JM 2000/1


 

JOINT MEETING OF THE EIGHTY-THIRD SESSION OF THE PROGRAMME COMMITTEE
AND THE NINETY-FOURTH SESSION OF
THE FINANCE COMMITTEE

Rome, 10 May 2000 (morning)

FAO'S PRESENCE AT COUNTRY LEVEL

 

Introduction

CONTEXT

1. At its 30th Session in November 1999, the Conference was reminded that despite the increase in membership in recent years, the number of FAO Representations remained at the number decided in 1987. It took note of the requests made by several Members to have an appropriate presence of the Organization in their countries. It requested the Director-General to review this matter and submit proposals for decision to the Council and its relevant Committees on how best to respond to these requests1.

HISTORY OF COUNTRY OFFICES AND THE DECENTRALIZATION PROCESS

2. The establishment of country offices was approved by the Council at its 69th Session in 19762. The maximum number of FAO Representatives was fixed at 74 in 19813. This figure was raised to 78 in 19874. In June 1994, the Council approved5 an enhanced decentralization policy which encompassed the strengthening of the Regional Offices, the establishment of five Sub-regional Offices, and the replacement of internationally-recruited Programme Officers by National Professional Officers (NPOs). In a second stage, the Regional Operations Services of the Field Operations Division moved to the respective Regional Offices. A summary report on the implementation of these changes, contained in the document JM 99/1 "Report on Decentralization", was considered in May 1999 by the Joint Meeting of the Programme and Finance Committees6.

Present status of the FAO Representative Network

3. The Director-General has consistently attempted to increase the extent of FAO-country liaison within the established limit of 78 country offices. The following mechanisms have been applied to this end:

The increased need for an FAO country-level presence

REQUESTS RECEIVED

4. Over the years or at the last session of the Conference, 18 Member Governments expressed interest in the establishment of a full FAO Representation. As the maximum number of FAO Representations has been fixed by the Conference at 78, the Organization has not been able to respond positively to these requests. This has created a situation of inequity between Members that is difficult to justify: a number of Member Nations cannot benefit from the presence of an FAO Representation for the mere fact that they became a member of FAO or made their request for an FAO Representation after the maximum of 78 had already been reached.

BACKGROUND TO THE REQUESTS

5. The lessons learned from the decentralization process have shown that all countries benefiting from the presence of FAO offices, have expressed satisfaction with the increased access that such offices provide, not only to the Organization's technical services but also to developments on the international scene in the field of agriculture and related negotiations.

6. Recent developments in the FAOR network such as the establishment of the National Correspondents (NC) scheme (described above) constituted an attempt to meet the increased demand for FAO country-level services. As has become apparent at the last Conference, this solution does not, however, satisfy the requirements of countries that do not have a resident FAO Representative.

7. In 1987, when the Conference fixed the maximum number of FAO Representations at 78, the Organization had 155 Members. Presently, the Organization has 180 Member Nations and one Member Organization (the European Community). Apart from an increase in number, the demand for FAO-country liaison has also changed qualitatively. This appears to stem from the factors described below.

8. The World Food Summit (WFS) adopted the objective of halving the number of undernourished by 2015. Low Income Food Deficit Countries (LIFDCs) are the highest priority for the achievement of this objective and merit special support from FAO in achieving food security. The WFS Plan of Action requires that countries report their progress to the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), that a Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information Mapping System (FIVIMS) be established, that agricultural strategies and programmes be formulated etc. Nevertheless, out of 80 LIFDCs that are members of FAO, 24 do not have a resident FAO Representative10. If, as expected, WFS follow-up is to be spearheaded in many of these countries by the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS), the presence of an FAO Representation is desirable, inter alia, to deal with the assignment of experts and technicians under the South-South Cooperation (SSC) initiative under which many experts and technicians will be assigned to countries where the SPFS is operational.

 Undisplayed Graphic

9. The scope of (non-emergency) technical assistance has shifted from a project to a programme approach. Together with an increase in national execution, this has led to a significant decrease in the number of long-term international project staff assigned to developing countries. The table below illustrates this trend whereby field staff declined by 82 percent from a maximum of 1286 in 1989 to 237 at the end of 1999. During the same period, there has been an increase in the number of short-term consultants employed by the Organization to support field projects and since the new Partnership Programmes have been launched, about 2250 TCDC/TCCT experts have been used for short-term assignments. Missions of consultants, SSC and TCDC/TCCT experts require more support from an FAOR than long-term international staff, as each appointment requires the same steps (clearance of nominations, terms of reference and curriculum with Government authorities, initial introduction to counterparts, briefing upon appointment, and debriefing at the end of the assignment).

10. As regards the government's policy dialogue with multilateral institutions, many Governments wish to be assisted by the FAO Representative with the agricultural aspects of country programming exercises such as the Common Country Assessments (CCA) and the United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAF). With on-going global trade negotiations and given the trend towards increased regional economic integration, Governments have a greater interest in policy assistance in these matters. Relations with the Bretton Woods institutions require domestic capacity to adequately negotiate modalities for collaboration with these institutions and many Least Developed Countries (LDCs) require assistance in the formulation of the agricultural aspects of macro-economic policies. This is in line with the need expressed in the Strategic Framework11 to enhance FAO's partnership with UNDP and other UN agencies and to strengthen the Organization's country focus system12.

11. Interest of some bilateral donors for adequate FAO representation at the national level has increased as some of them have decentralized authority for technical assistance projects to their Embassies and expect FAO to be responsive also to their needs at the country level. In this regard, it was suggested that FAO should better communicate its mandate, its capacities and its services at country level, strengthen those operational activities that reinforce normative functions in developing countries and further delegate authority to the country level. Obviously, a widening of the FAOR network would be in line with these suggestions.

Proposal for additional country-level presence

12. The Organization would like to respond to the many requests made in different forms by developing Member Nations for the establishment of an FAO Representation. However, at this stage, it would not be possible for the Organization to mobilize the additional resources required in order to meet all these requests in a conventional way. Therefore, as a first step and keeping in view the 2000-01 budget adopted on a zero nominal growth basis, the Director-General wishes to propose a solution that could be implemented without budgetary increases.

13. Senior technical officers currently assigned to a Regional/Sub-regional office, or at Headquarters, could be relocated to a particular country to perform not only their normal technical tasks, but also the functions attached to the office of FAO Representative. This could be reflected in their job description. Such a solution would be budget neutral. FAO would continue to cover the staff cost of the officer including travel and consultancy resources as currently allocated to the technical work handled by the officer. The host country would be requested to cover the remaining staff and non-staff costs necessary for the smooth handling of the tasks and programmes entrusted to the FAO Representation (see Annex I for a detailed listing).

14. Current information technology allows technical units at Headquarters or in decentralized offices to coordinate and monitor the work of their officers, irrespective of their location, as they can remain in permanent contact using the Organization's advanced communication tools, and, therefore, constitute what could be called a "virtual" team. While the selection of the technical officers to be outposted to country offices would be based on the need to maintain a critical mass of expertise at the various offices of the Organization, the "virtual" team approach would ensure that they continue to be an effective partner of their technical teams.

15. Consultations with various Member Nations, that have expressed an interest in the establishment of a country office, are presently on-going with a view to ascertaining their willingness and capacity to enter into cooperation under the conditions described above.

Potential Benefits

16. The above proposal would allow the Organization to satisfy many of the outstanding requests for FAO-country liaison, while remaining within the resource levels of the approved budget. Through these arrangements, host countries would have access to the expertise which could be provided directly by the outposted officer and would have improved access to the Organization's other services. It will also allow the Organization to respond more flexibly to changing circumstances while representing a more efficient use of limited resources.

17. The establishment of such new offices does not only bring advantages to their host countries, but also to the Organization. As acknowledged in the Strategic Framework13, FAO's broad networking capacity with Members and other partners, its decentralized capability and its capacity to respond to unforeseen needs, are among the Organization's recognized comparative advantages. An expansion of the network of decentralized offices will enhance the Organization's capacity to respond to needs expressed by the Governments, and facilitate partnerships and dialogue with the academic and research communities, civil society actors, donors and multilateral institutions present in the country. Rapid but valid response to unforeseen needs, including emergencies14, will be possible. It is in the interest of the Organization to ensure that its network of decentralized offices, which is at the heart of its comparative advantage, be strengthened so that it can accomplish its mission.

Guidance from the Committees

18. In line with the decision of the Conference, the Director-General intends to submit the above proposal for the consideration of the Council. The Committees may wish to provide their advice to the Council on the matter.


ANNEX I

Indicative list of inputs to be provided or funded by the host country

1. Appropriate premises between 200 and 250 m2 (including maintenance)

2. Equipment

3. Annual expenditure

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1  C 99/REP, para 108

2  The 18th Session of the Conference in 1975 delegated this authority to the 69th Council (in Resolution 16/75)

3  C 81/REP, para 209

4  C 87/REP, para 188

5  The 27th Session of the Conference in 1993 delegated this authority to the 106th Council in Resolution 10/93

6  JM 99/1 Report on Decentralization

7  Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Bhutan, Botwana, Comoros, Cook Islands, Cyprus, Djibouti, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Fiji, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, DPR Korea, Maldives, Mauritius, Mongolia, Panama, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & Grenadines, Sao Tome & Principe, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Suriname, Swaziland, Tonga, Vanuatu

8  Bhutan, Botswana, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Democratic People's Republic of Korea

9  Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Comoros, Cook Islands, Cyprus, Djibouti, Dominica, Fiji, Georgia, Kyrgyz Republic, Maldives (focal point), Mauritius, Mongolia, Panama, Sao Tomé y Principe, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, Tajikistan, Tonga, Vanuatu

10 Afghanistan, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Bosnia Herzegovina, Comoros, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Georgia, Guatemala, Kiribati, Korea DPR, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Maldives, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Solomon Islands, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Vanuatu

11  The Strategic Framework for FAO 2000-15, Rome, 1999, paragraph 117

12  idem, paragraph 130

13  idem, paragraph 161, 162, 164

14  The Organization's emergency related work is increasing as yearly delivery under Emergency Trust Funds increased from US$ 16 million in 1996 to a projected US$ 91 million in 2000 . FAO had significant emergency activities in countries that did not have a resident FAO Representative (e.g. Tajikistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Yougoslavia/Kosovo)