Sixty-second Session

Rome, 12-15 January 1999


Table of Contents







1. The Sixty-first Session of the Committee on Commodity Problems (CCP) requested the Secretariat to prepare a report reviewing the question of the CSSD location, its operational procedures and ways to improve participation by developing countries for consideration at its Sixty-second Session.

2. The following document provides a brief account of previous discussions and decisions regarding the CSSD location, including the views expressed at the 427th meeting of the CSSD in May 1998. It also provides information concerning attendance at meetings of the CSSD. Finally, it sets out some cost and organizational implications of holding meetings in Washington D. C. (USA) and Rome (Italy). The CCP is invited to provide guidance regarding the location of the CSSD and its operational procedures.


3. The initial rules of procedure of the CSSD, as adopted by the CCP at its Twenty-third Session in 1954, provided that meetings of the Subcommittee be held in Washington D. C. reflecting the overriding importance vis-à-vis other donors of the United States and its Public Law 480 food aid programme and the subsequent massive distribution of agricultural commodities under this programme.

4. In the late 1960s, the CCP established a Working Group to examine the functions of the CSSD. The resultant report (CCP: 69/13/1) provided the basis for the consultation and notification procedures which are still followed by the Subcommittee. However, no specific recommendations concerning the location of the CSSD were considered by the CCP at that time.

5. The question of location was touched upon by the CSSD in its report (CCP/CSD/74/102) to the CCP in 1974 in which the advantages of meeting in Washington D. C. were summarized. These included wide availability of national representations, ease of communications and secretariat support provided by the FAO Liaison Office.

6. At the request of the Fifty-sixth Session of the CCP in 1987, the CSSD again considered the location issue. The CCP at its Fifty-seventh Session endorsed the report of the CSSD that included an indication of a consensus for the continuation of Washington D. C. as the venue for its meetings.

7. Following the request by the Sixty-first Session of the CCP in February 1997, those CSSD members who so wished provided the 427th meeting of the Subcommittee with their country's views regarding its location. A majority of the delegations which entered the discussions favoured a continuation of meetings in Washington, primarily on the basis of cost-efficiency. Many also indicated that, in their view, a relocation to Rome would not result in any immediate benefits and would not necessarily improve participation. Some other delegations proposed relocation of the CSSD to Rome to benefit from enhanced interaction with FAO and other international agencies having expertise in the field of agriculture and to promote participation in the work of the Subcommittee. It was suggested that the additional costs resulting from the relocation should be included in the Programme of Work and Budget of the Organization.


8. There are currently 42 CSSD members and three observers. Analysis of records since 1993 indicates that the average attendance at CSSD meetings has been 19 delegations, with the highest attendance being 27 delegations and the lowest being 12. This compares very closely with the previous five-year period, during which average attendance was of 18 delegations per meeting.

9. There are 121 FAO member countries which have Permanent Representations in Rome, of which 6 are not represented in Washington. In total, there are 158 diplomatic representations in Washington, but of these 48 are not represented in Rome. Of the current CSSD members, all but two are represented in Rome. There are also 40 FAO member countries which are not CSSD members, but which have been recipients of CSSD-monitored transactions over the last five years. All of these countries are represented in both Rome and Washington D. C. and thus could participate in the CSSD, if they so desired, irrespective of its location.

10. While it is difficult to determine the impact that location has on attendance at CSSD meetings, one way to enhance participation in the broadest sense would be to make greater use of improved communications technology to exchange data on food aid transactions. There has been regular review and revision of many details regarding food aid transactions and of the Register of Transactions, but there has been little change in the mode of notification since the introduction of the use of facsimiles in the 1980s. With the use of electronic means, it may be possible that communications could be strengthened among CSSD members. A wider dissemination of information to all concerned FAO member countries regarding transactions might, in turn, encourage participation in the work of the CSSD. In any case, improved communication could help to promote awareness among concerned countries of the issues touching upon their interests in this area. The details of such arrangements, including the format for formal electronic communication regarding transactions would need to be developed.


11. All the expenses related to CSSD meetings, operations and staffing are borne by the Regular Programme. The budget which is currently allocated to CSSD covers only operational expenses, specifically the cost of meeting facilities, reproduction and dispatch of documents, and office supplies. Interpretation services have never been used. Costs relating to staff, both professional and general, who service the CSSD are absorbed by the FAO Liaison Office for North America (LOWA), to which the majority of the duties of these staff members relate. On this basis, a stable non-staff average annual budget level of US$13 500 was maintained over the 1995-97 period. In 1998 the non-staff budgetary allocation for the CSSD was reduced to US$7 750, reflecting the reduced frequency of meetings and reductions in costs of documentation. Once in a biennium, when the CCP considers the report of the CSSD, there is an additional budgetary provision for travel to enable the Chairperson and Secretary of the Subcommittee to attend these sessions.

12. If the CSSD were relocated to Rome, there would be additional charges associated with the need to secure the necessary professional and general staff support to service the Subcommittee. As Headquarters staff time is currently completely committed under the approved Programme of Work and Budget for 1998-99, a relocation to Rome could only be accommodated in the next biennium through a shifting of resources based on a reassessment of priorities or through a staffing increase. For indicative purposes, the cost of a P-4 Officer and a GS-4, estimated on the basis of one-third of their time being devoted to CSSD matters, would be about US$59 700 annually.

13. In addition, it is assumed that language services would be required for meetings in Rome, and the estimated cost of interpretation for four meetings a year would be US$19 200 annually (US$4 800 per meeting), while the annual cost of the necessary translation of all documents including notifications, would amount to an estimated US$17 600 (US$4 400 per meeting).1 These costs could, of course, be avoided should the Committee wish to confirm that meetings be conducted in one language only.

14. The additional staffing and translation/interpretation costs would be only partly offset by an annual average reduction of about US$3 000 (US$6 000 per biennium) associated with travel of the Chairperson and Secretary of the Subcommittee to Rome once in a biennium and of some US$500 in terms of lower distribution charges. In summary, the non-staff costs per biennium would be US$88 100 for CSSD meetings in Rome and US$21 500 in Washington D.C., while the total costs, including staff, would be US$207 500 in Rome and US$99 900 in Washington D. C.2

Estimated costs per biennium of CSSD in Washington and in Rome
(Basis quarterly meetings)





(US dollars)

General operating costs

15 500

14 500


6 000




38 400

35 200


21 500

88 100

Staff costs

78 400

119 400


99 900

207 500


15. Over the years, the question of CSSD location has been considered on various occasions, both by the CSSD itself and by its parent body, the CCP. In recent years, there has been a decline in the number of transactions dealt with by the Subcommittee reflecting the sharp reduction in the volume of food aid covered by the CSSD procedures. Further, an increased share of food aid is now channelled through multilateral organizations and private charitable organizations (more than 50 percent in some recent years). As such aid is largely for humanitarian relief, it does not give rise to issues of possible trade disruption of the type normally considered by the Subcommittee. These factors may have had an impact on the priority attached to participation in the operations of the CSSD, whether in Washington D. C. or Rome.

16. Analysis of the cost components for the CSSD, viewed in the context of the resource distribution within FAO, indicates that a relocation to Rome could result in an estimated doubling of total costs for the FAO budget from US$99 900 to US$207 500 per biennium depending on how the language and staffing issues are resolved. Additional costs would need to be met by either a net increase in resources or a shift of programme priorities.

17. As regards the benefits from relocation in terms of enhanced participation, particularly of developing countries, these are difficult to determine, as nearly all the countries involved have diplomatic representations both in Rome and in Washington D.C. Moreover, irrespective of location, improved participation might be stimulated through greater use of electronic communications.

18. The Committee may wish to decide on the location of future sessions of the Consultative Subcommittee on Surplus Disposal, and indicate how any budgetary implications of its decisions should be accommodated. Further, the Committee may wish to provide guidance on ways to improve participation in CSSD sessions, irrespective of location, in particular through strengthened communications based on electronic and other means of collecting and dissemination of information. In pursuance of such efforts, it may wish to request the Secretariat to develop appropriate arrangements regarding the notification of transactions.

1 The estimated costs of language services shown in this document differ from those provided to the CSSD in early 1998 due to changes in fees and in the basis of cost estimates (half-day recruitment of interpreters is not possible, costs of translation also include notifications).

2 Heavier staff involvement would be required if the CSSD were located in Rome because of more complex operations associated with meetings and documentation in the various languages.