JM 04.2/3

Joint Meeting


Rome, 29 September 2004

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

Table of Contents

1. The purpose of this document is to provide the Joint Meeting with details of (a) the time management of the revised format of the 33rd session of the Conference (b) other changes called for in response to financial restrictions referred to in para. 41 of Adjustments to the Programme of Work and Budget 2004-05 (JM 04.1/2) (c) an overview of Round Tables at the 32nd Session of the Conference.

I. Revised Format of the Thirty-third Session of the FAO Conference (19-26 November 2005)


2. It will be remembered that, following the decision taken by the Conference at its 32nd Session, the next session of the Conference will be held from 19 to 26 November 2005, thereby reducing the time available to cover the agenda from nine working days to seven. The sequence of Governing Body sessions for November 2005 (129th Session of the Council, 33rd Session of the Conference, and 130th Session of the Council) has thus been scheduled as follows:

November 2005



























3. It is proposed that the formula of holding plenary meetings and Commissions I and II working in parallel should be maintained, while new practices could be introduced in the following areas in response to the new timeframe:


Appointment of the Director-General

4. Bearing in mind the tight timeframe for the 2005 Conference, it is suggested that the agenda item on Appointment of the Director-General be scheduled on the afternoon of Saturday 19 November, the first day of the Conference, so that the work of the Commissions and the General Debate could commence unhindered on the morning of Monday 21 November, the second working day of the Conference. However, in 2007 consideration could be given to starting the work of one or both of the Commissions on the first day of the Conference.

Admission of New Member Nations

5. Applications for membership could be voted on before the item on the appointment of the Director-General. Consideration could be given to shortening the admission ceremony to allow the vote on the appointment of the Director-General to be held as early as possible on the afternoon of Saturday 19 November.


6. Given the concrete and symbolic importance of the Awards made by the Conference, it is suggested that the ceremony continue to be scheduled on the first day of the Conference, albeit with a shorter time allocation than in 2003.

Plenary Meetings

7. On non-election/voting days it is suggested that the Conference maintain the following hours: 9.00 – 12.00 hours and 14.30 – 17.30 hours. Should Round Table meetings be held (see part two of this paper) consideration could be given to scheduling them from 17.30 to 20.30 hours. Plenary could continue to host the sequential statements, i.e. the general debate from Monday 21 to Wednesday 23 November. Consideration could be given to encouraging Delegates to hand in an electronic version of their speech for web posting and inclusion in the Verbatim Records, as an alternative to delivery from the podium. Agenda items dealing with administrative and constitutional questions would be dealt with in Plenary on Thursday 24 and Friday 25 November.

The Commissions

8. Commission I could start its work on the morning of Monday 21 November and finish by the afternoon of Tuesday 22 November, so that its Drafting Committee could meet in extended session on the Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning. The Report could be adopted by Commission I on Wednesday 23 November in the late afternoon. Commission I had four meetings in 2003 and six meetings in 2001. Commission II could also begin its work on the morning of Monday 21 November and should, ideally, conclude its work by the afternoon of Wednesday 23 November. The vote on the budget level would take place on the morning of Friday 25 November. Commission II had four meetings in 2003 and six meetings in 2001.

Election of Council Members

9. Should elections for more than one region be called for, multiple ballot papers could be distributed to the electors, rather than having a separate round for each region. Should a secret ballot be necessary, it could be held on the Thursday afternoon.

II. Other changes resulting from the financial restrictions

10. Session documents will normally not exceed 5000 words, except for programme documents. Special waivers will continue to be required for other documents exceeding 6400 words and will be restricted to exceptional circumstances. The total volume of documentation for the session will be reduced by 10% in terms of word length.

11. Most delegates are now familiar with downloading documents from the Conference Web site, while those who do not have access to the web have begun to use the in-session print-on-demand facilities available in the Slovak Business Centre. Taking even greater advantage of web posting, web-based data bases could be set up for data-intensive papers such as the Conference document on Multilateral Treaties deposited with Director-General or the list of Officers of the Conference and Council, thereby doing away with costly print runs of bulky documents, while offering the advantage of documents being constantly up-dated throughout the biennium.

12. A further way of reducing print runs would be to make all Conference information documents available principally as web posted documents, with print-on-demand facilities for Member Nations without adequate access to the internet.

13. Verbatim records are very expensive to produce. It is proposed that, further to recent experiments with CD and digital audio recordings in other UN Specialized Agencies, consideration be given to rely only on the audio tapes and to eliminate hard copy of verbatim records.

III. Round Tables at the Thirty-second Session of the Conference

14. At its Hundred-and Twenty-fourth Session in June 2003, the Council approved the proposal made by the Joint Meeting of the Programme and Finance Committees in May 2003 to hold three Round Tables during the 32nd Session of the Conference. The Round Tables were held from 1 to 3 December 2003, respectively, according to the guidelines provided by the Council. The objective of the Round Table format was to provide an opportunity for Heads of Delegations to discuss a topic of strategic importance in an interactive manner which would facilitate an exchange of views. As the Round Tables were intended to complement the General Debate in Plenary, they were scheduled at the end of the day so as to allow for participation by all delegations. The themes discussed were: i) Round Table I - The Role of Water and Infrastructure in Ensuring Sustainable Food Security; ii) Round Table II - Developments in the WTO Negotiations on Agriculture and Implications for Food Security – Including the Work of FAO; iii) Round Table III - The Dimension of Food Safety in Food Security.

15. Considerable preparation took place prior to the Conference with the involvement of FAO Permanent Representatives in order to agree the detailed arrangements for the smooth conduct of the meetings. Furthermore, the thematic papers prepared by FAO’s technical departments were disseminated in time to allow study and preparation on the part of Heads of Delegations. Finally, delegations were briefed prior to the scheduled meeting concerning the ground rules that had been adopted by the Council. Adjustments were made to space arrangements and timing in order to accommodate the requests of Heads of Delegations who wished to participate fully in both the Round Tables and the General Debate. A “spillover” room with CCTV facilities was set up to permit all other delegates to follow the Round Table meetings. A table shows that participation in the Round Tables was good and with a balanced regional representation. Most of the participants in the Round Tables were at the Ministerial level. Feedback from participants on the format and the conduct of the Round Tables has been very positive.

Table - Participation in Round Tables


Registered Participants (% of total)

FAO Regions

Round Table 1

Round Table 2

Round Table 3


20 (42%)

13 (22%)

2 (8%)


6 (12%)

7 (12%)

6 (24%)


4 (8%)

15 (25%)

6 (24%)

Latin America & the Caribbean

7 (15%)

13 (22%)

3 (12%)

Near East

9 (19%)

7 (11%)

4 (16%)

North America

0 (0%)

2 (3%)

0 (0%)

Southwest Pacific

2 (4%)

3 (5%)

4 (16%)


48 (100%)

60 (100%)

25 (100%)

Level of Representation



30 (63%)

32 (53%)

13 (52%)


18 (37%)

28 (47%)

12 (48%)

Total number of Ministers at 32nd Conference: 79

IV. Savings

16. As a result of the reduced time frame and in response to financial restrictions, savings will be made in interpretation (except for drafting committee meetings, working hours will not go beyond 18.00 hours), documentation, overtime, use of information technology equipment and temporary staff such as messengers (fewer messengers will be available) for a total amount of US$ 752.000. A statement produced after the Conference session will show precisely the reduction in costs obtained. Similar savings will also be made during the biennium at Council sessions for a total amount of US$ 364.000 and at the sessions of the various Council Committees for a total amount of US$ 194.000.

V. Conclusion

17. The above proposals which have savings and efficiency in governance as their objective, also take into consideration the special nature of the 33rd Session of the Conference, its unprecedented time frame and the agenda item regarding the appointment of the Director-General. As regards Round Tables, consideration could be given to repeating the format tried out for the first time in 2003 at the 32nd Session of the Conference. However, in view of the reduction of the duration of the Session from nine to seven days, the Joint Meeting may wish to consider whether to hold two Round Table meetings instead of three. It would probably be convenient that both Round Table meetings discuss the same theme and last three hours. The theme would be identified after consultation between the Secretariat and the Regional Groups. The detailed arrangements for such Round Tables would be defined in the draft document on Arrangements for the 33rd Session of the Conference which will be submitted to the Council at its Session in June 2005 for approval. The latter document will take into consideration the guidance provided by the Joint Meeting as endorsed or amplified by the Council at its Session in November 2004.