12 May 2017

What can FAO offer to the world in the domain of food and agricultural policies?

Created on 16 October 1945 in Quebec City, a few days before the establishment of the United Nations (on 24 October 1945), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is the UN’s specialised agency for food and agriculture. The main mandate given to FAO was to “collect, analyse, interpret and disseminate information relating to nutrition, food and agriculture” with the view to “contributing towards an expanding world economy and ensuring humanity's freedom from hunger” (FAO constitution).

With a planned annual budget of around $2.1 billion (period 2016-2017) and considering that there are at least 800 million under-nourished people in the world [read], it is clear that FAO has to use indirect means to help free humanity from hunger, as its very limited resources do not allow it to have a real impact through field-level work and investment. Generating knowledge on food and agricultural issues, influencing food and agricultural policies at global, regional and national level, and guiding investment by others, whether public or private, in food and agriculture are the three main levers the Organization can use to achieve the objectives that were assigned to it in 1945 and that are still (unfortunately) valid today.

FAO, as part of the UN system, is seen by some as a huge and inefficient bureaucracy. It is however worthwhile to compare resources used by FAO that works for the benefit of the world at large with those available to other organizations. Let’s take the example of the administration in charge of the city of Paris. FAO’s budget is less than half of that of the city of Paris. FAO employs approximately 3,200 people, compared to more than 50000 in the case of the French capital. It is also worth recalling here the views expressed in the report of the independent external evaluation conducted on FAO ten years ago and that concluded that the world needed FAO and that, “if FAO were to disappear tomorrow, much of it would need to be reinvented”.

A recently launched Policy Support and Governance portal provides information on how FAO envisages its work in this critical area. It details the 27 major policy themes on which the Organization works, sheds light on FAO’s governance-related activities and on the major mechanisms in which it takes part. It also offers valuable resources on a diversity of topics related to FAO’s policy work that can be of use to professionals, academics and a wider public.

A quite helpful portal that all are invited to consult.


To know more:

  1. FAO, Policy Support and Governance, web portal, 2017


Last update:    May 2017

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