PC 81/6-FC 92/13


Rome, 3-7 May 1999



Linguistic and cultural diversity are essential features of international co-operation and form part of FAO's most significant comparative advantages. The ability of FAO Members and partners to express themselves and receive the Organization's documents and publications in their own languages enriches their participation in the activities of FAO and strengthens the Organization. The value of multilingual work should not only be judged on the number of meetings, publications or other activities which are held or disseminated in more than one language but also on the content and quality of these outputs in all the FAO languages. Within the pragmatic approach advocated by the Conference and Council, the equitable treatment of these languages is a central concern of the Director-General.


Table of Contents


1. The Programme Committee, at its 80th Session in September 1998, decided to include this item on the agenda of its next session in May 1999. On that occasion, the Committee recalled that the Conference at its 29th Session in 1997 had renewed its request of 1967 to the Council to entrust the Committee with a periodic examination of the language policy and practice of the Organization. The Committee had reviewed the subject in 19781.

2. The Conference in 1977 agreed that a pragmatic approach to the use of languages should be maintained. This approach has been defined by the CCLM as "to take into account a number of factors such as the needs of certain bodies, programme requirements, staff and financial resources". The Council in 1978 reaffirmed the principle of statutory parity between FAO languages and reiterated the need for a pragmatic and flexible approach "as well as for selectivity in actual practice. The various languages should be used only when a clear need was established, with due regard to the Organization's priorities".2

3. This paper raises issues concerning the use of languages in five areas: Meetings, Publications, Electronic Material (WAICENT and the FAO Web site), Terminology and Human Resource Management.

Current Rules and Regulations Concerning Languages

4. Rule XLVII (GRO) states that "Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish are the languages of the Organization". Conference Resolution 19/77 eliminated the distinction among "official languages" (Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish), "working languages" (English, French, Spanish) and "working languages for limited purposes" (Arabic).

5. Part R of the Basic Texts specifies the languages in which conventions and agreements concluded under Article XIV and XV and committees and commissions under Article VI of the Constitution should be drawn up (English, French and Spanish unless otherwise decided by the Conference and Council). Part T specifies the same languages for agreements under Article XV, for the establishment of international institutions.


Language Composition and Categories of Meetings

6. For the purposes of this document, the expression "language composition of meetings" covers both interpretation and translation of documents. Generally, interpretation and translation will cover the same languages for any one meeting, although some meetings for which interpretation is provided may occasionally be held without documents or participants may agree to consider documentation in only one language. Where translation is involved, the principle of the simultaneous distribution of meeting documents in the various languages is observed.

7. All sessions of the Governing Bodies (Conference, Council and most of its Committees) are held in the five FAO languages. Beyond such sessions, the Director-General's policy for the use of languages in meetings is based upon the principle of statutory parity among the languages of the Organization, as established in the Basic Texts, and the need for a pragmatic approach and selectivity in actual practice, as advocated by Conference and Council. In determining the language composition of a meeting, attention is given to the language requirements of its members, bearing mind that the meeting or body concerned may take its own decisions concerning the languages in which it will work.

8. Meetings are convened by the Director-General under various articles of the Constitution either as Statutory Bodies that meet periodically or in response to specific situations, on an ad hoc basis. Language composition is determined as follows:

  1. For Statutory Bodies and Panels of Experts established under Articles VI, XIV or XV of the FAO Constitution.

The language composition of meetings is decided by the Body concerned taking into account the geographical distribution of members and their languages. Language requirements for each body are specified in the Directory of FAO Statutory Bodies and Panels of Experts (published by GIC Division). Budgetary arrangements are reflected in an annex to the biennial PWB. For each meeting, provision of the prescribed languages is verified by GIC which provides interpretation and document translation services as required.

  1. Ad hoc and extra-budgetary meetings, including sessions co-sponsored by FAO.

Language requirements are defined on a case-by-case basis taking into account the linguistic characteristics of meeting participants. The letters of invitation specify the language(s) in which the meeting will be held. Language provisions are generally in line with the composition of the meeting. However, in some cases, the number of working languages may be reduced if a minority of participants with a given language are willing to work in another language available at the meeting. Alternatively, a meeting may be split into two or more meetings convened according to language groupings (e.g. "French-Speaking Countries of Africa") to limit expenditure on language services. With respect to sessions co-sponsored by FAO the languages used are decided by mutual agreement.

9. Within the broad distinction established in the previous paragraph, the Organization recognizes four categories of meetings for working purposes. Under any of these categories, meetings can be convened as Statutory Bodies (if they have been established) or on an ad hoc basis. These categories are:

Category 1: Inter-governmental meetings;

Category 2: Technical sessions attended by experts designated by member governments;

Category 3: Committees and panels of experts composed of individuals selected by FAO in a personal capacity;

Category 4: Seminars, training courses and workshops.

Meetings Volume and Language Distribution

Undisplayed Graphic

10. During 1997-1998, a total of 312 meetings were held; the charts presented show the languages in which interpretation and document translations were provided. Of these, 191 were meetings of Statutory Bodies. Figure 1 shows the languages used by category of meeting. The pattern of meeting languages at Headquarters and by region shows a predominance of English at Headquarters and in three of the Regions (Figure 2). This distribution reflects the fact that when meetings are held in only one language, this language tends to be English. Out of 142 monolingual meetings, 131 were held in English (Figure 3), although a final report in all languages is generally made available to the superior body.

Undisplayed Graphic

11. With reference to Figure 3, interpretation provided for five-language meetings represents 65 percent of interpretation workload, measured in interpreter days. Four-language meetings represent 20 percent of workload, three language is 10 percent and bilingual 5 percent. Figure 4 shows that translation workload by language, measured in words, is clearly dedicated to Category 1 meetings (inter-governmental).

Undisplayed Graphic

Undisplayed Graphic

12. The number of official meetings held each year since 1994 which required translation of documents is shown in Figure 5, with an indication of the meeting languages. The forecast for 1999 shows a decline from the previous Conference year, 1997, and a general decline in meetings is apparent after 1996. Within a biennium, meeting activity is normally less in the first year, except for 1996 which saw increased volume in connection with the World Food Summit.

Undisplayed Graphic

Language Balance

13. Problems of language balance in meetings rarely arise. When they do, they are usually linked to the overall budget situation of the Organization. For reasons of economy, language coverage may be reduced in ad hoc meetings and meetings of technical bodies, particularly when composed of individual experts. These problems are practically non-existent in meetings of the Governing Bodies and Statutory Bodies in general, for which the budget is approved as part of the PWB. The cost of language services is backcharged to user Divisions.

14. In the context of a language problem confined to extra-budgetary activities, the Review carried out by the Programme Committee in May 1978 found that "the language balance appears to be influenced in part by trust fund donor preferences, donors tending to regard the problem of geographical language balance within the context of their own overall aid programmes rather than within the context of the overall FAO programme". At present, the impact of donor attitude has much less influence in the choice of languages, due to a notable decrease in meeting activity funded by external donors. The following chart (Figure 6) shows that in 1997-98 extra-budgetary sources represented less than 10 percent of the total.

 Undisplayed Graphic

Quality Issues

15. Concerns on language quality have been expressed on various occasions by meeting participants particularly in relation to translated texts. The following factors have a direct influence on the quality of translated texts: quality of originals (a translation should not be better than the original text); the proportion of work carried out by external translators; pre-editing and revision.

16. While well-qualified external translators generally provide good linguistic quality, consistency of technical terminology and correct use of FAO titles and expressions can be best assured by staff translators who are fully familiar with the Organization's culture and are specialized in its fields of work. About 65 percent of the total volume of work in French and Spanish is at present contracted in Conference years to free-lance translators compared to 30 percent in 1995. A significant reduction in translators/revisers staff positions (34 were abolished out of a total of 55) took place in 1996 as a result of both a policy change to encourage outsourcing and a planned decrease in the volume of publications and meetings following the reduction in the overall budget of the Organization. At present, there are 18 translators on post covering all FAO official languages, a level of staff unable to cover even meeting needs without using external contractors.

17. Lack of pre-editing has a negative impact both on the quality of originals, whose authors often draft in languages other than their mother tongue, and on translation, as editing ensures terminological consistency and improves the clarity and accuracy of the original text. Staff translators exert some quality control on the original texts as they can detect errors or inconsistencies. In general, external translators are not in a position to do this work.

18. Revision of texts translated externally has declined due to work pressure, to the detriment of quality. Texts translated internally are all "self-revised", a practice which is not fully satisfactory as it requires translators to identify their own errors (the UN's limit for self-revised work is 45 percent of texts). The Organization may need to restore some capacity to translate internally more word volumes and to revise external work on a consistent basis.

19. Computer technology applied to linguistic work is making rapid progress. FAO has carried out extensive surveys of computer-assisted translation (CAT) and terminology tools and evaluated the experience of other UN agencies and international organizations with these new products. CAT software enables translators to store finished work and terminology in a translation memory for future use and reference. The system allows automatic formatting of texts, enhancing consistency among the various language versions and with previously translated versions of the same texts. These integrated tools are currently available in English, French and Spanish. Arabic and Chinese are in the final stage of software preparation.

20. Remote translation from Headquarters to worldwide meeting locations is being actively promoted as a cost-saving measure. Significant savings were achieved by setting up the necessary technical and communications facilities at three Regional Conference meeting sites in 1998. The remote service was also used to translate in-session documents at eight major meetings in Asia, Africa, Central America and Europe with very satisfactory results. Important field meetings in the coming biennium will be assessed for suitability of remote translation from Headquarters.

21. Interpretation needs are mostly covered through free-lance contractors. Staff interpreters cover just 15 percent of the current workload and are too few to provide one full five-language team. While the arrangement provides great flexibility, quality is not always assured due to the very wide variety of contractors. The technology and logistics of remote interpretation are being closely monitored by FAO, as experimentation is underway in UN agencies in Geneva and Vienna. While any benefits of the service are more likely to be achieved by entities with large staff-interpreter structures, the Organization will be ready to adapt any features of remote translation to its own meeting activity in the coming biennium.

Use of Non-FAO Languages

22. FAO meetings may also be held in non-FAO languages (interpretation only) under agreed financial arrangements. German is provided for the Conference and the Regional Conference for Europe3 on a cost-sharing basis. Portuguese and Italian are also used occasionally.

23. Russian has also been provided for large international conferences to which all UN members have been invited (e.g. the World Food Summit) or those jointly organized with UN Agencies having Russian as an official language (WHO in the case of the International Conference on Nutrition). There are no plans at present to expand the number of FAO languages.

Cost Implications of Equal Language Coverage in All Meetings

24. From a purely hypothetical viewpoint, and on the basis of the programme of meetings for the biennium 1998-99, expanding services to provide full scale language coverage for all meetings in 2000-01 would require US$6 million for additional documentation alone, plus a further US$2 million for interpretation service. The figures are quoted only to provide an order of magnitude, as the practical and flexible approach currently applied to FAO meetings is based on the policy principles adopted by the Governing Bodies (paras 2 and 7 refer), and serves to avoid providing languages which are not necessary for a meeting (e.g. a meeting of the Latin America Region would not require Arabic or Chinese).

25. Concern has been expressed recently at the lack of Arabic and Chinese for meetings to which all membership was invited even though the statutes of the meeting concerned included provision of English, French and Spanish only. The cost of providing full language coverage for all such meetings would be about US$ 1.6 million.


Policy and Practice Concerning the Use of Languages for Publications

26. The Publications Programme is subject to similar pressures arising from budgetary restrictions as the meeting activities described earlier. These pressures have been further exacerbated by an overall reduction in the numbers of publications produced under the Regular Programme over the period 1994-98 and the requirements for distribution under the quota system. Within that overall reduction, there has been a further increase in the proportion of titles in English and a corresponding decrease in those published in other languages.

Situation Prior to 1999

Publication Categories

27. The approach to language in the case of publications has been dictated to a significant extent by the category of publication. This section concerns itself with titles published in categories P (priced) and M (main), which account for the large majority of publications available to member countries.

28. Publications (category P) consist of printed matter which, by reason of its importance, permanent character, or value to a widespread readership, should be issued in the five working languages of the Organization (such as The State of Food and Agriculture). In practice, for budgetary reasons, category P titles are issued in English, French and Spanish, and include certain major periodicals, such as Unasylva, which are published in three separate language versions. Other periodicals, such as World Animal Review and Land Reform, are trilingual with articles published in full in the original language, usually but not always English, and summaries in the other two languages.

29. Main documents (category M) are printed matter, the category of which is final or expected to be of a reasonably lasting nature. In practice, most category M titles tend to be published first in one language (usually English) with other languages for which there is demand being produced at a later date as resources permit. Category M titles published in five languages more or less simultaneously are State of the World's Forests and the State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture. However, as can be seen from Table 1 below, the number of publications produced in languages other than English, is unlikely to be fully responding to the need for such publications in the various languages.

30. Table 1 also shows that English is almost always the original language of FAO technical publications processed by GIII and in 1998 accounted for more than half of all priced publications and main documents received. French accounts for 17 percent, Spanish for 15 percent and Arabic for 5 percent. Chinese language titles which are published both at FAO headquarters and through a special arrangement in China, account for 9 percent of the titles processed. As budgets have been reduced, there has been a corresponding reduction either in the frequency of publication, in the case of periodicals, or in the overall number of non-periodical titles. Moreover, the technical departments have sought to reduce costs by decreasing both the number of publications in languages other than English and the print runs required under the quota system.

Table 1. Comparison of Category P and M titles published 1994-98 by language

   English French Spanish Arabic Chinese Total


Titles published
(categories P and M)
331 126 130 16 40 643
% by language 51% 20% 21% 2% 6% 100%


Titles published
(categories P and M)
187 73 51 18 40 369
% by language 51% 20% 14% 5% 11% 100%


Titles published
(categories P and M)
183 56 52 16 29 336
% by language 54% 17% 15% 5% 9% 100%

Note: trilingual publications are not included; Chinese titles include those published at headquarters and
through the Chinese Publishing Programme.

Quota System

31. In addition to the requirement to publish in all languages of the Organization, the need to disseminate publications to member countries through the quota distribution system as established by the Conference must also be taken into account. The present quota distribution is under review but, as can be seen from Table 2 below, category P titles currently have considerably higher levels of free distribution than titles in category M and, in the case of trilingual category P titles, the quota distribution reaches almost 3 000 copies. This level of free distribution has a substantial impact on the use of available funds.

Table 2. Quota distribution by category and language

Category English French Spanish Arabic Trilingual
P 2276 730 459 291 2742
M 533 168 129 66 798

Chinese Publishing Programme

32. While a small number of titles, such as SOFA, are funded by departments and published in Chinese at headquarters, the majority are produced in cooperation with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS). Under this arrangement, titles are proposed by FAO's departments and a list forwarded to CAAS for their approval. CAAS returns the list, identifying selected titles in order of preference and FAO, through the Standing Committee on Publications (now the Corporate Communication Committee), approves the publication of these titles up to the financial limit allotted to the Chinese publishing programme. For the 1998/99 biennium, this was $580 000. Titles may be translated at FAO using existing inhouse resources but publication and distribution is carried out in China by CAAS. The benefits of this arrangement are that the selection, publication and distribution of titles is made in the country concerned and on the basis of the perceived need for the information.

Situation in 1999

33. Recognizing and responding to the need to enhance the effectiveness and impact of FAO's communication activities, the Director-General approved a corporate communication policy and strategy, and appointed the Department of General Affairs and Information as its custodian, with the responsibility for developing quantitative indicators to evaluate progress in implementing the policy within an established time-frame. To oversee and monitor implementation of the Corporate Communication Policy and Strategy, the Director-General also established a new Corporate Communication Committee (CCC) to replace the former Standing Committee on Publications. The CCC is chaired by the Deputy Director-General and has as its membership the heads of all FAO departments, together with representatives from LEG, OCD, PBE, REUR and GI. The Assistant Directors-General/Regional Representatives also participate as corresponding members.

34. The role of the Corporate Communication Committee is to give special attention to the review and monitoring of departmental and regional communication and publishing plans in order to ensure the publication, in a coordinated and cost-effective manner, of information products that are of the highest quality and that project a consistent and appropriate corporate image of the Organization. In addition, the CCC advises the Director-General on the language policy of the Organization and monitors its implementation. At the departmental and regional levels, Communication and Publishing Committees review individual proposals for publication taking into account purpose, objective, target audience and languages.

New Categories

35. The Director-General also approved the re-classification of information products including publications, videos and CD-ROMs into three main categories, in accordance with which Departments and regional offices are required to formulate their communication and publishing programmes. These new categories are:

Advocacy: These products include books, booklets, brochures, pamphlets, posters, videos and CD-ROMs, designed to raise public consciousness, influence policy change and strengthen political will. These products advocate support for FAO's goals and articulate its vision and policies in a readable non-technical style. The audience for advocacy publications is donors, policy- and decision-makers, the media, NGOs, civil society at large and the general public.

Technical: These products can be divided into four subcategories:

    1. Core: Books, booklets, monographs, yearbooks, periodicals, videos and CD-ROMs designed to contribute to the body of technical knowledge on global issues related to FAO's mandate. The target audience for these products is policy-and decision-makers, the scientific community, technical experts, academics and libraries.
    2. Training materials: These products include materials intended for training at the grass-roots level as well as those for internal use.
    3. Subject/region/country-specific materials (series or non-series): These products include books, booklets and monographs that may not have a global audience but form an essential part of FAO's work. The target audience for these publications is highly specialized.
    4. Technical reports and papers: These publications have a limited but important audience.

Newsletters and bulletins: Designed for specialist audiences in specific programme areas.

Cost Implications for Equal Language Coverage

36. The Programme Evaluation Report 1996-1997 (C 97/4, para V.07) emphasized that expanded language coverage is an essential element for improved dissemination and recommended that all technical publications be released in all FAO languages within one biennium of the original language, except for those directed to regions or groups of countries with limited language requirements. However, the report also cautioned that implementation of this policy would have serious budget implications. Using as a base the cost of publishing the 1998 Programme, the effect of such increased language coverage would mean that the total publications budget for category P and M titles in all five languages would have to be increased from the 1998-99 level of $5 200 000 to $11 550 000, an increase of over 120 percent in the Publications budget. At the same time, the present practice would not appear to reflect the needs of FAO's Member Nations. In the light of this, a more pragmatic approach to extending language coverage should be considered, striking a balance between the requirements to publish all technical publications in all FAO languages and the real need or demand for those titles in each language.


37. The Organization is in the process of developing policies aimed at ensuring the agreed treatment of languages in the FAO Web site. This is a complex subject that would have considerable budget implications if the entire material posted in Internet were to be translated.

38. During this biennium WAICENT has put in place a number of technical solutions on FAO servers to enable users to view and search Arabic and Chinese pages on the FAO Web site and CD-ROM products. Language diversity in materials that are being scanned as part of the Virtual Library is given special priority.

39. To address these language issues in the FAO Web site, WAICENT has proposed a phased implementation plan that will ensure an appropriate language balance. This plan is based on a proposed classification scheme for the different Web pages and navigation tools, which assigns language requirements to each Web page and menu items depending on importance and permanence on the FAO Web site.

Classification Scheme for FAO Web pages and Navigation Tools

Web Page Languages
Departmental pages all FAO languages
Divisional pages  all FAO languages
Major Programmes (e.g. FIVIMS, SPFS) all FAO languages
Menus for navigation all FAO languages
Corporate Databases (e.g. FAOSTAT) all FAO languages
Regional Web pages languages of the region
Technical documents same as print document policy

40. In this proposed classification scheme important Web pages such as Departmental and Divisional Web sites as well as the major corporate databases such as FAOSTAT would have multi-language requirements. Web pages developed to be posted for a short time and for specific audiences may not have multilingual requirements.

41. To implement this proposed scheme, a mechanism will be implemented using an expanded Data Dissemination Agreement (DDA) with a language component for keeping track of the language requirements of the different Web pages and navigation tools by each Data Owner.

42. The plan includes the translation of existing Web pages on the FAO Web site, such as all Departmental and Divisional pages, the navigation systems and the Web sites of major programmes of the Organisation, such as the Special Programme on Food Security, EMPRES, GIEWS, and Emergency Activities Web site, providing support database and applications to allow for multilingual search capabilities, creation of query and results facility to display in all languages. Implementation of the Language Policy and Plan for the FAO Web site would require staff resources, servers to store and manage the Web pages as well as funds for translation totalling US$1 692 000.


43. Terminology work is a valuable instrument to support the Organization's role in communications and public information and in creating a common corporate culture. The current climate offers a wide range of challenges, opportunities and promising prospects. The increased demand for terminological tools from all sectors of FAO and its broader "constituency" (national experts and decision-makers, researchers, students, academics, the media, etc.) as well as the will expressed by the governing bodies to strengthen the multilingual capabilities of the Organization are a reflection of this new climate. The increasing amount of multilingual information products requires a sound terminology database, not only to provide the correct language equivalents, but especially to standardize terminology within the Organization and within the United Nations system as a whole. The emergence of new technologies and tools, in particular Integrated Translation Support Tools (ITST) broadens the opportunities for real improvements in the language capabilities of the Organization, especially due to the fact that technology will soon support all five languages.

44. In order to standardize and harmonize the vast quantity of terms used in FAO documents and publications, the Organization developed the terminology electronic database FAOTERM, with over 50 000 terms in English, French and Spanish. FAOTERM is accessed by staff on the Intranet, and is currently undergoing a technical upgrade in order to include Arabic and Chinese records, provide an integration of terminology records with Windows applications, enhance the data management capabilities, make the data accessible through Internet, and simplify the production of Terminology Bulletins in all FAO official languages.

45. The Director-General has established an Interdepartmental Working Group to ensure the technical accuracy and reliability of the database, and to make sure the content keeps pace with the constant development of new terms in FAO fields. There has been recent drive to identify and research Arabic terms which will be imported into the upgraded database which will soon support all five languages. The actual number of Arabic terms in electronic format was doubled to cover 42 percent of the entire database in English. Efforts are underway to identify and research Chinese terms for inclusion in the database and reduce the gap in the volume of Spanish terms in FAOTERM (14 percent missing) and French (1 percent missing).

Cost Implications of Expanding Database to Reach Equal Content in All Languages

46. Addition of terms to the database requires time for research, input and proofreading by qualified terminologists to maintain quality, and further research to reach the equal level of terms in all languages within 2000-01 will require extra resources. Diffusion of the database in Intranet or Internet in all five languages would also require the appropriate software interface. Estimated costs are:

completion of missing terms in Spanish: US$20 000
completion and insertion of Arabic: US$30 000
completion and insertion of Chinese: US$30 000
software interface and support to publish the database on the Intranet/Internet in five languages: US$20 000
Total: US$100 000


Language Diversity

47. In accordance with Article VIII.3 of the FAO Constitution, the Organization accords the highest priority to ensuring the widest possible representation of member nations among the professional staff of the Organization. This principle is incorporated into the Staff Regulations (S.R. 301.042), which formulate the basic human resource policy of the Organization. Since 1994, through an aggressive recruitment policy to broaden geographic representation, major efforts have been made and progress has been very good. While there has been an increase in the overall membership of the Organization, the number of non-represented countries has been reduced from 54 to 24 and is expected to decrease further. Increased geographical representation has meant an increase in the language diversity in the Organization.

Importance Given to Language Skills in Staff Recruitment and Promotion

48. FAO has primarily emphasized language proficiency at the time of recruitment and upon confirmation of appointment. FAO's policy is that newly-recruited staff members may be required to undergo a proficiency examination in the official language (Arabic, Chinese, English, French or Spanish) of which they profess a knowledge in the Personal History Form, if that language is not their mother tongue. The results of this test are to be maintained on the individual personnel file. The Personnel Officer concerned ensures that all candidates possess a minimum entrance level ability in at least one of these languages. The level of language ability and the language required vary with the post and this is established in the post description, which is approved by the Establishments Committee.

49. In addition, confirmation of appointment for staff whose language ability has not been tested at the time of recruitment may be subject to their undergoing a language test. Laboratory training during working hours and at the cost of the recruiting division is also encouraged until the staff member reaches the required proficiency level. Language examinations and recruitment tests are organized to evaluate staff members ability at three levels: minimum (Level A), limited
(Level B), working (Level C).

50. Language requirements are related to the overall requirements of the job, however for most jobs above P-2, a minimum of two languages is essential. In fact, as Figure 7 shows, there are many jobs in FAO for which three languages are either essential or desirable. This means that for staff already on board, language proficiency will become an important criterion for selection to higher level posts.

Figure 7.

Undisplayed Graphic

51. The payment of language allowance to general service staff demonstrating a working ability in two or more languages is an incentive to these staff members to enhance their language proficiency.

Language Training

52. Approximately 25 percent of resources allocated to staff development in the Organization are used to promote the growth of second or third language competency. Training is organized by a small unit in the Staff Development Group, Personnel Division, comprising two support staff and approximately 40 percent of a professional officer's time.

53. Some 370 staff currently participate in courses that meet for three hours per week. Intensive individual training is also arranged in instances where there is a specific urgent need for proficiency in a language. In the period 1995 to 1997, intensive individual coaching was also arranged for all senior executives who needed to develop second language ability.

54. Nine training levels are used and staff working on the three-hour-a-week schedule move from zero ability up to working ability in a period of three and a half years. Specific skill courses are also run in advanced level drafting and presentation skills.

Targets for the Next Biennium

55. During 2000-01, FAO expects that the demand for language instruction and testing will increase as the standards of proficiency in at least two languages continue to be applied. The demand for instruction will be at the higher levels as well as at entry level.


56. Multilingualism and language quality are essential features of the Organization's work in support of its technical activities, which need to be articulated in clear and intelligible terms in the various languages in order to reach FAO's worldwide audience.

57. Following the decision of the Programme Committee to include a review of language policy in its programme of work, this is the first time the Committee is presented with an outline of the scope of current language policy and practice in the Organization. This document provides a first analysis of certain important areas (Meetings, Publications, WAICENT/FAO Web site, Terminology and Human Resources Management).

58. The need for improved language cover is not disputed and with this in mind, the Director-General has taken the following steps:

59. The budget scenario, which proposes limited growth in resources, specifically provides for:

60. The Committees may wish to advise the Council on the suitability of this proposal or whether additional policy guidelines are considered necessary. It may also wish to indicate the extent to which the production of original material should be reduced to accommodate improved language coverage within the ZRG budget secenario, should Members decide to restrict resources in 2000-01 to this level.

1  CL 74/3, paras 113-118
2  CL 74/REP, para 124.
3  C REP/67, para 651.