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Chapter One: Food and Agricultural Policy

(Programme 2.2.4) 1


9 . As the lead technical agency for food and agriculture in the UN system, FAO monitors agricultural development, analyses in depth major global and regional problems with direct implications for food and agriculture, and makes available its policy advisory services to Member Nations and other partners. These functions, as affirmed repeatedly by FAO Conferences, are implicit in Article I of the Constitution. There are broadly three dimensions to FAO's policy work. One is analytical, covering problem identification and assessment, leading to recommended courses of action. The second is direct assistance including policy advice to individual Member Nations, especially the LIFDCs. The third relates to FAO's role in providing an international forum for policy and strategy with a view to building consensus among the membership and external partners.

10 . Programme 2.2.4 is concerned with all three dimensions of FAO policy work. It covers some of the main policy-related work under Major Programme 2.2 (Food and Agriculture Policy and Development) but policy analysis is also carried out under a large number of other technical programmes, and direct policy advisory assistance is increasingly channelled through Major Programme 3.1 (Policy Assistance), using the Policy Assistance Branches in Regional Offices. The programme in its present form was re-constituted in the 1996-97 biennium from previous Programme 2.1.8 with the same title. Its aim as stated in the PWB 1998-99 is “monitoring developments and short-, medium- and long-term prospects of agricultural production, trade and food security, and providing and servicing intergovernmental fora in which global food and agricultural policy issues can be debated”.


11 . The programme comprises three sub-programmes:

    1. Sub-programme (Global Perspective Studies) - to prepare and update a well-informed and knowledge-based long-term perspective of world food and agriculture;
    2. Sub-programme (Commodity Market Development, Commodity and Trade Policy Advice and Intergovernmental Action) - to promote trade in agricultural commodities. This is by far the largest of the three sub-programmes, covering research and policy-oriented analyses in support to the Committee on Commodity Problems (CCP) and its Inter-Governmental Commodity Groups (IGGs), Economic Cooperation among Developing Countries (ECDC) in trade, collaboration with WTO and other international organizations, and assistance in strengthening national capacity for commodity and trade policies; and
    3. Sub-programme (World Food Security Analysis)mainly to service the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), particularly in monitoring the implementation of the WFS Plan of Action, and alerting the international community to issues underlying the world food security, including contributing to food security debates in other UN and international fora.

12 . The three sub-programmes are executed by separate units in the ES Department: the Global Perspectives Studies Unit (ESDG) for Sub-programme; the Commodities and Trade Division (ESC) for Sub-programme; and the Food Security and Agricultural Projects Analysis Service (ESAF) for Sub-programme During the seven-year period 1992-98, the programme involved Regular Programme expenditures totalling US$ 51.7 million. For the 1998-99 biennium, it had appropriations of US$ 12.5 million. The expenditures increased substantially during 1994-97, especially under Sub-programme, including work related to the preparation and organization of the World Food Summit in 1996. The reduced level of appropriations in the 1998-99 biennium is explained, apart from overall FAO budget constraints, by the transfer of two activity components to another programme.

13 . Since the 1996-97 biennium, both Sub-programmes and experienced declines in allotted resources by about US$ 500,000, but proportionately with larger impact on the former, with appropriations for this biennium being nearly half of expenditures in 1992-93, in nominal terms. Sub-programme is by far the largest, with 50-70 percent of the total programme resources, with over half the resources being used for research and policy analysis work on commodity and trade in support of the CCP/IGGs. For the programme as a whole, the declines in RP resources have adversely impacted on staff and non-staff costs, including publications, meetings and consultancy support.


Programme Objectives and Design 2

14 . The programme dealt with functions relevant and useful to FAO's priority concerns, both in terms of the thematic subjects covered and the services provided, especially regarding food security, including WFS follow-up, and trade in agriculture. Each of the component sub-programmes has a clear role, with a fairly well-defined purpose and design. Overall, the evaluation concluded that the relevance of the programme was high in terms of FAO's mandate and its priority concerns.

15 . However, the evaluation found that the programme's overall coherence was unsatisfactory in terms of the stated objectives and structure. The overall objective was not clear, suffering from weak linkages among the three sub-programmes, each functioning somewhat autonomously. Clear links across the three sub-programmes were difficult to discern whereas they all had strong links with other programmes, particularly 2.2.2 Food and Agricultural Information. The global perspectives study work was highly multidisciplinary and received inputs from virtually all substantive programmes. Sub-programme was focused on commodity market and trade policy issues, including policy work and direct advice/assistance to countries and had direct links with many activities under other programmes, especially 2.2.2. Likewise, Sub-programme, also highly multidisciplinary in nature, had more direct links with some activities under Programmes 2.2.2 and 2.2.3, Agriculture and Economic Development Analysis. The justification for placing these three particular sub-programmes together appears to be that they all contributed to FAO's policy work of global scope in selected priority areas, and particularly in facilitating discussion of policy-related issues by the Governing Bodies.

Programme Implementation

16 . Programme implementation showed a generally good track record, with the three sub-programmes producing a large number of outputs, including many of good quality. The Inter-governmental Committees (Committee on Commodity Problems - CCP and Committee on World Food Security - CFS) supported by the programme also expressed general satisfaction with the substantive support given. At the same time, the sharp reduction in the resources for the programme since 1996, especially for Sub-programmes and, had negative effects on programme delivery. In this respect, it was noteworthy that good results were achieved in reducing the cost of meetings under the Intergovernmental Commodity Groups (IGGs) during the period.

17 . Sub-programme (Global Perspective Studies) : During the period under review, the main activities were the preparation of Agriculture: Towards 2010 (AT:2010), work related to the World Food Summit and meeting ad hoc requests from other organizations for FAO's contributions on specific developmental topics. The most important output, AT:2010 , was submitted to the Twenty-seventh Session of the FAO Conference and subsequently revised and published commercially in 1995.

18 . The practical effects of the sub-programme can be gauged from the use made of AT:2010 . It is a major work of reference for FAO, providing the background for other analytical studies, for policy papers submitted to major international fora as well as providing a framework for articulating the Medium-term Plan and the Strategic Framework, and particularly in the run up to the WFS. Outside of FAO, the study has constituted a main source of data and assessment for debates on long-term prospects in food and agriculture, food security, natural resources and sustainability. The overall impact of the sub-programme is difficult to assess with any precision. However, the AT:2010 study undoubtedly enhanced the image of FAO as a world authority on agriculture.

19 . Issues arise from the fact that AT:2010 needs to be periodically updated and high quality maintained to continue to meet expectations and needs of the FAO membership and other users in development agencies and research-oriented institutions. Two were particularly relevant:

20 . It was thus recommended that:

21 . Sub-programme (Commodity Market Development, Commodity and Trade Policy Advice and Intergovernmental Action) : The sub-programme has continued to support the promotion and expansion of trade in four areas of work: (i) commodity and trade policy research and analysis in support of the CCP and the IGGs, including the Consultative Sub-committee on Surplus Disposal (CSSD); (ii) collaboration with the WTO; (iii) the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) and other organizations; and (iv) support to ECDC and commodity policy at the national level. This involved inter alia assisting regional economic organizations in expanding agricultural commodity trade and providing advice and assistance to developing countries on national policies related to agricultural commodities (excluding forestry and fisheries).

22 . The sub-programme's effectiveness can be assessed by FAO's capacity to meet the needs of Member Nations on commodity and trade policy issues, particularly in the context of the Uruguay Round trade negotiations. Through the sub-programme's work, FAO stands as a major, often the only, source of up-to-date and comprehensive information on major traded agricultural commodities and recognized authority for analysing the specific features of individual commodities within the broader context of world trade. The sub-programme has also facilitated FAO's considerable contribution to some WTO agreements, especially on Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) Measures, Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), and Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

23 . The work of the CCP/IGGs structure plays a key role in this. In many cases, the IGGs represent the only global specialized forum dealing with specific commodities, facilitating the process of building international consensus on key commodity and trade issues from the food and agriculture perspective. For example, the IGG on Wine and Vine Products was the first inter-national body to launch the warning of an impending"wine lake", which resulted in international and national responses to adjust production capacities. More recently, both the IGGs on Citrus Fruit and on Tea have been in the forefront in developing a consensus on how to address the potential market difficulties arising from structural surpluses. This has led to the development of practical market-oriented programmes which have received strong government and private sector support. Many member countries have been ready to host IGG sessions, a pattern indicating commitment on their part: since 1993, this has been the case for six IGGs, involving 12 sessions in eight countries (Indonesia, Italy, Philippines, Portugal, Spain, Sri Lanka, Thailand and South Africa). The CCP/IGGs mechanism also responded to the priority needs of the member countries by studying the impact of the Uruguay Round on agricultural markets, expanding technical work to address new aspects such as environment and biotechnology, and expanding technical assistance to developing countries. Streamlining of the IGGs meeting arrangements was also undertaken.

24 . FAO's capacity to assist in Uruguay Round follow-up activities is built on its accumulated knowledge about major traded agricultural commodities. It is well recognized, in particular, with respect to technical subjects such as the measurement of protection and the problems of the food-importing developing countries. There has been a large and growing demand by Member Nations and sub-regional trading groups for technical assistance and advocacy on follow-up to the Uruguay Round, regarding the implementation of the Agreement on Agriculture, obligations as WTO members, and preparation for entry negotiations for non-WTO members. Developing countries in particular look to FAO for guidance and assistance in preparing for multilateral trade negotiations as well as for ways and means of strengthening their competitive position. FAO's response, through a range of research, analysis and training activities, is made in collaboration with organizations such as WTO, UNCTAD, the World Bank and OECD and with the support of some bilateral aid agencies.

25 . Specific issues and recommendations included:

26 . Sub-programme (World Food Security Analysis) : During the period under review, the sub-programme serviced eight sessions of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). A major achievement has been preparation for the WFS, including drafting of the WFS Plan of Action at its 22nd Session (1996). Following the WFS, the CFS was entrusted with the task of following up on the progress made in the implementation of the WFS Plan of Action on a continuing basis. Hence, these issues have recently dominated the CFS agenda, including adjustments in the Committees rules and procedures for this purpose. In 1997 and 1998, substantial efforts and resources were devoted to methodological work on future reporting formats and arrangements to enable the Committee to monitor the implementation of the WFS Plan of Action and progress made towards achieving the WFS goals. This work entailed, as requested by the CFS, a wide-ranging series of consultations with Member Governments and representatives of civil society, in close consultation with the CFS Bureau. Similarly, work covered a series of studies on the opportunities for productivity improvement and enhanced food security in both high and low potential areas; on the Special Programme for Food Security (since 1995); on the effect of structural adjustment and market liberalisation on food security, and policy recommendations regarding management of food security reserves and food aid to reduce market instability.

27 . The sub-programme's potential effectiveness depends critically on the perceived importance of the CFS by the FAO membership. One indicator of the level of interest in CFS work is the number of FAO and UN members that request membership in the CFS each biennium, and the proportion of the membership that actually attends the Committee's annual sessions. Over the period under review, requests have varied from around 110 to 140, and generally around 90 percent of these attended the sessions - indicating a satisfactorily high attendance level. These sessions were also attended by several observers from those countries that are not members and 20 to 40 representatives from UN agencies and observers from intergovernmental and international non-governmental organizations.

28 . In terms of the effectiveness of the CFS itself on the WFS Plan of Action follow-up, it was too early to form judgement, although progress has been maintained on this priority work. It was noteworthy, however, that both in the preparation for as well as following the WFS, the CFS has set some important precedents as an FAO Committee: firstly, the key role of the CFS in Summit preparations was generally recognized; secondly, a more proactive role has been assigned to the Bureau to work with the Secretariat in carrying forward the Committee's work programme between sessions; and thirdly, there are ongoing efforts to define a more collaborative role for representatives of civil society in preparing and conducting the Committee's sessions, within the existing statutes and rules of the Organization.

29 . To gauge the level of satisfaction of CFS members with the services provided by the Secretariat, the FAO Evaluation Service contacted past and present members of the CFS Bureau who were available in Rome. CFS servicing including documentation provided to the CFS, the conduct of the meetings and interaction with the Secretariat were found to be generally satisfactory and allowed the CFS to function correctly. There were some reservations about the scope of documentation. Some felt it was too broad and insufficiently focussed on points for debate. Others indicated it was too restricted to agriculture sector questions and left out some of the main socio-economic factors affecting food security, particularly access to food. In the view of some, the agenda might be better structured to allow sufficient time for discussion of the major points.

30 . While specific recommendations were difficult to make, the following points merited attention:


Extent to Which the Programme Addressed FAO's Priority Areas

i. All reviewers agree that the programme deals with important problems and issues that are within the mandate of FAO.

Focus and Coherence of the Programme

ii. One reviewer shared the evaluations conclusion that the programme's overall coherence was poor and that each sub-programme functioned somewhat autonomously, perhaps as an inevitable consequence of the size and diversity of FAO's membership - the Programme of Work has to offer something for everyone. Another reviewer felt, however, that the evaluation was overly critical about programme design since the sub-programmes had different intended audiences.

iii. Reviewers felt that the restructured Programme 2.2.4 seems to be more logical, reflecting better the rationale of relationships among sub-programmes, as well as the flow of work between them.

iv. Two reviewers found that Global Perspective Studies was the most focused sub-programme but was under-resourced. One reviewer felt that the total output in commodities and trade seemed to be less than the sum of the parts. He also noted a lack of clear targeting of audiences and beneficiaries and felt that FAO should address a larger audience for policy work.

Results of the Programme

v. Reviewers agreed that AT:2010 is the kind of study that only FAO can produce. One reviewer stated that, while FAO did an admirable job of producing AT:2010 , it did a much poorer job of disseminating the results. FAO tended to fall into the trap of thinking that producing a document for the Conference and having a "debate" was adequate dissemination. Another reviewer found, however, that the work is well disseminated and widely known but noted projections work can become outdated quite quickly in the light of new market, policy or technological developments. FAO might consider, in the period between publications of major editions of perspective studies, preparing regional analyses (along the lines of the European AT-2000 undertaken during the previous generation of projections).

vi. Reviewers found that FAO's assistance in trade matters to member countries, especially low-income, food-deficit ones, has been very useful. FAO is in a unique position to help the developing countries in achieving benefits from the agricultural trading regime, including appropriate internal reforms necessary to compete in global markets. In this regard, one reviewer felt that FAO could also provide improved analytical policy tools appropriate to developing countries. Another thought that FAO should expand activities linking agricultural trade with technical and scientific considerations, notably environmental and biotechnological ones.

vii. One reviewer stated that the system of Inter-governmental Groups has been useful. However, others cautioned that servicing them not only required large amounts of time to produce documents for the meetings but the nature of the groups led to pressure to produce analyses of single-commodity markets. They felt that the IGGs should not take too large a proportion of resources so that adequate resources are available for conducting analyses of global, multi-commodity markets. A reviewer noted that the World Bank was a more ready reference source for commodity and agricultural trade information and emphasized that FAO needed to look at new ways of disseminating information and seek a wider audience than the membership of IGGs. The same reviewer felt that the evaluation on Sub-programme focused on its servicing role for the IGGs and not sufficiently on its analytical work, with which he was familiar.

viii. Reviewers found that the contribution of the Committee on Food Security to the WFS and its responsibility for WFS follow-up have increased its stature with member countries. The FAO secretariat work has been a critical factor in these successes. Reviewers noted methodological difficulties with monitoring food security status on a year-to-year basis. One reviewer suggested that a relatively cost-effective way might be to identify and disseminate best practices in policies and approaches in addressing food insecurity.

Quality of the Evaluation Report

ix. All reviewers were satisfied with the quality and impartiality of the evaluation. However, one reviewer would have liked better coverage of the effectiveness of collaboration in work on commodity policies and trade between the Commodities and Trade Division (ESC) and the Policy Assistance Division (TCA) and its regional branches. Another reviewer found that the evaluation had not adequately addressed the target audiences and beneficiaries for the three sub-programmes.


(ES Department)


x. The evaluation was found clear and balanced and management, in general, agrees with the findings of the review and its main issues and recommendations.

xi. The limitations on the overall composition of Programme 2.2.4, as noted in the review, led to a restructuring of programmes within Major Programme 2.2 in the Programme of Work and Budget 2000-01. In particular, the Global Perspective Studies work was moved to Programme 2.2.3 which is thus firmly focused on food and agricultural information (monitoring, assessments and outlooks), while Programme 2.2.4 (retitled Agriculture, Food Security and Trade Policy ) was substantially expanded by incorporating some of the policy-oriented work under other programmes within Major Programme 2.2. Thus, the new programme has a broader and more coherent focus aimed at the reduction of poverty and food insecurity, while addressing main policy issues arising from the international trade and globalization process.

Global Perspective Studies

xii. Experience has shown that it is difficult to obtain contributions from technical divisions and departments of the quality required. Technical divisions should establish a permanent capacity to undertake analyses and to make statements of a global perspective nature in their field of competence. For this purpose, divisions need to make the appropriate provisions in their PWB. Some improvement in this respect has been achieved in the preparation of the PWB 2000-01.

Commodity Market Development, Commodity and Trade Policy Advice and Intergovernmental Actions

xiii. There is one major point of substance that could be misinterpreted, namely the apparent identification of this sub-programme, almost in its entirety, with the servicing of the CCP and its IGGs. The actual costs of the CCP/IGGs have declined sharply over the review period from US$ 836,000 for 10 sessions in the 1992-93 biennium to only US$ 266,000 for 11 sessions in the 1998-99 biennium. In fact, the main thrust of the sub-programme is for commodity and trade research and policy analysis work, for which the CCP and its IGGs represent just one vehicle for dissemination of information, and deliberation and building of international consensus. The sub-programme also supports other types of producer/ consumer consultations advice to developing countries, and training activities in preparation for multilateral trade negotiations. All these activities are particularly important for countries not having resources for national and international market analysis.

xiv. The impact and relevance of the IGGs were further strengthened in 2000-01 through a series of multi-commodity sessions focussing on cross-cutting priority issues, held in conjunction with commodity conferences to broaden interaction with private sector stakeholders, academic institutions, etc.

World Food Security Analysis

xv. Management shares the view that cross-disciplinary collaboration is important. It also shares the concern regarding the trend towards diminishing resources for technical and normative programmes. In this context, it underlines that the resources allocated for servicing the CFS can only be effectively utilised if the other related programmes, which provide inputs to the CFS Secretariat, are themselves endowed with sufficient resources. The documentation required by the CFS can only be effectively and meaningfully elaborated if based on solid data, assessment and analysis to be performed by these contributing units.

xvi. Greater influence of CFS deliberations on the policy stance at national and international levels could be obtained if the country (and other) reports to the CFS would receive open dissemination. This would, however, also increase resource requirements at a time of declining resource availability.

xvii. The full definition of the workplan and methods for monitoring the implementation of the WFS Plan of Action have been elaborated by the CFS and action has been taken by the Secretariat to implement recommendations of the evaluation as follows:

  • all Regional Conferences of FAO have, on their agenda, the implementation of the WFS PoA at regional level. Also, the timing of the Regional Conferences and CFS have been adjusted to enable the CFS to benefit from the views of the Regional Conferences;
  • initiatives are under way to secure a more active participation in CFS work by UN system agencies with responsibilities in areas of implementation of the PoA complementary to that of FAO;
  • the modalities for enhancing the participation of civil society (NGO/CSO) partners in the work of the CFS have been the subject of active consideration by the CFS itself, with noticeable changes already effected;
  • starting with the CFS session in 1998, all pre-session documentation has been posted on the FAO Internet Website; and
  • highlights of the material prepared for the CFS have been included in SOFA 1998. Furthermore, the initiation of the publication in 1999 of the annual State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI) provides another channel for the broader dissemination of selected aspects of the assessment of the world food security situation, which is considered by the CFS.


(Report of 83rd Session, May 2000 5 )

xviii. The Committee broadly agreed with the findings, assessments and recommendations of this evaluation. It recognized the relevance and importance of the programme in addressing the Organization's thematic priorities covering the global perspective analysis, agricultural trade and food security. It considered that the programme played a productive and useful role by providing analytical frameworks and information for policy formulation as well as by supporting policy debate among the membership, especially at the Committees on Commodity Problems (CCP) and World Food Security (CFS). In particular, it appreciated the value of the global perspective work and assistance given to the developing member countries in enhancing their capacity to participate effectively in the multilateral trade negotiations.

xix. At the same time, the Committee highlighted the importance of ensuring the coherence of the programme so that its resources are focused on selected priority areas with adequate critical mass. It also encouraged more proactive efforts for disseminating the analytical and information products under the programme and for greater joint workplanning among the various technical units concerned, with a view to ensuring the necessary multi-disciplinary inputs, especially for the global perspective studies. Regarding evaluation methods, the Committee called for further improvements in the analysis and assessment of the programme impact, although it appreciated the complexities involved. It also felt that the recommendations should have been more specific with operational suggestions for addressing the issues identified. Finally, the Committee stressed the importance of systematic monitoring of follow-up actions on the evaluation recommendations.

xx. In view of its potential interest to the CCP and CFS, the Committee recommended that this programme evaluation, together with its comments, be proposed to the relevant Bureaux for inclusion on the agenda of their next sessions.

1. The evaluation of Programme 2.2.4 was completed by the Evaluation Service in February 1999, covering its performance during 1992-98 for publication in the 1998-99 Programme Evaluation Report, but was not included due to the need to keep the reports volume within its allocated wordings.

2. The programme structure was reviewed in the context of the Strategic Framework and the introduction of a revised programme planning approach during 1998-99 and has been restructured into a new form, as presented in the Programme of Work and Budget 2000-01.

3. These were: Mr. T. Kelley White (US Department of Agriculture); Mr. Alan Mathews (Trinity College, Dublin); and Mr. R.J. Perkins (former Director, FAO/ESC Division).

4. PC 83/4 (a) Annex.

5. PC 83/REP paras 32-34.

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