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D. Statement by the director-general

Mr Chairman, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

What has happened in the world since the last session of our Conference? We must not allow the whirlwind of major political happenings, scientific discoveries, social developments and natural calamities to obscure a phenomenon whose consequences can scarcely be exaggerated: in the two years between 1 November 1987 and 1 November 1989 the population of the planet increased by 178 million people. Just imagine, 178 million new mouths to feed.

Of these new lives, new destinies and new needs, 90 percent were born in the developing countries - the poorest and least equipped to cope with this onslaught. Despite every effort to check the trend, there is no imminent end to this exponential growth: the world population will top 6 000 million by the year 2000.

The situation is unquestionably fraught with repercussions on an immense scale. For FAO in particular, our work, our orientations, our mission and our very survival will be, and indeed already are, profoundly affected. FAO sees its responsibilities swell with the impressive increase of those who do and will have need of our services. For one thing, it is the agricultural sector which will have to feed these new masses of people and, for another, these new additions to the world's population belong primarily to the rural sector.

What other outstanding events characterize the world situation at the opening of the Twenty-fifth Session of the Conference of FAO? First and foremost, the swift and striking change in the relationship between East and West. Détente and the attenuation of conflict are not the only elements involved. There is the dawning of cooperation and of an all-directional opening in the political and economic sphere as well. The main sign of this is the resolute change in the attitude of the Soviet Union towards the United Nations System. In its address to the UN General Assembly, the Soviet Union apparently proclaimed its intention to accede to all UN bodies, particularly FAO. We are overjoyed at the prospect. The vast Soviet Union with its population of 280 million and 22 million km2 of territory indeed has a paramount place in world agriculture. It seems obvious that our Organization cannot play its full universal role until such time as this great Nation opts to exercise its right to FAO membership.

There is other, equally strong evidence of the interest aroused by our Organization and the importance attached to its work. The European Economic Community, for instance, has expressed its desire to become a full-fledged member, and preparatory discussions are underway on this delicate and important matter.

Alongside these positive developments, we cannot ignore the fact that other aspects of the current situation are causing grave concern. The economic crisis persists, as we all know. Nor has it spared many of the developed countries, which are struggling with problems of inflation, underemployment and budget deficits. Their farmers are reeling under the blow - though it must be said, without belittling their very real hardships, that what is at stake, as compared to the developing countries, is their welfare, not their survival. The industrialized countries have been able to take certain measures to protect their farmers. As we shall see, these measures are also fraught with consequences for the agricultural economies of the Third World.

However, in the developing countries, by contrast, the provision of agricultural subsidies is not even contemplated, even though agriculture constitutes the basis of their economies. These countries mainly export raw materials and tropical products, which represent their principal source of foreign currency and hence finance their imports, which are mostly agricultural inputs. The prices for these goods, however, particularly coffee, cacao and sugar, have plummeted so low that they sometimes do not even cover production costs. How can these countries conceivably shake loose their staggering debt burden under such conditions? They are also frequently unable to produce enough food to feed their people, so their import bills for cereals continue to mount. In 1987 alone, the developed countries spent the colossal sum of 290 000 million US dollars simply to protect their own agriculture. Such a policy obviously creates an obstacle for imports from the poor countries. At the same time, official aid to development has dwindled; in 1987, the OECD countries allocated only 42 000 million US dollars, namely 0.35 percent of their GNP, or barely half of the agreed international target. Food aid has fallen back as well to a total volume of 7 million tons. Even though the lending countries have wiped out some debts, particularly for African countries, indebtedness is still an extremely serious problem, and one which rising rates of interest are doing nothing to attenuate.

As a result, the developing countries have experienced a negative outflow of capital in the last three years. To put it in another way, they now return more money to the developed countries than they receive from them. In 1988, for example, the difference, or negative flow of capital, amounted to 43 000 million dollars! The poor countries are being drained of their lifeblood.

All too often, efforts to correct the situation have proved vain. I have in mind the United Nations Common Fund for Commodities, an idea launched by UNCTAD as early as 1976, and which is still not operational. As you will remember, the idea was to establish a 500-million-dollar fund for loans to allow import and export agencies to maintain regulatory stocks and thus to stabilize raw material prices. The Common Fund was able to attract support, even monetary support. but countless difficulties and disagreements prevented its implementation. Today, it is legitimate to hope that commodity agreements will finally materialize, but it must be acknowledged that the sums originally earmarked are now absurdly small.

Another issue of prime magnitude for industrialized as well as for developing countries is environmental degradation. In the developed countries, intensive production in the sectors of energy, industry and agriculture has produced air, water and even soil pollution of catastrophic proportions. In an attempt to reap maximum short-term profits and satisfy every need of a society of overconsumers, a veritable chemical, indeed nuclear, war has been unleashed on nature. In the Third World the need to feed fast-growing populations entails overexploitation of the land and soil, the encroachment of agriculture on ever more marginal soils, and the massive destruction of tropical forests. At a uniformly accelerated rate such practices cause erosion, irreversible soil degradation, and desertification. One international conference follows another and the number of declarations multiplies, but in practice the world persists in its suicidal behaviour. Seemingly, wealth, like poverty, makes people unable to see beyond the immediate present and keeps them from wisely managing the planet's resources in trust for future generations. It looks very much as if our fury to make the most of space has robbed us of our sense of time.

Under these circumstances, it is hardly surprising that the number of undernourished people continues to soar rather than taper off. Our latest World Food Survey pegged the number of undernourished at 500 million. Today this figure is probably too small. Taking the world as a whole, there is no shortage of food. If hundreds of millions of human beings are malnourished or underfed, it is because they are poor. Poverty cannot be eliminated by aid: only equal access to economic activities and trade can truly reduce poverty. The fact of the matter is that the developing countries do not have an adequate share in world trade. We can only ardently hope that the Uruguay Round of negotiations will make it possible for these countries to enjoy a larger share of the export trade.

After this broad outline of some of the more salient features of the current world situation, I should now like to describe the status of our Organization as it appears at the end of this year 1989.

An unprecedented financial situation has engendered the worst problems which face FAO today. Unpaid contributions for 1989 total 80 million US dollars; arrears from preceding years amount to 94 793 000 US dollars. Together, they add up to nearly 175 million US dollars which the Organization has not received. These arrears constitute a payment due which the Member Nations involved are not entitled to erase. Unfortunately I have so far been unable to obtain any indication as to the date and methods of payment.

Beginning in 1976, 1 undertook to eliminate unnecessary expense and low-priority items, and I have pursued such efforts unceasingly up to now. In these circumstances, a cut in our resources of the size I have just indicated cannot fail to affect the implementation of FAO's programme of work. Indeed, in the last three years we have had to scale down our activities and the services we provide Member Nations by a total of 68 million dollars. The dissemination of information is one of FAO's fundamental missions, and yet our programme of publications has been slashed to the bone. Our reviews Ceres, Unasylva, World Animal Review and others, which served to broaden knowledge and to shape the world's image of FAO, now no longer appear. Multilingualism, the crux of internationalism, has been particularly jeopardized by the suppression of staff language training. We have had to cancel a number of meetings - meetings crucial to cooperation among Member Nations, the very cornerstone of our Organization. Even our work on technology transfer has been seriously curtailed. As you can see, it is not a case of trimming dead wood; this was trimmed a long time ago, so we are now cutting into the living fibre.

These circumstances have brought to a head a problem with which we have struggled for years. I refer to the constant pressure exerted by a number of countries who are reluctant to expand not only FAO's activities, but also those of the entire United Nations System. We have experienced virtually no growth in the last eight or nine years, during which time needs have continued to mount. Population expansion and the various other factors that I have just mentioned have turned our Member Nations increasingly towards FAO in search of more substantial and more diversified services. There is another factor which militates against the denial of growth which has been imposed upon us. Neither agriculture nor rural development are exact sciences and so the problems before us continually evolve; we can never consider a subject exhausted or an issue fully resolved. Neither technical problems nor human problems (and the two are closely intertwined) are ever definitively settled, so new approaches, new viewpoints and fresh starts are constantly required. This is just one evidence of the fact that FAO is a living organism, not a machine, and therefore must grow in order to survive.

Be that as it may, I have done my utmost to manage the situation realistically. Sound and careful management have somehow kept our ship at sea and on course, despite grave damage to its superstructure, leaks that have had to be caulked, and near-empty fuel tanks. I have even successfully refrained so far from using the faculty to borrow granted me by the Conference.

The above considerations cannot fail to influence the Conference's thinking and discussions on two subjects of major importance: the Programme of Work and Budget for 1990-91, and the Review of Certain Aspects of FAO's Goals and Operations. More than any other issue, these two call for unanimity, for the future of the Organization depends greatly on how you decide them. As you know, I am a firm partisan of consensus - this is a real credo of mine. Except in cases where a vote is compulsory, I should like to see all questions decided by consensus in a tranquil, harmonious atmosphere. This has been my special and constant concern in the preparation of my budget proposals. I can cite no better proof of the efforts made in this direction than the approach followed this year for the preparation of the Programme of Work and Budget. We have in fact given Member Nations many more opportunities to express their views and, where necessary, to modify the proposed orientations.

We began by submitting a pre-project to the Programme and Finance Committees, in the month of January, consisting of a brief outline describing the major projected orientations and indicating the budgetary level I intended to utilize in the preparation of my proposals. Bearing in mind the observations of the two Committees, we next drew up the Summary Programme of Work and Budget. The sections relevant to their sphere of competence were reviewed in the Spring by the Committee on Agriculture and the Committee on Fisheries, next by the Programme and Finance Committees, and finally by the Council at its June session. Having taken due account of their expressed views, we proceeded to prepare the complete and final version of the document, which has also reviewed by the Programme and Finance Committees and Council prior to its upcoming submission for review by Commission II a few days hence. To my knowledge, no other organization of the United Nations System passes its budgetary proposals through such a fine screen. After all this, after such pains have been taken to consider every possible point of view, it would seem only normal, I hope, to adopt the Programme of Work and Budget by consensus.

The priorities we have selected have been endorsed by the statutory bodies, thus ensuring that they do reflect the major concerns of Member Nations. our estimates of cost increases have been made with the greatest possible circumspection and we have made every effort to absorb as many as possible. I have not, for instance, included in my budget forecasts the 3 million US dollars represented by increased costs for consultants, official travel and post reclassification. For, if my proposals appear to involve an extremely modest increase of the programme at 5 million US dollars, or 1 percent, the net increase is reduced, through the absorption of these 3 million dollars, to 2.5 million, i.e., 0.45 percent. In addition, I am fairly sure that these 2.5 million will be completely eroded - chipped away by creeping costs in the two years to come.

My greatest regret is that I cannot meet the aspirations of countries that justifiably hoped for a much larger increase, if only to make up for the setbacks of the last few years. I am aware of their needs and deplore the fact that I cannot satisfy them, but I trust they will agree with me that we must do everything to ensure unanimous adoption, by consensus, of our Programme of Work and Budget.

The "review of certain aspects of FAO's goals and operations", to use the phrase in Conference Resolution 6/87, has been one of the major exercises mobilizing our energies during the 1988-89 biennium. The purpose was, as you will recall, to find ways of strengthening FAO so that it could continue to play its leading role in world agriculture, fisheries and forestry and meet the challenges of the 1990s and beyond more vigorously and more efficiently. The Conference entrusted this study to the Programme and Finance Committees, assisted, if necessary, by experts. At the same time, on my initiative, a management study was conducted by external consultants. The findings of this vast undertaking, which cost us some 2 million dollars, are set out in the documents before you, on which the Conference will make the final decision.

Two million dollars amount to quite a considerable sum, particularly in the present difficult circumstances. The consultants, the experts, the Committees - and, if I may say so, the Secretariat too - have done an extremely thorough job. At the end of this process, agreement has been reached on practically all recommendations. It is highly desirable that the Conference too reach unanimous agreement, and I have endorsed the Committees' conclusions and recommendations in the hope of facilitating such consensus.

One major obstacle remains. The experts stressed that an increase in FAO resources would be extremely welcome, and the Committees recognized that the implementation of the recommendations would involve additional costs; they did not, however, say where the necessary funds would come from. Before tackling this question, I should like to mention certain new activities which seem to me particularly important.

First of all, I should like to touch on field operations, which I myself had suggested should be included in the Review. Not only did the Committees approve this extension of their mandate; their conclusions on the experts' recommendations open up new prospects. I have in mind particularly the recommendation to create a project identification and formulation service that would give our field work greater flexibility and relevance. I am thinking of the recommendation to appoint immediately additional project officers and technical support staff to assist our overburdened officers in dealing with needs. Another concern is to strengthen inspection of field operations, and also the proposal to reinforce our country representations, which is entirely in line with my own concerns. There is also one point mentioned by the experts but not dealt with by the Committees: the advisability of making provision for refresher training for technical staff. I am convinced that the implementation of such recommendations can only contribute to the indispensable strengthening of our capacity to meet the enormous needs of our Member Nations.

The Committees, like the experts considered that cooperation should be developed between FAO and the World Bank, particularly through regular consultations between senior officers in the two organizations. I am pleased to tell you that, in order to keep the Bank better informed of our activities and to intensify our cooperation, I have already established a permanent dialogue in the form of arrangements for periodic consultations.

In the same connection, last month Mr Camdessus, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, and I laid the foundations for expanded cooperation between our two organizations in the field of structural adjustment programmes. IMF hopes that, in the preparation of these programmes, the countries concerned and the IMF itself will be able to benefit from FAO's expertise and experience in food and agriculture, particularly as regards food security, nutrition, the elimination of rural poverty, marketing and credit. As in the case of our relations with the World Bank, we have appointed officers as focal points who will meet once a year to exchange information on matters of common interest.

The total additional expenditure involved in implementing all the recommendations endorsed by the Committees, if they are endorsed by the Conference, would amount to approximately 26 750 000 dollars. But what is that compared with the losses we have suffered in recent years? It is an incredibly modest sum in view of the enormous needs resulting from population growth, the other problems I mentioned just now, and the new horizons, of which some, such as biotechnology, are prodigious. Let us be realistic; this amount merely represents a base for the expansion that will be inevitable if we are to take up the challenges of the year 2000. 1 have listed three categories of expenditure, by order of priority and according to whether they could be financed by the Regular Budget or by extra-budgetary funds. At all events - and I should like to make myself perfectly clear on this point - I could in no case recommend that this expenditure be financed by programme adjustments that would inevitably curtail the activities so badly needed and so urgently requested by our Member Nations.

The Conference may, I believe, feel satisfied at the way in which its Resolution 6/87 has been implemented. It now has before it some substantial documents covering the main aspects of the question. I am convinced that it will, in its wisdom, use this background to full advantage in conducting a clear, fair and well-defined debate, and thus, calmly and without unnecessary digressions, reach fruitful decisions on the future of our organization.

Allow me to mention very briefly three agenda items that deserve special attention.

First, I should like to stress the fundamental importance of the Plan of Action for the Integration of Women into Agricultural and Rural Development (agenda item 11). 1 am pleased to say that we have done what the Conference expected of us and that, for the 1990-91 biennium, we have increased the resources allocated to the relevant sub-programme; the Programme Committee has also expresed its satisfaction.

We are also vigorously pursuing work on the introduction of the "prior informed consent" clause into the International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides (agenda item 10); we see such a clause as an instrument of paramount importance for environmental and health protection in developing countries.

Your agenda also mentions an International Conference on Nutrition. FAO's basic mission is to free humanity from hunger. However, as I said at the beginning, despite the abundance of food in the world, hundreds of millions of our fellow beings are still underfed and undernourished. In terms of human lives, suffering, disability and mental retardation the price is appalling. Whenever this problem is mentioned the Third World springs to mind immediately; but hunger and malnutrition are also rife in developed countries, particularly in certain quarters of the big cities and on their outskirts. The well-off, on the other hand, are more in danger from overeating and unbalanced diets.

Unlike other major economic and social questions, this burning, universal problem has never been the subject of a real international conference. This was why the ACC Sub-Committee on Nutrition at the political level - which includes representatives of several United Nations agencies - proposed the holding of such a conference. Our Council endorsed this idea, on which you are now invited to decide.

The proposed conference would be concerned with identifying problems, making public opinion aware of them, drawing up a strategy, mobilizing the necessary resources and establishing a world system of information on these problems. Organized jointly by FAO and WHO in cooperation with other interested international institutions, it would be held during the 1992-93 biennium, probably in Rome. I am sure the Conference will study this proposal with all the interest it deserves.

I should also like to say a few words about World Food Day, which we observed for the ninth time last month. Once again, we realized that the Conference, by its decision in 1979 to establish this day, had launched a world event of far-reaching implications. All over the planet the foundation of FAO is commemorated and a world festival honours rural people. This year we chose as the theme for the Day a question of vital importance for both industrialized and developing countries: "Food and the environment". During the ceremony here on 16 October we heard several remarkable speeches, particularly an extremely stimulating statement by Mr Lubbers, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The next day at a ceremony in the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Mr Yeutter, Secretary of Agriculture of the United States, delivered an address of exceptional lucidity and high-mindedness. I quote just one phrase which admirably identifies the real problem: "Poverty is the worst enemy of both human beings and the global environment."

World Food Day marks the anniversary of FAO; I should now like to invite you to celebrate another anniversary. It is just twenty-five years since the establishment of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture. In 1964 the Directors-General of the two organizations decided to combine two services, one in FAO and the other in IAEA, to make available to Member Nations the most recent technologies in isotopes and radiation for application to research programmes and the development of food and agriculture. Starting from a small team, the Joint Division today constitutes a world-renowned centre of research, development and training, a place for dialogue and the exchange of information and knowledge, and an instrument for the transfer of nuclear technologies to the countries that need them most. Established in Vienna, it relies heavily on the agricultural laboratory in Seibersdorf, which is the only agricultural laboratory managed by United Nations agencies.

I do not, however, want to dwell too long on the activities of the Joint Division, since you will be hearing this afternoon a statement on the subject by my colleague and friend Mr Hans Blix, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, whom I am delighted to greet and to welcome among us. I shall therefore simply say how very happy we are to be celebrating the first quarter century of exemplary, harmonious and fruitful cooperation between our two sister agencies.

This harmony, this strong feeling of belonging to the same family, will, I devoutly hope, reappear in the debates and work of this session. There was a time in the history of our Organization when the range of diverse sensitivities and conceptions produced a certain tension. To overcome this moment, the Conference very wisely chose the path of reflection and of an in-depth review of FAO's goals and operations. Committees, experts and Secretariat, we have together concluded this review, we have devoted much time and effort to it, we have put into it the best that our experience, competence and energy could offer. Now that the Conference has before it the findings of this enormous work, the time for equanimity, agreement and action has come.

Our Member Nations, particularly the poorest among them, need our services too much for us to prolong our introspection at the expense of concrete work. I believe in all sincerity that the Conference now has before it proposals which, once they are adopted by general agreement and accompanied by the resources indispensable for their implementation, will enable us to provide our Member Nations with efficient, well-targeted assistance so that they can finally emerge from this depressing slump. The necessary examination of conscience we have undertaken must not be allowed to turn into permanent self-contemplation. The Conference now has all the elements needed to settle this question and decide upon the direction we should take. It will, I am sure, do this in all wisdom and serenity, so that we may close ranks and confront the immense challenge facing humanity on the eve of the year 2000.

Thank you.

E. Revision of articles 2 and 9 of the international code of conduct on the distribution and use of pesticides and guidelines on the operation of prior informed consent

A. Revision of articles 2 and 9 of the international code of conduct on the distribution and use of pesticides
B. Guidelines on the operation of prior informed consent (PIC)
Annex to appendix E

A. Revision of articles 2 and 9 of the international code of conduct on the distribution and use of pesticides


The following definitions were added to this Article:

  • "Prior Informed Consent" (PIC) refers to the principle that international shipment of a pesticide that is banned or severely restricted in order to protect human health or the environment should not proceed without the agreement, where such agreement exists, or contrary to the decision of the designated national authority in the participating importing country.

    "Prior Informed Consent Procedure" (PIC procedure) means the procedure for formally obtaining and disseminating the decisions of importing countries as to whether they wish to receive future shipments of pesticides that have been banned or severely restricted. A specific procedure was established for selecting pesticides for initial implementation of the PIC procedures. These include pesticides that have been previously banned or severely restricted as well as certain pesticide formulations that are acutely toxic. This procedure is described in the Guidelines on the operation of Prior Informed Consent.


    9.1 The government of any country that takes action to ban or severely restrict the use or handling of a pesticide in order to protect health or the environment should notify FAO as soon as possible of the action it has taken. FAO will notify the designated national authorities in other countries of the action of the notifying government.

    9.2 The purpose of notification regarding control action is to give competent authorities in other countries the opportunity to assess the risks associated with the pesticides, and to make timely and informed decisions as to the importation and use of the pesticides concerned, after taking into account local, public health, economic, environmental and administrative conditions. The minimum information to be provided for this purpose should be:

    9.2.1 the identity (common name, distinguishing name and chemical name);

    9.2.2 a summary of the control action taken and of the reasons for it - if the control action bans or restricts certain uses but allows other uses, such information should be included;

    9.2.3 an indication of the additional information that is available, and the name and address of the contact point in the country to which a request for further information should be addressed.

    Information Exchange among Countries

    9.3 If export of a pesticide banned or severely restricted in the country of export occurs, the country of export should ensure that necessary steps are taken to provide the designated national authority of the country of import with relevant information.

    9.4 The purpose of information regarding exports is to remind the country of import of the original notification regarding control action and to alert it to the fact that an export is expected or is about to occur. The minimum information to be provided for this purpose should be:

    9.4.1 a copy of, or reference to, the information provided at the time of the notification of control action;

    9.4.2 indication that an export of the chemical concerned is expected or is about to occur.

    9.5 Provision of information regarding exports should take place at the time of the first export following the control action, and should recur in the case of any significant development of new information or condition surrounding the control action. It is the intention that the information should be provided prior to export.

    9.6 The provision to Individual countries of any additional information on the reasons for control actions taken by any country must take into account protection of any proprietary data from unauthorized use.

    Prior Informed Consent

    9.7 Pesticides that are banned or severely restricted for reasons of health or the environment are subject to the Prior Informed Consent procedure. No pesticide in these categories should be exported to an importing country participating in the PIC procedure contrary to that country's decision made in accordance with the FAO operational procedures for PIC.

    9.8 FAO will

    9.8.1 review notifications of control actions to ensure conformity with definitions in Article 2 of the Code, and will develop the relevant guidance documents.

    9.8.2 in cooperation with UNEP, develop and maintain a data base of control actions and decisions taken by all Member Governments;

    9.8.3 inform all designated national authorities and relevant international organizations of, and publicise in such form as may be appropriate, notifications received under Article 9.1 and decisions communicated to it regarding the use and importation of a pesticide that has been included in the PIC procedure.

    9.8.4 FAO will seek advice at regular intervals and review the criteria for inclusion of pesticides in the Prior Informed Consent procedure and the operation of the Prior Informed Consent scheme and will report to Member Governments on its findings.

    9.9 Governments of importing countries should establish internal procedures and designate the appropriate authority for the receipt and handling of information.

    9.10 Governments of importing countries participating in the PIC procedure, when advised by FAO of control action within this procedure, should:

    9.10.1 decide on future acceptability of that pesticide in their country and advise FAO as soon as that decision has been made;

    9.10.2 ensure that governmental measures or actions taken with regard to an imported pesticide for which information has been received are not more restrictive than those applied to the same pesticide produced domestically or imported from a country other than the one that supplied the information;

    9.10.3 ensure that such a decision is not used inconsistently with the provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT);

    9.11 Governments of pesticide exporting countries should:

    9.11.1 advise their pesticide exporters and industry of the decisions of participating importing countries; and

    9.11.2 take appropriate measures, within their authority and legislative competence, designed to ensure that exports do not occur contrary to the decision of participating importing countries.

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