CL 115/7


Hundred-and-fifteenth Session

Rome, 23 - 28 November 1998







4 - 8 May 1998




Report of the Seventy-ninth Session of the Programme Committee

Matters requiring discussion and/or decision


Strategic Framework 5 - 12

Review of Programmes 13 - 29

Matters for information

UN Joint Inspection Unit Reports 30 - 36

Any Other Business 37 - 43




1. The Committee submits to the Council the following report of its Seventy-ninth Session.

2. The following Members were present:

Chairman: Mr. D.F.R. Bommer (Germany)

Members: Mr A. Pearson (Australia)

Mr R. Rose (Canada)

Mr G. Redai (Ethiopia)

Mr E. Kitahara (Japan)

Mr G. Mansour (Lebanon)

Mr M.M. Seghayer (Libya)

Mr P. Paredes Portella (Peru)

Ms M.R. Castillo (Philippines)

Mr V. Moe (Trinidad and Tobago)

Ms S. Nyamudeza (Zimbabwe)


3. In accordance with the Rules of Procedure, Mr. G. Redai (Ethiopia) was unanimously elected Vice-Chairperson for 1998.

[ Documents: PC 79/1; PC 79/INF/1]

4. The Agenda and Timetable for the meeting were approved with the inclusion of two items under Any Other Business.


5. In considering a progress report on the development of the Strategic Framework (JM 98/1) the Committee noted the broad range of actions under way or planned in preparing the Strategic Framework document for the next Conference in November 1999. It recalled the extensive discussion of the new programme planning process and the high expectations Member Nations expressed about this at the last FAO Conference.

6. The Committee was informed that this discussion had affected somewhat the scope and timing of several steps in the process, as originally contemplated when it discussed the matter at its session of September 1997. It was advised that these adjustments would not significantly detract from the substantial body of analytical work inherent in such an exercise.

7. The Committee was in broad agreement with the sequence of events, as outlined in the document, stressing that the first draft of the Strategic Framework would be distributed to all Members. It underlined that maximum use should be made of established mechanisms to provide for extensive intergovernmental review, including sessions of the Council, the technical committees of the Council and the Programme and Finance Committees themselves. This would permit the progressive refinement of drafts of the Strategic Framework, prior to the final draft version being submitted to the Conference.

8. The Committee underlined the primacy of consultations with governments of Member Nations in order to achieve a policy document of the requisite quality which would be widely endorsed. The Committee stressed in this connection that the Secretariat should explore all avenues to facilitate the early flow of information to Member Nations on developments regarding the Strategic Framework. Periodic informal briefing sessions of Rome-based Permanent Representations to FAO could support such information flow. A number of Committee Members raised concerns about the lack of information to Members on developments regarding the Strategic Framework. They underlined that Members, as the key stakeholders of the Organization, required early and regular information to achieve a document with appropriate strategic focus.

9. In this connection, the Committee addressed the possible involvement of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). It recognized that the workload of that Committee as foreseen for its forthcoming session of June 1998, arising from the major implementation monitoring tasks vested in it by the World Food Summit, would preclude any practical input to the process at this session. The Committee, however, recommended that the Council could review, at its November 1998 session, the desirability of involving the CFS in 1999, bearing in mind the opportunities for consultation already planned through the other technical committees of the Council.

10. The Committee observed that advantage had been taken of several panels of experts meetings in January to seek their advice in their respective sectors. The reports were made available to the members of the Programme and Finance Committees. The Committee requested that they be made available to all Member Nations in the required languages as early as possible, in line with the intention of submitting them to the forthcoming sessions of the technical committees of the Council.

11. The Committee recalled the iterative nature of the analytical steps which include comprehensive assessments of external and internal factors, as well as perceptions of stakeholders and partners about strategic orientations for FAO over the longer term. The likelihood of some slippage to intended time-frames needed to be borne in mind, as the slight delay already experienced in the issuance of a questionnaire to Member Nations made clear.

12. The Committee re-emphasized the desirability of consultations with a wide range of FAO partners to ensure their future support.


13. The Committee continued its review of programmes, as laid out in General Rule XXVI and in line with the established timetable, by considering Major Programme 2.3: Fisheries and Major Programme 2.4: Forestry.

Major Programme 2.3: Fisheries

14. The Committee appreciated the introductory oral presentation and updated information provided by the Fisheries Department. It noted that the work of the Major Programme had continued to focus on the three major priority thrusts, as endorsed by the Committee on Fisheries and described in the Programme of Work and Budget. The Committee also noted that strategic issues over the longer term affecting the Major Programme were being addressed in the current process of preparation of the Strategic Framework.

15. The Committee reiterated the importance of the Major Programme and in particular recognised the pertinence of sustained attention to ensure implementation of and compliance with the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. It stressed the need to continue the critical review of Regional Fisheries Bodies with a view to making them more effective. On-going work on the global problems in resource availability, and follow-up to the World Food Summit was also supported.

16. The Committee stressed that, while many activities under the Major Programme were global in scope, regional, country and community-level interests should continue to be addressed such as conflicts between sustainable management of fish resources in coastal areas and food security of local populations. It recommended due attention to developing integrated approaches to complex issues, such as ecosystem management. The Committee also recognised the central contribution of the Major Programme to the maintenance of fisheries databases.

17. The Committee emphasized the need to continue to ensure that training provided and data collected reach users at the community level. It also noted the change in emphasis as regards Integrated Coastal Area Management, of special interest to small island states.

18. During the course of this review, the Committee also took note with interest of recent implementation results in both programme and budget terms, as well as updated information on current staffing and recruitment efforts.

Major Programme 2.4: Forestry

19. The Committee discussed the Major Programme on Forestry bearing in mind the long-term which would need to be reflected in the Strategic Framework of the Organization. It also noted with interest progress in a number of current activities.

20. In particular, the Committee welcomed the preparation of the Draft Strategic Plan for Forestry and its wide distribution to stakeholders for comments. It noted that this forestry strategy should contribute to the formulation of the overall Strategic Framework.

21. The Committee emphasized that while food security was a major priority, due attention should be given to the sustainable dimensions of forestry and ensuring the Organization’s lead role in global forestry matters. It reiterated the importance of mobilizing resources to support the Major Programme.

22. The Committee endorsed the current initiatives to form partnerships with international, regional and national institutions, NGOs and private sector organizations to maximize synergies in the implementation of current and long-term forestry activities. It welcomed the importance placed on building on the comparative advantages of each of the partners, thus avoiding duplication of effort.

23. The Committee drew attention to forestry’s links to numerous external factors, such as population growth, poverty, hunger, water scarcity and desertification which underscored the role of forestry in food security. The Committee suggested that the Draft Strategic Plan for Forestry clearly link the mission and main goals of the forestry programme to expected implementation and that performance indicators be identified for monitoring purposes.

24. In reviewing implementation of current activities the Committee discussed the role of FAO in the IPF and IFF processes, as the task manager for Agenda 21 in sustainable forestry. The Committee was informed that the implementation of the major priority activity of Forest Resources Assessment 2000 was progressing satisfactorily and was supported by extra-budgetary resources. The Committee also recognised the pioneering role of FAO in in situ conservation of forest genetic resources and supported continued cooperation with other agencies. The Committee also discussed the role of FAO in forest biodiversity, and in relation to the implementation of the Desertification Convention.

25. The Committee noted that there was a major gap in knowledge of methodologies for valuation of forest resources for use in management and conservation plans, national accounts and cost estimation. It also encouraged FAO to help governments understand better the impact of trade liberalization on sustainable forest management. The Committee also drew attention to the need for reliable information on certification and eco-labelling.

26. The Committee welcomed the information given on FAO’s involvement in addressing the problem of forest fires and deforestation, especially in Asia and Latin America. It expressed concern over the world’s present rate of deforestation and related lack of sufficient public awareness and urged FAO to continue to address these issues.

27. The Committee was informed that gender-in-development perspectives had been mainstreamed into each of the activities of the forestry programme. It encouraged FAO to work closely with NGOs at the community level on gender forestry issues.

28. The Committee encouraged sufficient resourcing of the Regional Forestry Commissions. It also called attention to the need for close coordination between Headquarters and Regional Offices in the organization of regional meetings such as FAO Regional Conferences and the Regional Forestry Commissions.

29. In view of resource limitations, the Committee encouraged FAO to continue to appraise critically relative priorities and resource allocation patterns under the Major Programme.


Execution of Humanitarian Assistance Programmes through Implementing Partners (JIU/REP/97/3) together with the Comments of the Director-General [ Document: CL 115/INF/11]

30. The Committee took note of the report and the Director-General’s comments thereon. It underscored the emphasis given to evaluation in the report and noted the explanation of the Organization’s active programme of evaluation of humanitarian assistance projects, in cooperation with donors.

Coordination at Headquarters and Field level between UN agencies involved in Peace-building: an Assessment of Possibilities (JIU/REP/97/4) together with the Comments of the Director-General [ Document: CL 115/INF/12]

31. The Committee took note of the report and the Director-General’s comments thereon. It agreed, in particular, to the need to make full use of the competencies of the Specialized Agencies as applicable to specific peace-building initiatives of the UN system.

Strengthening Field Representation of the UN system (JIU/REP/97/1) together with the Comments of the Director-General and the ACC [ Document: CL 115/INF/13]

32. The Committee underlined the importance of the subject matter dealt with in this report. It took note of the broad scope of the recommendations ranging from the functioning of the Resident Coordinator system to the issue of common premises, and the extensive reactions of the ACC and comments of the Director-General thereon.

33. The Committee observed that this JIU report by necessity provided an aggregated picture of field representation arrangements in the UN system. In order to address more specifically the situation of FAO in relation to key aspects covered in the report, the Committee recognized that more detailed information would be required on Regional, Sub-regional and country offices of FAO. The Committee welcomed the assurance that it would be provided with sufficient information for its September 1998 session, so as to allow it to formulate its views and forward additional comments to the Council.

34. The Committee was apprised of the contributions of the FAO Representative as part of the UN team at the country level, as well as the current efforts of the Organization in promoting or joining common premises on a case by case basis, where appropriate and cost-effective.

Strengthening of the UN system capacity for Conflict Prevention (JIU/REP/95/13) -

ACC Comments [ Document: CL 115/INF/14]

35. The Committee took note of these ACC comments.

The Challenge of Outsourcing for the United Nations system (JIU/REP/97/5) together with the Comments of the Director-General [ Document: CL 115/INF/16]

36. The Committee took note of the report and the comments of the Director-General thereon. It welcomed more particularly the positive assessment in the report of FAO’s past and present achievements in the search for outsourcing opportunities to increase the Organization’s efficiency and effectiveness. It hoped that further opportunities would be explored. At the same time the Committee agreed that emphasis should continue to be placed on minimizing the negative impact on staff arising from outsourcing initiatives.


Working Methods and Future Programme of Work of the Committee

37. Bearing in mind its discussion under Item 4: Review of Programmes, the Committee addressed ways to enhance its contribution to inter-governmental consideration of subject matters of major importance to the Organization and its advice to the Council.

38. The Committee noted in particular that there was no organized system for it to be apprised of follow-up to recommendations made at previous sessions. It also felt that, consistent with the relevant provisions in the Basic Texts, there would be merit in drawing up each time, in a tentative manner, items that could be considered for inclusion in the agenda for the next session. The Committee also felt it would be advantageous to consider at the last session of each biennium a tentative work programme for the newly constituted Programme Committee to carry out in the subsequent biennium. It could thus make appropriate recommendations to the Council in this regard.

39. The Committee recognized that its remaining scheduled sessions in the current biennium would have to deal extensively with major programme planning documents, such as the Strategic Framework, the Medium-term Plan, the Programme of Work and Budget and ex-post facto implementation and evaluation reports. Nevertheless, members suggested a few specific topics which could be addressed in the future such as: evaluation arrangements in the framework of the revised programme budget process now being introduced; and the impact of decentralization on programme delivery. It also recognized that the Committee on Commodity Problems is reviewing its own procedures and that the Finance Committee receives periodic progress reports on the Oracle project.

40. The Committee stressed the importance of members receiving documents well in advance of its sessions. Problems of delays in receipt of documents were particularly severe for those members not based in Rome. The Committee agreed that documents should be received no later than four weeks prior to a meeting. The Committee urged the Secretariat to explore ways to speed up their transmission, including electronic dissemination where feasible.

41. The Committee agreed to add the following standing items to its agenda:

Lists of Possible Items for Consideration at the Next Session

42. Subject to the usual arrangements for finalization of the agenda, as prescribed in the Basic Texts, and according to the practice as outlined above, the Committee suggested possible items for its next session:

Special Programme Thrusts (if time permits)

43. The question of decentralization was deferred to a future session.


44. The Committee noted that the Eightieth Session of the Programme Committee would be held in Rome from Monday, 21 September to Friday, 25 September 1998.