29 November 2003, Rome -- FAO Director-General, Dr. Jacques Diouf, opened today the 32nd Session of the Organization's governing Conference (29 November - 10 December 2003), which is being attended by Agriculture Ministers and senior officials from FAO Members.

One of the main issues on the agenda of the Conference is the Organization's Programme of Work and Budget for 2004 and 2005.

FAO's budget was seriously reduced in 1995 and has not grown hitherto despite considerable inflation and associated cost increases and an increase in the number of member countries served by the Organization.

The current budget for a two-year period (2002-2003) is US$651.8 million, against US$673.1 million in 1994-1995.

In addition to the Programme of Work and Budget for 2004-2005, the FAO Conference will examine several issues including:
  • the latest FAO report on the state of food and agriculture in the world;
  • ways and means of strengthening coherence in FAO initiatives to fight hunger;
  • a progress report on the implementation of the FAO gender and development plan of action;
  • a progress report on the implementation of the international plan to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing;
  • another report on the implementation of the plan of action for the Pan African Tsetse and trypanosomiasis eradication campaign;
  • admission of new Member States.

Four new countries have applied for membership to FAO. These are Micronesia, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu and Ukraine. Their admission, to be decided by the Conference, will raise FAO's membership to 188, including the European Community.

The Conference will also review a document on the 2004 International Year of Rice (IYR),which aims to promote sustainable increases in rice-based production.

The UN General Assembly has asked FAO to facilitate the implementation of the IYR, in collaboration with governments, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centres and other major international, non-governmental and private sector stakeholders.

FAO will host an International Rice Conference at its headquarters on 12 and 13 February 2004.

Round Tables and side events

During the Conference a series of Round Tables and side events have been organized to provide high-level officials from member states with the opportunity to discuss key topics.

The Round Tablesare intended to offer a forum for debate, and each one will be co-chaired by a representative from a developed and a developing country.

The first Round Table, to be held on December 1st, will discuss the role of water and infrastructure in ensuring sustainable food security.

The second will focus on developments in international trade negotiations on agriculture and their implications for food security, including the work of FAO.

The third Round Table will examine the dimension of food safety in food security.

The Chairs of the Round Tables, which will be held on consecutive days and will be closed to the press, will provide a summary of their meetings to the Plenary of the Conference.

The side events will include:
  • a discussion presented by the US Delegation on the use of science and technology to improve water management in Africa and the Middle East;
  • an event coordinated by the Government of India on managing drought;
  • a presentation on small island developing states led by FAO's Sustainable Development Department;
  • a presentation by Italy on the social, environmental and economic contributions of poplars and willows in sustainable rural development;
  • a session on developing a common civil society/FAO approach towards agroecology with the participation of international non-governmental and civil society organizations.

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