Fifteenth Session

Rome, 25-29 January 1999, Red Room

Highlights of FAO Programmes

1. FAO plays a major role in the follow-up to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) through its normative and operational programmes. The key chapters of Agenda 21 where FAO is Task Manager, or for the implementation of which FAO provides substantial inputs, include Chapters 8, 10, 11, 13, 14, 17, 19, 24, 32 and 40. FAO is also actively involved in the implementation of the three Conventions - the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought (CCD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which have come into effect as a result of UNCED. In addition, FAO activities in the follow-up to the World Food Summit, whose Plan of Action includes multiple references to common objectives with UNCED, are another broad-based contribution by the Organization to the UN system implementation of Agenda 21.

2. Brief highlights of FAO's most recent activities and contributions to Agenda 21 follow-up as well as the three Conventions are presented below, starting with the chapters for which FAO is Task Manager.

3. To facilitate the implementation of Chapter 10 "Integrated Approach to the Planning and Management of Land Resources" FAO has developed and tested a framework for integrated and improved land resource management. In this respect the most recent publications are: Negotiating a Sustainable Future for the Land: Structural and Institutional Guidelines for Land Resources Management in the 21st Century (1997) and The Future of Our Land: Facing the Challenge, Guidelines for integrated planning for sustainable management of land resources (1998).

4. In collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), FAO organized a regional workshop on "Integrated Planning and Management of Land Resources" in April 1998 in Swaziland. This led to the development of guidelines on "Integrated Land Resources Management for the 21 st Century", which are being field tested in a number of countries. FAO has played a key role in launching the Soil Fertility Initiative (SFI) by working hand in hand with partners such as the World Bank, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society. The SFI focuses on restoring soil fertility and enhancing food security in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). In 1997-98 FAO, in collaboration with the World Bank and national governments, initiated the preparation of Soil Fertility Initiative (SFI) National Action Plans and Pilot Projects in Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal and Zambia. FAO, in wide partnership with other organizations and governments, is promoting conservation farming technologies, including the development of guidelines on environmentally sound tillage practices, and a major workshop was organized in Zimbabwe in 1998.

5. With regard to Chapter 11 "Combating Deforestation", FAO has given high priority to providing support for the implementation of the agreement reached on areas of broad mandates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) in February 1997 and the proposals for action it submitted to the Fifth Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) in April 1997. In reviewing the report of the IPF, the CSD decided to establish the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF) to continue the policy dialogue on forests and in particular to deliberate on a number of issues on which IPF could not reach conclusive agreements, such as a legally-binding instrument on forests. In chairing the Inter-Agency Task Force on Forests, FAO's Forestry Department assists member countries to translate the IPF proposals for action into national forest policies, strategies and programmes as well as to provide support to the work of the IFF.

6. As task manager of Chapter 13 "Managing Fragile Ecosystems: Sustainable Mountain Development", FAO has promoted and facilitated the participation of governments, international organizations, NGOs and academic institutions in mountain agenda. This new partnership contributed to the creation of an International Mountain Forum in 1996 which provides dialogue on mountain issues through global and regional nodes. So far three regional nodes have been established: Asia and Pacific, Europe and Latin America. FAO is a member of the Steering Committee of the Mountain Forum. One of the main current activities of the FAO Mountain Programme is to organize the Twenty-first Session of the European Forestry Commission's Working Party on the Management of Mountain Watersheds, to be held in the Czech Republic in October 1998. The overriding theme of this session is integrated watershed management.

7. Two recent events have confirmed that mountain ecosystems are high on the global agenda. The Convention of Parties (COP) IV of the Convention for Biological Diversity agreed that in the year 2001 COP VII would focus on biological diversity in relation to mountain ecosystems. In July 1998 the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), supported by 106 countries, agreed to recommend to the Fifty-third Session of the UN General Assembly to proclaim the year 2002 as the International Year of the Mountains (IYM). The major objectives of the IYM will be to increase awareness of, and knowledge about, mountain ecosystems; conserve the cultural heritage of mountain communities and promote sustainable development of mountain resources. In addition to proclaiming the IYM, the UN General Assembly in November 1998 is preparing to designate FAO as the lead agency for IYM, recognizing FAO's sustained and strong leadership in this area.

8. Chapter 14 of Agenda 21 "Promoting Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development" embraces the multi-faceted programmes required to achieve sustainable agriculture and rural development (SARD) which include areas such as agricultural policy, improving farm production and farming systems, conservation and utilization of plant and animal genetic resources and rural energy transition. FAO has been assisting many countries in key areas of SARD. In the areas of agricultural policy, review and planning, FAO continues its extensive programme of assistance to developing countries to strengthen national commodity policies fostering sustainable agricultural development and for international cooperation through producer and consumer consultations, including work on environmental/trade linkages in selected agricultural commodities. Following the conclusion of the Uruguay Round, priority is given to assisting countries and regions in formulating trade-related policies which support agricultural and food security strategies consistent with internationally agreed rules. FAO closely collaborates with the World Trade Organization (WTO), both through participation in WTO Committees dealing with agricultural and environmental issues and through the implementation of the Plan of Action for the WTO Integrated Framework Programme assisting the Least Developed Countries.

9. Rural energy transition is an important dimension in attaining SARD. Progress is noted in incorporating energy issues into international environmental and climate change discussions, while on the other hand rural energy investments seem to be suffering from the decreased role of governments in both the energy and agricultural sectors. New opportunities to promote bioenergy options are becoming evident. Both biomass and biomass residues from forestry and agricultural activities are increasingly being considered as important renewable energy sources. This creates income generation opportunities while also bringing competition with land for food production, requiring carefully thought-out policy.

10. Another component of Chapter 14 is improving farming systems through diversification to which the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) has made some contributions. Farmers in Africa and Asia are showing increased interest in fruits, vegetables, aquaculture, poultry, dairy, bee keeping and other new farm enterprises that are being introduced through the SPFS and regional farming systems programmes. Urbanization and market liberalization are also contributing to diversification. In the area of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), also a component of Chapter 14, FAO hosts the Global IPM Facility, which is expanding activities into Africa and Latin America and embracing not only IPM but also broader issues of farmers' participation and crop and soil management. With respect to land conservation and rehabilitation, FAO's regional frameworks - International Scheme for Conservation and Rehabilitation of African Lands (ISCRAL), Conservation of Land in Asia and South Pacific (CLASP) and Conservación y Rehabilitación de Tierras in America Latina y el Caribe (CORTALC) - are being promoted in Africa, Asia and Latin America. FAO has developed and initiated testing of a framework for Integrated Plant Nutrition Systems (IPNS) and a Guide to Efficient Plant Nutrition Management has been published (1998).

11. The FAO Intergovernmental Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) provides the main forum for global concerns on agricultural genetic resources, their use and conservation. Since the last session of COAG membership of the CGRFA has risen to 159 countries plus the European Community. The Commission has held one regular and two extraordinary sessions. During the extraordinary sessions, countries continued negotiations for the revision of the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources, in harmony with the CBD, including for the realization of farmers' rights.

12. The CGRFA's regular session focused on follow-up to the Fourth International Technical Conference (June 1996), in particular the implementation of the Global Plan of Action on Plant Genetic Resources, and the dissemination and updating of the first Report of the State of the World's Plant Genetic Resources. The first meeting of the Intergovernmental Technical Working Group on Animal Genetic Resources focused on the development of the Global Strategy on Animal Genetic Resources and addressed issues such as the further development of country-based infrastructure, guidelines for action planning, the Domestic Animal Diversity Information System (DAD-IS) and the proposed preparation of a country-driven Report of the State of the World's Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Crop and pest information systems have also been developed, as have germplasm resource data bases. The COP/CBD has given its support to FAO's work on plant and animal genetic resources and expressed the wish that the FAO International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources be considered as a possible protocol to the CBD, once revised.

13. Within the Regular Programme of the Crop Production and Protection Division (AGP) substantive efforts are focused on networking with national programmes to enhance the conservation of plant genetic resources and to promote improved crop breeding where assistance on underutilized crops is emphasized. Global information exchange on breeding is fostered through FAO's electronic Plant Breeders Newsletter; more than 1200 breeders and interested persons have subscribed. FAO also hosts the International Rice Commission (IRC) which was created by the FAO Conference on 4 January 1949, to promote cooperative efforts by member countries (now 61) for the most important food crop of the world. The IRC played a key role in the rice development and distribution that powered much of the green revolution. At its Nineteenth Session in Cairo, 1998, the IRC endorsed the Commission's recent work, especially on hybrid rice development and on analysis of rice yield gaps and yield plateauing issues.

14. As a substantive follow-up to the land and agriculture cluster issues of Agenda 21, and in preparation for the Eighth Session of the CSD for which FAO has a leading responsibility, FAO is providing technical inputs to the "Technical Preparatory Conference for the Eighth Session of the CSD" to be convened jointly with the Government of the Netherlands in 1999. The output of the preparatory process and the Conference is expected to consist mainly of: a background technical document on multifunctional agriculture presenting a vision on how agriculture and land management can evolve to meet the challenges ahead; a synthesis of the stocktaking of success stories and lessons learned in agriculture and land management; and a conference report summarizing the main conclusions and recommendations. The results of this Conference will be presented for decision to the Thirtieth Session of the FAO Conference in 1999 (see Annex 1).

15. The three Conventions (CBD, CCD, FCCC) which emanate from the UNCED process make up the significant part of Agenda 21 follow-up. Through the Interdepartmental Working Groups (IDWG) for CBD, CCD and Customs Cooperation Council (CCC), FAO coordinates its efforts to assist in the activities of the Conventions as well as to give direct advice to Member Nations. As the Organization-wide focal point for the Conventions, the Sustainable Development Department (SD) bears major responsibility for providing support to the Convention Secretariats and for coordinating FAO's efforts.

16. The IDWG on CBD has identified major activities to be carried out by FAO, which include: (a) the review of on-going activities at international and regional level in collaboration with the CBD Secretariat; (b) the inventory of FAO's activities related to biological diversity and in particular agricultural biodiversity; (c) the identification of cross-cutting activities in the area of biological diversity for the next biennium; (d) a contribution to the International Technical Workshop on agricultural biodiversity organized jointly by FAO and the CBD Secretariat and funded by the Government of the Netherlands (Queen Juliana 2 Workshop on Opportunities, incentives and approaches for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in agricultural ecosystems and production systems); (e) a contribution to the Diversitas Conference on conservation and sustainable use of wild plants of importance for food and agriculture; (f) involvement in and preparation of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) IV and V; and (g) preparation of COP V. FAO has also seconded a technical officer to assist the CBD Secretariat in Montreal.

17. The IDWG on CCD is now in the phase of setting up a detailed workplan for the next two to three years that includes a number of project proposals identified in cooperation with the Secretariat of the CCD, to be submitted for external funding. The IDWG-CCD also embarked on the production of a multimedia CD ROM which will contain most FAO data useful for the CCD. FAO's main activities related to the CCD include: information systems - agrometeorology; the Geographic Information System (GIS); remote sensing and the Global Information and Early Warning System for Food and Agriculture (GIEWS); Forest Resource Assessment 2000 (FRA 2000) and the World Agricultural Information Centre (WAICENT); soil and forestry networks; policies and plans such as the Tropical Forests Action Plan (TFAP) and the National Environmental Action Plans (NEAP); preparation of bulletins on best practices and methodologies on soil, water and forestry; and preparation of the World Soil Resources Report and supporting soil database, land degradation assessment and mapping.

18. The IDWG on Climate was established in 1998 and covers the following areas: development of a scientific basis for carbon sequestration and substitution, particularly with regard to the interaction between agricultural production and climate change and the role of the agricultural sector as a source and as a sink of greenhouse gases; development of national climate policies; development and implementation of education and training programmes, including the strengthening of national capacity building, in particular human and institutional capacities; transfer of, and access to, environmentally sound technologies, know-how, practices and processes pertinent to climate change, in particular to developing countries; preparation of investment programmes within the frame of the Clean Development Mechanism; data collection and information dissemination on climate change; activities related to "tradable permits".

19. FAO is also actively involved in the implementation of Chapters 8, 17, 19, 24, 32 and 40.

20. FAO has made contributions to the implementation of Chapter 8 "Integrating Environment and Development in Decision Making". Contributions by FAO to this chapter include the production of "Guidelines for the integration of sustainable agriculture and rural development into agricultural policies" (FAO Agricultural Policy and Economic Development Series no. 4, 1997) and the development of environment accounting methods in the areas of soil degradation, fisheries and forestry in cooperation with the UN Statistical Division. FAO, through its Policy Assistance Division (TCA) has been assisting member countries in the formulation of agricultural policies and strategies that take into account the sustainable use and management of natural resources. Training programmes that are geared towards integrating environment in decision-making and assessing environmental impact relevant to decision-makers at all levels are being offered in collaboration with regional and national institutions.

21. As regards Chapter 17 "Protection of the Oceans, all Kinds of Seas including Enclosed and Semi-Enclosed Seas, and Coastal Areas and their Protection, Rational Use and Development of their Living Resources", a major activity of FAO is to assist countries in their efforts to secure long-term sustainable fisheries and aquaculture and give effect to the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and other international fishery instruments. FAO, in collaboration with its member countries and some organizations, has taken a number of steps to promote the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, adopted by the FAO Conference in October 1995. Since 1996, six guidelines for the implementation of the code addressing fishing operations, the precautionary approach to capture fisheries and species introductions, integration of fisheries into coastal area management, fisheries management, aquaculture development and inland fisheries have been printed and distributed. An inter-regional programme to support activities relating to the implementation of the Code has been elaborated and presented to the international donor community and implementation of part of the programme started in 1998. A comprehensive strategy to promote and facilitate the implementation of the Code in a coherent, integrated and practical manner will be presented to the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) in February 1999. A regional workshop on the adaptation of the Code was organized for 22 coastal countries of West Africa in June 1998 under the auspices of the FAO Regional Programme for Integrated Development of Artisanal Fisheries (IDAF) in West Africa.

22. One of the most significant developments with regard to Chapter 19 "Environmentally Sound Management of Toxic Chemicals, including Prevention of Illegal International Traffic in Toxic and Dangerous Products", is the conclusion of the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent (PIC) for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade in September 1998. FAO and UNEP, upon the request of their respective governing bodies, facilitated successful negotiations to develop an international convention on PIC. An Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee met five times from 1996 to 1998. A Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (PIC Convention) was held from 10-11 September 1998 in Rotterdam. Ministers and senior officials from 91 countries adopted the Final Act of the Conference, the PIC Convention, a resolution concerning the secretariat, as well as a resolution on interim arrangements between the adoption of the PIC Convention and its entry into force. A total of 62 countries signed the PIC Convention, while 80 countries signed the Final Act. The PIC Convention will remain open for signature and ratification at United Nations Headquarters from 12 September 1998 to 10 September 1999. The Convention will enter into force 90 days after receipt of the 50th instrument of ratification. The first COP is expected to be held around 2001. Until that time FAO and UNEP will operate a voluntary PIC procedure. FAO cooperates with World Health Organization (WHO), International Labour Organization (ILO), UNEP, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in the Interagency Programme on the Safe Management of Chemicals to implement jointly the recommendations made in Chapter 19. These organizations also jointly provide inputs to the International Forum on Chemical Safety.

23. With respect to Chapter 24 "Global Action for Women towards Sustainable and Equitable Development", the Women and Population Division (SDW) promoted the mainstreaming of gender in the Organization's programmes through the effective implementation of the FAO/Women-in-Development (WID) Plan of Action adopted by the Twenty-eighth Session of the Conference in 1995. To enhance the productive capacities of rural women and men on the one hand and the capacity of member countries to design and implement gender-responsive and sustainable development plans on the other, the Socio-economic and Gender Analysis (SEAGA) training programme has been pilot-tested since 1996 through extensive briefings and/or training workshops for selected individuals in some 30 countries in four continents. For the theme "Women Feed the World" for the 1998 celebration of the World Food Day, SDW, in collaboration with other departments, prepared information material to document the important role of women in food production and food security and to contribute to a vast information campaign using various types of media and special events to raise the awareness of the general public on gender issues in agriculture and food security.

24. With respect to Chapter 32 "Strengthening the Role of Farmers", FAO in collaboration with the Interntional Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Bank is strengthening the capacities of landless and near-landless farmers to acquire environmentally-suitable agricultural land through the recent establishment of a global network on negotiated land reform (NELAREN). The new network is being implemented initially in Brazil, Colombia and South Africa. FAO is also working closely with the World Bank on the development of policy guidelines to assist governments in decentralizing the delivery of development services to farmers and increasing farmers' participation in land resource management and planning. A survey of the on-going process of decentralization was conducted in Bangladesh, India and the Philippines, and work is underway on the development of an interactive global network on decentralization issues and on a self-training kit on decentralization methods and approaches for government officers.

25. FAO has also been actively involved in the implementation of Chapter 40 "Information for Decision Making", particularly with regard to environmental planning. The use of analytical tools such as remote sensing and GIS for multi-source information synthesis, standards and guidelines for land cover, land use mapping, monitoring and coastal area assessment is one of the priority areas. Software tools and methodologies are being developed and made available to support environmental data analysis and handling, natural resource assessment and programme management. The Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS) programme, for which SD Department provides the secretariat support, is establishing Global System of Terrestrial Observation Networks (GT-Net) - a global system of terrestrial observation networks, to assess inter alia the data and information needs of environment-related conventions, to link on-ground observations with satellite sensing, as well as to carry out projects on global change - the first such project is an assessment of net primary productivity.

26. The SD Department collaborated with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs and other partners in identifying and developing "indicators of sustainability" for a number of chapters of Agenda 21. The indicators are now being tested in a number of countries and will be revised and improved in the coming year. Interdepartmental efforts are underway to develop specific technical indicators for several of the international environmental conventions, in particular those that deal with biological diversity and desertification. There is on-going collaboration with OECD and other groups to improve quality and policy relevance of indicators.

27. Since the Special Session of the General Assembly on an overall review and appraisal of implementation of Agenda 21 in June 1997, which discussed how far the world community had come in implementing Agenda 21, there has been a shift towards an integrated approach to Agenda 21 issues through cross-sectoral analysis and reporting. CSD's five-year work plan, for example, reflects this emphasis on a cross-sectoral approach. FAO needs to pay greater attention to this development. In this respect, SD Department can provide the coordinating mechanism to help integrate the activities of FAO's technical Departments, enabling the Organization to address issues of environmental sustainability in a cross-sectoral way.


Technical Preparatory Conference for CSD-8

  1. At its Eighth Session in the year 2000 the CSD, which was established to monitor progress on follow-up to Agenda 21, will examine the sectoral theme of Integrated Planning and Management of Land Resources and the economic sector of Agriculture. These two topics are closely related to the Agenda 21 chapters for which FAO is task manager, i.e. Chapters 10 (Land Resources), 11 (Forests), 13 (Mountains) and 14 (Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development). As a result, FAO has been given a lead role in the CSD-8 process and the Inter-Agency Committee on Sustainable Development (IACSD) welcomed its initiative to start preparations well in advance.
  2. A number of countries and organizations have indicated their willingness to participate in the preparations for CSD-8. In particular, the Netherlands has taken the initiative to organize jointly with FAO a technical preparatory conference "The FAO/Netherlands Conference on the Multifunctional Character of Agriculture and Land". FAO will provide major technical support for the preparation of this Conference, and other partner countries and institutions are expected to collaborate. The Conference will be held in the Netherlands from 13-17 September 1999 with the expected participation of over 200 countries, international organizations and NGOs.
  3. Its immediate objectives are:
      1. to review progress achieved since the 1992 Rio Summit in the implementation of Agenda 21 in terms of sustainable agriculture and integrated land management, in particular through a stocktaking of lessons learned from concrete experiences at all levels (national through local);
      2. to identify and analyse the main issues to be addressed in these areas, taking into account new elements that have emerged since 1992 and the evolving nature of these issues. Topics such as the relationships between food security and the multiple roles of agriculture as well as participatory management of land resources based on reconciling different stakeholder needs will be high on the agenda.
  4. The expected output of the Conference will be a concise statement introducing two technical background documents:
  5. The Conference intends to contribute to formulating the follow-up agenda for the new millennium by capitalizing on what has been learned to date in order to propose implementation strategies and policy options. It could have a major impact in the same way as in 1991 the Conference on Agriculture and the Environment held in den Bosch, the Netherlands, provided the basis for shaping the Agenda 21 chapters on sustainable agriculture and land management.
  6. The broader goal is to bring agriculture back to the fore by focusing on current and forthcoming challenges and on the new instruments available to address them.



CBD Convention on Biological Diversity

CCC Customs Cooperation Council

CCD Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought

CGIAR Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research

CGRFA Intergovernmental Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

CLASP Conservation of Land in Asia and South Pacific

COFI Committee on Fisheries

COP Convention of Parties

CORTALC Conservación y Rehabilitación de Tierras in America Latina y el Caribe

CSD Commission on Sustainable Development

DAD-IS Domestic Animal Diversity Information System

ECOSOC United Nations Economic and Social Council

FRA Forest Resource Assessment

GIEWS Global Information and Early Warning System for Food and Agriculture

GIS Geographic Information System

GT-Net Global System of Terrestrial Observation Networks

GTOS Global Terrestrial Observing System

IACSD Inter-Agency Committee on Sustainable Development

IDAF Integrated Development of Artisanal Fisheries

IDWG Interdepartmental Working Group

IFAD International Fund for Agricultural Development

IFF Intergovernmental Forum on Forests

ILO International Labour Organization

IPF Intergovernmental Panel on Forests

IPM Integrated Pest Management

IPNS Integrated Plant Nutrition Systems

IRC International Rice Commission

ISCRAL International Scheme for Conservation and Rehabilitation of African Lands

IYM International Year of the Mountains

NEAP National Environmental Action Plans

NELAREN Negotiated Land Reform

NGO Non-governmental organization

OECD Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

PIC Prior Informed Consent Procedure

SARD Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development

SBSTTA Subsidiary Body on Scientific Technical and Technological Advice

SEAGA Socio-economic and Gender Analysis

SFI Soil Fertility Initiative

SPFS Special Programme for Food Security

SSA Sub-Saharan Africa

TFAP Tropical Forest Action Plan

UNCED United Nations Conference on Environment and Development

UNDP United Nations Development Programme

UNEP United Nations Environment Programme

UNFCCC United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

UNIDO United Nations Industrial Development Organization

UNITAR United Nations Institute for Training and Research

WAICENT World Agricultural Information Centre

WID Women in Development

WHO World Health Organization

WTO World Trade Organization

FAO terminology

AGP Crop Production and Protection Division

COAG Committee on Agriculture

SD Sustainable Development Department

SDW Women and Population Division

TCA Policy Assistance Division