Table of Contents Next Page

Ten years old

IN October of this year the Food and Agriculture Organization will celebrate its tenth anniversary By the nature of its responsibilities, FAO is an organization which must look and plan towards the future. But at this time it is not inappropriate to look back into the past.

The first of the new, permanent United Nations agencies to be launched since the war, FAO grew out of the Conference on Food and Agriculture held at Hot Springs, Virginia, in the United States of America in May 1943. President Roosevelt was personally responsible for calling this conference which he associated with the first of the dramatic four freedoms of the Atlantic Charter - freedom from want.

The Hot Springs Conference set up an Interim Commission, representing the 45 countries which had sent delegates, to plan the organization of the new agency and draft its constitution. This work was completed by mid - 1945 and half way through October of that year representatives of the interested nations met in Quebec. On 16 October delegates of 20 nations signed the constitution and FAO was formally in existence. Mr. Lester B. Pearson, Canadian Chairman of the Interim Commission, was able to open the first plenary meeting of the First Session of the FAO Conference.

There were few precedents for FAO to follow, as a working agency, it was something new in international history. The Forestry Division comprised four officers, although backed by a Standing Advisory Committee of individual experts of many countries and a host of well-wishers. Set against the world problems to be resolved, the resources of FAO were pitifully small, and the jobs that needed doing were obviously too many and diverse to be handled all at once. So the task was considered in terms of the newly-arrived big-game hunter who, confronted with the problem of how to eat his first elephant, was given the sage advice to "first cut it into little pieces."

FAO proceeded slowly along commonsense lines, helped by all the resources, often voluntary, that could be enlisted. The Organization is still in the stage of dealing with "little pieces ", which at a glance, may appear unrelated. In sum, however, like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, they are balanced and form a recognizable picture or, as the last session of the FAO Conference expressed it, "an admirable pattern of useful and positive actions spread throughout the world."

The membership of FAO now totals 71 nations and is likely to expand still further. The responsibilities placed on the Director - General and his staff will certainly increase.

This year, when it is ten years old, the Organization will take stock of what has been accomplished over the past decade and of what has not been so successful. In the light of this review Member Governments will lay down their directives for the future.

Dehra Dun 1954

THE Fourth World Forestry Congress was held at Dehra Dun (India) from 11 to 22 December 1954. It was a marked success both in regard to attendance and the standard of the discussions on the subject matter of the program.

Members of the Congress were drawn from 46 countries and some delegations were large. All the States of the host country were represented so that the Indian membership amounted to over 180 persons. Other countries well represented were the United Kingdom, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Peoples' Republic of China, France and Pakistan.

I should have liked to have seen at the Congress those who, ignorant of the high development of forestry in India, had earlier expressed surprise that a meeting concerned with present-day forestry problems should be held in that country, implying that the Congress was merely an excuse for pleasure jaunts to the Taj Mahal and the vale of Kashmir at public expense. They would have been enlightened by the level of competence of those attending. They would have found the "excursions" to be serious study tours of Indian forests through which professional foresters learned much of value.

IT is at world congresses that new knowledge in the various fields of forestry can be brought into the open and where experts can discuss how best to bring about the fullest satisfaction of human needs from the produce of the forest and how to make the utmost use of this great natural resource, the forest.

But such congresses also serve for publicity purposes. In order to succeed in their mission, foresters need the backing of public opinion. I was, therefore, happy to find that the Government of India had appreciated this function of the Congress.

All the meetings of the Congress were attended by reporters from the leading journals of the country, and day by day the Indian reader found spread over two or three columns of his newspaper the fullest account of what transpired at Dehra Dun.

At the same time, an active publicity campaign was carried on to bring in visitors to the Forest Institute where the meetings were held. We often met in the corridors a continuous stream of men, women and children curious about the delegates who had come from all corners of the world. The visitors who listened to the discussions were, too, obviously impressed by the references to the importance of forests and timber in the economy of a country and to the many complex aspects of forestry.

MOST individuals attending congresses of this sort accept their value and welcome the opportunity to become better acquainted with the personalities of their colleagues from other lands and in other disciplines. Some, few in number it is true, remain sceptical in this regard and complain that they learn nothing. Such an attitude always exists but should not go unanswered. How many of us possess such an encyclopedic knowledge of forestry that there is nothing more to learn? Unless, of course, we deliberately want to shut ourselves off from everything outside our immediate narrow field of interest.

I, for my part, must avow that I never attend meetings of this kind, even the smallest, without learning something stimulating, and very often in a field which I least expected.

Still such congresses are concerned not only with techniques and practices but also with human problems, important not least in forestry. I am sure that from this standpoint those gathered at Dehra Dun learned many things, and especially that persons of varied lands with wide political and ideological differences had an admitted common aim to safeguard the future of the forest all over the globe. The Congress revealed a spirit of co-operation that is badly needed in a world which, experiencing some of the most startling of scientific discoveries, needs peace to allow the forests to thrive and to permit the living standards of its peoples to improve.

For this special reason, the Government of India which enabled this Congress to be convened, and all those from near and far who helped in its organization, deserve our congratulations and thanks.

Director, Forestry Division
Marcel Leloup

Top of Page Next Page