Seventeenth Session

Rome, 31 March - 4 April 2003

Thematic Evaluation of Strategy A.3: Preparedness for, and effective and sustainable response to, Food and Agricultural Emergencies

1. Within the new FAO evaluation regime that was initiated in 2001, all programmes and operations are subject to evaluation in the context of the Strategic Framework, with the main frame of reference being the FAO Medium-Term Plan. Such evaluations cover inter alia selected technical programmes, priority areas for interdisciplinary action, thematic topics and increasingly will assess overall progress towards achieving the Organizations’s Strategic Objectives. Individual evaluation reports are submitted to the Programme Committee, along with a report from an external peer review panel and a written reaction to the evaluation by FAO’s senior management. The main evaluations considered by the Programme Committee are published in the biennial Programme Evaluation Report, along with the Committee's comments. They are meant to guide future deliberations on the Medium-Term Plan and the Programme of Work and Budget. Recent evaluation reports in relevant areas of interest and the Programme Committee’s comments are presented to COAG for information.

2. This evaluation was the first in-depth review of FAO activities contributing to a particular Strategic Objective since the FAO Strategic Framework 2000-2015 had become operational1. It confirmed the overall relevance and importance of Strategy A.3 and found that its components were broadly appropriate since they address all key aspects of an emergency situation. This played to FAO’s unique comparative advantage of being able to provide technically based support in all these areas. However, the relative importance given to each component in actual practice has varied, in recent years, with increasing emphasis on agricultural relief operations.

3. The evaluation recommended greater attention to other aspects of emergency-related work, particularly preparedness and transition assistance, that had received relatively less attention. It recommended that emergency-related outputs should be programmed by the technical divisions and included in the Programme of Work and Budget and that functional statements of units should include emergency-related work. It further recommended that, in countries that are prone to natural disasters, disaster management should be a key consideration in agricultural development activities and suggested how FAO could do this. The evaluation made suggestions for strengthening work on preparedness, including development of an FAO strategy in this area. It made recommendations for improving the timeliness of agricultural relief delivery and suggested ways that beneficiaries may be better targeted. The evaluation made recommendations for handling the transition from relief to agricultural rehabilitation and suggested new funding mechanisms to allow FAO to respond better and more quickly to emergencies.

4. The External Review Panel considered the evaluation to be timely and useful in defining adjustments to meet the challenges associated with up-scaling FAO’s emergency-related work. The Panel noted that an emergency focus would entail adjustments for the Organization, which might not always be easy. It endorsed in general the evaluation’s findings and recommendations, particularly those that focused on areas of comparative advantage of FAO. In this connection, the Panel stressed that FAO should focus on what it does well, which cannot be everything. Because the recommendations of the evaluation were numerous, the Panel felt an order of priority should have been assigned to them.

5. Senior Management stated its agreement with the recommendations made and committed to ensuring that appropriate actions were taken for their implementation. Their response focused on steps already taken, or intended to be taken, along those lines. Management proposed to establish a single “Emergency and Rehabilitation Fund” to permit involvement in operations at the earliest stages.

6. The Programme Committee, at its 88th Session in September 2002, welcomed the evaluation’s comprehensive approach through a systematic review of normative activities and assessment of a balanced sample of relief and rehabilitation operations in the field2. The evaluation was found to be critical and candid. The Committee appreciated that the Secretariat was already taking action on some of the recommendations and requested a progress report on implementation in one year’s time. It also recommended that the Secretariat prepare a concise paper covering main issues and lessons on its emergency and rehabilitation activities as a basis for a discussion during the next year.


1 PC 88/5 a) "Thematic Evaluation of Strategy A3: Preparedness for, and effective and sustainable response to, food and agricultural emergencies"

2 CL 123/12 "Report of the 88th Session of the Programme Committee (Rome, 9-13 September 2002)