Seventeenth Session

Rome, 31 March-4 April 2003


1. Further to a Resolution of the World Health Assembly (WHA53.15) in May 2001 and a request from the FAO Programme Committee in September 2001, FAO and WHO undertook a joint evaluation of the Codex Alimentarius and other FAO and WHO work on food standards. Although it concentrated on the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission, the evaluation covers all aspects of the food standards work of FAO and WHO, which includes also capacity building and expert scientific advice. The work of the evaluation was undertaken by an independent team advised by an independent expert panel. The evaluation team consisted of five persons, three of whom, including the team leader, were external to the two Organizations. The independent expert panel had ten members drawn from all parts of the world and stakeholder interests. The evaluation also benefited from the advice of the Codex Executive Committee. The evaluation team visited 24 Member Nations and the European Community. Information was also received from an open call for public comment on the Internet and from detailed questionnaires to Member governments and stakeholder organizations. There was a very high level of responses to the questionnaires with over 100 Member Nations replying.

2. The evaluation found Codex food standards to be given very high importance by members. Codex standards were considered a vital component in promoting food control systems designed to protect consumer health, including issues related to international trade and the agreements on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) and on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) of the World Trade Organization (WTO). International standards also provide a basis for standard setting by smaller and less developed countries. Capacity building activities of FAO, WHO and Codex were found to be continuing to make a substantial contribution internationally and to individual countries both in protecting their own citizens and in benefiting from an increasingly globalized market in food.

3. The report of the evaluation was considered by the 25th (Extraordinary) Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Geneva, 13-15 February 2003). The Commission supported the overall thrust of the Evaluation report and expressed its commitment to the implementation of strategies that would meet the objectives of the recommendations contained therein. It strongly agreed that these recommendations should be reviewed expeditiously.

4. In order to maintain the strong support from all Member Nations and stakeholders, the Commission agreed that in their response to the Evaluation, the Commission and its parent Organizations should work towards:

5. The Commission also agreed that it should have greater independence, within the overall structure of FAO and WHO, for proposing and executing its work programme and budget, once approved by the two parent organizations. It strongly supported the recommendation that the Secretariat be expanded and that the seniority and composition of its staff should match the Commission’s increased requirements.

6. The Commission expressed the view that there needed to be sufficient capacity within the parent Organizations to ensure that scientific advice was provided on a timely basis. It also agreed that this work needed to have greater identity within the Organizations, stronger links to Codex priorities, and internal coordination as well as significantly increased resources. Its independence from external influences and its transparency needed to be further reinforced within FAO/WHO. It strongly recommended that WHO markedly increase its contribution to health risk assessment carried out by FAO/WHO expert committees and FAO/WHO Expert consultations. It also recommended that FAO strengthen its input in areas reflecting its responsibility and expertise.

7. In the area of capacity building, the Commission called upon FAO and WHO to undertake a major effort to mobilize extra-budgetary funds and foster coordinated bilateral assistance in capacity building. It also called for a more coordinated approach for capacity building between FAO and WHO.

8. The Commission called upon FAO and WHO to provide additional Regular Programme resources, supplemented with extra-budgetary resources where necessary, to strengthen Codex and Codex-related work throughout the two Organizations. If all recommendations of the evaluation were to be implemented with immediate effect the incremental core funding for Codex would need to increase by some US$ 1.4 million per biennium. Immediate incremental costs of implementing recommendations relating to improving the timeliness of expert scientific advice to Codex and Member Nations is estimated to be US$ 2.5 million per biennium, shared equally between FAO and WHO. It is the intention of FAO to proactively seek extra-budgetary resources to be able to implement fully the recommendations of the Evaluation of Codex and Codex-related work.