17 July 2003, Brussels/Rome -- The European Commission and FAO today signed an agreement designed to create a closer strategic partnership between the two institutions in the fields of development and humanitarian aid.

Poul Nielson, the EC Commissioner for Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Aid and FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf signed the agreement under which the FAO will adhere to the Financial and Administrative Framework Agreement (FAFA) recently concluded between the EU and the United Nations.

Commissioner Nielson commented at the signing ceremony in Brussels: "I see this agreement as a confirmation of our close collaboration. The agreement provides us with the tools to further increase the quality of our collaboration in the pursuit of our common goal: alleviating poverty in developing countries."

Dr Diouf said: "I look forward to strengthened collaboration with the EU, an important member of FAO, as we face up to the urgent challenge of reducing chronic hunger and undernourishment that afflicts so many hundreds of millions in the world today."

Current and past cooperation between the EU and FAO

Cooperation between the European Commission and the FAO dates back to 1991, when a Framework Co-operation Agreement was concluded. The agreement was further strengthened in 1993 with the conclusion of the Arrangement on Procedures for technical cooperation covering the collaboration between the Community and the FAO in the fields of aid and technical assistance to developing countries.

Since 1993, technical cooperation between the Commission and FAO has resulted in implementation of 95 projects representing a total budget of approximately Euro 89 million.

Most of the projects have provided technical assistance to developing countries in the fields of food security, agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Currently, 32 projects are being implemented representing a total budget of Euro 59,6 million.

The breakdown by sector for these projects is the following: agricultural production and support systems (47%), food information and early warning systems (20%), forestry (20%), animal health and production (9%) and fisheries (4%).

In terms of geographical distribution 52% of the projects are being implemented in Africa and the Middle East, 32% in Asia, 11% in Latin America and the Caribbean and the remaining 5% are interregional.

The projects are financed from the European Development Fund (EDF), and by Commission budget lines for Asia and Latin America, for food security and for forests/the environment.

Since the 1996 World Food Summit the global problem of food insecurity has been drawing increased attention. The EC has consequently increased the field operations and activities directly oriented at food security. The total allocations from the Commission's food security budget line amounted to Euro 455 million for 2002. It included Euro 26,5 million for projects implemented by FAO.

The Financial and Administrative Framework Agreement

Initially concluded in 1999, the FAFA outlines how European Commission funds shall be handled by the UN system. The agreement has now been reviewed in view of facilitating a joint wish of the EU and UN to see cooperation expand, and to make funding by the European Commission of UN operations and programmes at the technical level more flexible.

The new agreement provides the EU and the UN with an improved tool in their joint efforts to strengthen global governance and the multilateral institutions.

Among the principles revised in the agreement are those of moving from project funding to more long-term programme funding; to shift from a focus on inputs to one based on outputs and results; to strengthen the visibility of EU as a donor, and to clarify and simplify rules on reporting.

Yearly consultations will be held between the European Commission and all members of the UN systemthat adhere to the agreement with the purposeof identifying ways of further fine-tuning the functioning of the agreement.

Future EU-FAO strategic partnership

The strategic partnership, to be designed in the coming months, will involve a closer programming dialogue between the European Commission and the FAO, and the prospect for more long-term financing in the case of development programmes.

Concretely, the FAFA will lower the transaction costs of joint projects or programmes, thereby helping the institutions to make better use of their resources for development and humanitarian relief to benefit those in need.

By increasing the predictability of the rules to be applied for all parties concerned (the EU, the FAO, other donors and the beneficiary country), it will contribute to greater transparency, lower transaction costs and thereby to a greater impact of the operations on the ground.

Other specialized UN agencies will be invited to adhere to the FAFA, in order to facilitate funding of their operations and programmes. The ILO signed a similar agreement with the European Commission on 8 July 2003.

Nuria Felipe Soria
Information officer, FAO
+ 39 06 570 55899

Mr Jean-Charles Ellermann-Kingombe
Press contact, European Commission
+ 32-2-295 60 53