CL 123/9


Hundred and twenty-third Session

Rome, 28 October-2 November 2002

Report of the Joint Meeting of the
Eighty-eighth Session of the Programme Committee
and the
Hundredth Session of the Finance Committee
Rome, 11 September 2002

Table of Contents





Report of the Joint Meeting of the Programme and Finance Committees

Matters requiring discussion and/or decision


Medium Term Plan 2004-2009


Proposed Reform of the General Debate at Conference


Matters for Information

JIU Report 2001/4 “Enhancing Governance Oversight Role: Structure, Working Methods and Practices on Handling Oversight Reports”






Rome, 11 September 2002



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



Mr. J. Berteling (Netherlands)

Mr. H.O. Molina Reyes (Chile)



Mr. B.J. Hughes (Australia)

Mr. H. Moronuki (Japan)

Mr. M. Moungui (Cameroon)

Ms. F.H.J. Hayat (Kuwait)

Mr. B.G. Hankey (Canada)

Mr. A.B. Khan (Pakistan)

Mr. Z. Tang (China)

Mr. A. Diouf (Senegal)

Mr. B.G. Zuluaga Botero (Colombia)

Mr. R. Gerber (Switzerland)

Mr. A.H. Haidar (Lebanon)

Ms. P.M.S. Hingi (Tanzania)

Mr. R.B. Khalid (Malaysia)

Mr. A. Beattie (United Kingdom)

Mr. M.M. Touré (Mali)

Ms. C. Heileman (USA)

Ms. A.M. Baiardi Quesnel (Paraguay)


Mr. M.S.M.A. Harbi (Sudan)


Adoption of the Agenda1

3. The Agenda and Timetable for the Joint Meeting were approved.

Item 2: Medium Term Plan 2004-09

4. The Committees appreciated the clear presentation of the Medium Term Plan 2004-09. In noting improvements over the last version, they highlighted the enhanced information on extra-budgetary support and the greatly expanded Part III covering the Strategies to Address Cross-Organizational Issues. The Committees also welcomed the further development of joint work under the Priority Areas for Inter-disciplinary Action (PAIAs). However, they felt that regional dimensions should have been addressed in a more explicit manner, while recognizing that this could be done more fully in the Programme of Work and Budget. The Committees requested that attention be given to the need to take proper account of regional representation and gender balance, both by grade, in recruitment policy.

5. The Committees observed that the proposals were responsive to the outcomes of recent key international events, such as the Monterey Conference, the World Food Summit: five years later and the Johannesburg Summit. More generally, the Committees agreed that the proposed medium-term programme continued to adhere to the main strategic orientations endorsed by the membership in the Strategic Framework 2000-2015, and that maximum efforts had been made to reflect the substantive priorities of Members, as expressed by them in various fora. The Committees underlined in this connection the particular importance of work on, and adequate resources for the IPPC, echoing similar feelings expressed in the Programme Committee.

6. The Committees recognised the indicative, non-binding character of the resource projections included in the Plan, which stemmed from the Secretariat's analysis of what was required for implementation of a fully responsive programme of work. Some members stressed that these projections were not in line with realistic expectations of the resource levels which could be agreed by the Conference for future financial periods and, therefore, considered that alternative scenarios would be necessary to enlighten the membership about the possible impact of lower allocations. Other members accepted the Secretariat's explanation that the MTP should serve as the Director-General's proposal of what needed to be done to operationalize the Strategic Framework and respond to Members' priorities over its six-year period of coverage, and that it should not be constrained by short-term financial considerations.

7. The Committees recognized that the inter-governmental nature of FAO implied that priority-setting was essentially a political process, as members had to find a compromise in trying to reconcile necessarily diverging interests. At the same time, the Committees recognized that priority-setting in FAO context was a particularly complex matter in view of the many analytical dimensions involved and that it was also clearly dependent on the resource parameters being used. They recalled that the subject had been extensively discussed on many occasions, one of which had led to the agreement by Council of a set of general criteria which the Secretariat continues to apply systematically in the internal planning and priority setting process.

8. The Committees realized that bodies such as the Programme Committee itself and the Technical Committees of the Council in their respective sectors had a key role to play in supporting this political process by advising on priorities. However, the Committees felt that the search for common ground among Members on priorities had not been particularly effective ahead of Conference decisions, which had been dominated in the recent past by preoccupations with the overall budget level, often removed from the significance of the underlying priorities. The Committees discussed the proposal for an external expert group to review the priorities of the Organization as well as the priority setting methodology. However, the Committees agreed that it would be more useful for the Programme Committee to review arrangements for priority-setting in FAO at its next session, on the basis a document to be prepared by the Secretariat, with a view to identifying a more satisfactory approach.

9. The Committees also recalled the importance of continued search for efficiency savings whenever possible, and was assured that this matter would be addressed in the next Programme of Work and Budget, as had been done in previous versions.

10. In the light of the above reactions, the Committees endorsed the Medium Term Plan for transmission to the Council, particularly in terms of its substantive content, while stressing again the indicative and non-binding character of its resource projections.

Item 3: Proposed Reform of the General Debate at Conference

11. The Committees offered largely positive observations on the experience of the three Round Tables convened during the World Food Summit: five years later and considered the three scenarios for introducing possible changes in the organization of future sessions of the Conference: (a) Round Tables held concurrently with the General Debate; (b) Round Tables substituting the General Debate and (c) maintaining the present set-up whereby the General Debate consists solely of sequential statements of no more than seven minutes delivered by Heads of Delegation in Plenary. These proposals were viewed as a possible means of facilitating the exchange of views among Ministers. The Committees considered certain practical factors such as timing, space availability, attendance by Ministers and incremental costs.

12. The Committees agreed that it would not be possible to abolish the General Debate in Plenary and expressed concern about holding Round Tables as proposed in option (a). Some interest was expressed in convening Round Tables on a precise topic for which the Secretariat should prepare a discussion paper. A reduced number of Ministerial-level participants and a shorter period of time would be necessary if the Round Tables were held in parallel to the General Debate in Plenary. In this connection, the Committees requested the Secretariat to study this proposal in the context of arrangements for future sessions of Conference, taking into account the specific circumstances of each Conference session, and to submit this to its May 2003 session.

Item 4: JIU Report 2001/4 "Enhancing Governance Oversight Role: Structure, Working Methods and Practices on Handling Oversight Reports"

13. The Committees welcomed and considered this JIU report with the benefit of the Director-General’s comments having been prepared on the basis of the new, enhanced format approved at their last meeting.

14. The Committees endorsed the proposed actions suggested by the Director-General on all the recommendations of interest to FAO. However, in respect of recommendation 3(c) regarding the frequency and duration of sessions, in the light of interventions made, the Committees concluded that:

15. In relation to Recommendation 4, while agreeing with the proposed action by the Director-General, the Committees agreed that it could be covered in future follow-up reports, as necessary.


1 Doc. JM 02.2/1