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The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (French: Organisation des Nations Unies pour l'alimentation et l'agriculture; Spanish: Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Agricultura y la Alimentación; Chinese: 聯合國糧食及農業組織; Russian: Продовольственная и сельскохозяйственная организация, Arabic: منظمة الأغذية والزراعة للأمم المتحدة Template:ArabDIN) is a specialised agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger. Serving both developed and developing countries, FAO acts as a neutral forum where all nations meet as equals to negotiate agreements and debate policy. FAO is also a source of knowledge and information, and helps developing countries and countries in transition modernise and improve agriculture, forestry and fisheries practices, ensuring good nutrition and food security for all. Its Latin motto, fiat panis, translates into English as "let there be bread!".

FAO was founded on 16 October 1945 in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. In 1951 its headquarters were moved from Washington, D.C., United States, to Rome, Italy.

As of 8 August, 2008, it had 193 members (191 states, the European Community, and the Faroe Islands, which are associate members List of FAO members).

What the FAO says about ItselfEdit

File:FAO sede.jpg


FAO is governed by the Conference of Member Nations, which meets every two years to review the work carried out by the organisation and approve a Programme of Work and Budget for the next biennium. The conference elects a council of 49 Member Nations to act as an interim governing body. Members serve three-year, rotating terms. The conference also elects the Director-General to head the agency. FAO is composed of eight departments: Administration and Finance, Agriculture, Economic and Social, Fisheries, Forestry, General Affairs and Information, Sustainable Development and Technical Cooperation. Since 1994, FAO has undergone the most significant restructuring since its founding, to decentralise operations, streamline procedures and reduce costs. Savings of $50 million a year have been realised.


FAO's Regular Programme budget is funded by its members, through contributions set at the FAO Conference. This budget covers core technical work, cooperation and partnerships including the Technical Cooperation Programme, information and general policy, direction and administration.

Member states froze FAO's budget from 1994 through 2001 at $650 million per biennium. The budget was raised slightly to $651.8 million for 2002-03 and jumped to $749 million for 2004-05, but this nominal increase was seen as a decline in real terms[1]. In November 2005, the FAO governing Conference voted for a two-year budget appropriation of $765.7 million for 2006–2007; once again, the increase only partially offset rising costs due to inflation.[2]


File:Jacques Diouf (Porto Alegre, March 2006).jpeg

Deputy Directors-GeneralEdit


Programmes and AchievementsEdit

Special Programme for Food SecurityEdit

The Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) is FAO's flagship initiative for reaching the goal of halving the number of hungry in the world by 2015 (presently 852 million people), as part of its commitment to the Millennium Development Goals. Through projects in over 100 countries worldwide, the SPFS promotes effective, tangible solutions to the elimination of hunger, undernourishment and poverty. Currently 102 countries are engaged in the SPFS and of these approximately 30 are operating or developing comprehensive National Food Security Programmes. To maximize the impact of its work, the SPFS strongly promotes national ownership and local empowerment in the countries in which it operates.

Integrated Pest ManagementEdit

During the 1990s, FAO took a leading role in the promotion of integrated pest management for rice production in Asia. Hundreds of thousands of farmers were trained using an approach known as the Farmer Field School (FFS)[27]. Like many of the programmes managed by FAO, the funds for Farmer Field Schools came from bilateral Trust Funds, with Australia, Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland acting as the leading donors. FAO's efforts in this area have drawn praise from NGOs that have otherwise criticised much of the work of the organisation.

FAO StatisticsEdit

The FAO Statistical Division produces FAOSTAT, an on-line multilingual database currently containing over 3 million time-series records from over 210 countries and territories covering statistics on agriculture, nutrition, fisheries, forestry, food aid, land use and population. The Statistical Division also produces data on World Agricultural Trade Flows.


Raising awareness about the problem of hunger mobilizes energy to find a solution. In 1997, FAO launched TeleFood, a campaign of concerts, sporting events and other activities to harness the power of media, celebrities and concerned citizens to help fight hunger. Since its start, the campaign has generated close to US$14 million in donations. Money raised through TeleFood pays for small, sustainable projects that help small-scale farmers produce more food for their families and communities.

The Right to Adequate FoodEdit

FAO's Strategic Framework 2000-2015 stipulates that the organization is expected to take into full account "progress made in further developing a rights-based approach to food security" in carrying out its mission "helping to build a food-secure world for present and future generations." When the Council adopted the Voluntary Guidelines in November 2004, it also called for adequate follow up to the Guidelines through mainstreaming and the preparation of information, communication and training material.

International Alliance Against HungerEdit

In June 2002, during the World Food Summit, world leaders reviewed progress made towards meeting the 1996 Summit goal of halving the number of the world's hungry by 2015; their final declaration called for the creation of an International Alliance against Hunger (IAAH) to join forces in efforts to eradicate hunger. Launched on World Food Day, 16 October 2003, the IAAH works to generate political will and concrete actions through partnerships between intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations and national alliances. The IAAH is a voluntary association of international organisations, national alliances against hunger, civil society organisations, social and religious organisations and the private sector. The global activities of the IAAH focus on four major themes: advocacy, accountability, resource mobilization and coordination. The International Alliance is made up of the Rome-based UN food organisations – FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) – and representatives of other intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations. Individuals cannot directly join the IAAH, though they can work with national alliances against hunger. In less than two years, 36 countries have established national alliances, some of them already very active like those in Brazil, Burkina Faso, France, India and the United States.

Goodwill AmbassadorsEdit

The FAO Goodwill Ambassadors Programme was initiated in 1999. The main purpose of the programme is to attract public and media attention to the unacceptable situation that some 800 million people continue to suffer from chronic hunger and malnutrition in a time of unprecedented plenty. These people lead a life of misery and are denied the most basic of human rights: the right to food. Governments alone cannot end hunger and undernourishment. Mobilization of the public and private sectors, the involvement of civil society and the pooling of collective and individual resources are all needed if people are to break out of the vicious circle of chronic hunger and undernourishment. Each of FAO’s Goodwill Ambassadors – celebrities from the arts, entertainment, sport and academia such as Nobel Prize winner Rita Levi Montalcini, actress Gong Li, singer Miriam Makeba, and soccer player Roberto Baggio, to name a few – has made a personal and professional commitment to FAO’s vision: a food-secure world for present and future generations. Using their talents and influence, the Goodwill Ambassadors draw the old and the young, the rich and the poor into the campaign against world hunger. They aim to make Food for All a reality in the 21st century and beyond. See also FAO Goodwill Ambassadors

Criticism Edit

1970s and 80sEdit

There has been public criticism of FAO for at least 30 years. Dissatisfaction with the organisation's performance was among the reasons for the creation of two new organisations after the World Food Conference in 1974, namely the World Food Council and the International Fund for Agricultural Development; by the early eighties there was intense rivalry among these organisations. [3] At the same time, the World Food Programme, which started as an experimental 3-year programme under FAO, was growing in size and independence, with the Directors of FAO and WFP struggling for power.[4]

Early in 1989, the organisation came under attack from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C. The Foundation wrote that The sad fact is that the FA0 has become essentially irrelevant in combating hunger. A bloated bureaucracy known for the mediocrity of its work and the inefficiency of its staff the FA0 in recent years has become increasingly politicised.[5] In September of the same year, the journal Society published a series of articles about FAO [6] that included a contribution from the Heritage Foundation and a response by FAO staffer, Richard Lydiker, who was later described by the Danish Minister for Agriculture (who had herself resigned from the organisation) as 'FAO's chief spokesman for non-transparency'.[7].

Edouard Saouma, the Director General of FAO, was also criticised in Graham Hancock's book 'Lords of Poverty, published in 1989. [8]. Mention is made of Saouma's 'fat pay packet', his 'autocratic' management style, and his 'control over the flow of public information'. Hancock concluded that "One gets the sense from all of this of an institution that has lost its way, departed from its purely humanitarian and developmental mandate, become confused about its place in the world - about exactly what it is doing, and why". Despite the criticism, Edouard Saouma served as DG for three consecutive terms from 1976 to 1993.

The 1990sEdit

In 1990, the US State Department expressed the view that "The Food and Agriculture Organization has lagged behind other UN organizations in responding to US desires for improvements in program and budget processes to enhance value for money spent".[9]

A year later, in 1991, The Ecologist magazine produced a special issue under the heading "The UN Food and Agriculture Organization: Promoting World Hunger".[10] The magazine included articles that questioned FAO's policies and practices in forestry, fisheries, aquaculture, and pest control. The articles were written by experts such as Helena Norberg-Hodge, Vandana Shiva, Edward Goldsmith, Miguel A. Altieri and Barbara Dinham. Also included was an article by 'Khalil Sesmou', the pseudonym of a senior FAO official. Sesmou's article started with the following summary of the criticism FAO was facing at the time:

"FAO, set up to develop world agriculture so as to enable the world to feed itself has disastrously failed in its task. It has ignored and even derided traditional agricultural methods and permits no international criticism of its policy of promoting Western-style intensive farming and the export of cash crops. FAO's performance is judged on the amount of money it spends, not on the effectiveness of its projects, it ignores the voices of the people it is supposed to be helping and it has close links with agribusiness internationals, whose products it actively promotes. The organisation's Director-General has been much criticised by FAO staff and others for his autocratic style, and the political manoeuvring he has engaged in to ensure his re-election. A massive overhaul of FAO's basic philosophy, structure and function is urgently needed". (page 47)

In 1996, FAO organised the World Food Summit, attended by 112 Heads or Deputy Heads of State and Government. The Summit concluded with the signing of the Rome Declaration, which established the goal of halving the number of people who suffer from hunger by the year 2015.[11] At the same time, 1,200 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) from 80 countries participated in an NGO Forum. The Forum was critical of the growing industrialisation of agriculture and called upon Governments—and FAO—to do more to protect the 'Right to Food' of the poor, rather that protecting the profits of companies involved in agribusiness.[12]

The 2000sEdit

The next Food Summit organised by FAO in 2002 was considered to be a waste of time by many of the official participants.[13]. Social movements, farmers, fisherfolk, pastoralists, indigenous peoples, environmentalists, women's organisations, trade unions and NGOs expressed their collective disappointment in, and rejection of the official Declaration of the... Summit[14].

In 2004, FAO produced a controversial report called 'Agricultural Biotechnology: meeting the needs of the poor?'. The report claimed that "agricultural biotechnology has real potential as a new tool in the war on hunger".[15] In response to the report, more than 650 organisations from around the world signed an open letter in which they said "FAO has broken its commitment to civil society and peasants' organisations". The letter complained that organisations representing the interests of farmers had not been consulted, that FAO was siding with the biotechnology industry and, consequently, that the report "raises serious questions about the independence and intellectual integrity of an important United Nations agency".[16] The Director General of FAO responded immediately, stating that decisions on biotechnology must "be taken at the international level by competent bodies" (in other words, not by non-government organisations). He acknowledged, however, that "biotechnology research is essentially driven by the world's top ten transnational corporations" and "the private sector protects its results with patents in order to earn from its investment and it concentrates on products that have no relevance to food in developing countries".[17]

In May 2006, a British newspaper published the resignation letter of Louise Fresco, an Assistant Director General of FAO. In her letter, the widely respected Dr Fresco stated that "the Organisation has been unable to adapt to a new era", that "our contribution and reputation have declined steadily" and "its leadership has not proposed bold options to overcome this crisis".[18]

October 2006 saw delegates from 120 countries arrive in Rome for the 32nd Session of FAO's Committee on World Food Security. The event was widely criticised by Non-Government Organisations, but largely ignored by the mainstream media. Oxfam called for an end to the talk-fests[19]while Via Campesina issued a statement that criticised FAO's policy of Food Security.[20]

2007 Independent External EvaluationEdit

At its 33rd Session in November 2005, the FAO Conference agreed to commission the first Independent External Evaluation (IEE) in the history of the organisation.

The final report of the IEE, more than 400 page in length, was published on October 18th 2007. The report concluded that "The Organization is today in a financial and programme crisis" but "the problems affecting the Organization today can all be solved" [21]

Among the problems noted by the IEE: "The Organization has been conservative and slow to adapt", "FAO currently has a heavy and costly bureaucracy" and "The capacity of the Organization is declining and many of its core competencies are now imperiled".

Among the solutions: "A new Strategic Framework", "institutional culture change and reform of administrative and management systems".

The official response from FAO came on 29th October: "Management supports the principal conclusion in the report of the IEE on the need for ‘reform with growth’ so as to have an FAO ‘fit for this century’". [22]

The IEE report will be discussed by FAO’s member countries in November 2007. If Member States accept the IEE proposal, a working group involving management and membership could be established to develop a three to four year Immediate Action Plan to address its 109 recommendations.

Meanwhile, hundreds of FAO staff signed a petition in support of the IEE recommendations, calling for " a radical shift in management culture and spirit, depoliticization of appointments, restoration of trust between staff and management, [and] setting strategic priorities of the organization".[23]

In conclusion the IEE stated that, "If FAO did not exist it would need to be invented."

FAO and the world food crisisEdit

In May 2008, while talking about the ongoing world food crisis, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal expressed the opinion that FAO was "a waste of money" and "we must scrap it". Mr Wade said that FAO was itself largely to blame for the price rises, and that the organisation's work was duplicated by other bodies that operated more efficiently, like the UN's International Fund for Agricultural Development. [24]

In 2008, the FAO sponsored the High-Level Conference on World Food Security‎. The summit was notable for the lack of agreement over the issue of biofuels. [25]

The response to the summit among Non-governmental organizations was mixed, with Oxfam stating that "the summit in Rome was an important first step in ackling the food crisis but greater action is now needed"[26], while Maryam Rahmanian of Iran’s Centre for Sustainable Development said "We are dismayed and disgusted to see the food crisis used to further the policies that have led us to the food crisis in the first place”. [27]

As with previous food summits, civil society organizations held a parallel meeting and issued their own declaration to "reject the corporate industrial and energy-intensive model of production and consumption that is the basis of continuing crises" [28]

FAO OfficesEdit

World HeadquartersEdit

The world headquarters are in Rome, in structure built in the 20th century in a modern style. One of the notable features of the building was the Axum Obelisk which stood in front of the FAO. It was taken from Ethiopia by Mussolini's troops in 1937, and in November 2003, the process was begun to dismantle it in order to ship it back to its original site.

Regional OfficesEdit

Subregional OfficesEdit

Liaison OfficesEdit

See alsoEdit

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Sources and notesEdit

  1. UN food agency says real budget falls in 2004-2005, UN Mission to the UN agencies in Rome, 10 December 2003 [1]
  2. FAO’S 2006-2007 budget, FAO Newsroom, 25 November 2005 [2]
  3. Critics Say Rivalries Hurt Work of Food Groups, New York Times, 9 November, 1981 [3]
  4. Bread and Stones: Leadership and the Struggle to Reform the United Nations World Food Programme", James Ingram, Booksurge, 2006 [4]
  5. The U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization: Becoming Part of the Problem, Juliana Geran Pilon, Heritage Foundation Backgrounder #626, 4 January 1988 [5]
  6. Society, Volume 25, Number 6, September 1988 [6]
  7. A Sixth 100 Questions on Democracy, Council for Parity Democracy, 22 November 2002 [7]
  8. Lords of Poverty: The Power, Prestige, and Corruption of the International Aid Business, MacMillan, London, 1989 [8]
  9. Statement by John R. Bolton, Assistant Secretary for International Organizations,19 September, 1990 [9]
  10. The Ecologist 21(2), March/April, 1991
  11. World Food Summit archive, FAO [10]
  12. Profit for few or food for all, Final Statement of the NGO Forum, 1996 [11]
  13. Food summit waste of time. BBC, 13 June 2002, [12]
  14. NGO/CSO Forum for Food Sovereignty, final statement, 12 June 2002 [13]
  15. Agricultural Biotechnology: meeting the needs of the poor?, FAO, 17 May 2004 [14]
  16. FAO declare war on farmers not hunger, Grain, 16 June 2004 [15]
  17. Statement by FAO Director General [16]
  18. Resignation letter of Louise Fresco, ADG, FAO, Guardian Unlimited, 14 May, 2006, [17]
  19. Global hunger: act now or go home, press statement, 30 October, 2006 [18]
  20. 10 Years of Empty Promises, press statement 22 September, 2006[19]
  21. Independent External Evaluation, page at FAO website with links to the IEE report[20]
  22. Official FAO response to evaluation report [21]
  23. For a Renewal of FAO, online petition, November 2007
  24. UN food body should be scrapped, BBC News, 5 May 2008 [22]
  25. Food summit fails to agree on biofuels, Guardian 06 June 2008, [23]
  26. Rome summit ‘important first step’ but much more needed says Oxfam, Oxfam Press Release, June 5, 2008 [24]
  27. Farmers 'disgusted' with food summit, Daily Despatch Online, 07 June 2008 [25]
  28. Civil Society Declaration of the Terra Preta Forum, La Via Campesina, 05 June 2008 [26]

External linksEdit

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