All Codex Members and observers are encouraged to participate in the process to develop Codex texts, through sending written comments and attendance at meetings. However, Codex sessions are complex events and require good preparation to ensure smooth operation and timely decision making. This document aims to assist those who are attending a Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting for the first time.
Delegates need to understand:
Delegations should obtain all documentation from their respective Contact Points or the Codex website prior to a Codex session in order to familiarise themselves with the topics under discussion. They should bring copies of documents to the meeting as working papers are distributed exclusively via the Codex website and not printed at meetings - with the exception of CRDs (Conference Room Documents).
Document types include: circular letters, the invitation and provisional agenda, working papers and information documents. After meetings, the report is distributed electronically. Reports, final texts and publications are available on the Codex website.
The invitation contains information such as the date, time and venue of the meeting. Personalised invitations cannot be issued. The names of the representative and other members of the delegation should be communicated through the Codex Contact Point as early as possible and in any case not less than 30 days before the opening of the meeting.
It is the responsibility of participants to ensure that they have the proper documentation for travel, including visas. Therefore, where required, participants must apply for entry visas as early as possible. The Codex Contact Points in host countries can provide the location of embassies or consulates but cannot expedite visa applications.
Trust Fund Arrangements
The new FAO/WHO Codex Trust Fund no longer supports physical participation in Codex meetings. Countries which are eligible for the new Codex Trust Fund need to apply for support to strengthen national Codex structures in response to a “Call for Applications”. For more information on the Codex Trust Fund please see the information on the Codex Trust Fund website.
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The provisional agenda is prepared by the Codex Secretariat on behalf of the Directors-General of FAO and WHO in consultation with the chairperson. The provisional agenda also shows indicative timetables for the conduct of the meeting including elections.
The Codex Secretariat is responsible for the preparation and distribution of working papers. Working papers form the basis for discussion during meetings and are normally distributed where possible at least two months prior to a session.
All working papers have the same reference: CX/CAC, followed by digits representing the year, the session number and then finally by the consecutive number allocated for the document under discussion on the agenda. Among the working papers are the reports of the subsidiary bodies that have met since the last session of the Commission.
Documents that are prepared mainly for information purposes have the reference, INF.
Conference room documents
Comments received after the due date or unsolicited documents are circulated during the session itself and are referred to as conference room documents (CRDs) which are consecutively numbered under the reference, LIM. The disadvantage of CRDs is that their distribution is limited to those Members and observers present at the meeting, and usually in the original language only. A further disadvantage is that CRDs may not be fully considered due to other Members and observers not having sufficient time or expertise to consider the contents and to formulate a position.
Members and observers are thus encouraged to submit written comments by the deadline indicated in the CL.
Some important documents that should be brought to a Codex session
Opening of the session
Sessions are normally opened by a senior representative of the parent organizations, FAO and WHO. After the opening, the Chairperson proceeds to the adoption of the agenda. Once comments on the provisional agenda have been considered, the Chairperson will request that the Commission adopt the provisional agenda or amended agenda as the agenda for the session.
Role of the Chairperson
The Chairperson will ensure that all questions are fully discussed, including written comments of Members and observers not present at the session.
At appropriate intervals during the discussion of each agenda item, the Chairperson will summarise the discussion by stating what appears to be the generally accepted view. The Chairperson ensures that conclusions of the discussion are clearly understood by all participants.
How are decisions reached?
The Commission makes every effort to reach agreement on the adoption or amendments of standards by consensus. Decisions to adopt or amend standards may be taken by voting only if such efforts to reach consensus have failed. Voting may also take place for the adoption of amendments to the Rules of Procedure.
Who is allowed to speak?
Members and observers are permitted to intervene on issues under consideration. Normally the head of delegation has the right to speak, but with the Chairperson's permission, another member of the delegation may speak (e.g. on technical matters). Comments are always directed at the Chairperson. Protocol states that Members speak before observers and delegations speak only when acknowledged by the Chairperson.
How do I indicate my delegations desire to speak?
Delegations indicate their desire to intervene by holding up the country/organisation nameplate and placing it in an upright position until acknowledged by the Chairperson.
How many times may a Member intervene?
There are no uniform rules within Codex regarding the number and duration of interventions. The general practice is to intervene only once on a particular issue, although a second intervention may be allowed at the discretion of the Chairperson, normally to clarify a point or reply to a question raised by another delegation.
It is important to keep interventions short and concise (not more than 1 - 2 minutes) and to speak slowly to allow for effective and accurate simultaneous interpretation. Should a delegation read from written comments that appear in one of the working papers, it is essential to indicate the reference to the comments at the start of an intervention.
A draft report of the session’s proceedings is prepared by the Codex Secretariat for consideration on the final day of the session. It is customary, depending on the workload, that the second to last day of the meeting is set aside for the drafting of this report (i.e. no plenary session is held). The draft report is made available usually one hour before the adoption starts, to allow delegates to familiarise themselves with its contents.
As the report is the official record of the Codex meeting it is essential that delegations carefully read it to ensure that it accurately reflects the views, recommendations and conclusions of the meeting. The final report aims to be concise and views and opinions summarised are not usually associated with the names of specific delegations and observers.
During the review of the draft report, the Chairperson calls each paragraph or section by number. This allows delegations who wish to amend the text to intervene at the appropriate moment. When doing so, it is important to make concrete proposals for changes (e.g. additions or deletions). At this stage, it is not possible to re-open discussions; nor is it possible to record in the report what was not stated during the discussion.
The adoption of report is integral part of the official agenda of the session and all delegations are requested to take part.
Once adopted the report becomes the official record of the Commission session.
The Commission report is later published in all languages of the Commission and distributed to all Codex Contact Points. The report is also posted on the Codex website.
PDF version of the Informations for Delegates is available here
To further assist delegates the FAO/WHO training package "Enhancing Participation in Codex Activities" is available from the FAO website at:
For further information about Codex Alimentarius:
Trust fund enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org