a cordial occasion, he informed me of his hop es for a large increase in the World Bank's resources available for agriculture and of his desire to expand our Cooperative Programme. I naturally welcomed and supported this. It is a testimony to the value of the services we can provide and the health and efficacy of our arrangements for the benefit of Mem ber States of this Organization.
Our relations with the UNDP are also close and particularly in the field, where our reduced but still numerous project staff faithfully carry on their devoted work together with their counterparts . Our relations with the UNDP Resident Representatives are generally harmonious and effective, as I have personally noted in my visits to member countries.
I will make every effort to ensure that this will continue to be so. It is in the interest of the developing countries which themselves provide the bulk of the resources for development. The important actions and the greastest need for coherence and coordination are in the field, at the country level: not in Headquarters in New York or Rome or Geneva.
This is something I will not forget, even in the heat of argument between Organizations about policies. And, there will be argument, because in his energetic attempts to renew UNDP's strength and to achieve a reasonable growth in real terms, the Administrator of the UNDP, my good friend Bradford Morse, is bound to challenge some established ideas and patterns of cooperation in the UN system. This is evident from the recent discussions in the IACB, some subjects of which will be discussed in the next few days under the appropriate Agenda items.
The subject of the future role and functions of the UNDP will no doubt occupy minds here an d in New York for some time to come. A more immediate issue is the future of Agency Costs reimbursement which is before the Governing Council of UNDP, which opens next week. I need clear and firm guidance in the next few days from this Council to present to the Governing Council. A satisfactory outcome is crucial not only to our future as an executor of UNDP projects but also to the future of the Regular Programme itself.
The main point I should like to stress at this moment is that in our recent debates - let us admit, differences on some issues - with UNDP, we have been in good company, with the other large agencies, the UN, and the World Bank.
We were united not on the basis of the territorial imperative, but in a conscientious concern for the development process. All the organizations are broadly speaking composed of representatives of the same Member Governments and cover all sectors of development. The health and tried worth of th ce System lies in its specialized diversity, its decentralization of initiative, and its flexibility of response.
The Agencies recognize the need for some change in the workings of the UN System. The system must, of course, be improved, so as to bring about more effective international cooperation and the best use of resources for development.
We must therefore respond positively to the challenges now facing us. They have their healthy aspects. Among other things, the Specialized Agencies are being stimulated not only to insist on true partnership within the System, but also to revise their ideas, take new initiatives, and fulfil their own, necessary role as Agencies for development in their own right.
This positive approach to the future has played its part in the shaping of my proposals for the Summary Programme of Work and Budget. The document is brief and concise. As foreseen, it lacks the det ail you will eventually find in the full version to be issued next September. The Programme and Finance Committees considered, however, that it provided a satisfactory basis for the purposes of this Council and they have made a number of very useful comments. I need not therefore cover all its contents, but there are certain points that I should stress.
In November last, I outlined to you the financial framework within which I proposed to formulate my proposals and submit a budget level.
This framework was well received by you last November. I have followed it in preparing my proposals for programme changes. I have now presented you with what represents my best judgement of the mi- nimum package which is necessary and feasible at this juncture.
In this connexion, an issue of some importance for the future is the proposal to set up a Suspense Account on the lines of the first one. The Finance Committee more realistically prefer to call it a Reserve Account.
I am glad that the Finance Committee has endorsed a new Reserve Account which is very modes t in com- parison to what exists for protecting and even expanding the approved programme in many other Organi- zations.
Bearing in mind the financial framework, I should now like to say a few words about important aspects of the programme itself.
The corner-stones of my programme for 1978–1979 have been those which you approved -may I point out, on behalf of the Conference - last July: emphasis on concrete action at the country level, on invest- ment, the establishment of FAO Representatives, and the creation of the Technical Cooperation Pro- gramme. Your decisions then, taken after a profound debate, were fully and enthusiastically endorsed by the subsequent Regional Conferences in a series of declarations which also recognized the relevance of these policies to the objectives of the New International Economic Order and self-reliance among the countries of the Third World.
The decisions of 1976 set FAO on a new course which I am following conscientiously and dete rminedly.
I have also had to take into account a number of particular programme needs. Among these are crops, trypanosomiasis,, seeds, forestry, fisheries, various aspects of rural development, including the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development, and cooperation with UNCTAD. Not all of these involve large additional resources. Some activities can be priorities without needing extra money: others can be catered for by switching resources from low priority activities. Some things need extra money without necessarily fitting into my highest priorities. For example, I had th elegacy of the special additional lapse factor of 25 percent for the new 1976–77 posts which it has been essential to retain in the next biennium. This 25 percent lapse factor missingin the current budget now has to be added back, but under the ruling of an earlier Finance Committee, the amount involved, of $1.1 million, counts as part of the new programme increase.
A new factor of a different kind is that I have had to bear in mind increasing demands for partici- pation in system-wide activities, some of which are politically important and others of a more bureaucratic and theoretical nature. Even more important is that we should be able to respond appro- priately to the needs of the important developing countries whom we hope soon to welcome to the mem- bership of FAO.
Nevertheless, I have in my proposals brought about a notable reduction in professional staff in Headquarters and an increase in the proportion of expenditures in the field. These are testimony to my determination to re-shape FAO in accordance with your wishes.
The fact is that as a result of the decisions last July, FAO has a new life, a concreteness and practicality in its approach to problems, and a flexibility to act in a way that Member Governments can appreciate and ordinary people can understand.
And Member Governments are responding accordingly, so that there has been a great change in the circumstances of FAO since a year ago. This response shows that member countries realize and welcome the fact that FAO is not building up the bureaucracy at Headquarters but is disposing its strength and its force to the real centers of struggle for progress, to the field, one might even say to the battlefield of hunger!
Let us take first the establishment of FAO Representatives. Since you approved my proposals last July, 47 official requests for the establishment of FAO offices have been received from Member Governments. In addition, 12 other governments have expressed interest. We have already comple ted 15 negotiating missions and many more are under way or in the course of preparation. Twelve agree- ments have been concluded and we shall very soon have the first half-dozen Representatives in place.
Thus, the process of phasing out the present arrangements of Senior Agricultural Advisers/CRs has already started, with a few incumbents retiring but also with the gradual substitution of one system of representation for the other. The major changes are expected to occur during the next biennium. We are making these changes in full consultation with the UNDP and Member Nations co ncerned.
Any constraints as regards continuity of representation in countries will not arise from our side: it is more likely that they may occur as a result of financial pressures on the UNDP or lack of flexibility in their administrative arrangements. You may, however, rest assured that I shall con- tinue to work closely with the Administrator in this matter.
Let us take now the response of Member Nations to the Technical Cooperation Programme. This was approved nemine contradicente last July. It might be, however, that one or two countries would like immediately to dismantle this vital new instrument for FAO service to Member Nations. Frankly, I cannot be doctrinal, since it is frankly difficult to understand what doctrine could apply which is not also applicable to the small and unsystematic amount of technical assistance available in the past or to the proportionately large amounts available in many other Specialized Agencies.
In this connexion, the Administrator of the UNDP justly observes in a document now being submitted to his Governing Council that "In many Agencies, technical cooperation, whether it is financed through the regular budgets or through extra-budgetary resources, has become an integral function of the Agencies."
I believe that you will find, as I do, that a demand to dismantle the TCP now would not only be quite unjustified and unjustifiable but also disappointingly insensitive and out of tune with the needs and sentiments of the great majority of our Member States whether from Developing or dev e- loped countries.
In any case, it is not a demand which I could possibly accept nor one which I believe you could possibly heed. The TCP is an integral part of the new policies approved by the Council in July and of the new thrust of FAO for practical, concrete action at the country level.
I believe, however, that at the present time it would not be right for me to propose a large increase in the TCP. It would be premature at this stage when only a few projects have been completed.
I can give you a progress report on commitments to date. Despite an inevitably slow start, given my deliberate concern that projects should conform with approved criteria, the TCP has already pr oved its usefulness to 52 member countries from all Regions. I has done this in the form of 86 projects involving a total of some $6.9 million. A list is being made available in an additional document.
Of this amount, roughly 1.8 million dollars has been committed to emergencies, six hundred thousand dollars for missions and activities in direct support of investment, nearly two million dollar s for small-scale, gap-filling, and 2.6 million for training.
The subject matter covered by these allocations is very broad, as was to be expected. Certa in points of concentration are apparent -for example, seed production, land and water development, plant protec- tion, animal health, and training of extension agents. I think you will agree that these fit well with Regular Programme priorities set by you in past sessions.
The current rate of commitment is over $1 million per month. In the next biennium we will certainly receive requests from many countries other than those so far covered. These will no doubt include new members of the Organization whose needs for immediate, short-term assistance of all kinds will be great. We will, however, be also working to a more established rythm. In any case, it will then be possible to provide you with the proper evaluation, which I propose to carry out, of this first phase.
Meanwhile, I believe that for the next biennium, a higher amount might be justified for emergencies and the greater part of the resources should continue to be used for quick action projects which FAO is peculiarly equipped to and can provide without duplication of or harm to UNDP or other activi- ties.
On the contrary, it is my firm intention that a basic aim of the Technical Cooperation Programme should continue to be to fill gaps and stimulate the flow of investment and aid from financing insti- tutions and other sources. It is and will be operated in full consultation with Member Nations and FAO and UNDP Resident Representatives at the country level. As I have repeatedly said, there will be full coordination at the country level.
On this basis, I recommend to you without reserve my proposals for the TCP in 1978–1979, which as you will already have calculated are somewhat conservative, even on the assumption that the Conference will agree to the carry-over of any funds uncommitted at the end of 1977.
I feel sure that Member States in this Council and in the Conference itself will wish me to go further ahead in the next biennium with the implementation of these new policies. The Technical Cooperation Programme, the scheme for the establishment of Country Representatives, the proposed campaign against food losses, and the other priorities in the Summary Programme of Work and Budget go together in ensuring that FAO can make a worthwhile contribution to the attack on the basic problems of food and agricultural development.
Without a sustained and successful attack on the world food problem, the search for equity among rich and poor nations, rich and poor people, will be fruitless. To those who criticize the effects of emphasis on increased production or on technical cooperation, I would say that FAO cannot and will not become a mere venue for doctrinaire debate. Without a secure production advance, rural development cannot thrive: it will remain the arid resort of ideologues.
I am convinced that when we talk of development, and above all of rural development, we must remember that in themselves these are meaningless. They are not a substitute for determined and sustained acti to meet the basic needs of the rural poor and landless.
It is an inescapable duty to recognize that technological advance and production increases will not be lasting, nor above all, beneficial for those most in need unless fashioned in the framework of sound and just social policies.
The needs of our tine and of our posterity are all too painfully obvious. Nations great and small debate and hesitate about the crucial issues of wealth and debt, barter and trade, energy and pollution
As ever, the needs and concerns of the rural areas in the greater part of the world tend to be over- shadowed. We must not allow this to happen. We must show by our concern and our vision that the world food problem was not just the theme for one World Conference or the "raison d'être" for creating new bureaucracies and debating institutions. We must be able to offer sound policies and effective scientific and technological help to those in need of them.
You are, in your various ways, struggling against many difficulties to achieve these goals. You all have something to offer, to each other and to the world. You sustain this Organization, notwithstanding the difficulties inherent in being a member of a multinational institution involving Member Governments of different creeds, standards, and resources.
Such are the political, economic, and cultural differences between members of international organizations that it is hardly surprising that the path of agreement and cooperation in them is beset with obstacles and snares.
I believe however in the underlying importance and strength of the United Nations system. We must have wisdom and courage and not mistake the doctrinal, procedural, and methodological disputations of today for the important issues of tomorrow.
Most of all, I believe deeply and intensely in the mission of FAO, which remains valid and urgent. I believe in the potential of the Organization for constructive. international cooperation and concrete action. I believe that FAO can withstand the hard times brought by world recession and inflation, that it can confront positively the challenge posed by efforts to reshape the position of the UNDP or to restructure the UN system as a whole; that it can help not only to make the IFAD a successful reality but also to see beyond the exhaustion of its currently pledged resources; that it can continue its successful Cooperative Programme with the World Bank in efforts to. expand its lending to agriculture; above all, it can prove its concrete, direct worth to Member Nations.
I believe that FAO can do these things if led with the necessary courage and conviction. Mr.Chairman, honourable delegates, I pledge my faith and determination to this cause and, without reserve, I ask for your confidence and support.