The Food and
Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations (FAO;
French: Organisation des Nations unies pour l'alimentation et
l'agriculture, Italian: Organizzazione delle Nazioni Unite per
l'Alimentazione e l'Agricoltura) 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 arguments and debate
FAO is also a source of knowledge and information, and helps
developing countries in transition modernize and improve agriculture,
forestry and fisheries practices, ensuring good nutrition and food
security for all. Its
Latin motto, fiat panis, translates as "let
there be bread". As of May 2017[update], FAO has 194 member states,
along with the
European Union (a "member organization"), and the Faroe
Islands and Tokelau, which are associate members.
100 lire (FAO's celebration.)
Obverse: Young woman with braid facing left and Repubblica Italiana
(Republic of Italy) written in Italian.
Reverse: Cow nursing calf, face value & date. FAO at bottom and
Nutrire il Mondo (E: Feed the world) at top.
Coin minted by
Italy in 1970s to celebrate and promote Food and
2 Structure and finance
2.3 Deputy Directors-General
3.1 FAO World headquarters
3.2 Regional offices
3.3 Sub-regional offices
3.4 Liaison offices
4 Priority work areas
5 Programmes and achievements
5.1.1 Codex Alimentarius
5.1.2 World Food Summit
5.1.4 FAO Goodwill Ambassadors
5.1.5 Right to Food Guidelines
5.1.6 Response to food crisis
5.1.7 FAO–EU partnership
Food security programmes
5.1.9 Online campaign against hunger
International Plant Protection Convention
5.2.2 Alliance Against Hunger and Malnutrition
5.2.3 Integrated pest management
5.2.4 Transboundary pests and diseases
5.2.5 Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity
5.2.6 Investment in agriculture
5.2.7 Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)
5.2.8 Animal Genetic Resources
6 Flagship Publications
8.1 1970s, 80s, 90s
8.3 World food crisis
9 FAO renewal
10 See also
12 External links
The idea of an international organization for food and agriculture
emerged in the late 19th and early 20th century advanced primarily by
the US agriculturalist and activist David Lubin. In May–June 1905,
an international conference was held in Rome, Italy, which led to the
creation of the
International Institute of Agriculture.
Later in 1943, the
United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt
United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture.
Representatives from forty-four governments gathered at The Homestead
Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia, U.S., from 18 May to 3 June. They
committed themselves to founding a permanent organization for food and
agriculture, which happened in
Quebec City, Canada, on 16 October 1945
with the conclusion of the Constitution of the Food and Agriculture
Organization. The First Session of the FAO Conference was held in
Château Frontenac in
Quebec City from 16 October to 1 November
World War II
World War II effectively ended the
Institute, though it was only officially dissolved by resolution of
its Permanent Committee on 27 February 1948. Its functions were then
transferred to the recently established FAO.
Structure and finance
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Lester Bowles Pearson
Lester Bowles Pearson presiding at a plenary session of the founding
conference of the
United Nations Food and
FAO headquarters in Rome.
In 1951, FAO's headquarters were moved from Washington, D.C., United
States, to Rome, Italy. The agency is directed by the Conference of
Member Nations, which meets every two years to review the work carried
out by the organization and to Work and Budget for the next two-year
period. The Conference elects a council of 49 member states (serve
three-year rotating terms) that acts as an interim governing body, and
the Director-General, that heads the agency.
FAO is composed of six departments:
Agriculture and Consumer
Protection, Economic and Social Development,
Aquaculture, Forestry, Corporate Services and Technical Cooperation
and Programme Management.
Beginning in 1994, FAO underwent the most significant restructuring
since its founding, to decentralize operations, streamline procedures
and reduce costs. As a result, savings of about US$50 million, €35
million a year were realized.
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, knowledge exchange, policy and advocacy,
direction and administration, governance and security.
The total FAO Budget planned for 2016-17 is USD 2.6 billion. The
voluntary contributions provided by members and other partners support
mechanical and emergency (including rehabilitation) assistance to
governments for clearly defined purposes linked to the results
framework, as well as direct support to FAO's core work. The voluntary
contributions are expected to reach approximately US$1.6 billion in
This overall budget covers core technical work, cooperation and
partnerships, leading to Food and
Agriculture Outcomes at 71%; Core
Functions at 11%; the Country Office Network – 5%; Capital and
Security Expenditure – 2%; Administration – 6%; and Technical and
Cooperation Program – 5%.
José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General
José Graziano da Silva
January 2012 – July 2019
January 1994 – December 2011
January 1976 – December 1993
Addeke Hendrik Boerma
January 1968 – December 1975
Binay Ranjan Sen
November 1956 – December 1967
Sir Herbert Broadley
acting April 1956 – November 1956
Philip V. Cardon
January 1954 – April 1956
Norris E. Dodd
April 1948 – December 1953
John Boyd Orr
October 1945 – April 1948
William Nobel Clark (US): 1948
Sir Herbert Broadley (UK): 1948–1958
Friedrich Traugott Wahlen (Switzerland): 1958–1959
Norman C. Wright (UK): 1959–1963
Oris V. Wells (US): 1963–1971
Roy I. Jackson (US): 1971–1978
Ralph W. Phillips (US): 1978–1981
Edward M. West (UK): 1981–1985
Declan J. Walton (Ireland): 1986–1987
Howard Hjort (US): 1992–1997
Vikram J. Shah (ad personam) (UK): 1992–1995
David A. Harcharik (US): 1998–2007
James G. Butler (US): 2008–2010
Changchui He (China) (Operations): 2009–2011
Ann Tutwiler (US) (Knowledge): 2011–2012
Manoj Juneja (India) (Operations): 2011–2012
Dan Gustafson (US) (Programmes): 2012–present
Maria Helena Semedo
Maria Helena Semedo (Cape Verde) (Climate and Natural Resources):
Laurent Thomas (France) (Operations): 2017-present
FAO World headquarters
The world headquarters are located in Rome, in the former seat of the
Department of Italian East Africa. One of the most notable features of
the building was the Axum Obelisk which stood in front of the agency
seat, although just outside the territory allocated to FAO by the
Italian Government. It was taken from
Ethiopia by Benito Mussolini's
troops in 1937 as a war chest, and returned on 18 April 2005.
Regional Office for Africa, in Accra, Ghana
Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, in Bangkok, Thailand
Regional Office for
Europe and Central Asia, in Budapest, Hungary
Regional Office for
Latin America and the Caribbean, in Santiago,
Regional Office for the Near East, in Cairo, Egypt
Liaison Office for
North America in Washington, D.C.
Sub-regional Office for Central
Africa (SFC), in Libreville, Gabon
Sub-regional Office for Central Asia, in Ankara, Turkey
Sub-regional Office for Eastern
Africa (SFE), in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Sub-regional Office for
Mesoamerica (SLM), in
Panama City, Panama
Sub-regional Office for North Africa, in Tunis, Tunisia
Sub-regional Office for Southern
Africa and East Africa, in Harare,
Sub-regional Office for the Caribbean, in Bridgetown, Barbados
Sub-regional Office for the Gulf Cooperation Council States and Yemen,
Sub-regional Office for the Pacific Islands, in Apia, Samoa
Liaison Office for North America, in Washington, D.C.
Liaison Office with Japan, in Yokohama
Liaison Office with the
European Union and Belgium, in Brussels
Liaison Office with the Russian Federation, in Moscow
Liaison Office with the United Nations, in Geneva
Liaison Office with the United Nations, in New York
Priority work areas
FAO has outlined the following priorities in its fight against
Help eliminate hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition – contribute
to the eradication of hunger by facilitating policies and political
commitments to support food security and by making sure that
up-to-date information about hunger and nutrition challenges and
solutions is available and accessible.
Make agriculture, forestry and fisheries more productive and
sustainable – promote evidence-based policies and practices to
support highly productive agricultural sectors (crops, livestock,
forestry and fisheries), while ensuring that the natural resource base
does not suffer in the process.
Reduce rural poverty – help the rural poor gain access to the
resources and services they need – including rural employment and
social protection – to forge a path out of poverty.
Enable inclusive and efficient agricultural and food systems – help
to build safe and efficient food systems that support smallholder
agriculture and reduce poverty and hunger in rural areas.
Increase the resilience of livelihoods to threats and crises – help
countries to prepare for natural and human-caused disasters by
reducing their risk and enhancing the resilience of their food and
Two fundamental areas of work – gender and governance - are fully
integrated in the above strategic objective action plans.
Programmes and achievements
FAO and the
World Health Organization
World Health Organization created the Codex Alimentarius
Commission in 1961 to develop food standards, guidelines and texts
such as codes of practice under the Joint FAO/ WHO Food Standards
Programme. The main aims of the programme are protecting consumer
health, ensuring fair trade and promoting co-ordination of all food
standards work undertaken by intergovernmental and non-governmental
World Food Summit
Main article: World Food Summit
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. 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
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$28
million, €15 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 projects provide tangible resources, such as fishing equipment,
seeds and agricultural implements. They vary enormously, from helping
families raise pigs in Venezuela, through creating school gardens in
Cape Verde and Mauritania or providing school lunches in Uganda and
teaching children to grow food, to raising fish in a leper community
FAO Goodwill Ambassadors
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 1 billion 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
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, the late singer Miriam Makeba,
International Singers Ronan Keating, and Anggun. And soccer
Roberto Baggio and Raúl, 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.[citation
Right to Food Guidelines
In 2004 the
Right to Food Guidelines were adopted, offering guidance
to states on how to implement their obligations on the right to
Response to food crisis
In December 2007, FAO launched its Initiative on Soaring Food Prices
to help small producers raise their output and earn more. Under the
initiative, FAO contributed to the work of the UN High-Level Task
Force on the Global Food Crisis, which produced the Comprehensive
Framework for Action. FAO has carried out projects in over 25
countries and inter-agency missions in nearly 60, scaled up its
monitoring through the Global Information and Early Warning System on
Food and Agriculture, provided policy advice to governments while
supporting their efforts to increase food production, and advocated
for more investment in agriculture. s also worked hand-in-hand with
the European Union. One example of its work is a US$10.2 million,
€7.5 billion scheme to distribute and multiply quality seeds in
Haiti, which has significantly increased food production, thereby
providing cheaper food and boosting f
In May 2009, FAO and the
European Union signed an initial aid package
worth €125 million to support small farmers in countries hit hard by
rising food prices. The aid package falls under the EU's €1 billion
Food Facility, set up with the UN Secretary-General's High-Level Task
Force on the Global Food Crisis and FAO to focus on programmes that
will have a quick but lasting impact on food security. FAO is
receiving a total of around €200 million for work in 25 countries,
of which €15.4 million goes to Zimbabwe.
Food security programmes
Special Programme for Food Security is FAO's flagship initiative
for reaching the goal of halving the number of hungry in the world by
2015 (currently estimated at close to 1 billion people), as part of
its commitment to the Millennium Development Goals. Through projects
in over 100 countries worldwide, the programme promotes effective,
tangible solutions to the elimination of hunger, undernourishment and
poverty. Currently 102 countries are engaged in the programme and of
these approximately 30 have begun shifting from pilot to national
programmes. To maximize the impact of its work, FAO strongly promotes
national ownership and local empowerment in the countries in which it
Online campaign against hunger
The 1billionhungry project became the EndingHunger campaign in April
2011. Spearheaded by FAO in partnership with other UN agencies and
private nonprofit groups, the EndingHunger movement pushes the
boundaries of conventional public advocacy. It builds on the success
in 2010 of The 1billonhungry project and the subsequent chain of
public events that led to the collection of over three million
signatures on a global petition to end hunger (www.EndingHunger.org).
The petition was originally presented to representatives of world
governments at a ceremony in
Rome on 30 November 2010.
The web and partnerships are two pivotal and dynamic aspects of
EndingHunger. The campaign relies on the assistance of organizations
and institutions that can facilitate the project's diffusion, by
placing banners on their own websites or organizing events aimed to
raise awareness of the project. In its 2011 season, the campaign
expanded its multimedia content, pursued mutual visibility
arrangements with partner organizations, and sharpened its focus on
14- to 25-year-olds, who were encouraged to understand their potential
as a social movement to push for the end of hunger.
Moreover, the EndingHunger project is a viral communication campaign,
renewing and expanding its efforts to build the movement through
Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. Those who sign the
petition can spread the link of the EndingHunger website to their
friends, via social media or mail, in order to gain awareness and
signatures for the petition. The next interim objective is to grow the
EndingHunger movement's Facebook community to 1 million members. As
with the petition, the more people who get involved, the more powerful
the message to governments: "We are no longer willing to accept the
fact that hundreds of millions live in chronic hunger." Groups and
individuals can also decide on their own to organize an event about
the project, simply by gathering friends, whistles, T-shirts and
banners (whistles and T-shirts can be ordered, and petition sign
sheets downloaded, on the endinghunger.org website) and thereby alert
people about chronic hunger by using the yellow whistle.
The original 1billionhungry campaign borrowed as its slogan the line
"I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!", used by
Peter Finch in the 1976 film, Network. Meanwhile, the yellow
whistle has been the campaign symbol from the start, from
1billionhungry to Ending Hunger. (The creative concept was provided by
the McCann Erickson
Italy Communication Agency.) It symbolizes the
fact that we are "blowing the whistle" on the silent disaster of
hunger. It is both a symbol and – at many live events taking place
around the world – a physical means of expressing frustration and
making some noise about the hunger situation.
Both The 1billionhungry and the EndingHunger campaigns have continued
to attract UN Goodwill Ambassadors from the worlds of music and
cinema, literature, sport, activism and government. Some of the well
known individuals who have become involved include former Brazilian
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, former presidents of Chile
Ricardo Lagos and Michelle Bachelet, actress Susan Sarandon, actors
Jeremy Irons and Raul Bova, singers
Céline Dion and Anggun, authors
Isabelle Allende and Andrea Camilleri, musician Chucho Valdés and
Olympic track-and-field legend Carl Lewis.
International Plant Protection Convention
FAO created the
International Plant Protection Convention or IPPC in
1952. This international treaty organization works to prevent the
international spread of pests and plant diseases in both cultivated
and wild plants. Among its functions are the maintenance of lists of
plant pests, tracking of pest outbreaks, and coordination of technical
assistance between member nations. As of May 2012, 177 governments had
adopted the treaty.
Alliance Against Hunger and Malnutrition
"AAHM" redirects here. For the American society dedicated to medical
history, see American Association for the History of Medicine.
The Alliance Against Hunger and Malnutrition (AAHM) aims to
address how countries and organizations can be more effective in
advocating and carrying out actions to address hunger and
malnutrition. As a global partnership, AAHM creates global connections
between local, regional, national and international institutions that
share the goals of fighting hunger and malnutrition. The organization
works to address food security by enhancing resources and knowledge
sharing and strengthening hunger activities within countries and
across state lines at the regional and international levels.
Following the World Food Summit, the Alliance was initially created in
2002 as the '
International Alliance Against Hunger (IAAH)' to
strengthen and coordinate national efforts in the fight against hunger
and malnutrition. The mission of the Alliance originates from the
first and eight UN Millennium Development Goals; reducing the number
of people that suffer from hunger in half by 2015 (preceded by the
Rome Declaration" in 1996) and developing a global partnership for
development. The Alliance was founded by the Rome-based food agencies
– the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
World Food Programme
World Food Programme (WFP),
International Fund for
Agriculture Fund for Development (IFAD), – and Bioversity
AAHM connects top-down and bottom-up anti-hunger development
initiatives, linking governments, UN organizations, and NGOs together
in order to increase effectiveness through unity.
Integrated pest management
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). 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 criticized much of the work of the
Transboundary pests and diseases
FAO established an Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary
Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases in 1994, focusing on the control
of diseases like rinderpest, foot-and-mouth disease and avian flu by
helping governments coordinate their responses. One key element is the
Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme, which has advanced to a stage
where large tracts of Asia and
Africa have now been free of the cattle
disease rinderpest for an extended period of time. Meanwhile, Locust
Watch monitors the worldwide locust situation and keeps affected
countries and donors informed of expected developments.[citation
Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity
The Food Price Index (FAO) 1990-2012
The Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building
(GIPB) is a global partnership dedicated to increasing plant breeding
capacity building. The mission of GIPB is to enhance the capacity
of developing countries to improve crops for food security and
sustainable development through better plant breeding and delivery
systems. The ultimate goal is to ensure that a critical mass of
plant breeders, leaders, managers and technicians, donors and partners
are linked together through an effective global network.
Increasing capacity building for plant breeding in developing
countries is critical for the achievement of meaningful results in
poverty and hunger reduction and to reverse the current worrisome
trends. Plant breeding is a well recognized science capable of
widening the genetic and adaptability base of cropping systems, by
combining conventional selection techniques and modern technologies.
It is essential to face and prevent the recurrence of crises such as
that of the soaring food prices and to respond to the increasing
demands for crop based sources of energy.
Investment in agriculture
FAO's technical cooperation department hosts an Investment Centre that
promotes greater investment in agriculture and rural development by
helping developing countries identify and formulate sustainable
agricultural policies, programmes and projects. It mobilizes funding
from multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, regional
development banks and international funds as well as FAO
Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)
The Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)
Partnership Initiative was conceptualized and presented by Dr. Parviz
Koohafkan the Task Manager of Chapter 10 of Agenda 21 in Food and
Agricultural Organization of United Nations, FAO in 2002 during World
Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. This
UN Partnership Initiative aims to identify, support and safeguard
Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems and their
livelihoods, agricultural and associated biodiversity, landscapes,
knowledge systems and cultures around the world. The GIAHS Partnership
recognizes the crucial importance of the well-being of family farming
communities in an integrated approach while directing activities
towards sustainable agriculture and rural development.
Animal Genetic Resources
FAO has a unit focused on Animal Genetic Resources, which are defined
as “those animal species that are used, or may be used, for the
production of food and agriculture, and the populations within each of
them. These populations within each species can be classified as wild
and feral populations, landraces and primary populations, standardised
breeds, selected lines, varieties, strains and any conserved genetic
material; all of which are currently categorized as Breeds.". FAO
assists countries in implementation of the Global Plan of Action for
Animal Genetic Resources. FAO supports a variety of ‘ex situ’ and
‘in situ’ conservation strategies including cryoconservation of
animal genetic resources.
Forestry Information Centre
One of FAO's strategic goals is the sustainable management of the
world's forests. The
Forestry Department  works to balance social
and environmental considerations with the economic needs of rural
populations living in forest areas. FAO serves as a neutral forum for
policy dialogue, as a reliable source of information on forests and
trees and as a provider of expert technical assistance and advice to
help countries develop and implement effective national forest
FAO is both a global clearinghouse for information on forests and
forest resources and a facilitator that helps build countries' local
capacity to provide their own national forest data. In collaboration
with member countries, FAO carries out periodic global assessments of
forest resources, which are made available through reports,
publications and the FAO's Web site. The Global
Assessment  provides comprehensive reporting on forests worldwide
every five years. FRA 2015 is the most recent global assessment. The
results, data and analyses are available online in different formats,
including the FAO synthesis report Global
Forest Resources Assessment
2015: How are forests changing?, the Global
Assessment 2015 Desk Reference containing summary tables, 234
country reports and the FRA 2015 Infographics. Moreover, in
2015, the journal
Forest Ecology and Management published a special
issue, Changes in Global
Forest Resources from 1990 to 2015
reporting forest change over the period 1990–2015.
Every two years, FAO publishes the State of the World's
Forests, a major report covering current and emerging issues
facing the forestry sector.
Since 1947, FAO has published the FAO Yearbook of
a compilation of statistical data on basic forest products from over
100 countries and territories of the world. It contains data on the
volume of production; and the volume, value and direction of trade in
Unasylva, FAO's peer-reviewed journal on forestry, has been
published in English, French and Spanish on a regular basis since
1947, the longest-running multilingual forestry journal in the world.
The FAO is an official sponsor of
International Day of Forests, on 21
March each year, as proclaimed by the
United Nations General Assembly
on 28 November 2012.
Every 6 years since 1926, FAO and a host member state hold the World
Forestry Congress. It is a forum for the sharing of knowledge and
experience regarding the conservation, management and use of the
world's forests, and covers such issues as international dialogue,
socio-economic and institutional aspects, and forest policies.
Forestry Department is also organised geographically in several
groups covering the whole world's forest ecosystems. One of them is
the Silva mediterranea workgroup, covering the pan-mediterranean
Aquaculture Department is defined through its
vision and mission statements:
Vision: A world in which responsible and sustainable use of fisheries
and aquaculture resources makes an appreciable contribution to human
well-being, food security and poverty alleviation.
Mission: To strengthen global governance and the managerial and
technical capacities of members and to lead consensus-building towards
improved conservation and utilization of aquatic resources.[citation
The work of the
Aquaculture Department centers on the
"Sustainable management and use of fisheries and aquaculture
resource," embracing normative as well as operational activities,
whether implemented from headquarters or from the field.[citation
The FAO Statistical Division produces FAOSTAT, which offers free
and easy access to data for 245 countries and 35 regional areas from
1961 through the most recent year available. Enhanced features include
browsing and analysis of data, an advanced interactive data download,
and enhanced data exchange through web services. The Land and Water
Division maintains a database of global water statistics,
Every year, FAO publishes a number of major ‘State of the World’
reports related to food, agriculture, forestry, fisheries and natural
State of Agricultural Commodity Markets
State of Food and Agriculture
State of Food Insecurity in the World
State of the World’s Animal Genetic Resources for Food and
State of the World’s
Forest Genetic Resources
State of the World’s Forests
State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and
State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and
State of World
Fisheries and Aquaculture
Status of the World’s Soil Resources
There are a total of 197 members comprising 194 member nations, 1
member organization (European Union) and 2 associate members (Faroe
Islands and Tokelau).
Antigua and Barbuda
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Republic of the Congo
European Union (member organization)
Faroe Islands, Denmark (associate member)
Federated States of Micronesia
Papua New Guinea
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Sao Tome and Principe
Tokelau (associate member)
Trinidad and Tobago
United Arab Emirates
The UN member state that is a non-member of the FAO is
Some countries may denote specific representatives to the FAO, for
United States Ambassador to the Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations, who has ambassador rank and is
also part of the
United States Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome.
FAO member states
1970s, 80s, 90s
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. 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.
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 FAO has become
essentially irrelevant in combating hunger. A bloated bureaucracy
known for the mediocrity of its work and the inefficiency of its staff
the FAO in recent years has become increasingly politicised". In
September of the same year, the journal Society published a series of
articles about FAO that included a contribution from the Heritage
Foundation and a response by FAO staff member, 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
Edouard Saouma, the Director-General of FAO, was also criticised in
Graham Hancock's book Lords of Poverty, published in 1989.
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.
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".
A year later, in 1991,
The Ecologist magazine produced a special issue
under the heading "The UN Food and
Agriculture Organization: Promoting
World Hunger". 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
The 2002 Food Summit organised by FAO was considered to be a waste of
time by many of the official participants. 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".
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". 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". 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-governmental
organizations). 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".
In May 2006, a British newspaper published the resignation letter of
Louise Fresco, one of eight Assistant Directors-General of FAO. In her
letter, the widely respected Dr Fresco stated that "the Organization
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".
The 32nd Session of FAO's Committee on World Food Security in 2006,
attended by 120 countries, was widely criticised by Non-Governmental
Organizations, but largely ignored by the mainstream media. Oxfam
called for an end to the talk-fests while
Via Campesina issued a
statement that criticised FAO's policy of Food Security.
On 18 October 2007, the final report of an Independent External
Evaluation of FAO was published. More than 400 pages in length, the
evaluation was the first of its kind in the history of the
Organization. It had been commissioned by decision of the 33rd Session
of the FAO Conference in November 2005. 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".
Among the problems noted by the IEE were: "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 imperilled". Among the solutions
offered were: "A new Strategic Framework", "institutional culture
change and reform of administrative and management systems". In
conclusion the IEE stated that, "If FAO did not exist it would need to
The official response from FAO came on 29 October 2007. It indicated
that Management supported 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'. 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".
In November 2008, a
Special Conference of FAO member countries agreed
a US$42.6 million (€38.6 million), three-year Immediate Plan of
Action for "reform with growth", as recommended by the IEE. Under the
plan US$21.8 million would be spent on overhauling the financial
procedures, hierarchies and human resources management.
In 2015 FAO was criticised by
The Economist for giving a diploma to
Venezuela for being one of 72 countries that had “reached the UN
Millennium Development Goal of halving the percentage of their
populations suffering from hunger”. It argued that the positive
conclusion reached by FAO about the performance of a country
experiencing major economic difficulties was based on false statistics
and that the percentage of the Venezuelan population suffering from
hunger had actually increased. It quoted FAO as saying that it had no
reason to doubt the Venezuelan statistics.
In 2016/17 FAO was heavily criticized for recruiting Nadine Heredia
Alarcón de Humala, wife of the former president of Peru, Ollanta
Humala, to a senior position, at a time when she was being
investigated by Peru following corruption allegations. Critics
included Transparency International.
At the end of April 2017, FAO staff unions addressed the
organization’s Governing Council to complain about the practice of
issuing short-term contracts that "exploit employees without providing
job security, social security and paid leave". Other complaints
included the increasing centralization of management processes,
despite claims that FAO was being decentralized, and the failure to
United Nations recommendations regarding increasing the
retirement age. The staff representative also complained about the
high percentage of unfilled positions, increasing the workload for
others who were under pressure to deliver more with less. She also
noted that contacts between Management and the staff bodies were
becoming less and less frequent.
World food crisis
In May 2008, while talking about the ongoing world food crisis,
Abdoulaye Wade of
Senegal expressed the opinion that FAO was
"a waste of money" and that "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. However, this criticism may have had more to do with
personal animosity between the President and the Director-General,
himself a Senegalese, particularly in light of the significant
differences in the work carried out by the two organizations.
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.
The response to the summit among Non-governmental organizations was
Oxfam stating that "the summit in
Rome was an important
first step in tackling the food crisis but greater action is now
needed", 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".
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."
The FAO Conference in November 2007 unanimously welcomed the IEE
report and established a Conference Committee for the Follow-up to the
Independent External Evaluation of FAO (CoC-IEE) to be chaired by the
Independent Chairperson of Council, and open to full participation by
all Members. The CoC-IEE was charged to review the IEE report and its
recommendations and develop an Immediate Plan of Action (IPA) for
A comprehensive programme of organizational reform and culture change
began in 2008 after the release of an Independent External Evaluation.
Headquarters restructuring and delegation of decision making created a
flatter more responsive structure and reduced costs. Modernizing and
streamlining of administrative and operational processes took place.
Improved internal teamwork and closer external partnerships coupled
with upgrading of IT infrastructure and greater autonomy of FAO's
decentralized offices now allows the Organization to respond quickly
where needs are greatest. As FAO is primarily a knowledge based
organization, investing in human resources is a top priority. Capacity
building including a leadership programme, employee rotation and a new
junior professional programme were established. Individual performance
management, an ethics and ombudsman officer and an independent office
of evaluation were designed to improve performance through learning
and strengthened oversight.
In January 2012, the Director-General
José Graziano da Silva
José Graziano da Silva acted
upon the commitment made during his campaign to bring the FAO reform
to a successful and anticipated completion. In addition, the new
Director-General shifted the focus of the reform process to
realization of its benefits and mainstreaming the reform into the work
of the Organization.
Agriculture and agronomy portal
Hunger relief portal
United Nations portal
FAO Building, Rome
FAO Country Profiles
Regional Animal Health Center for North Africa
World Summit on Food Security
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