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Report of the Fifty-first Session of the Committee on Constitutional and Legal Matters1

Requests for Convening a Special Session of the Finance Committee

218. The Council recalled that the issue of the interpretation of Rule XXVII.8(b) of the General Rules of the Organization (GRO) had arisen following receipt in February and March 1988 of a number of requests by various Member Nations of the Organization for the convening of a special session of the Finance Committee by the Director-General. Several of these requests had specified time limits within which the session should be convened. The relevant part of Rule XXVII.8 GRO reads as follows:

"The Finance Committee shall hold sessions as often as necessary,

… :

(b) on the call of the Director-General acting on his own intiative or in pursuance of a request submitted in writing to him by five or more Member Nations."

219.The Council noted that, following an informal meeting between the Director-General and representatives of the interested Member Nations held in March 1988 to discuss the convening of the Special Session, the Director-General had decided to refer the matter of the interpretation of Rule XXVII.8 GRO and its possible improvement to the Committee on Constitutional and Legal Matters (CCLM) under Rule XXXIV.3 GRO with a view to clarifying the position for the future. As three of the requests which had specified time limits had been subsequently withdrawn, at that stage there was no longer an immediate issue with respect to the convening of the Special Session.

220. The Council also noted that in its consideration of the issue placed before it, the CCLM had the benefit of the views expressed on the matter by the Sixty-second Session of the Finance Committee in May 1988.

221. The Council noted, further, that although Rule XXVII.8 GRO did not refer to the possibility that Member Nations could specify a date in their requests for the convening of a Special Session, it did seem implicit that Member Nations could, in making their request, also express the wish that the Session be convened within a specific period of time. The legal implications of the specification by Member Nations of a date for convening the meeting was a matter for interpretation. Any such interpretation would have to be based on the principle of what was reasonable in the light of the particular circumstances of any given case.

222. The Council bore in mind that two possible approaches for clarifying the matter for the future had been considered by the CCLM. On the whole, the CCLM had preferred the solution of inserting a new provision in the Rules of Procedure of the Finance Committee to the alternative of amending Rule XXVII.8(b) GRO, since this was a simpler and more flexible solution that did not require action by the FAO Conference. This was also the approach which had been favoured by the Finance Committee itself.

223. The Council also bore in mind that the CCLM had felt that, in addition, it would be desirable to expand the scope of the provision to include the analogous situation of the convening of a session of the Finance Committee on the call of the Chairman acting in pursuance of a request submitted by three members of the Committee under paragraph (a) of Rule XXVII.8 GRO.

224. The Council noted that the solution proposed by the CCLM was logical, simple but complete, and sufficiently flexible to meet the requirements.

225. The Council, therefore, endorsed the recommendation contained in paragraph 13 of the Report of the CCLM and recommended that the Finance Committee adopt the following provision for inclusion as a new paragraph l(bis) in Rule II of its Rules of Procedure:

"Where the required number of requests for the calling of a session of the Finance Committee is received under Rule XXVII.8(a) or (b) GRO and such requests indicate that the session should be called on a specified time limit, the Chairman and the Director-General shall consult each other and the members of the Committee with a view to the calling of the session on the date or within the time limit specified, bearing in mind the pertinent factors, including the context and urgency of the request, the availability of the Chairman and the majority of the members of the Committee, conflicting meeting schedules and the preparations necessary for convening the session.

Any session called pursuant to such requests shall be called as soon as possible and at the latest within a period which shall not exceed 50 days from the date of receipt of the third request under sub-paragraph (a) or the fifth request under sub-paragraph (b)."

226. With regard to the minimum number of requests required, the Council considered that it would be premature to reconsider this now. The matter could be kept under review and examined by the CCLM at a later date, should this prove necessary.

Procedure for Election Chairmen and Members of the Programme and Finance Committees2

227. The Council recalled that the question of the procedure for the election of the Chairmen and members of the Programme and Finance Committees had first arisen at its Eighty-ninth Session in November 1985, when the members of the Finance Committee were elected. No member from the Region of North America was elected. This had given rise to a discussion concerning the interpretation of Rule XXVII.3(c)(ii) GRO which governed the procedures for the election of members of the Committee. Consequently, the Council had referred the matter to the Committee on Constitutional and Legal Matters.

228. In the course of 1986 and 1987, the matter had been considered several times by both the CCLM and the Council and a number of solutions had been envisaged. Finally, in 1987, on the proposal of the CCLM, endorsed by the Council, the Conference had adopted a Resolution calling on members of the Council to bear in mind, when electing members of the Programme and Finance Committees:

  1. the need for just and equitable representation of the various regions;
  2. the fact that all regions that so wish should, in fact, be so represented; and
  3. the importance of rotation among the countries in each Region.

229. However, a similar problem regarding the distribution of membership had arisen at the Ninety-third Session of the Council in November 1987, this time in the context of the election of members of the Programme Committee. On this occasion, only one Member Nation from Africa had been elected. During the discussion which then took place, many Council members stated that the Region of Africa was under-represented. Following these discussions the Council had agreed to review, at its Ninety-fourth Session, those parts of Rules XXVI and XXVII GRO that related to the election of Members of the Programme and Finance Committees "in order to guarantee appropriate regional representation on each Committee." The Council had also expressed the view that, in the light of its discussions, the CCLM should prepare the appropriate legal provisions for submission to its June 1989 session.

230. The Council noted that the document before it highlighted the principal aspects of the discussions which had taken place at the sessions of the CCLM, the Council and the Conference, and revealed that the issue was an extremely complex one and one which raised sensitive political issues.

231. In the ensuing discussion, the view was expressed by many members that the key to resolving the kind of problem which had arisen was to improve coordination within and among regions. Resolution 11/87 adopted by the Twenty-fourth Session of the Conference on 26 November 1987 had already addressed the problem in affirming, inter alia the need for just and equitable representation of the various regions on the Programme Committee and the Finance Committee. These members did not see the necessity of referring the matter again to the CCLM, or at least of not doing so until the political aspects had been sorted out first by the regional groups.

232. In this context, a number of members underlined the complexity of the issues involved, the difficulty of finding a mathematical solution and the danger that any mathematical solution would be inflexible and might not be suitable to meet constantly evolving situations. There was also the danger that modification of the existing rules might have undesirable repercussions for other Statutory Bodies.

233. On the other hand, many members expressed the view that Africa was presently under-represented on the Programme Committee; this demonstrated clearly that coordination among regions was not satisfactory and that Conference Resolution 11/87 was not sufficient to guarantee just and equitable representation of the various regions. Consequently, the matter should be referred once again to the CCLM.

234. These members favoured a solution based on a change in the General Rules. In this context, some members referred to one of the solutions mentioned in paragraph 8 of document CL 94/15, whereby separate elections would be held for each Region seeking representation on the Committees, according to a precise allocation of seats among the various Regions.

235. In view of the fact that many members had expressed the wish to refer the matter to the CCLM for further study, the Council requested the CCLM to review the matter once again and to report to the Council at its next session. In so doing, it was underlined that the basis for reaching an effective solution was that of regional understandings. Care had to be taken to give due regard to the consequences which any proposals might entail for other bodies of FAO. Finally, the CCLM should seek the most effective and desirable means of achieving the objective of just and equitable representation, taking full account of the various views expressed by the Council, without prejudice to the type of solution which the CCLM might recommend.

African Forestry Commission Change of Title to African Forestry and Wildlife Commission3

236. The Council approved the change of name of the “African Forestry Commission” to the “African Forestry and Wildlife Commission”. The Council was informed by the Secretariat that the change of title did not entail any change in the terms of reference of the Commission.

Invitations to Non—Member Nations to Attend FAO Sessions4

237. In accordance with paragraph B-i of the “Statement of Principles relating to the Granting of Observer Status to Nations”, the Council took note of the request made by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) to attend as an observer the Ninety-fourth Session of the Council and agreed to its participation. The Council welcomed this participation and expressed the wish that this country, a founding nation of FAO, would soon exercise its right of membership in the Organization.

238. The Council agreed to the Director-General’s proposal to invite the German Democratic Republic, Liechtenstein and the USSR to attend as observers the Third Session of the Commission on Plant Genetic Resources to take place in Rome from 17 to 21 April 1989 (AGP-725).

239. In accordance with paragraph B-2 of the aforementioned Statement of Principles, the Council was informed that since its Ninety-third Session, the Director-General, on being so requested, had invited the USSR to attend as observers the following sessions:

– Fifteenth Session of the European Inland Fisheries Advisory Commission, GöteborgSweden 31 May - 7 June 1988(FI-727).

– Eleventh Session of the Fishery Committee for the Eastern Central Atlantic (CECAF) (FI-740) and the Eighth Session of its Sub-Committee on Fishery Development, Douala, Cameroon, 5 - 9 December 1988 (FI-743)

– Twenty-fourth Session of the Intergovernmental Group on Jute, Kenaf and Allied Fibres of the Committee on Commodity Problems, New Delhi, India, 2 - 4 November 1988 (ESC-712).

240. The Council was also informed that the Director-General had invited the Socialist Republic, the German Democratic Republic, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and the USSR to attend as observers the Sixteenth FAO Regional Conference for Europe, Cracow, Poland, 23 - 26 August 1988 (CC-709).

Changes in Representation of Member Nations on the Programme and Finance Committees5

241. As provided for in Rule XXVI-4(a) of the General Rules of the Organization (GRO), the Council was advised that Mr Earl William Weybrecht had been designated as the new Government Representative of Canada on the Programme Committee.

242. The Council was also informed that His Excellency Roberto E. Dalton had replaced His Excellency Carlos 0. Keller Sarmiento as the Representative of the Argentine Republic at the Fifty-fifth Session of the Programme Committee and the Second Special Joint Session of the Programme and Finance Committees.

243. As provided for in Rule XXVII-4(a) GRO, the Council was advised that His Excellency Gian Luigi Valenza had been designated as the new Government Representative of on the Finance Committee.

244. The Council was also informed that Mr Alan Charles Smart had been designated as the new Government Representative of Australia on the Finance Committee.

245. The Council was again advised that His Excellency Fred J. Eckert had been designated as the new Government Representative of the United States of America on the Finance Committee.

246. The Council took note of the changes, welcomed the new members and thanked the outgoing ones for their valuable services.

1 CL 94/5; CL 94/PV/15; CL 94/PV/17.

2 CL 94/15; CL 94/PV/15; CL 94/PV/17.

3CL 94/19; CL 94/PV/15; CL 94/PV/17.

4CL 94/INF/8; CL 94/PV/l; CL 94/PV/16; CL 94/PV/17.

5 CL 94/INF/9; CL 94/PV/15; CL 94/PV/17.

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