January 1997




Fourteenth Session

Rome, 7-11 April 1997, Red Room



1. This information document is intended to inform COAG on relevant aspects of FAO's follow-up to Agenda 21. FAO's role as Task Manager for four chapters (i.e. land resources, combatting deforestation, mountain ecosystems, and sustainable agriculture and rural development) and involvement in a number of other chapters (e.g. biodiversity, desertification and drought, freshwater, integrated decision-making, oceans and coastal areas, poverty, and toxic chemicals) directly related to its mandate and Programme of Work, has placed considerable responsibility on the Secretariat. This has required reprogramming of staff and non-staff resources, seeking additional extra-budgetary resources and closer interaction with UN, governmental and non-governmental organizations.

2. FAO's follow-up to Agenda 21 will be closely linked to the promotion of sustainable food security within the framework of the World Food Summit (WFS) (Rome, 13-17 November 1996) which seeks to reduce by at least half the incidence of undernutrition by 2015.

3. Follow-up to the WFS will emphasize environmentally sound and sustainable production practices such as mixed cropping systems, integrated pest management (IPM) and integrated plant nutrition systems (IPNS), as well as the adoption of agro-ecological approaches to development. It will require more investment in research capacity and information communication, promoting integrated, farmer-based technologies that raise productivity, and increasing the capacity to manage and use resources on a sustainable basis. Promoting conditions enabling the achievement of sustainable food security also requires that governments, civil society and private enterprises work closely together, an objective shared with the Agenda 21.

4. A special session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) will be held from 23-27 June 1997 to review and appraise progress in implementing Agenda 21. A number of important, related meetings are serving as preparation for the UNGA special session and are being closely followed by FAO. They include:

 *    UNEP Governing Council (27 January-7 February 1997)

 *    Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (10-28 February 1997)

 *    Interagency Committee on Sustainable Development (CSD) (20-21 February 1997)

 *    Inter-sessional working group of the CSD (24 February-7 March 1997)

 * CSD Fifth Session (7-25 April 1997)

5. FAO follow-up to Agenda 21 includes some of the following major activities:

*    Participation in implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in particular through its activities relating to plant and animal genetic resources. The Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources (Leipzig, June 1996) produced a Global Plan of Action (GPA) that focuses on farmers' rights, and technology development and transfer. The scope of FAO's Commission on Plant Genetic Resources has been broadened to include other types of agro-biodiversity and is now named the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA), and steps are being taken to establish its first intergovernmental technical working group - on animal genetic resources. Negotiations are continuing to revise the International Undertaking on PGR in harmony with the CBD. FAO has seconded a staff member to the CBD Secretariat for a two-year period and is preparing a Memorandum of Understanding. Progress is continuing in the area of animal genetic resources with information systems (DAD-IS) being set up in some 50 countries in Europe and Asia.

*    Participation in preparing the International Convention to Combat Desertification in those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, particularly in Africa, for which FAO will host the first conference of the parties in Rome in September 1997.

*    The joint establishment and implementation of an IPM facility with the World Bank, UNDP, UNEP and the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux International (CABI) to finance field activities related to the development and introduction of IPM techniques. The experience gained in applying IPM to rice in Asia is now being extended to crops such as cotton, vegetables, legumes and maize, and in regions such as Africa and Latin America.

*    Assistance to countries to incorporate environmental and sustainability policy objectives into their agricultural policy frameworks and guidelines.

*    Collaboration with the DPCSD and others on modelling and long-term trends. FAO contributions are based on its report "World agriculture: Towards 2010", which reviews technology, the natural resource base, prevailing agricultural policies, trade liberalization, the trade-offs between the environment and agricultural development, and implications for the future.

*    Cooperation with UNEP in developing a Global Programme of Action for the protection of marine and coastal environments from land-based sources of pollution, especially in areas relating to soil erosion, pesticide and fertilizer runoff and watershed protection.

*    Preparation of a paper in collaboration with UNCTAD, UNEP and WTO on the impact of agricultural trade liberalization arising from the implementation of the Uruguay Round Agreement on sustainable agriculture and rural development, requested by the CSD at its third meeting.

*    Ongoing collaboration with the DPCSD in developing and testing a comprehensive set of sustainability indicators for use by countries and at the international level to monitor and evaluate progress in implementing Agenda 21.

6. Initiatives related to the forestry and fisheries sectors will be reported in the forthcoming sessions of COFO and COFI.


7. The momentum of UNCED follow-up may have slowed somewhat during the last year, attributable in large part to an overall decline in resources available for development assistance which has affected the programmes of all UN agencies, including the World Bank's IDA. Since Rio the intergovernmental CSD and its interagency equivalent, the IACSD, have filled two important roles - that of strengthening the focus on cross-sectoral issues (e.g. biodiversity, climate, energy, institutional capacity, land use) and that of examining and promoting new initiatives in existing thematic areas (e.g. desertification, forests) which are of common interest to a number of agencies and countries.

8. The IACSD and the CSD played a useful role in promoting follow-up to Agenda 21 even though much remains to be accomplished. For the future, more emphasis will need to be put on the mechanisms required to realize the goals of Agenda 21, with efforts concentrated in two main areas:

*    Promoting greater dialogue and action on cross-cutting issues which are outside the mandate of any single UN system organization and for which inadequate inter-sectoral co-operation exists.

*    Promoting increased commitment and coordination among countries and regional and international organizations to allocate the human and financial resources required to undertake field-level activities related to the goals and objectives of Agenda 21.


9. Despite many constraints, progress has been made in implementing Agenda 21. For FAO, work will continue to advance on a number of fronts, most notably in areas such as people's participation, integrating environmental concerns into agricultural policies, plant and animal genetic resources, integrated pest management, water resources development and land use planning, which have received increased attention and visibility in FAO's Regular Programme despite limited resources.

10. The direction of future FAO follow-up will be determined in part by the decisions of its own governing bodies regarding the Programme of Work and Budget and by opportunities for inter-sectoral cooperation arising through joint programming with other UN system organizations. The forthcoming UNGA Special Session is expected to provide new guidance and impetus to Agenda 21 implementation, and FAO will closely monitor its progress and outcome.