Hundred and Nineteenth Session
Rome, 20 - 25 November 2000
REPORT OF THE EIGHTY-THIRD SESSION OF THE PROGRAMME COMMITTEE Rome, 8 - 12 May 2000
MATTERS REQUIRING ATTENTION BY THE COUNCIL
Major Programme 3.1: Policy Assistance
Major Programme 3.2: Support to Investment
Major Programme 3.3: Field Operations
Major Programme 3.4: FAO Representatives
Major Programme 3.5: Cooperation with External Partners
Report of the Programme Committee
Matters for information
|Review of Programmes||
|Report on Important Programme Developments||
|FAO's Fellowships Programme||
|Progress Report on the Follow-up to Past Programme Committtee
|Possible Items for Discussion at the Next Session||49-50|
|Any Other Business||51|
1. The Committee submits to the Council the following report of its Eighty-third Session.
2. The following Members were present:
|Chairman:||Mr R. Rose (Canada)|
|Members:||Mr P.N. Ross (Australia)
Mr T.N. Mokake (Cameroon)
Mr Z. Tang (China)
Mr B. Gutiérrez Zuluaga Botero (Colombia)
Mr A.S. Karama (Indonesia)
Mr F. Zenny (Jamaica)
Mr G. Mansour (Lebanon)
Mr I.M. Zawia (Libya)
Mr J. Berteling (Netherlands)
Ms S. Nyamudeza (Zimbabwe)
3. Mr F. Zenny replaced Mr R. Harrison as representative of the Government of Jamaica on the Programme Committee.
4. Mr S. Baharsjah, the Independent Chairman of the Council, was present at the meeting.
5. The Agenda and the Timetable for the meeting were approved, with the removal of the item on UN Joint Inspection Unit Reports which was to be taken up for discussion in the Joint Meeting of the Programme and Finance Committees.
6. In accordance with the Rules of Procedure, Mr G. Mansour (Lebanon) was elected Vice-Chairman for 2000.
7. The Committee carried out its traditional review of programmes in non-Conference years, covering at its present session Chapter 3 of the Programme of Work and Budget 2000-2001: Cooperation and Partnerships.
8. In addressing Major Programme 3.1: Policy Assistance, the Committee emphasized the importance of appropriate policy for food security and sustainable agriculture and rural development. FAO's role in assisting Members in this area took added significance in the context of the World Food Summit (WFS) follow-up and received due prominence in the Strategic Framework 2000-2015. The Committee further recognized that FAO policy assistance at country level should take full account of globalization trends, including market-oriented policies and free trade in agriculture, and stressed the need for FAO to provide independent and quality advice to address problems of developing countries in adapting to the demands imposed by globalization.
9. The Committee also underlined the importance of ensuring that FAO policy assistance met the needs of member countries, taking due consideration of local socio-economic and political realities. The utilization of national expertise and the enhancement of national capacity and institutions were emphasized, including training in policy analysis with appropriate training manuals and modules.
10. The Committee recognized that policy assistance was a prerequisite for coherent field programme development and that it required a multi-disciplinary approach. Therefore, it stressed the need for close coordination of policy assistance work both within FAO, including the contributions of FAORs, as well as with external organizations, including bi-lateral and multi-lateral donors.
11. The Committee recognized the benefits which had accrued from decentralization to policy assistance work and field programme development. In this regard, it appreciated that several Regional and Sub-regional Offices had established Country Task Forces to coordinate FAO technical support at country level, as well as for coherent field programme development.
12. The Committee stressed the need for complementing the scarce resources available under this Major Programme by generating support through active partnerships with other international institutions. Increased use of UNDP's facility for Policy and Programme Development (SPPD) was mentioned in this regard.
13. During the discussion, Members reemphasized the importance of ensuring language balance in publications, as well as other activities of the Organization.
14. In confirming the continuing relevance of this major programme to beneficiary countries, the Committee noted its significant reorientation in the past five years, including the involvement of a widened range of FAO technical divisions and units, and effective partnerships with additional multi-lateral funding organizations. Besides work on the identification and preparation of investment projects, which remained strong, the Committee welcomed the move to more up-stream activities, often along thematic and sector/sub-sector lines, which provided a basis for a broad and fruitful collaboration with the World Bank and other financing sources.
15. The Committee recognized that the increasing focus on addressing rural poverty issues and promoting food security, was not only fully in line with FAO's priorities but was likely to lead to greater emphasis on rural lending by the cooperating institutions. In this connection, the Committee noted the role of the TCI division in advising governments in the development of the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS), and in seeking the convergence of SPFS initiatives with the country-based lending programmes and plans of the financial partners.
16. The Committee emphasized TCI's role as an independent and neutral interlocutor in providing investment advice and assistance to countries, enabling them to better access multi-lateral funds for agriculture and rural development. It noted that over 60 percent of the work programme was funded by the partner institutions, and that during the past three biennia the programme's activities had helped mobilize rural investments of around US$ 3 billion per year.
17. The Committee emphasized the key dual functions of the field programme of translating into action the results of its normative activities, and enhancing the relevance of its normative work through feedback from field applications. In this connection, the Committee recommended that the synergies between normative and operational activities should be further strengthened.
18. The Committee noted that FAO's overall field programme delivery had increased between 1998 and 1999, although it recognized that this was largely due to Emergency Operations, in particular the "Oil-for-Food" programme in Iraq. The Committee welcomed FAO's action in providing assistance to member countries in emergency situations, and the increasing reliance of donors and recipients on the Organization's capacity to provide such assistance in a prompt and efficient manner.
19. On the other hand, the Committee noted with concern the declining trend in extrabudgetary resources for non-emergency field programme activities, in particular the rapid erosion in UNDP-funded activities which had decreased by half in terms of delivery between 1997 and 1999.
20. In reviewing the possible measures that could be taken to redress this negative trend, the Committee took note of the Secretariat's plans to further decentralize responsibilities for field operations. Besides the generation of further efficiencies and savings, thus diminishing the cost of supporting the field programme, the objectives of such reform were to rationalize structural arrangements for field operations, concentrate responsibility and increase accountability for the management of individual projects, thus positioning the Organization to be better able to compete for scarce technical assistance funds.
21. While generally endorsing these objectives, the Committee expressed concern at the possible negative impact on FAO's technical activities and agreed that this additional decentralization process should be implemented in a gradual and phased manner.
22. In recalling the importance of FAO projects in meeting the needs of developing countries in agricultural development and food security, the Committee recommended a proactive approach in the search for additional resources for non-emergency activities. In addition to the measures being taken by the Secretariat to reduce costs, other aspects such as project formulation, pipeline management and relations with donors required urgent attention and action. The Committee suggested that multi-donor meetings and briefings be organized in order to increase the synergies among both traditional and new donors, and enhance their interest in supporting FAO's agricultural development projects.
23. The Committee noted the functions and the growing breadth of work performed by FAO Country Representatives, especially in the context of enhanced decentralization and FAO's role in the UN Resident Coordinator system. This called for the highest level of competence and qualification in the selection of FAO Representatives. Emphasis was also placed on the need to reduce the delays in the filling of vacant posts of FAO Representatives and their staff, and on pursuing a comprehensive evaluation of their performance. Some members requested that FAO respond to an increasing demand for new FAO Representatives, especially requests from Low-Income, Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDCs).
24. The Committee emphasized that leeway, authority and resources provided to FAO Representatives should be commensurate with their significant and growing responsibilities. In this regard, the Committee continued to express an interest in the intended progressive decentralization of operational work to FAO Representatives, stressing that the necessary resources should be made available and the relevant authority effectively delegated to meet additional workload.
25. The Committee recalled that cooperation with external partners had been duly highlighted in the Strategic Framework. It agreed that such cooperation constituted an essential means to ensure sustained support for FAO's programmes, build synergies with other organizations dealing with food and agriculture, and generate public backing for food security policies. It recognized that FAO country offices had an important role to play in this regard.
26. The Committee noted the active contacts with donor countries and other partners, as covered under this Major Programme, aiming at mobilizing resources for priority FAO programmes. It emphasized the increased importance of external funds in the light of pressures on the Regular Budget and urged the Organization to pursue diversified and innovative approaches bearing in mind the relevance of the Trust Fund Programme to developing countries.
27. The Committee noted the recently issued FAO Policy and Strategy for Cooperation with NGOs and Civil Society Organizations. It supported efforts to foster civil society participation in policy dialogue within frameworks established by governments, and to joint advocacy of issues of common concern.
28. The Committee welcomed the active while prudent approach towards cooperation with the private sector and took note of the Principles and Guidelines for FAO Cooperation with the Private Sector issued to this effect. It recalled that the private sector was a very broad category, ranging from small farmers to the international business community. The Committee indicated that cooperation with the latter was important, when in line with FAO's objectives.
29. The Committee received updated information on the implementation of the partnership programmes. It reiterated the usefulness of these programmes in reducing costs and increasing effectiveness of FAO activities.
30. The Committee was informed that the theme selected for this year's World Food Day, "A Millennium free from Hunger", would provide the opportunity to call the attention of the world community once again to the World Food Summit commitments and to the need for concerted action to achieve WFS goals. It noted that for 2000, World Food Day/TeleFood activities would build upon the experience of previous years, with emphasis on regionally-oriented events, on media partnerships to assist in wide dissemination of messages, and on support to the constantly increasing number of country-level initiatives aimed at promoting awareness and solidarity.
31. The Committee recalled that at its Eighty-second Session, it had endorsed the Secretariat's proposals regarding a revised evaluation regime in the context of the Strategic Framework and the New Programme Model, including changes in reporting on evaluations to the Governing Bodies.
32. The Committee broadly agreed with the findings, assessments and recommendations of this evaluation. It recognized the relevance and importance of the programme in addressing the Organization's thematic priorities covering the global perspective analysis, agricultural trade and food security. It considered that the programme played a productive and useful role by providing analytical frameworks and information for policy formulation as well as by supporting policy debate among the membership, especially at the Committees of Commodity Problems (CCP) and World Food Security (CFS). In particular, it appreciated the value of the Global Perspective work and assistance given to the developing member countries in enhancing their capacity to participate effectively in the multilateral trade negotiations.
33. At the same time, the Committee highlighted the importance of ensuring the coherence of the programme so that its resources are focused on selected priority areas with adequate critical mass. It also encouraged more proactive efforts for disseminating the analytical and information products under the programme and for greater joint workplanning among the various technical units concerned, with a view to ensuring the necessary multidisciplinary inputs, especially for the global perspective studies. Regarding evaluation methods, the Committee called for further improvements in the analysis and assessment of the programme impact, although it appreciated the complexities involved. It also felt that the recommendations should have been more specific with operational suggestions for addressing the issues identified. Finally, the Committee stressed the importance of systematic monitoring of follow-up actions on the evaluation recommendations.
34. In view of its potential interest to the CCP and CFS, the Committee recommended that this programme evaluation, together with its comments, be proposed to the relevant Bureaux for inclusion on the agenda of their next sessions.
35. The Committee considered that this report provided a useful synthesis of assessments by independent project evaluation missions and those by the Evaluation Service on selected Technical Cooperation Projects (TCP).
36. Regarding the first part of this report, the Committee noted with concern that, despite the overall trend for improvement in the key aspects of field project performance, project design remained the weakest aspect. While noting some improvement in the percentage rated "good", it expressed concern that weakness in project design had been persistently highlighted in similar evaluation syntheses over a number of years, and queried what corrective actions were being taken. The Committee recognized that the problem was complex because projects dealt with complex development issues over a wide range of sectors under differing conditions and because any corrective measures involved several units within the Organization. It nevertheless stressed the urgent need for concerted action in order to ensure the quality of project formulation, particularly in the context of changing procedures and arrangements for the Field Programme.
37. In this connection, the Committee endorsed the lines of action contained in paragraph 24 regarding updating the project formulation guidelines, further training of FAO staff and strengthening the project review and appraisal mechanisms. In particular, it requested that progress being made in implementing these recommendations be reported to the Committee at its session in May 2001. It also underlined the importance of a greater specificity in evaluation recommendations, which should be targeted in terms of the responsible unit concerned, nature and timing of suggested actions. More broadly, the Committee highlighted the particular importance of introducing a set of criteria based on the priorities under the Strategic Framework in planning and selecting projects in future.
38. Regarding the nature of future syntheses of project evaluations, the Committee agreed, as suggested in paragraph 25, that these should focus on selected programmes and thematic topics in relation to the priorities of the Strategic Framework.
39. On the synthesis of thematic evaluations of TCP projects, the Committee appreciated that these exercises were undertaken with the initiative of the TC Department in order to enhance its ability to manage the TCP Programme, as well as in the interests of greater transparency and accountability. It considered that the synthesis brought out the strengths and weaknesses in TCP projects dealing with apiculture and sericulture on the one hand and legislative support on the other, and that it also pointed to a set of useful issues and lessons. However, some Members requested that future reporting on TCP project evaluations include more details, including assessments of project performance by regions.
40. The Committee generally endorsed the issues and related recommendations summarized in paragraph 40. In particular:
41. The Committee welcomed the document prepared in response to its request and appreciated the broad interpretation given to the selection of matters to be included.
42. In respect of the restructuring of component entities within Programme 2.1.3, Livestock, the Committee received additional clarifications on the rationale. It was satisfied that the new structure aimed at better taking into account the rapid evolution of the livestock sector, while maintaining the necessary connection with the Objectives in the Strategic Framework, including due attention to sustainability. Another factor was that the new structure would facilitate internal management of the entities by removing the potential ambiguities inherent in the previous structure.
43. The Committee noted the concrete actions taken by the Director-General to respond to the calls made at the last Conference to re-establish the post of Secretary to the Desert Locust Commission for the Central Region, and to augment resources for work on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure, in follow-up to the adoption of the Rotterdam Convention. The Committee noted that the additional allocations had, in the absence of any additional resources, been deducted from other programmes but was assured that this should not materially affect delivery of other substantive activities. The Committee urged the Secretariat to pursue efforts to seek extra-budgetary support, and considered it useful to be informed about further developments at a future session.
44. With regard to the proposed FAO-Iceland Conference on Responsible Fisheries in the Eco-system, the Committee noted that this initiative was still at a preparatory stage, while efforts were being made to seek extra-budgetary support towards its successful implementation, beyond the planned contributions of the host government. The Committee stressed the importance of ensuring a balanced regional participation. The Committee further noted that the substantive aspects of the preparatory process could be accommodated within planned activities of the Fisheries Department without major disruption.
45. The Committee welcomed the particularly informative note on FAO's fellowships activities prepared in response to its own request. It noted that FAO's definition of fellowships did not include in-service training, study tours or participation at meetings or seminars.
46. The Committee observed that a large share of FAO's Fellowships Programme was now delivered under a limited number of Unilateral Trust Fund (UTF) projects funded from loans by international financial institutions. This factor explained the regional imbalances in the origin of fellows reported in the Information Note, as FAO's role was confined to the administration of individual fellows selected by their countries of origin. Therefore, its leverage on decision-making, including countries or institutions for the placement of fellows or gender distribution, was extremely limited.
47. The Committee also received clarification on the recently launched National Capacity Building through Fellowships Programme.
48. The Committee took note of this progress report.
49. The Committee recognized that, besides a number of standing items on its agenda, it would need to consider the following key documents or subjects at its next session:
50. It was noted that the established process of consultations between the respective Chairpersons and the Director-General would continue to aim at optimizing the time available to the two Committees separately and in their Joint Meeting. The Programme Committee considered the following items as appropriate for inclusion at the September Joint Meeting:
51. The Committee observed with regret a number of instances in the recent past of insufficient coverage of food and agriculture concerns in global policy documents, issued by other intergovernmental organizations, despite the fact that their intended scope implied that due prominence be given to issues falling under FAO's mandate (e.g. bettering the condition of rural populations). It encouraged the continuing efforts of the Secretariat to sensitize partner organizations on the need to address food and agricultural matters when examining global issues and the strategies to address them. The Committee also encouraged the Secretariat in its efforts to publicize the role and activities of FAO noting that communicating FAO's message is one of the cross-organizational strategies included in the Strategic Framework for FAO 2000-2015.
52. The Committee noted that the Eighty-fourth Session of the Programme Committee would be held in Rome from Monday 25 to Friday 29 September 2000.
1 Doc.: PC 83/1; PC 83/INF/1
2 Doc.: PC 83/4 (a); PC 83/4 (b)
3 Doc.: PC 83/5
4 Doc.: PC 83/INF/3
5 Doc.: PC 83/8