FAO: its origins,
and evolution 1945–1981



First published 1981

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In July 1935 my wife and I set out from Amherst, Massachusetts, on our first trek to Europe. We sailed out of Montreal on the S.S. Duchess of York, and late in the afternoon of the first day we passed the city of Quebec, which offered us a striking view of the Chateau Frontenac perched on a bluff high above the St. Lawrence River.

We had no premonition that, within just over ten years, World War II would have been fought, or that in the aftermath of that war the representatives of many nations would have gathered in the Chateau Frontenac on 16 October 1945 to found the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Neither did we have any way of knowing that this new Organization would have a pervasive influence on much of the remainder of our lives.

During most of 1943 and early 1944 I served for my Government as a consultant on animal breeding in China and India. As I was nearing the end of my assignment a colleague in the United States Embassy in Chungking showed me the one copy the Embassy had received of the Report of the Hot Springs Conference, by which I learned of the impending formation of FAO, and it sparked my interest.

Back in Washington, during the summer of 1944, the United Nations Interim Commission on Food and Agriculture was already busy preparing materials for consideration by the Quebec Conference. I was drafted into assisting the Technical Committee on Agriculture, and met with it on many occasions over the next eight or nine months.

My experience in China and India had also sparked my interest in the problems of breeding livestock under unfavourable environments, and during 1944–45 I was preparing a manuscript on this subject. The Interim Commission officer who later became FAO's first Director of Information learned of it, and asked if FAO might publish it. Thus it eventually appeared as FAO's Agricultural Study No. 1.

Soon thereafter, FAO Director-General Sir John Boyd Orr decided to convene in Copenhagen, in the late summer of 1946, just prior to the Second Session of the FAO Conference, the first session of a Standing Advisory Committee on Agriculture preparatory to the setting up of FAO's Agriculture Division. It was during that Committee session that I was invited to join the FAO staff. So, from those earlier involvements that I have Just recounted, did I become inexorably involved in FAO's web.

Now, as perhaps the only one remaining in FAO whose experience has covered almost the whole span of the Organization's creation and development. it has seemed appropriate — indeed, an obligation — to record the key events of those years. for the information of those who have and will come on the FAO scene at later stages. This volume is the result.

During all those years that led up to and involved participation in FAO, I was ably and loyally supported by my, Mary up to the time of her death 26 February 1981, so it is to her that this volume is dedicated

Ralph W. Phillips

ROME © FAO 1981

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1.   Introduction

2.   Origins of the Idea

Immediate Origins of the FAO Idea

A Longer-Term Perspective

3.   The Constitutional Expression of the FAO Idea


Functions of the Organization

4.   The Founding of FAO

The Hot Springs Conference

The Interim Commission

The Quebec Conference

5.   The Member Countries.

Present Membership

Changes in Membership

6.   The Governing Bodies

The Conference

Functions, Sites and Frequency

Changes in the Conference

The Council

Formation and Evolution

Independent Chairman.

The Key Committees

Programme Committee

Finance Committee

Committee on Constitutional and Legal Matters

Committee on Commodity Problems

Committee on Fisheries

Committee on Forestry.

Committee on Agriculture

Committee on World Food Security

Committee on Food Aid Policies and Programmes

Other Statutory Bodies.

7.   The Leadership

The Director-General

Sir John Boyd Orr.

Norris E. Dodd

Philip V. Cardon

B. R. Sen 38

A. H. Boerma

Edouard Saouma

The Deputy Director-General

Wm. Noble Clark

Sir Herbert Broadley

F. T. Wahlen

Sir Norman C. Wright

Oris V. Wells

Roy I. Jackson

Dr. Ralph W. Phillips

8.   The Headquarters and Other Offices

The Headquarters

Regional and Liaison Offices


Near East

Asia and the Pacific

Latin America

North America


United Nations

Country Offices

9.   The Evolution of the Headquarters Organizational Structure

1945 through 1950

1951 through 1958

1959 through 1969

1970 through 1981

The Present Structure

10.   The Evolution of the Programme of Work and Budget

Evolution of the Programme of Work

1945 through 1950

1951 through 1958

1959 through 1968

1969 through 1974

1975 through 1981

Evolution of the Budget

The Staff.

11.   The Departments, Divisions and Other Major Units

Office of the Director-General.

The Cabinet

Office of Programme, Budget and Evaluation

Office for Inter-Agency Affairs

Legal Office

Office of Internal Audit and Inspection

Agriculture Department

Land and Water Development Division.

Plant Production and Protection Division

Animal Production and Health Division

Agricultural Services Division

Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Isotope and Radiation Applications of Atomic Energy for Food and Agricultural Development

Research Development Centre.

Agricultural Operations Division

Economic and Social Policy Department

Policy Analysis Division

Commodities and Trade Division

Statistics Division

Food Policy and Nutrition Division

Human Resources, Institutions and Agrarian Reform Division.

Fisheries Department

Fishery Policy and Planning Division

Fishery Resources and Environment Division

Fishery Industries Division

Fishery Information, Data and statistics service.

Operations Service

Forestry Department

Forest Resources Division

Forest Industries Division

Policy and Planning Service

Operations Service.

Development Department

Field Programme Development Division

Investment Centre

Freedom from Hunger Campaign/Action for Development

Department of General Affairs and Information

Conference, Council and Protocol Affairs Division

Information Division

Publications Division

Library and Documentation Systems Division

Administration and Finance Department

Financial Services Division

Management Services Division

Personnel Division.

Administrative Services Division.

12   The UN/FAO World Food Programme

Committee on Food Aid Policies and Programmes


Office of the Executive Director

Project Management Division

Resources Management Division

Division of External Relations and General Services

13.   Relations with Other Organizations

United Nations System

Other Intergovernmental Organizations

Non-Governmental Organizations

14.   The FAO Emblem 185

15.   Conclusion



Index of Countries

Index of Names