Contents -

III. The 1950 Special Session of the Conference of FAO

An Interpretive Summary

The 1950 Special Session was planned originally as a limited business meeting. It will be recalled that late in 1949 the Fifth Session of the Conference decided that regular sessions should be held bienially instead of annually and that the Headquarters of the Organization Should be moved from its temporary location in Washington to a permanent site in Rome. In the light of these decisions a brief Special Session late in 1950 was called at the request of the Council to approve a budget and program of work for 1951, to amend the Constitution, Rules of Procedure, and Financial Regulations required by the change from annual to biennial Conference Session, and to tie up loose ends relating to the removal of Headquarters.

But meanwhile, developments within and outside FAO created other situations calling for Conference action. One of these was the inauguration of the Expanded Program of Technical Assistance for Economic Development. Another was the changing world situation affecting food and agricultural commodities which move in international trade. The Conference dealt with these and other broad questions. Thus, even though it conducted no detailed study of the Organization's program of work, nor any comprehensive review of the world situation for food and agriculture, the Special Session, in addition to attending to internal affairs of the Organization, accomplished a considerable volume of important work along other lines.

Five new members were admitted to the Organization during the Special Session: Cambodia, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Hashemite Kingdom of the Jordan, Spain, and Viet Nam. Admission of these nations brought FAO's total effective membership to 66 - the largest in its history. Technically, the Organization's membership stood at 68 at the end of the Conference, for the withdrawals of Czechoslovakia and Poland had not gone into effect officially at that time.


Last year, when the Fifth Session of the Conference met, the United Nations General Assembly had approved the idea of a concerted international program for increasing productivity and raising levels of living in the less developed countries. But the Technical Assistance Program existed only on paper.

By the time the Special Session of the FAO Conference convened in November, the Technical Assistance Program had begun to operate. The Technical Assistance Board, representing the United Nations and the Specialized Agencies, had been established. The scale of contributions by member governments had been agreed upon and some of the money had been paid in. FAO's agreed share of total Technical Assistance funds is, incidentally, the largest for any of the specialized agencies. This is an encouraging tribute to the Organization's work. At the same time, FAO's responsibility to the peoples of the world is greatly increased.

By November many requests for Technical Assistance by FAO had been received from a number of national governments. Agreements between FAO and some of these governments already had been signed. Recruiting of carefully selected experts to serve on Technical Assistance missions had been begun.

Dr. F. T. Wahlen, Director of the Agriculture Division, had been appointed Director of Technical Assistance activities with FAO and a small administrative office had been created. The bulk of the purely technical work is being done by various technical divisions of the Organization.

The Conference at its Special Session took note of these developments and endorsed the work that had been done, including the arrangements for collaboration with the United Nations and other specialized agencies through the Technical Assistance Board.

The Conference was aware that, although a good start had been made, much remained to be done. Member governments, it was recognized, bear much of the ultimate responsibility for success or failure. The Conference stressed these points: The governments of the more developed countries are the source of financial contributions to the program and of most of the experts that are being recruited. The governments of the recipient countries are responsible for originating requests for assistance, for full co-operation with the missions assigned to them, and for carrying out the long-range continuing lines of worn that must be done after the visiting experts have left.

The Conference stressed the importance of seeing that the advice developed by experts on Technical Assistance missions in the fields of FAO be carried to individual producers in the countries concerned. It also asked that special attention be given to provide Technical Assistance that would have a bearing on problems of land tenure and on immigration and land settlement.

In a separate action the Conference again touched on the urgent problems of agrarian structure and land tenure. Noting the discussions of these questions then under way in the United Nations General Assembly and the proposal there that the Secretary-General should invite FAO to prepare a study of the situation for the Economic and Social Council, the Conference agreed that FAO should co-operate as fully as its resources will allow.


Difficulties in distribution of the major food and other agricultural commodities which move in world trade have engaged the attention of FAO since its beginning. Producers feel the need for greater assurance that there will be adequate demand at fair prices when products are ready for sale. On the other hand the consumers of the world, whether regarded as individuals or as importing nations, need the assurance that in the years ahead adequate supplies will be available to them at fair prices. Whether the pendulum swings toward general scarcity or general surplus, these are continuing problems. Frequently consumers in some areas are pinched for supplies of a certain commodity while in other areas producers of that same commodity are unable to find satisfactory markets.

In one form or another, the commodity situation has been before the Conference during the past five years. It was recognized at Quebec, in 1945. It came up again in 1946 at Copenhagen, when the Second Session considered the proposals of Lord Boyd Orr for a World Food Board, which had the dual aim of guarding against both shortages and surpluses. A few months later it came before the Preparatory Commission, set up to study details of the Food Board proposal. That group found that not enough of the world's governments were ready to support any one international commodity organization with as broad powers as those proposed for the Food Board.

The issue came up again at Geneva in 1947. There the Conference approved the recommendations of the Preparatory Commission that separate commodity agreements should be encouraged anti that one of the chief responsibilities of the newly formed Council of FAO should be to keep commodity situations under review and to recommend action to governments.

Much effort went into this approach; some gains resulted, but before long the issue seas once more before the Conference. At Washington in 1949, after having consulted a group of independent experts. I submitted to the Conference a Report on World Commodity Problems which recommended establishment of an International Commodity Clearing House. ICCH would have aimed directly at difficulties of exchange between hard-currency areas anti areas lacking any convertible currency. It also would have sought to encourage sales of certain surpluses at concessional prices. This proposal, too, failed to enlist support from enough governments.

The Conference, however, recognized the urgency of the commodity question and recommended establishment of a Committee on Commodity Problems to he responsible to the Council of FAO. As subsequently set up, the Committee consists of representatives of 14 member governments. During the past year it has kept under review the impact of currency difficulties upon the situations for the world's major food and agricultural commodities. It has notified nations holding surpluses of needs reported by deficit countries, and in addition has sought to assist member governments to arrange for sales of surpluses at concessional prices.

Nevertheless, interest in further efforts to cope with commodity problems has continued, and has been heightened by the delay in establishing the International Trade Organization and by the fact that the Interim Co-ordinating Committee for International Commodity Arrangements, established under United Nations auspices, is limited in personnel funds and authority. The persistent commodity question was added to the limited agenda of the Special Session at the request of two member nations.

The Conference endorsed the work done by the Committee on Commodity Problems in facilitating the disposal of surplus foods and stressed the need for making such arrangements in a manner which will serve the legitimate interests of both producers and consumers. The Conference also considerably broadened the field in which the Committee may work to include all commodity problems rather than only those arising from balance-of-payment difficulties.

During the course of the discussion the Conference heard a proposal by the International Co-operative Alliance that FAO invite marketing and consumers' cooperatives to form a world surplus commodity co-operative. The Conference asked the Director-General to study this proposal and refer it to the Committee on Commodity Problems. The International Federation of Agricultural Producers, in addition to general proposals for continuing and strengthening the Committee on Commodity Problems, urged that the Director-General study the possibilities of establishing an FAO division of relief and agricultural development supplies.

The commodity issue remains very much alive. In widening the field of the Committee on Commodity Problems, the Conference, if ever so slightly, strengthened FAO's machinery for dealing with the question. Perhaps this marked a turning point. Conference discussion made it clear that a number of member governments and observers believe that more direct action is needed.


The United Nations undertook military operations in Korea with the aim of restoring that nation's independence and laying the groundwork for continuing independence and stability. From the start, the objective of the United Nations included relief and reconstruction. It was clear that emergency feeding on a large scale, together with longer-range efforts to help farmers and other food producers get back on their feet, would be important parts of any rehabilitation program. These are lines of work in which FAO is particularly qualified to take a leading part.

I was able to report to the Conference that the FAO Secretariat had already explored the possibilities of the Organization's giving prompt assistance and had participated in preliminary planning by the United Nations and other specialized agencies.

The Conference considered a report on work leading to relief and rehabilitation in Korea, including plans by the United Nations General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council to create a UN Korean Reconstruction Agency. The Conference endorsed the general offer of co-operation already made to the United Nations, and specifically authorized the Director-General to co-operate with United Nations in Korean relief and rehabilitation.


As I already have noted, one of the principal reasons for convening the 1950 Special Session was the need for altering procedures to fit the new pattern of biennial sessions of the Conference. Amendments of several provisions of the Constitution and extensive changes in the Rules of Procedure and the Financial Regulations were required. Some additional alterations were made necessary by the transfer of Headquarters from a temporary site in Washington to a permanent site in Rome.

The Conference at its Fifth Session asked that a draft of the required revisions be submitted for action of the next Session. These preparations were made during the year, with the aid of a special committee composed of representatives of member governments. The Committee decided that since numerous revisions were needed in any event, it would be best at the same time to undertake a general overhauling of the Constitution, Rules, and Regulations to bring them up to date and clarify them in the light of experience. In particular, it seemed desirable to bring the Financial Regulations as nearly as practicable into line with those of the United Nations FAO's Financial Regulations originally were drawn up before formal establishment of the United Nations.

After giving full consideration to the view of some delegations that changes beyond those most urgently needed should be studied further and taken up in a regular session, the Conference decided that it should act immediately on all of the proposals submitted with the understanding that further revision can be made in the future as required. It therefore amended the Constitution, Rules of Procedure, and the Financial Regulations (see Appendix A, pp. 27-50) by the margin of votes required in each instance.

The Conference decided that the size of the Working Capital Fund should be increased from its present level of $].5 million to $1.75 million. Since the Working Capital Fund is the only reserve that can be drawn against to assure full operations early in the financial year before all current contributions have been received' or to meet emergencies, the new level of the Fund was thought to be the minimum for safety. The Conference also decided that all member nations should contribute to and have a share in the Working Capital Fund. The original Fund was built up from unspent balances of the Organization's early period, and consequently was shared in by only those nations who were members then.

In view of the unusually heavy expenditures early in 1951 that will attend transfer of Headquarters to Rome? the Conference made a special appeal to member governments for prompt payment of contributions for the year. It also recommended a series of actions designed to stimulate payments of contributions in arrears.


It was not possible at the Special Session for the Conference to make the usual detailed studies of the Organization's Program of Work and Budget. This had been foreseen at the Fifth Session, and plans had been made under which the Program and Budget for 1951 would be reviewed with special care by the Council and the Committee on Financial Control. Thus, Conference approval of the Program and Budget was more of a formality than usual.

By May 1950 the Council had come to the conclusion that the level of the Organization's income in 1951 would probably be nearer $4.5 million than the full $5 million that would be available if every member country paid its contribution promptly and in full. Consequently, and with a view to avoiding a cash deficit in that year, the Council had directed that two proposed budgets and work programs be drawn up - one based on a 1951 income of $5 million, and the other on an income of $4.5 million. The Conference agreed that receipts in 1951 were not likely to reach $5 million and authorized expenditures up to $4.5 million only, in line with the smaller of the two proposed programs of work. But it also authorized me to undertake the additional projects shown in the larger of the work programs, subject to availability of funds. Whenever during 1951 it should become evident that the Organization's income for the year will exceed $4.5 million, I am authorized as Director-General to undertake as many of the additional projects as can be paid for within current receipts.

This tug between the need for staying within the Organization's real income and the need for a program adequate to carry out FAO's world-wide objectives in 1951 represents a continuing difficulty. Even when income reaches the $5 million limit the problem, although eased, will not be solved. Since 1945 FAO's membership has increased by more than 50 percent, from 42 to 66. This growth has brought with it a great increase in justified demands for services to member governments. But the maximum budget has remained the same in dollars, while at the same time the value of the dollars has been shrunk by inflation. How much money does FAO need to do the job it was created to perform ? At what point would a curtailed program become so ineffective as to be truly wasteful ? These are fundamental issues that must be faced by the Conference in the years ahead.

Although the whole Program of Work was not reviewed in detail, the Conference recorded its special interest in agricultural improvement programs relating to tropical agriculture and to horticulture throughout the world. It recommended that even under the smaller budget, work along these two lines be financed through anticipated savings, and that, if this were not possible, horticultural and tropical agricultural improvement projects be given a priority in the use of any receipts in excess of $4.5 million.


At its Fifth Session, the Conference, after deciding on Rome as the permanent site of the Organization's Headquarters, authorized the Director-General to negotiate a formal Headquarters agreement. Such an agreement was worked out with the Government of Italy and was ratified by the Council of FAO at its Tenth Session immediately preceding the Special Session of the Conference. The Headquarters Advisory Committee appointed last December by the Council was of great assistance in seeking solutions to the many problems raised by the transfer agreement. Much credit is due to the helpful attitude of the Italian authorities with whom my representatives and I have dealt.

The Conference at its Special Session accepted a report which estimated the total cost of removal of Headquarters at $1.6 million. The Conference directed that this cost be met in so far as possible through current income and unspent balances from previous years and that the difference be made up by a loan of no more than $800,000. As Director-General I was authorized to conclude negotiations with the United Nations for a loan of $800,000 subject to approval of the Committee on Financial Control.

Transfer of Headquarters will change the Organization's requirements for regional offices. After the move the regional needs of North America no longer can be met from Headquarters; those of Europe, on the other hand, can he The Conference approved creation of a North American Regional Office in 1951, with the understanding that this office will be interested primarily in the needs of member governments of the region. Liaison with the United Nations and its agencies in North America will continue to be directed from Headquarters which will however, make use of the facilities available in the regional office. The Conference approved discontinuance of the European Regional Office on 1 May 1951, with the stipulation that the Organization continue by other means its technical and co-ordinating services for the countries of Europe.

While dealing with the subject of regional offices, the Conference noted that FAO staff members already are located permanently in Santiago, Chile, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and left the location of other sub-regional offices to the judgment of the Director-General. The Conference decided to defer consideration of the next location of the Far East Regional Office, now situated at Bangkok. The Near East Office remains at Cairo.

Transferring the seat of an organization from one continent to another is at best a complex and difficult task. Arrangements reported to the Conference called for removal in four stages, with the first shipload leaving the United States the middle of February and the fourth shipload reaching Italy the middle of April. I hope that the move can be made with a minimum of confusion and without sacrifice of any essential services to member governments. Even with the' smoothest operation, however, considerable disruption of work is inevitable.

I believe that this period of change will be the most favorable for regrouping some elements of the secretariat with the aim of promoting efficiency and economy. The principal points of my plan are consolidation of the Distribution Division and the Division of Economics, Marketing, and Statistics, and incorporating the rural welfare activities now administrated by a separate division into the work of the Agriculture Division. Work now performed by the Divisions of Administration and Information could be realigned into special organization-wide services. In this way the secretariat would have five technical divisions, each with a broad and distinct field. The Conference noted these proposals and expressed its hopes that the Organization's rural welfare work would suffer no loss of emphasis and that changes in the secretariat would be in line with the long-range objectives to be discussed later with the Council.


Each year six of the eighteen members of the Council of FAO reach the end of their three-year terms. In view of the change from annual to biennial sessions of the Conference the Council had proposed that the term of office for its members should be set at four years, with half of the membership retiring at each regular session of the Conference. Accordingly, the Council had recommended that as an interim measure the terms of office of members retiring in 1950 should be prolonged for one year so that the proposed new system could go into effect in 1951. The Conference however, decided that three-year terms of office should be retained. But it also decided that since election of new members for full three-year terms had not been contemplated in advance, the terms of members scheduled to retire in 1950 should be prolonged until the 1951 session of the Conference.

The appointment of Lord Bruce of Melbourne as independent Chairman of the Council was scheduled to expire in 1950. The Conference, expressing appreciation of Lord Bruce's outstanding service since establishment of the Council invited him to verve until the next regular Session of the Conference. Lord Bruce accepted on condition that steps be taken to name a suitable successor who could take office as soon as the necessary arrangements could be made.

The term of the Director-General also was scheduled to end in 1950. I had been appointed at the Special Session of the Conference in 1948 to serve until the end of the session of 1950. The Conference reappointed me Director-General until the end of the 1951 session.


Through the generosity of the Government of the United States, the 1950 Special Session was held in the International Meeting Rooms of the U. S. Department of State. The Session opened on Friday, 3 November, and closed on Saturday, 11 November.

André Mayer of France was elected Chairman. Vice-Chairman were Kalle Teodor Jutila, Finland; Walder de Lima Sarmanho, Brazil; and B. K. Nehru, India.

Because of the limited agenda, the Conference was not organized into Commissions, as in recent years. A Committee of the Whole, under the chairmanship of Louis Maire, Switzerland, considered questions relating to the Program of Work and the Budget for 1951. A Committee on the Constitution, of which Enrique Perez-Cisneros, Cuba, was chairman, considered revisions of the Constitution, the Rules of Procedure, and the Financial Regulations. Administrative and Financial questions were considered by the Administrative Committee under the chairmanship of Faiz El-Khouri, Syria.

The official report that follows presents the formal actions of the Conference. Many, but not all, of these were unanimous. In addition to recording votes taken when opinion was divided, the report notes reservations or abstentions of member governments on important issues. But the report, by reason of its form, cannot reflect all the positions taken in debate during plenary sessions and in committee discussion, or those advanced hut not pressed to any conclusion. Some of these points will be brought out in the verbatim record of the plenary meetings, to be made available later to member governments. Others are brought out in the summary records of the Committee on Program and Budget and the Administrative Committee, already made available for official reference of Conference delegations.

In closing, I want to add a personal word on the appropriateness of the choice of André Mayer as Conference Chairman. As most people familiar with FAO know, Professor Mayer, Vice President of the College de France, is one of the founding fathers of the Organization. Since the Hot Springs Conference he has given unsparingly of his time and his talents. He celebrated his seventy-fifth birthday in harness presiding over one of the Conference sessions with his customary wisdom, skill' and good humor. When the members of the Conference unanimously voiced their appreciation to their Chairman at the close of the Session, they spoke from the heart. And they expressed not only their own sentiments but those of myself and the staff toward this well-loved elder statesman of FAO.

Contents -