CL 121/2


Hundred and Twenty-first Session

Rome, 30 October-1 November 2001

Report of the Joint Meeting of the
Eighty-sixth Session of the Programme Committee
and the
Ninety-seventh Session of the Finance Committee
Rome, 19 September 2001

Table of Contents




Report of the Joint Meeting of the Programme and Finance Committees

Matters requiring discussion and/or decision


Programme of Work and Budget 2002-03


Matters for information

An Update of FAO's Field Activities
Savings and Efficiencies in Governance




Rome, 19 September 2001


1. The Committees submit to the Council the following report of their Joint Meeting.

2. The following Members were present at the meeting:

Programme Committee Finance Committee
Chairman Chairman
Mr. R. Rose (Canada) Mr. A. Mekouar (Morocco)
Members Members
Mr. P.N. Ross (Australia)
Mr. M.T. Kima (Cameroon)
Mr. Z. Tang (China)
Mr. B. G. Zuluaga Botero (Colombia)
Mr. F. Zenny (Jamaica)
Mr. G. Mansour (Lebanon)
Mr. J. Berteling (Netherlands)
Ms. S. Nyamudeza (Zimbabwe)
Ms. H. Gabardini (Argentina)
Ms. N. Gangadharan (India)
Mr. Kim Kyeong-kyu (Korea)
Ms. E.F. Eltom (Sudan)
Mr. R. Gerber (Switzerland)
Ms. P.M.S. Hingi (Tanzania)
Mr. A. Beattie (United Kingdom)
Ms. C. Heileman (USA)

3. Mr. A.S. Karama (Indonesia) and Mr. I.M. Zawia (Libya), Members of the Programme Committee, were not present.

Adoption of the Agenda1

4. The Agenda and Timetable for the Joint Meeting were approved without Item 4 (JIU Report Young Professionals in Selected Organizations of the United Nations System: Recruitment, Management and Retention2) which it was agreed would better be considered by the Finance Committee.

Item 2: Programme of Work and Budget 2002-20033

5. Following reports from the Chairmen of the two Committees on the results of respective discussions, the Committees jointly addressed the Programme of Work and Budget 2002-03.

6. The Committees appreciated the clear and informative document. While welcoming the extensive coverage of the Priority Areas for Inter-disciplinary Action (PAIAs) selected in the Medium Term Plan 2002-074, the Committees looked forward to future versions being more explicit about the programmatic implications of the strategies to address cross-organizational issues highlighted in the Strategic Framework 2000-2015. Some Members expressed regret at the lack of a zero nominal growth scenario, as they had requested.

7. The Committees were pleased to note the positive consequences of the forward purchase contract of Euro requirements for 2002-03 entered into in July 2001. These were both in terms of removing the uncertainty linked to fluctuating exchange rates and of significantly reducing the cost increase estimate for the next biennium.

8. In addressing the budget level, a range of preferences was expressed, similar to those made at the last Joint Meeting in dealing with the Summary Programme of Work and Budget 2002-035.

9. Many Members supported the real growth proposals, which they considered were the only way to ensure FAO's ability to respond adequately to country requirements. They emphasized their support for the proposed increases in the Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) and the FAO Representatives. They further considered that a real growth budget would constitute the right signal from the Governing Bodies in the light of the upcoming World Food Summit: five years later and the need to redouble efforts to reduce the number of chronically undernourished people by half by no later than 2015.

10. Other Members felt that efficiency gains from the reforms achieved by the Organization as well as further potential savings and efficiencies, the effects of low inflation and favourable exchange rates made real growth unwarranted. Some of these Members could support the zero real growth scenario whereas others reiterated their governments' policy to seek zero nominal growth throughout the UN system.

11. In discussing the composition of the Programme of Work, the Committees recalled their discussion in May of the need to make adequate provision for the administrative infrastructure of the Organization and reaffirmed the overriding importance of this. Some Members felt that the proposed increases in the share of funds for the Forestry and Fisheries programmes did not go far enough. In support of the view that a zero nominal growth budget would suffice, some Members suggested that the proposed increases in the TCP and FAO country offices could be reduced.

12. In the light of the above, the Committees recognised that they were not in a position to formulate a consensus recommendation.

Item 3: An update of FAO's Field Activities

a) The Situation and Prospects of FAO's Field Activities6

13. The Committees recalled FAO's constitutional mandate to furnish technical assistance on request and underlined the importance of a reinvigorated field programme to achieve the Organization's goals.

14. The Committees noted that prospects for 2001 pointed to a level of delivery very close to that of the previous year. In the longer term the volume of approvals and the pipeline situation appeared to indicate that the declining trend may have been halted and that moderate growth in the next biennium was a distinct possibility.

15. The Committees endorsed the measures taken so far to improve the field programme situation and welcomed the new emphasis on competitiveness and increased efficiency by the Organization. In addition, the Committees advocated the concentration of efforts to develop the field programme in those areas where the Organization had comparative advantages and underlined the importance of technical assistance rendered by this programme. The influence of external factors over which the Organization had little control was recognized.

16. In welcoming the efforts being made at improving performance, the Committees stressed that negative perceptions of the Organization's operational systems and capabilities might take time to overcome despite the positive achievements made recently. The Committees recommended that FAO Representatives would need to act in close association with donors with a view to disseminating positive results and restoring their confidence.

17. The need to increase and diversify the number of donors contributing to FAO's field activities was also noted, and in this connection the Committees recommended that developing countries be approached with a view to establish trust funds for mutual benefit, especially in areas like capacity building on a regional basis.

18. Among the measures being considered to sustain and increase programme delivery, the Committee underlined the importance of the "money follows work" principle and urged that appropriate mechanisms be put in place as soon as possible in order to provide project operators with resources in accordance with their volumes of work.

19. The Committees welcomed the Director-General's initiative to join the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) and looked forward to an enhanced role of the Organization in the programming exercises at country level within the framework of the UN Country Teams, including the preparation of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP).

b) Decentralization of Operational Activities to the Country Level7

20. The Committees took note of the report submitted by the Secretariat which completed the reporting cycle insofar as transfers of operational responsibilities were concerned. The Committees requested that any further elements arising from the decentralization of operational responsibilities be reported in the context of the evolution of the field programme.

Item 5: Proposed Reform of the General Debate at Conference - Savings and Efficiencies in Governance

21. Several delegations commented on an informal paper circulated by the Chair which questioned whether the Committees had satisfied the mandate given to them by the 110th Session of the Council, particularly as regards those Committees and Commissions established in the Basic Texts. The Committees agreed that there was uncertainty as to whether the mandate had been completed. A suggestion was made that those interested in this issue may wish to pursue informal consultations.

22. During the debate the Secretariat and some delegations recalled what had been stated in Council document CL 120/18 that lessons would be drawn from experience gained from the Round Tables to be held during the Thirty-first Session of the Conference. It was decided that the Joint Meeting will continue to pursue the topic at its next session.


1 Doc. JM 01.2/1

2 Doc. CL 120/INF/13

3 Doc. C 2001/3

4 Doc. CL 119/17

5 Doc. CL 120/3

6 Doc. JM 01.2/3

7 Doc. JM 01.2/INF/3