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Part 4: Socio-economic aspects of sustainable development

Agricultural policy
Agrarian reform and rural development
Food security
The legal framework
Environmental management

Agricultural policy

THE SUCCESS OF AGRICULTURE in terms of increased production and sustained rural income depends to a very large extent on the development of appropriate government policies. They are as important as the availability of appropriate technology, adequate capital, effective institutions and people's participation.

The term 'policies' covers a vast range of subject-matter. In the national context, they are of fundamental importance for the economy as a whole, since they determine, for example, whether agricultural prices should favour producers or consumers or whether tractors should replace animal power. Some policies have international dimensions, such as the fixing of quotas and prices for internationally traded crops such as coffee or rubber, while others have regional dimensions, such as food security or inter-country trade in agricultural commodities among groups of countries (e.g. SADCC or ASEAN).

FAO's credentials in this field derive mainly from its work at global and regional levels. In the context of the individual country, decisions on policy are matters of national sovereignty and in the 1950s and 1960s technical organizations such as FAO were not regarded as having a direct role in the shaping of national policies.

Attitudes have changed, however, and while it remains true that national policies are the exclusive prerogative of the governments concerned, there has been a growing recognition - especially since the food crisis of the mid-seventies that FAO can contribute usefully to the analysis that precedes policy decisions and be involved in the implementation process that follows. This change in mood is reflected in the 1987 Conference decision urging FAO to, 'step up its policy advice and training at the national level to help developing countries to formulate and implement appropriate food and agricultural policies that are suitable for rural men and women in line with national priorities and situations'.

Such assistance generally falls into one of three categories: comprehensive global policy studies and strategies; regional and sub-regional policy studies and strategies; and policy advice and planning assistance at country level. The emphasis is on the design of development policies and their translation into plans and programmes.

In view of its global mandate, FAO's role in policy analysis and planning has four main elements:

- establishing codes of conduct, norms and decision-making criteria which provide a normative framework;

- developing new approaches and techniques that facilitate policy analysis and planning;

- organizing and servicing inter-governmental meetings where policy issues are discussed and decisions reached; and

- providing direct assistance to Member Countries, individually or collectively, in reviewing policies and performance, redesigning development policies and translating them into plans and programmes.

While each of the above represents an important role individually, they are closely linked, especially in the case of major policy and planning frameworks such as WCARRD, the Fishery Resources Management and Development Programme, the Tropical Forestry Action Programme, the World Soil Charter, the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources and the International Code of Conduct on the Distribution Use of Pesticides. FAO is well equipped to take a multidisciplinary approach to policy and planning. This is particularly evident in sector planning which calls for interventions in all sub-sectors and so requires the consideration of strictly technical aspects within a macro-economic framework.

Much of FAO's work in the policy field is of direct interest to other organizations and involves close cooperation with other agencies, particularly but not exclusively within the United Nations system. Examples are Food Security (World Bank), WCARRD (most UN agencies through the ACC Task Force on Rural Development), TFAP (World Bank and UNDP), Commodity Policies (UNCTAD, GATT and the international commodity organizations) and Nutrition Policies (WHO, World Bank and UNICEF and other organizations, through the ACC Sub-Committee on Nutrition).

In some areas there is close cooperation with non-UN organizations, often through FAO's Regional Offices Examples include the support given to the Joint Anti-Locust and Anti-Avian Organization in the context of the Special Action Programme for the Control of Locusts and other Plant Pests.

WCARRD principles have guided nearly all FAO policy and planning activities since 1979, but the ultimate test of success is whether the advice rendered did indeed contribute to the development of more efficient agriculture, improved nutrition for consumers and greater rural equity. However, many factors stand between the formulation and execution of a policy or plan and the realization of benefits at grassroots level. Most, if not all, are beyond FAO's influence. They depend on the determination of national governments to take the necessary complementary actions and, ultimately, on the decisions taken at village and community level, especially the extent of people's participation in the development process. Any attempt to assess FAO's achievements must be undertaken with this caveat in mind.

The FAO/Netherlands Conference on Agriculture and the Environment (s'Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, 19913 recognized the close links between the economic, ecological and social factors of viability and sustainability. Among the fundamental changes that the den Bosch Declaration recommends is the adjustment of macro-economic and agricultural policies and instruments in order to promote production systems and technologies that can help attain the objective of sustainable agriculture and rural development (SARD). This means, inter alia, at the country level:

- launching a process of macro-economic policy adjustment and agricultural policy review leading, where necessary, to local and national SARD plans and programmes. the establishment of appropriate mechanisms associating government and non-government interests, and the selection of appropriate tools and instruments for policy analysis and implementation, including the development of data bases and monitoring systems;

- ensuring integrated planning, community-based resource management and related investment in key resource areas, namely land, water and biological diversity;

- providing supporting services and training to ensure the best use of local natural resources, particularly for the development and management of renewable energy sources (e.g. wind, biomass and solar power);

- developing criteria, indicators and methods with which to assess and monitor the sustainability of agriculture and the impact of technology and in order to set up environmental and natural resource accounting systems.

The FAO Council, at its dune 1991 session, recognized that in implementing these recommendations a high level of priority should be given to strengthening the process of sector policy review and analysis with regard to the impacts of existing policies on the sustainability of the natural resource base and the development of the agricultural/rural sector. FAO is therefore assisting Member Countries in formulating sustainable development policies, analysing the potential impact of macro-economic and sector policies on the sustainability of the resource base (see panel, below), predicting the impact of population pressure on land and natural resources, monitoring the evolution of fragile ecosystems at national and local levels and assessing the environmental impact of agricultural projects and programmes. (See panel )


There is growing concern about the potentially negative consequences of macro-economic policies for developing countries' natural resources. The debt crisis demonstrated how efforts by some countries to repay loans could lead to unsustainable practices: for instance, encouraging logging or land clearing for agriculture in humid tropical lowlands, in order to generate export earnings, may provide only a short-term solution for debt repayments. When these areas are not reforested or cultivated properly they rapidly lose their economic potential. Programmes designed to deal more adequately with environmental problems, such as debt-for-nature swaps, are now addressing these important issues. At present, five countries, (Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Madagascar and the Philippines) have participated in debt-for-nature swaps, reducing their external debt by about US$100 million.

Current research is also examining how basic market failures in some developing countries limit the usefulness of adjustment policies that would otherwise encourage environmentally sound agricultural practices. These failures include market prices that do not reflect environmental costs; a divergence of the private and social discount rate leading to a misallocation of resources; and property rights leading to inconsistent economic incentives. For example, landless agricultural labourers may be forced to farm on fragile hillsides because land market conditions limit their access to more cultivable farmland. At the same time, insecure land rights often determine whether those hillsides are planted with permanent tree crops or with annual crops which may eventually lead to serious soil erosion.

Likewise, exchange-rate and trade policies influence the cost of imported inputs, as well as the profitability (and hence the nature and scale) of export crop production. Recognizing the need for structural adjustment, while being aware of its possible adverse impacts, FAO has conducted studies to improve understanding of the structural adjustment process itself and its socioeconomic and environmental impacts also provides technical assistance at the request of Member Countries to help them implement structural adjustment programmes that will minimize the threat to their natural resources.


Current indicators of economic performance usually fail to account for the consumption or the degradation of nonrenewable natural resources. Concurrently, the cost of their conservation and maintenance is not adequately assessed. If the price of food does not include the cost of conserving the land on which it is produced, or the replenishment of the nutrients it withdraws from the soil, it then means that with the food we eat we deplete the natural resource capital. Traditional accounting seldom considers natural resources as economic - assets except for raw materials resources such as logs or minerals which can be traded. For instance, deforestation is often encouraged by underpricing logging licences. The low licence fee fails to take into account the true opportunity cost of the vest and so discourages interest in reforestation. The conversion of forests to other uses is generally treated purely as a short-term income benefit with no off-setting of accounts for the costs of depleting the capital asset which the resource represented. On the other hand, limitations of land use on environmental grounds may threaten the income of rural communities, for example by restricting the use of inputs through legislation or the elimination of price supports. Both degradation and protection have a price, not only monetary but also in terms of socio-economic trade offs.

It is increasingly recognized that 'environmental accounting' must become an accepted tool in guiding policies for the management and use of natural resources.

There are two approaches to environmental accounting:

- a physical approach in which sources and uses of natural resources are quantified and used to develop measures of environmental change and ecological stress; and

- monetary approach aimed at adjusting national income accounts in order to incorporate measures of depletion or other environmental changes - such as pollution in the natural resource base.

While present methods are still in need of considerable refinement, a recent report on Indonesia shows the importance of such procedures in ensuring that policies do not over-emphasize short-term gains at the expense of long-term sustainability. When net domestic production (NDP) for the period 1971-1984 was adjusted to take account of natural resource depletion in petroleum, timber and soils on Java, the value of gross domestic product (GDP) fell from an average annual rate of 7.1 percent to only 4 percent. Similar adjustment of net domestic investment (Nell showed that while NDI increased in 1971 and 1974 due to additions to petroleum reserves, in most years resource depletion was substantial. In 1979 and 1980 net investment was negative, implying that natural resources were being used to finance current consumption.

The mass of natural resource information which FAO has established over the years should be extremely valuable to Member Countries in initiating or developing resource accounting. With special reference to soil resources it should be stressed that these are non renewable. Once eroded or destroyed, soil cannot be replaced even by introducing a 'soil depreciation allowance' in the accounting procedures. It is essential, therefore, to assess the suitability of land for specific types of use, and to establish at the outset the limits beyond which 'mining' that is capital consumption sets in. Exploratory work and testing of methodologies for environmental accounting are under way, and a few governments are endeavouring to apply these methodologies to the management of national renewable and non-renewable resources. The tools and techniques to be applied include environmental cost-benefit analysis, environmental impact assessments, multi-goal programming and the establishment of input-output balance sheets.

The UN Statistical Office is attempting to define a framework within which changes in the value of nature assets as well as defensive expenditures and the costs of residual pollution can be taken into account. The framework involves the use of specific stock accounts, defining opening and closing balances of produced and environmental assets. These stock accounts include:

- renewable biological assets, such as those pertaining to agriculture, forestry and fisheries;

- scarce renewable resources in the public domain, such as marine resources, tropical forests;

- non-renewable resources, such as mineral deposits, and

- cyclical resources, such as air and water.

Natural assets that could be replaced by man-made assets would be valued at replacement cost, while complements would be valued by the "marginal willingness to pay" to preserve the resource.

Sustainable development in low-potential areas requires special attention. In drylands, mountain areas, wetlands and acid soils in the humid tropics, farm production systems should aim at minimizing risks, and should enable the farm-household to withstand the shocks and stress of an unfavourable natural resource environment.

In the context of the International Cooperative Programme Framework, a Special Action Programme has been proposed to strengthen FAO's activities in Sector and Structural Adjustment Policy work and in particular to reinforce the incorporation of environmental and sustainability considerations into the mainstream of agricultural planning and policy analysis in developing countries. None of these fields is new to FAO, but they do require further integration of specialized knowledge, an enhanced interdisciplinarity, and interdivisional cooperation. FAO has therefore made a number of new institutional arrangements, including the establishment of a coordination mechanism for country policy work and interdepartmental working groups to strengthen interdisciplinary cooperation for policy advice on SARD.

The general objective of FAO's assistance and training in SARD policy analysis and planning is to strengthen Member Countries' capabilities to plan, monitor and manage their agricultural development programmes in a sustainable manner. To this end, FAO is assembling and developing a set of proven methodologies and related training opportunities for policy analysis and planning for SARD and providing technical assistance and training in the above areas to countries in collaboration with other national and international institutions.

Agrarian reform and rural development

Rural developmentprogrammes of FAO are designed to reach the rural poor. A young farmer in Nepal learns how to use a hand tractor in a project that introduces farming machinery at the village level.

FAO's search for equity aims principally at securing fair treatment for small farmers and landless labourers through agrarian reform and rural development. Agrarian reform, implying a redistribution of economic (and ultimately political) power at the national level, is obviously a delicate subject for an international organization to handle, and the present stance of FAO was reached through a process of gradual evolution. Initially the overall approach was that "agrarian reform must be part and parcel of the general programme of economic. development", and during the 1950s, the Organization viewed agrarian reform, particularly the improvement of land tenure conditions, as an essential step in increasing production.

During the 1960s, the emphasis shifted towards helping individual countries implement agrarian reform projects. The World Land Reform Conference, convened by FAO in 1966, led to a more action-oriented consensus in the 1970s. Since the pace and extent of agrarian reform had previously been slow, the new strategy attached' increased importance to fostering rural organizations as a channel for peasants' participation and decision-making. In 1974 the Administrative Committee on Coordination of the United Nations recommended that its organizations should adjust their programmes in rural development to ensure that benefits accrued primarily to the rural poor.

This concept found a ready response and FAO suggested that the twin themes of agrarian reform and rural development be brought together in a world conference. The proposal was supported in the Economic and Social Council and led to the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (WCARRD) which assembled at FAO Headquarters in Rome in July 1979. The participants included four heads of state, 89 ministers and 25 vice-ministers. The outcome fully justified the elaborate preparation and the distinguished attendance. WCARRD adopted, without major confrontations or fundamental disagreements, a Declaration of Principles and a Programme of Action which together constitute a historic landmark, not only for FAO but also for the evolution of development thinking and policies in general. (See panel, below.)


July 1979 marked an important milestone in the long and difficult struggle against poverty and hunger: the adoption in Rome by the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural development of a Declaration of Principles and Programme of Action. At that time, the 145 governments represented at the World Conference gave FAO a mandate to assist countries in implementing the provisions of this important document. Six main areas were identified for national action for rural development:

- access to land, water and other natural resources;
- access to inputs, markets and services;
- integration of women in rural development;
- development of non-farm rural activities;
- people's participation; and
- education, training and extension.

The Declaration of Principles and Programme of Action constitutes the charter of the rural poor. It points out that rural development is a global problem, which has to be tackled simultaneously on several inter-connected fronts: by the action of rural institutions at village level; by the reorientation of national development policies at country level; and by the creation of better international relationships.

Developed and developing countries, as well as the international community as a whole, must collaborate to eliminate rural poverty. The rural poor must be given access to land and water resources, agricultural inputs and services, extension and research facilities. They must be permitted to participate in rural development programmes. The structure and pattern of international trade and external investment must be adjusted to facilitate the implementation of poverty-oriented rural development strategies.

The Peasants' Charter recognizes that growth is necessary but not sufficient: it must be buttressed by equity and, above all, by people's participation in designing, implementing and evaluating rural development programmes and policies

The WCARRD Declaration of Principles and Programme of Action represent the high point of FAO's search for equity. At the same time, they illustrate very clearly the gulf that divides an international consensus on what is desirable from national decisions on what will actually be done. FAO provides a forum for setting the targets, but their attainment depends almost entirely on action by individual governments. The Organization's own programme has been reoriented towards WCARRD objectives, but its role is to support rather than replace initiatives at country level.

National action to implement the agreed recommendations of WCARRD may so far have been less than impressive, but there has been progress on a number of specific points. The spirit of the Conference lives on through the goals it set and the monitoring mechanisms it established. Its ultimate significance will depend on what happens in the decades ahead.

Food security

From the 1950s to the early 1970s the presence of large stocks of cereals in North America was taken for granted, but in 1972 grain production fell simultaneously in several of the main producing areas. Import needs rose and the surpluses disappeared almost overnight. Cereal prices more than tripled while fertilizer prices more than quadrupled, leaving the poorer importing countries in grave danger of being unable to obtain the supplies of food and fertilizer they needed.

The onset of the 'world food crisis', the outcome of the ensuing World Food Conference of 1974, and the emergence of a new era of increased volatility in international markets for basic foodstuffs were among the main factors that combined to give FAO's work on world food security new dimensions and renewed importance over the past two decades

The suddenness of the world food crisis highlighted the need for an international system to provide timely warnings of impending food shortages .

The suddenness of the world food crisis highlighted the need for a continuous flow of reliable and up-to-date information on the supply of basic foodstuffs, and for an international system to provide timely warnings of impending food shortages. These objectives form the basis of the work of FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System for Food and Agriculture (GIEWS), which has been in operation since 1975 and in which over 100 countries now participate. The value of the Early Warning System has been widely demonstrated, having provided advance warning of the serious food emergencies in Africa during the 1980s.

The second dimension in FAO's role to promote world food security is the Food Security Assistance Scheme (FSAS), set up in 1976 to help developing countries map out their national food security policies, identify projects particularly for improving their food security infrastructures - and mobilize funds to bring such projects to fruition. Projects financed under the Scheme have been directed mainly towards setting up or expanding food storage facilities at national level, training to improve stock management, and establishing and improving national early warning systems.

The third dimension is in the policy area, particularly through the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). The main functions of the CFS, set up in accordance with a resolution of the 1974 World Food Conference, include recommending policy actions designed to ensure adequate cereal supplies for minimum world food security, and reviewing implementation of the International Undertaking on World Food Security, agreed in 1974 as a principal mechanism towards this objective. This was followed in 1979 by the FAO Plan of Action on World Food Security which, among other things, helped to promote the development of a new 'food financing facility' by the International Monetary Fund. In 1981, agreement was reached on an Agenda for Consultations and Possible Action to deal with Acute and Large-scale Food Shortages. In 1983, a broadened concept of world food security was developed by the CFS, focusing on action to promote food production, stability of supplies, and access to food by the poor. The ultimate objective of this concept of food security is to ensure that all people at all times have both physical and economic access to the basic food they need. In 1985, the CFS adopted a World Food Security Compact which was later approved by the FAO Conference. The Compact distills and incorporates into a single text the principles contained in previous international understandings and agreements initiated by FAO and other organizations, and highlights the need for multifaceted action to achieve the goal of providing adequate food for all people.

Within this overall context, FAO is strengthening its operational programme in support of food security objectives. Major activities include: promoting food production on a sustainable basis; improving food storage and processing at household level; strengthening market institutions; improving disaster prevention and relief; providing direct support to people, and strengthening food security institutions.

Activities that help to ensure adequate food supplies focus on promoting food production on a sustainable basis. They relate to the management and conservation of natural resources, forestry, crop production, animal husbandry, fisheries, and research and technology. Activities under these programmes promote food production while at the same time safeguarding against environmental degradation. (See panel, below.)


Since 1976, FAO's Remote Sensing Centre has been developing and testing the operational use of data from environmental and earth resources satellites for improving the Global Information and Early Warning System for Food and Agriculture (GIEWS) and the Desert Locust Plague Prevention Programme.

The environmental satellite monitoring system, Africa Real-Time Information Monitoring System (ARTEMIS), developed in cooperation with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre, the National Aerospace Laboratory of the Netherlands, and the Universities of Bristol and Reading in the UK, has been in operation since August 1988. The system covers Africa, Southern Europe, the near East and Southwest Asia, and produces a range of ten-day and monthly cloud-duration, estimated rainfall and vegetation index maps. These are available in both photographic and digital IBM-PC-compatible formats. The system also produces ten-day composite vegetation index maps of the desert locust recession area of West Africa.

Current users of the ARTEMIS output are the GIEWS, the Emergency Centre for Locust Operation (ECLO), the Office of Special Relief Operations (OSRO) and the Agrometeorology Group of the FAO Remote Sensing Centre, in addition to 16 countries of the IGADD and SADCC regions. ARTEMIS is currently being extended to cover the rest of Asia and Central and South America.

While information from the ARTEMIS system is communicated to recipient and donor countries in analyzed form, as telexed summaries and printed bulletins, rapid communication of the high volume of basic data requires special facilities.

In cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA), the Remote Sensing Centre has formulated a project for the development of a dedicated satellite communications system. The Direct Information Access Network for Africa (DIANA) is based on low-cost microcomputer technology and uses the commercial Intelsat satellites through the facilities of Telespazio in Fucino, Italy. The DIANA system will provide high-speed, tow-way transfer of facsimile documents and maps, character-coded text and digital images in raw or processed form between FAO Headquarters and microcomputer-based regional and national user terminals

Activities that contribute to stability of supplies generally have the objectives of strengthening food storage and processing at household level, strengthening marketing institutions, and improving disaster prevention and relief. They include prevention of post-harvest food losses through such activities as improving the suitability of the product for storage and introducing improved equipment and technologies; training in quality control, storage practices and appropriate pest control; the creation and management of village-level farmers' associations; the introduction of seasonal credit; and the promotion of prestorage and storage technologies. In the area of market management and food security reserves, activities aim at developing national capacity to develop appropriate marketing policies and infrastructures, and at establishing rural marketing centres and strengthening the role of cooperatives. Assistance in establishing national and regional early warning and food information systems is designed to help prevent large-scale food shortages in the country or countries concerned.

Activities that contribute to improving access to food by the poor concentrate on providing direct support to food-insecure people and relate mainly to support of rural development and nutrition schemes. In this area, activities that support skills improvement and the development of income-generating activities for the rural poor contribute directly to improving access to food supplies. Projects that support crop, livestock, forestry and fisheries production, and strengthen extension, marketing and credit services, increase the income of the poor - a large part of which is, in turn, invested in improving the resource base and thus strengthening longer-term sustainability. Direct nutrition intervention schemes generally lead to an immediate improvement in the nutritional status of vulnerable groups, especially women and children. Other activities that help to improve access to food include developing national food and nutrition policies, designing efficient nutrition intervention and feeding programmes, and providing technical know-how on food quality control, food safety and food standards.

Finally, strengthening food security institutions, particularly through food and agricultural policy and planning assistance, provides a firm foundation for the implementation of national food security strategies and action programmes. In addition to its traditional activities mentioned above, the Food Security Assistance Scheme has since 1989 helped countries develop comprehensive food security policies and related action programmes. The FSAS is currently assisting four countries (Chad, Niger, Tanzania and Zambia) in the preparation of such programmes.

The legal framework

Sustainable development and environmental protection need to be supported by appropriate legislation.

Sustainable development and environmental protection need to be supported by appropriate legislation. A long-term objective is to equip countries with a legal and institutional framework that responds to the goals of sustainable agriculture, forestry and fisheries. In the short term it is necessary to identify the legal and institution?! ramifications of the development of agriculture-related natural resources. FAO programmes relevant to these subjects' include legal advisory services, agricultural planning assistance, assessment and planning of natural resources development and protection, conservation and rehabilitation.

The Organization's mandate encompasses the legal aspects of preventing and controlling the degradation of natural resources, with particular reference to desertification, arid grasslands and soil rehabilitation; salinization and waterlogging of irrigated areas; conservation and development of genetic resources; degradation of watersheds; pollution resulting from agricultural activities; management of fresh water, forests, wildlife and protected areas; and marine pollution and flood control.

A key function of FAO is to provide technical assistance to Member Governments in formulating legal instruments to implement agricultural policies, programmes and projects. This may include the preparation of laws, regulations, agreements, and standard licensing conditions for conservation and management of natural resources, trade in agricultural products, food and feed control, and issues concerning rural development and agrarian reform. At the same time, the status of international conventions and agreements for which the FAO Director-General exercises depository functions, or which were concluded under the FAO Constitution, is periodically up-dated by FAO's Legal Office. A number of these conventions and agreements relate to the environment (e.g. plant protection, locust control and fisheries management).

During the past 20 years, legal assistance has been given to numerous states in Africa, Asia, Central and South America in the drafting and/or amending of laws and regulations dealing with food, environment, forestry, wildlife, land, fisheries, water, plants and pesticides. Cape Verde, Guinea, Liberia, Mauritania, Sierra Leone and Togo are among more than 50 countries that have passed laws and regulations based on FAO's legal advice.

In the field of environment and sustainable development, FAO proposed in 1990, through its Committee on Forestry, to initiate work on a conceptual framework for forest conservation and development at global level. This work has served in the preparation by the Preparatory Committee of UNCED of a "non-legally binding authoritative statement of principles for a global consensus on the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests" that would be considered at the UN Conference on Environment and Development.

With respect to fisheries, FAO's activities aim at ensuring a more environmentally sound utilization of marine living resources. A specific area of interest is large-scale pelagic driftnet fishing, and following the UN General Assembly Resolution 44/225 on the subject, FAO undertook a series of studies of the scientific, technical and legal aspects of the practice. Studies have also been undertaken on the high seas fisheries legal regime with particular regard to conservation and management aspects, and in 1991 the Organization published The regulation of driftnet fishing on the high seas: legal issues.

In response to international concern over the loss of biological diversity, FAO has prepared an Outline for a Draft International Convention on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity as a contribution to ongoing efforts to prepare an international instrument in this field. The Organization is also preparing an International Code of Conduct for Plant Germplasm Collection and Transfer, a preliminary draft of which was discussed at the December 1990 meeting of the Working Group of the FAO Commission on Plant Genetic Resources. An International Code of Conduct for Biotechnology as it affects the conservation and use of plant genetic resources is being processed, and an International Undertaking on Animal Genetic Resources is being prepared.

A series of FAO Legislative Studies deals with environmental matters, for example The environmental impact of economic incentives for agricultural production: a comparative law study, published in 1990.

Environmental management

Environmental guidelines
Environmental impact assessment
Investment and the environment

Environmental guidelines

A fundamental shift in the emphasis of FAO's work in recent years has been to address sustainability not only at project level but also during policy formulation, programming and planning.

Since human resource development is a prerequisite for sustainable development it has received special attention in many FAO programmes through environmental education and training activities and TCDC networking arrangements. Training of target groups is provided through land-use and soil fertility projects as well as through crop, grassland, forestry and gender-oriented projects. These are often complemented by awareness-raising seminars and environmentally-focused workshops. Numerous publications relating to sustainable development are published for wide dissemination as an integral part of the Organization's ongoing programmes.

Environmental impact assessment

Properly designed development projects must minimize any adverse environmental impacts and at the same time enhance any available opportunities for environmental improvement. Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is an important tool in achieving these goals, and since 1989 FAO has incorporated EIA into its field projects through the application of set procedures developed by the Inter-departmental Working Group on Environment and Energy.

In brief, the three main stages of environmental impact assessment are:

- screening to identify projects that are unlikely to create environmental problems;

- preliminary assessment of projects deemed to have limited environmental implications that can be readily overcome, and

- detailed assessment of projects having potentially more serious environmental consequences.

An in-house seminar on EIA held in October 1989 was attended by 42 representatives from 16 divisions of the Organization, and since then numerous initiatives have continued to strengthen the environmental component of FAO's in-house seminars and courses. Lectures on the theme of "Protection of the Environment" are included in the training seminars for National Project Directors and Programme Officers, held four times yearly, and during the biennium 199091 an EIA element was included in the "Basic Workshop an Technical Cooperation Project Formulation and Appraisal", held on average five times a year and intended for all professional staff including field staff and Associate Professional Officers.

The work on in-house training was extended in 1990 with the establishment, by the Special Adviser to the Director-General, of an ad hoc Task Force charged with strengthening the environmental component of FAO's field programmes. Based on the earlier EIA guidelines, the Task Force has developed specific procedures to ensure that environment and sustainable development considerations are incorporated into all activities related to policy advisory work, including planning assistance, programming missions and field projects.

Investment and the environment

Because of their large size and their potential for significant long-term impact, the agriculture, forestry and fisheries investment projects identified and/or prepared by FAO's Investment Centre for financing by the World Bank, regional development banks, IFAD and other institutions must be considered from the point of view of their likely environmental impact as well as for their physical and financial/economic sustainability.

Recently, and in order to enhance the sensitivity of Investment Centre staff to these considerations, the Centre has established a small multidisciplinary team to ensure that newly evolving procedures and methodologies are incorporated fully into the Centre's project design activities.

In a number of cases, technical cooperation work carried out under FAO's technical divisions has been of direct benefit in the preparation of investment plans. For example, FAO's work on modern approaches to soil conservation has been of crucial importance to the Centre. Instead of involving costly civil works, the new approaches promote enhanced biomass cover and soil and water conservation while increasing productivity and thus also improve the short-term returns to the land user. By demonstrating that such approaches to sustainability are potentially 'bankable', this technical assistance by FAO has paved the way for new investment possibilities.

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