The development of codes, norms and conventions is a crucial part of FAO's work. The Organization has unique advantages in this area by virtue of its position as a centre of excellence on a wide range of food and agricultural issues, together with its ability to marshal information and knowledge on a global basis. The Codex Alimentarius and the work of the joint FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission, which promotes the harmonization of national food regulations to protect consumers and facilitate trade, have been of great importance. Likewise the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) provides independent scientific advice to establish internationally accepted standards for food quality and safety.
Another important example of FAO's activity is its administration of the Principles of Surplus Disposal through the Consultative Sub-Committee on Surplus Disposal. These sets of norms play an essential role in the implementation of various agreements reached as a result of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations. FAO's initiative and involvement at the international level have resulted in a number of intergovernmental agreements, such as the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources and the World Soil Charter. The Organization also works to improve regional coordination, particularly in the management of shared resources - supporting, for example, the Treaty for Amazonian Cooperation.
FAO is involved in activities and bodies and in producing publications related to norms, standards and conventions, for example:
· Codex Alimentarius (various volumes);
· Principles of surplus disposal and consultative obligations of Member Nations (a handbook);
· Concepts and definitions used in international collections of food and agriculture statistics (issued by FAO/UN, the Economic Commission for Europe/Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and EUROSTAT);
· Revision of the International Plant Protection Convention;
· International standards for phytosanitary measures: harmonization of national plant quarantine procedures and regulations;
· technical guidelines for the safe movement of germplasm, produced in cooperation with the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (17 completed, five in preparation);
· the UNEP/FAO Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee, which produces the Report on the Progress of Negotiations for an international legally binding instrument for the application of the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade;
· the Code of Conduct for the Import and Release of Exotic Biological Control Agents;
· formulation of official FAO standards for pesticide application equipment;
· World Reference Base for Soil Resources;
· standard operating procedures for the quality control testing of animal disease vaccines such as CBPP and rinderpest.
FAO has played a major role in establishing and promoting the implementation of:
· the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries;
· the Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas;
· the Rome Consensus on World Fisheries;
· the Kyoto Declaration and Plan of Action on the Sustainable Contribution of Fisheries to Food Security;
· norms and standards for statistics through the Coordinating Working Party on Fishery Statistics.
FAO has had an influential voice in international fora and deliberations on many critical environmental and sustainability issues that have led to conventions and agreements, and its Legal Office works in a multidisciplinary manner with the technical departments in facilitating negotiations on agreements and instruments both of a legally and non-legally binding nature. FAO is involved in numerous bodies concerning such agreements as well as in follow-up activities, including:
· the UN Commission on Sustainable Development;
· the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests;
· implementation of the International Convention to Combat Desertification and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity;
· the FAO Model Code of Forest Harvesting Practices;
· establishment of harmonized methodologies for land cover classification and legending for the analysis of land use changes;
· establishment of norms for mapping (geometry, projection systems, topography);
· Development of the AFRICOVER programme and the Regional Environmental Information Management Project (REIMP);
· water resources of the Nile basin;
· the Lake Victoria Environmental Information Management Programme.