The rapid changes taking place
today in the roles of government and civil society make it imperative to take
a fresh look at FAO's potential for partnerships. As underscored by the World
Food Summit Plan of Action, civil society's commitment will be indispensable
if the goal of halving the number of people who suffer from food insecurity
is to be attained by the year 2015. Although FAO is an intergovernmental institution,
it has a long history of cooperation with non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
We need to build on FAO's ability to relate to a broad range of constituencies,
while reaffirming the primary responsibility of national governments in assuring
the food security of their citizens.
The Organization's potential and need to expand its partnership activities led me to request a thorough review of FAO's cooperation with NGOs and other civil society organizations (CSOs), to be coordinated by the Unit for Cooperation with Private Sector and NGOs (TCDN) in consultation with our technical units and decentralized offices as well as external partners. The objective of the review was to formulate policy and strategy guidelines adapted to the challenges we will be facing in the coming years. The results are presented in this paper.
The issues underlying the strategy and action plan can be grouped under three queries: why should FAO seek stronger relations with civil society; who is included under this label; and how, and in what form, should the relationship be strengthened?
Why? Closer association with NGOs and other CSOs
should enhance the validity and equity of decision-making under FAO auspices
by ensuring consideration of the interests of all social sectors and by building
consensus among stakeholders in development. Such cooperation should also attract
substantive input into the Organization's normative activities and increase
the effectiveness of our Field Programme by drawing on the expertise, experience
and insight of NGOs and other CSOs. This will help harness additional resources
for achieving common food security goals and, moreover, increase awareness of
FAO's work, making the Organization better known and accountable to a wider
In return, I believe FAO can provide civil society with valuable technical and institutional support, help it to replicate proven NGO approaches and improve its access to information and decision-making processes.
Who? Within the heterogeneous and rapidly expanding civil society sector, we need to identify relevant organizations for different kinds of cooperation, and this paper sets a basis for doing so. FAO's limited resources require it to focus on priority partners such as membership organizations representing important constituencies, such as farmers and consumers, and technically competent intermediary NGOs that are able to commit to ongoing cooperation with FAO. Whatever the organization, partnerships must respect basic principles of congruence with FAO's mandate, shared interests and objectives, transparency and accountability.
How? The review has identified strategies and
key activities in four areas: information sharing and analysis, policy dialogue,
field programmes and resource mobilization. We are committed to implementing
these strategies and activities in consultation with our partners. The challenge
for FAO is to develop cooperation with a growing civil society sector in the
present era of declining real resources. To meet this challenge, we will need
to choose partners and activities strategically, promoting coordination and
networks among NGOs and other CSOs so as to multiply dialogue and outreach.
In addition, these organizations must have a share in the for planning and implementing
programmes as well as for mobilizing resources. It is important also for FAO's
country representatives to ensure that outreach includes the national organizations
that are closest to rural people.
The desire to leave future generations a better world than that received in trust by the current generation has motivated many of the most generous actions performed by the human race, and it takes on added force as we move from one millenium to the next. With the publication of this policy and strategy paper, FAO aspires to a pact with civil society to work together for a better world.