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Achievements under the Priority Areas for Inter-disciplinary Action (PAIAs)

422.     Cutting across various major programmes or programmes, 17 “PAIAs” were active in the 2004-05 biennium. The main substantive achievements are summarised below. It may be noted that virtually all PAIAs have developed and maintained dedicated pages on FAO’s Web site (, within a harmonised approach under GIL leadership. Hence, in order to avoid unnecessary repetitions, references to Web sites have generally been omitted.

423.     LHOO: Local Institution Building to Improve Capacity for Achieving Sustainable Rural Livelihoods - Work revolved around organised interest groups dealing with: 1) diversification in livelihoods; 2) rural service delivery (especially extension); 3) natural resource management; and 4) livelihoods of the disabled. The latter group was particularly active in connection with TCP projects and emergency programmes. Moreover, a strong functional association was maintained with the donor-supported Livelihood Support Programme.

424.     REHA: Disaster Prevention, Mitigation and Preparedness and Post Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation - The coordination mechanism for this PAIA is the Emergency Coordination Group (ECG), supported by more focused ad hoc groups at the operational level. The PAIA covered important aspects during the 2004-05 biennium: 1) preparedness for, and response to radiological or nuclear events; 2) coordinated FAO’s participation in the World Conference on Disaster Reduction; 3) enhanced common approaches and operational mechanisms to undertake emergency needs assessments; and 4) the development of a natural disaster risk reduction framework for FAO. It contributed to strengthening FAO's contributions to UN humanitarian initiatives (Needs Assessment Framework for the Consolidated Appeal Process; International Recovery Platform; IASC Early Recovery Working Group).

425.     BIOS: Biosecurity for Agriculture and Food Production - The main goal was to foster a biosecurity approach in order to analyse and manage risks related to food safety issues, animal life and health issues, and plant life and health issues, including the associated environmental risks. Initiatives with key partners were an Internet-based portal, funded in part by an arrears project, to facilitate the exchange of biosecurity related information (with related capacity-building in countries) and a Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) to facilitate coordination of technical assistance on biosecurity issues at the national level by all concerned. Jointly with the BTEC PAIA, a working group on biosafety has been established to deal with issues directly related to biosafety.

426.     AWTO: WTO Multilateral Trade Negotiations on Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry - This PAIA continued to ensure a coordinated interface with important developments in the WTO and related multilateral negotiations, including: preparation of, and support to FAO's participation in WTO Conferences; a capacity-building programme “Umbrella II”; round tables and regional workshops; briefings of Permanent Representatives to FAO, especially before and after WTO Conferences; support to FAO participation in UNCTAD XI Conference; and a capacity-building, Web-based distance learning programme.

427.     CLIM: Climate Change - The PAIA continued to ensure that issues covered by FAO’s mandate are given due attention in fora such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the bodies established for implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Inputs were provided to international studies and documents on climate change, especially those under the auspices of the IPCC. The PAIA contributed to technical materials and assistance to countries on a variety of issues. The PAIA also supported national projects and capacity-building on climate change related issues.

428.     ORGA: Organic Agriculture - The most important outputs included: an organic agriculture information management system (with 77 country profiles) and a virtual questionnaire for the collection of statistics on organic production and trade in countries; an international task force on harmonisation and equivalency in organic agriculture, together with the publication of related documents; a methodology for the assessment of the impact of organic agriculture on the economies of developing countries; and the First World Conference on Organic Seed. As donors were increasingly interested in supporting organic agriculture projects (i.e. over 5 million Euros allocated in 2005), the PAIA was involved with several concrete projects in response to requests from countries.

429.     FCIT: Food for the Cities - An important dimension of the work was the sharing and disseminating of information within FAO and with external partners on urban-related food and agriculture issues, also to identify opportunities for inter-disciplinary and inter-institutional collaboration, including formulation of field projects. Collaboration across technical and operational units was strengthened, while information materials were prepared. The PAIA was involved in the formulation of an IDRC-funded project, now being implemented in ten cities, with the launching workshop for this project organised in Rome in October 2005. Links were maintained with the Millennium Project Task Force on urban slums and the Millennium Cities initiative. FAO’s participation in international meetings was facilitated (e.g. Fourth Forum of the World Alliance of Cities Against Poverty (WACAP), Second World Urban Forum).

430.     PROD: Integrated Production Systems - SARD/SPFS - Work under this PAIA was initially focused on establishing four benchmark pilot sites for field work linked to the SPFS. Work on good agricultural practices (GAP) was also carried out, including a paper discussed at COAG, the hosting of electronic conferences, preparation of studies and technical documents, various country level activities, an expert consultation and an internal workshop. A GAP working group was created with three task forces dealing with specific issues. A GAP database and Web site were developed. Pilot site work was linked to GAP initiatives, while specific task teams supported follow-up activities. The PAIA also contributed to reactivating work on Conservation Agriculture, seeking to mobilise complementary extrabudgetary funding.

431.     BTEC: Biotechnology Applications in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry - Major achievements included: multidisciplinary policy assistance at national level; coordinated FAO’s interface to developments in other intergovernmental fora; and strengthening the policy and institutional dimensions of FAO’s work in relation to biosafety. Common approaches were ensured to providing comprehensive information on biotechnology applications in crops, livestock, agro-industry, fisheries and forestry (through e.g. FAO-BiotechNews, specialised e-mail conferences, glossaries). The PAIA contributed to a landmark edition of SOFA on Agricultural biotechnology: meeting the needs of the poor?.

432.     BIOD: Integrated Management of Biological Diversity for Food and Agriculture - The main achievements included: the promotion of mixed agricultural systems such as rice-fish farming and agroforestry; participatory training for IPM ; advice on soil and water conservation in relation to biodiversity; and technologies for use and maintenance of natural and low-input grasslands. An integrated approach to biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, and the legal and economic aspects of agricultural biodiversity were also addressed. In 2004, the PAIA served as the prime focal point for World Food Day, including innovative activities involving farmers, civil society, and new partners. Also worthy of note were a new Memorandum of Understanding with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (and outposted liaison officer post) and the extension of the Agrobiodiversity Theme under the FAO-Netherlands Partnership Programme.

433.     DSRT: Combating Desertification - The PAIA was involved in supporting the UNCCD process (Convention on Combating Desertification), including FAO’s participation in main UNCCD fora (e.g. Conference of the Parties, CRICs, regional meetings), the Facilitation Committee of the Global Mechanism, and the new GEF Operational Programme on Land Degradation (OP 15) designated as the main funding mechanism for UNCCD. Field related work was dominated by the implementation of large programmes such as the land degradation assessment of dry lands (LADA) and the sustainable management of Fouta Djallon Highlands in West Africa. FAO is also leading the design of a continental initiative TerrAfrica, in cooperation with the World Bank and others agencies.

434.     MTNS: Sustainable Management of Mountains - The PAIA supported FAO’s inter-disciplinary mountains programmes and the implementation of Chapter 13 of Agenda 21. Follow up to the International Year of Mountains for which FAO was the lead agency entailed coordinating action across all concerned units (particularly in terms of integrated methodologies and strategies) also ensuring interface with partner institutions outside FAO.

435.     QINF: Definitions, Norms, Methodologies and Quality of Information - This PAIA covered inter alia: statistical commodity definitions and classification structures; standard data quality descriptions to produce statistical datasets; rationalisation of FAO terminology, vocabularies and glossaries; improved procedures for publishing documents and Web sites, thus broadening its scope to include different types of information resources. Links were maintained as necessary to other internal standard-setting groups and to partners in the UN system (e.g. UN Geographic Information Working Group).

436.     SPAT: Spatial Information Management and Decision Support Tools - This PAIA made extensive use of task forces to achieve the following: development and use of internal FAO standards and norms for geospatial data and information; release and deployment of FAO's GeoNetwork, version 2, as an international standard for the retrieval of geospatial data, including uptake in UN agencies and the CGIAR; establishment of subnational databases on land use (Agro-MAPS), subnational boundaries (GAUL) and a hydrological map at global level.

437.     GLOP: Global Perspective Studies - All units undertaking disciplinary perspective studies (i.e. agriculture, food and nutrition, crop and livestock, fisheries, forestry, natural resources) aimed at increasing their multidisciplinary content of the studies carried out in various sectors . Consistency was also sought in the assumptions used in these studies and in the views and statements issued by the Organization on long-term developments. In parallel, work was undertaken on analytical tools for scenario analysis.

438.     ETHI: Ethics in Food and Agriculture - The Panel of Experts on Ethics in Food and Agriculture was supported, as the latter considered a range of ethical issues in food and agriculture. Various studies were carried out by technical departments leading to four publications on: The ethics of sustainable agricultural intensification; Ethical issues in fisheries; Science and ethics; and Animal welfare and the intensification of animal production: An alternative interpretation;. Coordinated responses were ensured to relevant international initiatives on ethics, in particular the new UN Interagency Committee on Bioethics and meetings convened by UNESCO.

439.     GEND: Gender and Development - Gender and Development had a special status among the PAIAs active in the 2004-05 biennium, as it was (and continues to be) governed by a specific Plan of Action sanctioned by the FAO Conference, including attendant reporting requirements to the governing bodies. The implementation of this Plan of Action was spearheaded by the SD Department and supported by a network of “gender focal points” in all concerned units at headquarters and in regional offices.

Use of catalytic funds under entity 210S5
440.     The central provision of US$ 592,000 under this entity was used according to its intended purpose of providing catalytic support to PAIAs. As mentioned above, GIL benefited from financial assistance to ensure harmonisation of specialised Web pages. Other allocations were given to PAIA groups for inter alia: the preparation and issuance of seminal technical guidelines and key information materials; special studies; the development of methodologies; the initial development of multidisciplinary databases; the facilitation of FAO’s participation to significant external events; and direct technical inputs to field work.

Modified handling of PAIAs in the Revised PWB 2006-07
441.     At its session of September 2005, the Programme Committee reviewed the experience with PAIAs since their inception and stressed the need for greater selectivity in the themes to be highlighted as such. In addition, emphasis was placed in the Revised PWB 2006-07 on greater use of ex ante joint planning. In effect, FAO’s corporate planning and budgeting process and system allow for entities to be of a genuine multidisciplinary nature, factoring at the planning stage resource inputs (including staff time) from as many different units as needed. Hence, the “mainstreaming” in the programme structure of many PAIAs was a key feature of the Revised PWB 2006-07.

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