Seventeenth Session

Rome, 31 March - 4 April 2003


1. Election of Chairperson and Vice-Chairpersons

2. Adoption of Agenda and Timetable for the Session


3. Programme Implementation Report 2000-01

The Programme Implementation Report is a conference document, which provides the FAO Members with synthetic information on achievements in relation to the Programme of Work and Budget for the past biennium. As was done for the last session, the full Programme Implementation Report 2000-2001 is submitted for the information of the Committee, which may wish to address the sections of its interest.

4. Planned Activities over the Period 2004-2009 and Preliminary Information on the Programme of Work and Budget Proposals for 2004-05

The Committee is invited to review and comment on the pertinent sections of the Medium-Term Plan 2004-2009, which continues to build on the Strategic Framework document covering the period 2000-2015, approved by the FAO Conference in November 1999. This Medium-Term Plan has been submitted to the FAO Council at its session in October-November 2002 for broad endorsement, prior to the formulation of detailed Programme of Work and Budget (PWB) proposals. The Council expects the appropriate Technical Committees, such as COAG, to provide substantive advice from the perspective of their respective sectors.

In addressing the range of activities falling under its mandate in the MTP 2004-09, the Committee may wish to note the links with the discussion of other substantive items on its agenda.

Following guidance from the Programme Committee, the MTP is accompanied by another document, providing preliminary information on Summary PWB 2004-05 proposals. As the result of its consideration of both documents, the views of the Committee on substantive priorities will be considered in finalising the PWB proposals.


5. FAO’s Strategy Towards a Food Chain Approach for Food Safety and Quality

The 28th Session of the Committee on World Food Security, 6-9 June 2002, Rome, recommended that FAO “submit a draft framework document to COAG, COFI1 and CFS2 in 2003 outlining FAO’s strategies to address key elements of policy advice, capacity building and technical assistance, and actions that need to be taken at national and international levels to ensure food safety and quality.”3

The draft framework document discusses food safety and safety-related quality issues and challenges within a dynamic and evolving global context. It embraces a holistic, preventive approach to address the complex challenges of improving food safety systems in Member Nations, recognising that the responsibility for production of safe food is shared along the entire food chain – by all involved with the production, processing and trade of food. The framework builds on the important existing food standards work of FAO, Codex Alimentarius Commission and WHO and associated risk assessment, scientific advice and capacity-building work. The document discusses how the adoption of a food chain approach is important for future strategic direction, where a revised strategy would involve additional work for prevention at-source, along with ad hoc monitoring and enforcement after food products have entered the food chain. Mechanisms to develop and implement a revised strategic food chain approach within the FAO Medium-Term Plan are reviewed.

COAG is invited to consider this document as a proposed framework for reinforcing FAO food safety work through a food chain approach. Guidance is sought on development of a revised food safety strategy, particularly how such a revised strategy should best account for the varying needs of FAO Members, the work and responsibilities of other interested organizations and institutions, as well as the overall mandate of FAO.

6. A Framework for Good Agricultural Practices

Consumer concern is growing in all parts of the world over the environmental sustainability and safety of agricultural practices and products throughout the food chain, in particular in view of the intensification required to assure food security now and in the future. Complementing the food chain approach to food safety and quality, good agricultural practices apply available knowledge to the utilisation of the natural resource base in a sustainable way to produce safe, healthy food and non-food agricultural products. Benefits will accrue to small, medium and large-scale farmers, who will achieve added value for their produce and better access to markets; consumers, who will be assured of better quality and safer food produced sustainably; business and industry, who will gain profit from better products; and all people, who will enjoy a better environment.

To attain these goals, FAO has initiated a process of discussion and consultation to identify the potential roles and benefits for governments and stakeholders in developing and applying the principles of Good Agricultural Practices, and to prepare a strategy for moving forward in harmony with the food chain approach for which the guidance of COAG is sought.

7. Sustainable Rural Livelihoods

Poverty is one of the main causes of food insecurity and civil conflict; it also represents a barrier for the achievement of sustainable economic and social development. It is characterised by large inequalities in wealth distribution between rural and urban areas, which restrict the growth of domestic markets and the stagnation of agriculture.

This paper addresses some of the main challenges in combating poverty and analyses FAO actions and progress in implementing its Strategic Framework Objective A1 to enhance support for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods. It explores the background, core definitions and links between livelihoods, poverty and agriculture, and analyses the challenges posed to the improvement of rural livelihoods in key areas of FAO involvement. Factors such as declining development assistance and public sector resources, and weak local institutional capacities are explored. The paper reviews FAO activities, programmes and initiatives that aim at enhancing rural livelihoods and summarises the main challenges, the issues influencing them and analyses which may be the priority action areas for mainstreaming a livelihood perspective.

Guidance from COAG is sought on how FAO can improve the effectiveness of its actions to improve rural livelihoods, including collaboration with related agencies in a multisectoral environment, scope of actions in the context of FAO’s comparative advantage, and how to further integrate livelihoods concerns into the Special Programme on Food Security.

8. Agricultural Environmental Information and Decision Support Tools for Sustainable Development

Environmentally related decisions are taken in the agricultural sector every day for the purpose of long-term strategic policy formulation, on-farm management, and for rapid assessment and management of emergency operations. Good decision-making requires reliable data and analytical tools that vary both in scale (in time and space) and in scope (policy to technical) as they are applied to a wide spectrum of issues ranging from food security to plant protection and management of natural resources.

The paper examines agri-environmental information and decision support tools for sustainable development, including FAO’s significant work in this area, with a view to further developing their potential and improving their uptake and use in Member Nations. It provides an overview of key technical, policy and institutional issues related to agricultural environmental information and decision support tools and identifies constraints and gaps to the use of such information for decision making. These include: uncoordinated or separated efforts on environmental database development by various governmental institutions and stakeholders, lack of harmonisation of various databases and standardisation of decision support tools, and the absence of systematic approaches at both international and national level in the development of indicators and decision support tools, including collection of gender disaggregated data for operational use in development programmes.

To address the constraints and gaps identified, and in view of new and emerging information requirements and technological tools, guidance is sought from COAG on policies and strategies for harmonising agricultural environmental information and decision support tools at global, regional, national and local level, as well as on development of an integrated and systematic approach for assisting Member Nations on agricultural environmental information development.


9. Biosecurity

A document on Biosecurity in Food and Agriculture was discussed at the 16th Session of COAG4. The Committee agreed with the recommendation that FAO convene a consultation on biosecurity in food and agriculture to clarify a number of issues associated with the concept including the exchange of official information and capacity-building. It is anticipated that the expert and technical consultations (scheduled for September 2002 and January 2003, respectively), ongoing interaction on capacity-building for improved sanitary and phytosanitary conditions in developing countries, and further development of the biosecurity portal will yield valuable new insights into the nature of biosecurity and how best to implement it.

Given the current emphasis placed on biosecurity internationally, these developments are reported to the 17th Session of COAG by means of the report to be produced by the International Technical Consultation on Biological Risk Management in Food and Agriculture and an accompanying short Secretariat paper highlighting implications of a biosecurity approach for Member Nations and for FAO, and showing progress with the biosecurity portal. These reports will contain recommendations concerning measures and mechanisms for achieving a more coherent approach to biosecurity that will require COAG guidance.

10. Other Business

11. Date and Place of Next Session


12. Adoption of the Report


1 Committee on Fisheries

2 Committee on World Food Security

3 CL 123/10 paragraph 11(b)

4 COAG/01/8