XIV. Annex H - Closing address by Mr. A. H. Boerma, Director-General of FAO
Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
This, I need hardly tell you, is a memorable day for FAO. A special lustre has been added to our twenty-fifth anniversary by the presence at this commemorative session of His Holiness the Pope, the Prime Minister of Italy and many other distinguished persons. And the attendance of one and all of you who have come here today is extremely encouraging testimony to the value you place on the Organization. We are deeply grateful.
The year 1970 is significant for the international community as a whole. It marks the twenty-fifth anniversary not only of FAO but also of the United Nations itself. For those of my generation, who lived through the fragile twenty year truce between the two World Wars and witnessed the slow murder of the League of Nations, there is some sense of achievement in the mere attainment of these twenty-five years of existence. It is true that these years have not brought peace to all parts of the globe. But I think it is also true that, in most respects, the world today is a better place to live in than it was in 1945. And, to the extent that there has been a betterment in the human condition in this quarter-century, the international organizations such as FAO have made a unique and vital contribution.
On this twenty-fifth anniversary, I think I should briefly record the Organization's main achievements over the years. I do so, I can assure you, without any sense of complacency. There have been several success stories, but there have also been a number of failures. Some of these were due to our own mistakes. Others were due to the fact that we were not empowered to act as we should have liked. Indeed, I would say that the main criticism that can be levelled against FAO is not so much that it has done things wrong - although at times it has - but rather that it has not done enough.
Be that as it may, this is a celebration, not a court of inquiry. So, for the moment, I should like to concentrate on the positive things we have been able to do in the course of the Organization's life so far.
In the first place, there is our responsibility under the Constitution to "collect, analyse, interpret and disseminate information." This is an activity which has been going on since the beginning and has been built up to a point where it renders a unique service to the vast majority of our member countries. It should be made clear that this is not just a fact-gathering process. Facts reveal trends, and these have increasingly made it necessary for us to try and assess future developments and, as a result, to suggest policies and programmes to deal with them. This progressive involvement in policy formulation can be seen, for example, in the annual issues of "The State of Food and Agriculture" and has culminated in the Indicative World Plan - or Perspective Study of World Agricultural Development, as it is now to be called. Concern with the policy implications of the knowledge we have gathered in recent years was also the main motive that led to my proposals for our new strategy - the Five Areas of Concentration.
The second way in which FAO has been of value to its member countries has been to provide a forum for the discussion - and often the solution - of world agricultural problems. Apart from general bodies such as the Conference and the Council, there are all the Committees and smaller groups which enable Governments from all over the world to meet in a truly international setting to work out agreements on matters of common concern to them. There is the Committee on Commodity Problems which, with its widely -accepted principles of surplus disposal and its network of inter - governmental commodity study groups, is helping to bring some order into international commodity policy. There is the Committee on Fisheries which devotes its energies to devising measures for more rational management of the world's fishery resources. There will soon be a similar Committee on Forestry. There is the Codex Alimentarius Commission, which FAO operates jointly with WHO, and whose work for the international harmonization of national food legislation and regulations is aimed at smoothing the flow of trade and protecting the health of the citizens of many countries. Through these groups - and many others - Governments are able to make use of FAO as a common meeting-ground. And they are increasingly doing so. I would say that this role of ours could become even more important in the future when, for example, it is realized that there is a need for a more systematic approach to the problems of international adjustment in agriculture.
The activities I have so far described are, as you know, only a part of FAO's work. From small beginnings, we have over the years become increasingly operational. Here of course I am referring primarily to our work in the developing countries. On an occasion such as this, I do not wish to go into details. I would only recall the main forms that this work has taken. There are all the technical assistance experts we have provided and all the pre-investment studies we have carried out, chiefly with funds from what is now the United Nations Development Programme. There are a number of projects carried out under trust funds, some of which are provided bilaterally by Governments. There are the training centre courses we have operated and the fellowships we have awarded and supervised. As a follow-up to our pre-investment work, we have increasingly sought to attract outside finance for investment itself, both from the World Bank, various Regional Banks and some private banks and also, in recent years, from industrial concerns. It is difficult to give any precise figures as to the total funds involved in our field work over the years. But, as a rough indication, we estimate that resources for technical assistance and pre-investment work - including those contributed by Governments on the spot - have amounted to something in the region of $1000 million, while the total for actual investments has been of the order of magnitude of $2000 million.
To round out this very broad picture of FAO's record, I think I should refer to two rather special undertakings. There is first the Freedom From Hunger Campaign which is our channel to the public at large and which - through its National Committees and in various other ways - has done much to involve people in many parts of the world, not only in the struggle against hunger and malnutrition but also in action on behalf of the whole development process. Secondly, there was the crucial part played by the Organization in the creation of the World Food Programme which, as you know, is jointly sponsored by FAO and the United Nations and which, in the course of eight years, has grown into one of the most effective of the agencies that provide multilateral aid to the developing countries.
This brief outline of what FAO has managed to do in its first twenty-five years, despite various setbacks, is, I believe, an encouraging one. The question now is - what of the future?
The broad answer to this question might begin with the famous lines of T. S. Eliot:
"Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future."
Let us leave the past. It has taught us many lessons from which we can profit. But we should not linger over it. What concerns me much more at this moment is the influence of the present on our future pattern of activities.
I think it has to be admitted that, in this year 1970 when the United Nations and FAO have reached their twenty-fifth anniversaries, there is a certain malaise surrounding the international organizations.
This malaise is partly a reflection of the times in which we live and of some of the more disquieting features on the world scene - uncertainties and conflicts of purpose, growing turbulence and the feeling that things are getting out of control, as evidenced by the pollution of the environment and by the spread of inflation. But it is also linked directly to the international organizations themselves. I should perhaps say here that although I have referred to the international organizations, my main concern is of course the effect of the malaise on FAO.
Broadly speaking, this malaise, in so far as it directly affects the international organizations, arises from a sense of indifference and at times cynicism about them. This sense is to be found both among governmental authorities and sectors of public opinion. It comes both from highly conservative elements, which are mistrustful of our aims and believe that we cost more than we are worth, and from radical youth, which believes we are not doing enough and have lost touch with the world's real needs. More precisely, it focuses both on the purposes of the international organizations and on their performance.
Let me take performance first. I would be the first to agree that FAO has not always been as efficient as it might have been and that we have a moral duty to make our work as thorough and effective as possible. It was indeed for this reason that we have carried out a major re-organization and are introducing modern management systems. I believe that many of the mistakes of earlier years have been corrected. There is almost certainly more that could be done to improve our work. And even then we should not have reached - any more than anybody else can in this world - the state of perfection. But at least we are trying.
On the subject of performance, I think that I should also refer again to FAO's past record as I outlined it a few minutes ago. Whatever its short-comings when compared with the ideal, it is not, I submit, unimpressive. Moreover, the extent of our performance must, as I also indicated earlier, be viewed in the light of what our member countries decide that we should do. An organization such as FAO is an association of sovereign states. We may propose, but it is they that dispose.
I now want to say, Mr. Chairman, that I am less troubled by indifference or cynicism about our performance than about our purpose. Defects in performance can be mended. Its range can be enlarged. But, if our purpose is in question, then there is deep cause for concern. It is for this reason that I should like to say something about our basic purpose as I see it.
It is often pointed out that FAO is primarily a technical organization. And this is of course true. But I am also convinced that it is - and was from the outset intended to be - much more than that. The idea behind FAO involves a basic motivation that goes far beyond the reaches of technology.
To give you an idea of what I mean, let me quote to you one or two things that were said at the founding session of the Conference in Quebec twenty-five years ago. The former United States Secretary of Agriculture, Mr. Clinton P. Anderson, declared: "At this Conference we are laying one of the foundation stones of lasting peace." There were the words of Mr. David Wilson of New Zealand: "It must be our firm resolve in establishing the FAO that no government and no country, nor any selfish group, shall stand in the way of the fullest utilization of the world's resources for the mutual benefit of all." The leader of the United Kingdom delegation, Mr. Philip Noel Baker, stated: "We believe in FAO. We are determined that now and hereafter it shall succeed. We are confident that its success will mean much to our generation and to all the succeeding generations." And, in his closing statement, the Chairman, Mr. Lester Pearson, reminded the Conference that "FAO is, in the last analysis, people and governments."
It is clear that these men - and the many others who spoke - were not just thinking in terms of technology. They were thinking of people , of how FAO could serve to meet the needs of people and thereby help to preserve the peace among them all over the world. That, Mr. Chairman, is the basic motivation, the underlying purpose of FAO. Nothing less.
What has happened is that, for various reasons, this basic motivation - which is, I believe, generally shared by the international organizations in the United Nations system - has been allowed to languish in the course of the years. And, to the extent that it has languished, it has lost some of its credibility and its power to inspire action. It is this fading of the vision that led to the creation of the international organizations that is really the fundamental reason for the malaise surrounding them today. It is this that has been chiefly responsible for the growth of indifference or cynicism about their purpose and, as a consequence, about their performance.
It is essential that we make every endeavour to recapture that earlier vision. For the world today, threatened with being overwhelmed by the sheer weight of the number of its inhabitants, faces far greater problems and challenges than in 1945 - far greater than ever before. This would be the worst moment to allow international organizations such as FAO, which are in many ways uniquely placed to tackle these problems, to wither away. On the contrary, it is only too evident that they must be strengthened.
Let us make no mistake. The choice before the international organizations is growth or decline. They cannot stand still. For, in the face of the world's multiplying problems, to stand still would be to decline. But they can only grow at the rate which the world situation demands if they are sustained by the kind of vision that brought them into being.
They can themselves do something to assist their own growth by constantly re-examining their performance in the light of events, as we in FAO have done, for example, in response to the Jackson Report. But it remains true of course that their future rests almost entirely in the hands of those they serve - the people and governments of whom Mr. Pearson spoke.
I have said some things today about malaise. But I should not like to leave you with too gloomy an impression of my views. For, with all the difficulties we face, there are nevertheless some clearly encouraging signs on the international horizon. There is, for example, the Report of the Pearson Commission and the fact that it has begun to make its influence felt on government policy toward development in several countries - There is the fact that the United Nations has been able to agree on a statement of policy for the Second Development Decade which, if implemented with sincerity, will make a great contribution toward economic and social progress throughout the developing world. So far as FAO is concerned, I am deeply encouraged by the far-sighted and inspiring Declaration which you have just adopted. And I need hardly add that we feel a reflected radiance from the fact that the Nobel Peace Prize this year has been awarded to Dr. Norman Borlaug, that prophet and protagonist of the high-yielding varieties with whom it has been our privilege to be associated in some important ventures over several years.
Let us hope, then, that it will be possible for us to achieve the aims of your Declaration and thus help toward the creation of a better world. Let us hope that the international organizations are given the strength to carry out their essential mission. Let us hope that future historians will not have to ponder over the paradox of growing international chaos toward the close of the Twentieth Century while the international instruments available to deal with it were left almost powerless to act - The perils of such a situation are only too obvious. Indeed, there are grounds for fearing that, if the cause of the international organizations is lost, then it might be the last of history's lost causes.
This cannot be allowed to happen. And I am confident that, when the final choices are clearly weighed, we shall not allow it to happen.