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21st FAO Conference

Edouard Saouma re-elected Director-General; FAO's $366.6 million budget is approved; recommendations made for world food security

Gabriel De Sabatino

EDOUARD SAOUMA Director-General of FAO

"The Organization needs the constant fullest support of all its Member Nations, for with the graver tasks ahead, its role will not be an enviable one. The responsibilities laid upon the Organization far exceed what can be done with its resources."

The 21st Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations re-elected Mr Edouard Saouma of Lebanon as Director-General, approved FAO's programme of work and budget for 1982-83 and endorsed recommendations for strengthening world food security.

The 152-nation Conference, FAO's highest governing body, took place at FAO's headquarters in Rome over a three-week period, 7 through 26 November. Its first action was to elect Mr Saouma to a second six-year term of office starting in January 1982. Mr Saouma, who was unopposed, received 138 out of 139 votes cast.

Subsequently the Conference approved by a vote of 110 to five, with nine abstentions the proposals of the Director-General for the programme of work and budget for 1982-83. They provide for expenditures of $366.6 million for the Organization's activities, an increase of about $86 million over the previous budget due largely to inflationary factors, and representing only 2.9 percent real growth per annum.

The biennial session, which began November 7 and was presided over by Mr Jorge Rubén Aguado, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock of Argentina, was attended by more than 1000 delegates and observers, including ministers of 80 nations. Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi gave the opening McDougall Memorial Lecture in which she said that "life and food are inseparable" and urged interdependence between countries and self-reliance in food production.

Addressing the concluding session, Mr Saouma, who earlier had called for global security based not on arms but on food, stressed "the gravity of the world food problem" which, he said, was not sufficiently realized.

Saying there was still "no effective system of world food security," he warned that the problem of food and agriculture "will become undoubtedly much more acute in the remaining years of this century," and called on governments to act before they are enveloped by "the fury of the storms."

Mr Saouma expressed concern that "multilateralism appears to be under increasing attack." He said he was frankly very worried that certain important countries seem to be antipathetic even to increased contributions to previously preferred agencies, such as the UN Development Programme. They were also questioning "the validity of a real increase of only 2.9 percent per annum" in FAO's budget when actual world agricultural needs called for outlays of some $12 billion a year.

The Director-General expressed satisfaction over "the unanimity of support to our Organization" and added:

"The Organization needs the constant fullest support of all its Member Nations, for with the graver tasks ahead, its role will not be an enviable one. The responsibilities laid upon the Organization far exceed what can be done with its resources."

He recalled the recent North-South summit meeting at Cancùn, Mexico, and urged the swift start of global negotiations aimed at increased food production and self-reliance in developing countries. He pledged FAO's fullest cooperation to those ends.

In other major actions, the Conference reviewed and approved FAO's programme, which promoted, catalysed and executed investment and technical assistance in Third World nations which amounts approximately to $3 billion per annum. It endorsed an increase in appropriations for the Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) from $32.6 million in the previous biennium to $47 million for 1982-83. The programme provides direct assistance for short-term development projects, including pre-investment studies, and helps meet food-related emergencies.

The Conference agreed with the Director-General's assessment that the world food situation remained unsatisfactory despite welcome improvements in global food supplies this year and that needy countries, particularly in Africa, will continue to require international aid.

In its report the Conference noted "the gloomy economic situation in the world, marked by economic recession, a slow-down in the growth of trade, a continuation of protectionist pressures and Practices and widespread inflation and unemployment, which, along with the lack of a fully effective system of world food security, made the present period one of the most economically difficult since World War II."

It reaffirmed its support of FAO's Plan of Action on World Food Security calling for the establishment and maintenance of national and regional food stocks to ensure against shortages and emergencies. Among other things, the Conference called for the improvement of early warning systems to signal food shortages in developing countries, improved information on stock levels in such countries, more aid under FAO's Food Security Assistance Scheme, and measures to assure better food distribution and increased purchasing power for the poor.

The Conference recommended that the agricultural energy needs of developing countries be assured through better use of fertilizers and other inputs and through more effective application of locally available and renewable sources, such as the recycling of organic matter, draught animals, biogas, and solar and wind energy.

It called on FAO and UN member states to pledge $1.2 billion in food, cash and services for the joint UN/FAO World Food Programme for 1983-84.

The 21st Conference also:

· Admitted Bhutan, Equatorial Guinea, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tonga and Zimbabwe to FAO membership.

· Endorsed the steps taken by the Director-General on follow-up action to the 1979 World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (WCARRD).

· Adopted a resolution to observe World Food Day, 16 October, on a regular yearly, global basis.

· Adopted a resolution calling on governments to take action to conserve diminishing forestry and fuelwood resources and to ensure forestry's contribution to agricultural and rural development.

· Appointed Dr Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan of India as Independent Chairman of the 49-nation Council, FAO's most important governing body after the Conference. Mr Swaminathan, a noted Agricultural Research Scientist, succeeds Mr Bukar Shaib of Nigeria and will serve until November 1983.

· Approved a resolution requesting FAO to draft an international convention to ensure that global plant genetic resources of agricultural interest are conserved and used for the benefit of all humanity.

· Set the date of the 22nd Conference at 5-24 November 1983.

Fuelwood: what must be done

At present there are about 100 million people living in areas of serious fuelwood shortage. By the end of the century, if nothing were done, over two billion people would be affected - a third of the entire population of the globe.

The main lines of action are clear, although the achievement of solutions will be neither easy nor quick. The productivity of existing fuelwood resources must be improved through conservation and management; the level of planting must on average be increased fivefold to create new resources; the distribution of firewood, including the long-distance transportation of wood in the form of charcoal, must be rationally and economically organized; the efficiency of fuelwood use must be increased, so as to make better use of available supplies; and where necessary, substitutes for fuelwood must be made available. It is surely a devastating comment on the lopsided and distorted way in which the world is progressing that while some regions are graduating from pocket calculators to personal computers, others are less and less able to find the fuel for cooking and heating on which they have been able to count since the first days of civilization. FAO must play a leading role in the international attack on this problem, at once so simple and so complex.

Edouard Saouma
Director-General of FAO
in his opening address to
the 21st FAO Conference

TENDING CHIR PINE SEEDLINGS AT A NURSERY TN PAKISTAN reforestation in the developing world needs to be multiplied by five

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