The Strategic Framework forms an essential part of the enhanced programme-budget process, now approved for the Organization. When fully implemented, this process will include the Strategic Framework, with its 10- to 15-year time dimension, a Medium-Term Plan for a six-year period and a biennial Programme of Work and Budget. The Medium-Term Plan will ensure the link between the agreed strategic objectives and FAO's programme of work. It will thus become FAO's Corporate Plan for a six-year period, while the Programme of Work and Budget will essentially become FAO's short-term Business Plan.
The essential functions of implementation monitoring and programme evaluation will continue in the new process. In particular, a new evaluation regime is being developed in consultation with the Programme Committee. The proposed regime is more comprehensive and will realign the thrust of certain evaluation studies so that they address, to the extent possible, progress towards the achievement of the strategic objectives established in this framework. The new regime also envisages streamlined reporting arrangements, allowing the submission of a more concise Programme Evaluation Report to Council and Conference.
The following table shows the elements of the new regime:
To set the strategic direction
To establish programme priorities
and project resource requirements
Programme of Work and Budget
To appropriate resources and seek
approval for the two-year programme
Programme Implementation Report
To provide quantitative post facto
reporting on programme implementation
6 years or more
To provide a selective, qualitative and
analytical evaluation of programme implementation
The Strategic Framework
The Strategic Framework establishes the overall definition of those areas in which Members of the Organization require FAO's services. It does this in the form of 12 strategic objectives with associated strategies, which will become the basis of all programme planning within the Organization. It also defines the key cross-organizational strategic issues that need to be addressed in order to ensure that the Organization has or acquires the optimum capacity to provide the services sought by Members. In addition, the Strategic Framework includes definition of the criteria for priority setting, with a view to their application in the Medium-Term Plan as described below.
While the Strategic Framework has a time frame of 10 to 15 years, it is recognized that it may need to be updated periodically - either because of major events on the international scene (e.g. key international conferences) or because of the changing internal and external environment. In this regard, it is considered
that the time frame for the strategies addressing cross-organizational issues is generally shorter than for those addressing Members' needs. Therefore, without intending to be too prescriptive, a revision every six years or so may be appropriate but this will be subject to review closer to the time.
The Medium-Term Plan will propose programmes that address each strategic objective in the Strategic Framework. These will be accompanied by information on the planned results, including outputs, effectiveness criteria and indicators. It will be a rolling plan, to be updated every two years by deleting completed programme entities and including the new ones that are proposed to be commenced in the new planning period. The revision will also take account of the outcome of evaluations and implementation performance reporting although, in the interest of economy, it will not seek to replicate these reports.
The programme entities constituting the Medium-Term Plan fall into three categories: Technical Projects, Continuing Programme Activities and Technical Service Agreements, the latter two concerning outputs and services that the Organization is committed to provide on a fairly constant or continuing basis (for a detailed definition see Planning methodology - new programme model, p. 50). As Technical Projects have a duration of up to six years, only one-third will, on average, be "new" in any one biennium, thus reducing the volume of work involved in reviewing the Plan. The document will concentrate on justifying
the "new" entities proposed for introduction in the upcoming biennium while,
at the same time, presenting the complete picture for each strategic objective. Each of the new entities will be accompanied by a more detailed explan-
ation of the objectives, outputs, related time frames, inputs and estimated lifetime costs.
Programme of Work and Budget
Rather than serving as the principal foundation of the planning and budgeting system for the Organization, as it does at present, the Programme of Work and Budget will become less of a programme and more of a budgetary document, and it will represent the detailed implementation plan for a two-year time slice of the Medium-Term Plan. As such, it will become a vehicle for fine-tuning agreed activities to match available budgetary resources.
Programme Evaluation Report
While the precise form of this report is currently under review by the Programme Committee, it is expected that the coverage will tend to be driven more by the new process inherent in the Strategic Framework and the Medium-Term Plan. While detailed evaluation reports will continue to be submitted to the Programme Committee, a more concise Programme Evaluation Report can be envisaged as a synthesis of all of reports submitted to the Committee, thus meeting the request of the Council for a shorter Programme Evaluation Report.
Programme Implementation Report
Some Members have suggested that the Programme Evaluation and Implementation Reports be integrated into a single document. However, given the difference in their time frames and scope, the general feeling is that the Programme Implementation Report now needs to be redesigned and integrated with the hitherto separately issued Certified Audited Accounts and FAO Annual Review to produce an FAO Biennial Report. This would both avoid duplication and reduce overall costs. It also implies a somewhat more concise and attractive document. Preliminary thoughts are that this would best be accomplished by making available the quantitative data concerning outputs achieved through WAICENT on the FAO Web site, rather than by including them in the document itself.
Planning methodology - new programme model
The Medium-Term Plan and Programme of Work and Budget documents will be based on a new programme model, with the following features:
- full identification of the inputs, the activities to be carried out, the outputs to be produced and the outcomes or effects that are intended to be achieved, allowing for means-ends analyses to be carried out as needed;
- provision of a clear framework for identifying all necessary interdisciplinary inputs from various units;
- an improved basis for appraisal, evaluation and performance reporting to both management and governing bodies.
The advantage of the new programme model is that these features, taken together, will provide a mechanism for harnessing a critical mass of resources, within a clear time horizon, in order to achieve an intended and precise result. Such results will be designed to contribute to the achievement of one or more of the strategic objectives established and agreed in the Strategic Framework.
While the planning model will evolve with experience in its application, it currently foresees formulation of Technical Projects (TPs), Continuing Programme Activities (CPs) and Technical Service Agreements (TSs), defined as follows:
- TPs cover a set of actions that can have a duration of up to six years and are designed to work towards precise objectives, defined in terms of benefits to the target users and in terms of their relevance and contribution to the Organization's strategic objectives.
- CPs refer to the production of outputs that contribute to the strategic objectives but are not amenable to the time-bound structure of technical projects (e.g. statistical series).
- TSs refer to the provision of services such as Field Programme support and technical advice to member countries where the individual work activities cannot be defined far in advance and may include servicing statutory bodies where the work is in general support of the sector (e.g. the Committee on Agriculture, the Committee on Fisheries).
For each of the above-mentioned entities, the following will be stipulated:
Rationale: describing the contribution to the corporate strategy in question, identifying the need to be met and stating why it is important that FAO - rather than another agency or organization - meet the need.
Objectives: expressed in terms of relevance to the strategic objectives and of benefits to the users, with quantified targets when possible.
Outputs: identifying the major outputs that will allow the stated objective to be achieved, not only in terms of the product but also in terms of the period of time in which they are to be produced, thus establishing milestones for monitoring purposes. Outputs will probably be divided, to the extent possible, into the following categories:
- information (including information products and systems and databases);
- studies and analyses (e.g. intermediate outputs such as the publication of case studies as well as major products such as The State of Food and Agriculture);
- methodologies and guidelines (pilot testing, meetings to develop the methodologies and published materials in paper or digital form);
- international undertakings, agreements/conventions and standards;
- training (including training courses and training materials, etc.);
- coordination and information exchange;
- other (a category for the very few significant outputs that could not be classified under any of the above headings).
For major outputs, it will be necessary to identify the following factors:
- user focus: who is the output going to be used by (e.g. technical staff of government and private sector institutions concerned)?;
- efficiency: was this the lowest-cost way to deliver outputs of the desired quality at the required time?; and
- effectiveness criteria and indicators: was the output used and, if so, how? e.g. the adoption of standards by countries is an effectiveness criterion, the publication of standards is not.
Links: identifying and defining links of three types:
- Links to other TPs, CPs and TSs: stating the contribution that is expected in terms of outputs towards the achievement of the objective - this will be the key record of the nature and extent of interdisciplinarity at this level;
- Links to the Field Programme: stating the substantive interaction with the Field Programme and the extent to which funding is assumed and/or assured;
- Links to partners (i.e. other organizations): describing the nature of the
link (consultation/contracted services/partnership programme/joint activities/production of specific outputs by the partner).
Managerial arrangements: providing a clear indication of management arrangements envisaged, particularly where various units are involved.
Appraisal: Each TP and CP activity will be subject to a specific appraisal aimed at determining the priority of the proposal using the criteria that are further described below.
Priority setting in the context of the new planning framework
While Members have differing views on the relative importance of each of the 12 strategic objectives, the proposed framework does not rank them or apply lower or higher priority among them. This is because the importance of priorities comes into play at the resource allocation stage, which first occurs in the development of the Medium-Term Plan.
Criteria will be used to determine the priority to be accorded to the medium-term programme entities that will contribute to the achievement of the strategic objectives. The Strategic Framework is the appropriate place to establish the criteria for priority setting, and this in turn requires an examination of FAO's comparative advantages and, consequently, its potential partners and their capacities.
Criteria for priority setting
The development of practical and effective criteria will be an evolutionary process but, with the initial coming into force of the Strategic Framework, the following criteria, based on experience, will be applied:
- conformity to the Organization's mandate and relevance to the strategic objectives of the Organization as specified in the Strategic Framework, keeping in view the need to maintain a balance between normative and operational activities;
- expressed priority and usefulness to a broad section of the membership or to special groups identified by the governing bodies (least-developed countries, the small island developing states, etc.);
- justification, in terms of FAO's comparative advantage, potential for synergies through collaboration with partners, and avoidance of duplication with the work of other institutions;
- quality of programme design, including clarity of the causal link between the inputs provided and the planned outputs and objectives;
- probable cost-efficiency of the programme entity in mode of operation, including the use made of internal and external partnerships;
- likelihood of achieving desired objectives and substantive and sustainable impact;
- extent to which the achievement of objectives can be evaluated through the criteria and indicators proposed.
More detailed procedures and internal mechanisms for development and appraisal of programme entities will be established for the first Medium-Term Plan, responding to the objectives set in the Strategic Framework.
Major comparative advantages
Clearly, comparative advantage is an important criterion in priority setting and it therefore follows that this criterion needs to be more fully defined. FAO's major comparative advantages are derived from an analysis of the Organization's general strengths, recognizing that, while they are considerable, they constitute comparative advantages only when appropriately brought to bear on problems for which the intervention of an organization such as FAO is needed.
Clearly, the comparative advantages briefly described below could be applied to most UN specialized agencies and, in this case, should be understood to apply to FAO within the sphere of its mandate and in line with the division of labour among the organizations of the UN system. With regard to other "comparator" organizations or groups of organizations (e.g. non-UN intergovernmental organizations, academic and research institutes, non-profit or voluntary organizations, private consulting firms) the comparative advantages of FAO will apply even in cases where the field of action of the comparator is similar to that of the Organization.
Authority and status as a global intergovernmental organization
FAO has the mandate and membership to enable it to take a global view of problems in its domain of competence. As an intergovernmental organization, it is able to address issues at both the national and international levels, both directly and in partnership with other organizations. In this regard, FAO can furnish technical, economic and legal expertise.
FAO as an "honest broker"
FAO can act as an "honest broker", identifying and advocating common solutions that are independent of specific ideological and national perspectives. In this regard, it can provide a neutral forum for the negotiation and development of international agreements, codes of conduct, technical standards and other instruments.
Unparalleled information source and institutional memory
FAO's wealth of experience and of information, collected, analysed and disseminated on a continuous basis, constitutes a unique asset, which is both available to Members and a support to the Secretariat's activities. Without this, it would be virtually impossible to carry out much of the essential work that is expected by the membership and that depends for its authority and value on FAO's being able to provide a dimension (its institutional memory) not obtainable from other sources.
Broad networking capacity with Members and other partners
The Organization has wide access to decision-makers in Member Nations. As part of the UN system, it is involved with many international initiatives and is able to offer an institutional framework for intercountry cooperation, cutting across geographical boundaries and even political or cultural divides. The success of a number of the Organization's past activities has been attributed to this worldwide networking capacity, including FAO's direct access to specialized sources of expertise relevant to food and agriculture, the numerous technical cooperation ventures it sponsors, and its wide array of expert panels and advisory bodies and its multilingual mode of operation. Growing links with the world of NGOs and CSOs, which facilitate outreach of FAO activities beyond government circles, add a further dimension.
Coexisting with FAO's global vocation and networking capacity are its decentralized capabilities. They facilitate and, in many cases, provide the major justification for implementation of both single country and multicountry activities requested by the membership. The immediate presence at the national level (through FAORs) and at the subregional and regional levels (through the Regional and Subregional Offices) is instrumental in ensuring timeliness in responding to requests and relevance to local needs.
Professional and multidisciplinary staff
The professionalism and dedication of a multidisciplinary and multilingual workforce, devoted to the cause of multilateralism and bound by the standards of conduct of the International Civil Service, must count as a major comparative advantage. The existence of a wide range of disciplines within the Secretariat (at headquarters and in the decentralized units) provides continuity of action and a unique resource for normative activities and for support to technical cooperation and investment mobilization activities.
Capacity to respond to unforeseen needs of member countries
As a support and adjunct to FAO's Regular Programme activities and its field programmes funded from extrabudgetary sources, the TCP provides a valuable mechanism to respond to member countries' immediate and/or unforeseen needs. This, combined with the Organization's contacts with governments (facilitated by the presence of Permanent Representatives in Rome) enables FAO to take some immediate action while making efforts to mobilize or leverage resources for further assistance.
Responsible financial and administrative management1
The Organization has sound and responsible financial and administrative management. Financial and internal controls are highly effective, as is evidenced by the fact that, in more than 50 years of activity, the FAO accounts have always been approved by the External Auditor without qualification and the Organization has avoided any significant financial default.
Fundamental to the concept of comparative advantage is the existence of other institutions that can offer similar services. Partnerships with such institutions need to be envisaged proactively in the interest of avoiding duplication and increasing FAO's effective impact by drawing on the capacity of such partners to achieve its strategic objectives.
The question of partnership hinges on the reason why FAO, rather than another potential agency, should work to meet any one of the identified needs. Analysis of this question presupposes up-to-date and comprehensive knowledge of the comparative advantages, capacities and programmes of other organizations working in the field in question. Effective partnership is predicated both on the exchange of information and experience and on cooperation, based on a mutually agreed division of labour, with a wide range of partners. More important, it opens the way for mobilization of the contribution of others to achievement of broad goals which FAO, by itself, could not attain. While much exchange of experience and cooperation already exists, both at the institutional level and at the level of individual technical units, it expected that implementation of the corporate cross-organizational strategy for broadening partnerships and alliances should reinforce the "culture of cooperation" within the Organization.
As a general principle, for the establishment of effective partnerships, FAO must seek to ensure that cooperation addresses specific issues and problems and aims at achieving tangible results, particularly at the country level. Cooperative relationships with partners will build on established institutional links and intrinsic complementarities but will entail different practical modalities and instruments, depending on the context.
UN system organizations
In respect of the UN system, a key aspect is follow-up to global conferences and summits, including the World Food Summit, which are shaping the agenda for action by the international community. The system must help countries translate commitments, particularly those taken within the framework of international conventions and follow-up to UNCED, into effective and practical measures, building on the potential for synergy inherent in the system. In particular, FAO will need to maintain a proactive role in ensuring a coherent UN system approach to the implementation of the World Food Summit Plan of Action and participate in other system-wide initiatives from the perspective of food and agricultural issues. Special attention needs to be paid to further strengthening the links among the Rome-based organizations.
International financing institutions
FAO can continue to use its multidisciplinary technical expertise for the generation of investment in food and agriculture, through the fruitful tripartite relationship it enjoys with the World Bank and other IFIs and the concerned governments themselves. In the policy advisory area, the Organization must seek to dovetail its sectoral advice with the overall macroeconomic assistance provided by these institutions. It may also build on their readiness to establish a broader base of cooperation to support specific national programmes such as those on agricultural statistics or aquaculture, as evidenced by new memoranda of understanding signed with them at the highest policy level.
In pursuing institutional links with CGIAR, of which it is a cosponsor along with the World Bank, UNDP and UNEP, FAO can further develop close contact and joint activities with the individual centres themselves, facilitating outreach of the results achieved by research institutions through catalytic action in support of technology transfer, taking maximum account of local conditions. Collaboration with research-oriented organizations will be well served by the presence of the NARS and TAC secretariats at FAO, and maximum use can be made of networking modalities.
A number of other intergovernmental organizations, particularly many regional ones, have interest in agricultural issues and may be actively involved with food and agricultural cooperation programmes. In full recognition of the comparative advantages these organizations may have in specific regional contexts, FAO must continue to explore avenues for cooperation to maximize complementarities in keeping with its mandate.
FAO must also continue to adjust to the significant changes that are taking place in the respective roles and responsibilities of the state, the market and civil society. FAO cannot match the capillary outreach of CSOs, particularly the farmers' and consumers' organizations and the large number of NGOs active in food and agriculture, down to the level of farming communities themselves. However, it can play a useful catalytic role in mobilizing action at the national level, supporting coalitions and fostering exchanges of experience. It will, therefore, need to expand constructive partnerships with non-state actors, building on its long experience and institutional memory in joint practical work, e.g. with rural producers' organizations.
Links with the private sector should include active dialogue to foster mutual understanding of the potential for cooperation, while respecting each other's characteristics. FAO can marry its extensive field experience and knowledge of the requirements of food and agricultural development with the unique entrepreneurship capacities of private sector agents, for instance by playing an "honest broker" role in increasing private sector investment in agriculture and investments in new technology to bring greater benefit to developing countries.
The following table describes the proposed implementation schedule leading up to, and following, approval of the Strategic Framework by the Conference in November 1999:
Programme Committee/Finance Committeee
Jan. to March
May and Sept. 1999
Programme of Work
Jan. to March 2005
Programme Evaluation Report 2005 (covering an approximate period from 1998 to 2003)
May and Sept. 2004