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FAO - The Food and Agriculture Organization


FAO - The Food and Agriculture Organization

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), based in Rome, is the main intergovernmental organization specifically dedicated to the agricultural and food sector.
The goals of FAO are the elimination of hunger worldwide and food security, i.e. the guarantee that everyone can have access to sufficient quality food to live a healthy life.
Founded in Canada in 1945 as a specialized agency of the United Nations, FAO had its official headquarters in Washington until 1951. In that year, it was moved to Rome, in its current location.
In terms of composition, FAO is made up of 197 members, including 194 States, 2 associate members (the Faroe Islands and Tokelau), and an Organization (the European Union).

In terms of activities, FAO:
- provides technical assistance to States requesting support in the development of their rural sector and in the formulation of national programs, policies, legislation and strategies for the reduction of hunger and malnutrition;
- facilitates the dissemination of knowledge for agricultural development;
- manages the largest global database on food and agriculture;
- encourages public-private partnerships to improve small and large-scale agriculture;
- expands international knowledge on agro-food issues through research projects and the application of new technologies in the field;
- supports countries in preventing and mitigating risks for agriculture, food and nutrition, through the development of long-term policies that strengthen the resilience capacity of communities;
- alleviates food shortages caused by natural disasters, conflicts, climate change and other systemic crises through disaster response mechanisms and collaboration with humanitarian agencies.

Some important goals achieved so far thanks to the decisive contribution of FAO include:
- Eradication of rinderpest, deadly viral livestock disease;
- Creation of the Codex Alimentarius, which establishes international standards to ensure safe and quality food for all;
- International creation and adoption of the first binding treaty against illegal fishing;
- Promotion of the right to food as a human right guaranteed in over 30 countries.

Since 2016, FAO has increased its collaboration with other UN organizations in Rome (the so-called Roman-Based Agencies, RBAs): WFP (World Food Program) and IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development).
This collaboration aims to achieve greater synergy between the agencies dealing with food and agriculture towards the achievement of the Zero Hunger target by 2030.
On the occasion of the FAO Council of June 2018, the three Agencies have signed an MoU with a public ceremony, committing to enhance their cooperation.

Concerning the internal staff management, the Agency has recently seen a rapid rise in the importance attributed to gender-related issues. In parallel with similar developments in the other UN agencies, FAO is enacting a program of reform and enhancement of the internal mechanisms aiming to fight sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment within its staff. The fight against discrimination of all kinds, with an emphasis on gender discrimination, thus orients itself to a “Zero Tolerance” approach.


FAO is composed of three main bodies: the Director General, the Conference of Member States and the Council.
a) The Director General (DG) administers FAO. This chief is elected by the Conference of Member States for 4 years, renewable
only once. In 2011 the Brazilian of Italian origin José Francisco Graziano da Silva was elected, and is currently in charge for the second term.
There are three Deputy General Managers (DDG)

b) The Conference of Member States (or General Conference) is made up of all the Member States and is the supreme governing
body of the Organization. It meets in regular sessions every two years, during which the two-year budget is approved, the Organization's policies are determined, the issues of global governance are considered, recommendations to the Member States and International Organizations are made, and the members of the Council and (every four years) the Director General are elected.
Furthermore, every two years - alternating with the General Conference –the Regional Conferences take place. Participants include the Ministers of Agriculture and high-ranking officials from the Member States of the same geographical region (Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Near East), who meet to discuss regional challenges and priorities regarding food and agriculture.

c) The Council is the executive organ of the Conference. It is composed of 49 Member States, elected by the General Conference for a period of three years on the criterion of geographic rotation: in order to guarantee equitable geographical representation, each of the
regional groups has a set number of seats; it meets at least twice a year (three times in the years in which the Conference is held). Its expertise extends to global food and agriculture issues, current and future activities of the Organization, the preparation of the two-year budget (Program of Work and Budget), the administrative, financial and constitutional issues of the

d) The structure of FAO also includes several Committees dealing with specific issues and preparing the work of the Council:
- the Programme Committee (PC) is responsible for assisting the Board in managing the tools and the resources to develop and
implement the activities of the Organization;
- the Finance Committee (FC) is in charge of assisting the Board in the management of economic resources;
- the Committee on Constitutional and Legal Matters (CCLM) deals with constitutional and legal issues concerning some subjects at the request of the Council.
Furthermore, four Technical Committees are set up:
- the Committee on Agriculture (COAG) for agriculture,
- the Committee on Commodity Problems (CCP) for primary agricultural goods,
- the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) for fishery,
- the Committee on Forestry (COFO) for the management of forests.
They depend on the Conference (not on the Council) and meet every two years.
Finally, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) is established. Since 2009 the CFS is an independent body comprising Member States (of FAO, WFP, IFAD), Participants and Observers. It is a unique body in the United Nations as it consists not only of States, but also of United Nations agencies, representatives of civil society and academia & research, international and regional financial institutions and philanthropic foundations. For more information on CFS visit the thematic page.

FAO is divided into departments, led by an Assistant Director General (ADG):
1) Agriculture and Consumer Protection;
2) Climate, Biodiversity, Earth and Water;
3) Corporate Services, Human Resources and Finance
4) Economic and Social Development;
5) Fisheries and Aquaculture;
6) Forestry;
7) Technical Cooperation and Management of the Program.

FAO’s Strategic Plan adopts the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the Agenda 2030, with particular reference to Goal 2
("Zero Hunger"), Goal 14 ("Life Under Water"), Goal 15 ("Life on Earth") and Goal 1 ("Zero Poverty").

The strategic plan identifies five priority objectives:
1. help eliminate hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition, ensuring that everyone has regular access to sufficient quality food;
2. increase the productivity and sustainability of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, so as to guarantee food security and poverty reduction;
3. reduce rural poverty by helping small-scale agricultural productions to improve their productivity and develop resilience to the risks of their environment;
4. ensure inclusive and efficient agricultural and food systems that guarantee the participation of small agricultural producers;
5. strengthen the resilience of populations affected by crises and threats caused by conflicts or natural disasters.
Recently, the UN effort on these themes has evolved towards an increasingly cross-cutting approach, recognizing their interconnected nature, both between each other and with others, like conflict and migration. The intention to enhance RBA collaboration embeds itself in this context.
In addition, FAO is committed to ensuring the quality and integrity of its technical and regulatory work, to developing high-level statistics and coordinating cross-cutting issues such as global governance, nutrition, climate change, conflict and gender policies.