Meet the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Every year, in addition to running simulations of bodies such as the General Assembly and Security Council, American Model United Nations also runs several special simulations to allow students to learn about different parts of the United Nations system. In 2017, AMUN will simulate the Council of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a specialized agency of the United Nations. This is a limited-participation simulation and is open to 49 Member States. If your school already has a country for the 2017 Conference, see if your country has a seat on the Council of the FAO by clicking here. If your school has yet to be assigned a country, click here to see if there are any available States that have a seat on the FAO.
How the Food and Agriculture Organization Began
The birth of the FAO dates to before the formation of the United Nations. From 18 May to 3 June 1943, representatives from 44 allied and unaligned states participated in the United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture. In this instance, the term United Nations did not reflect the body that would come into place after the war, but simply states working together toward a common goal. Amidst high security, the representatives met in Hot Springs, Virginia and discussed a wide-range of topics relating to food and agriculture. By the end of the Conference the governments in attendance signed a declaration of goals, effectively summarized in the opening sentence:
“This Conference, meeting in the midst of the greatest war ever waged, and in full confidence of victory, has considered world problems of food and agriculture and declares its belief that the goal of freedom from want of food, suitable and adequate for the health and strength of all peoples, can be achieved.”
The states agreed that, until a permanent organization could be established, an Interim Commission would be needed to support the spirit of the declaration. The Interim Commission was established in July 1943 under the direction of Canadian diplomat and scholar Lester B. Pearson. All present states were granted membership in the Commission. The Interim Commission worked on drafting a constitution for the body and getting the participants of the 1943 Conference to accede to the provisions it outlined. The Interim Commission also looked to identify what actions the new body should address upon its creation, and these thematic reports became the key tenets of the FAO:
- Nutrition and Food Management,
- Agricultural Production,
- Forestry and Primary Forest Products, and
- Statistics (of agricultural production and consumption).
On 16 October 1945, eight days before the United Nations Charter was formally ratified, FAO held its first session as a specialized UN agency in the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec, Canada. There, the FAO set a lofty goal, to “free humanity from hunger and malnutrition, and to effectively manage the global food system.” Today there are 194 Member States of the FAO.
Organization of theFood and Agriculture Organization
The FAO is organized into a biennial Conference, the FAO Council, Regional Conferences, Council Committees, Technical Committees, Statutory Bodies and the Committee on World Food Security. These bodies represent the governing bodies of the FAO. The headquarters of the FAO is located in Rome, Italy, but it also maintains a decentralized network of 5 regional offices, 9 subregional offices, 80 country offices, and 5 liaison offices worldwide.
The FAO Conference meets biennially and is open to the entire membership of the FAO. During these meetings the FAO reviews policies regarding global governance and international frameworks, sets goals and projects for the General Council for the next two years, sets a two-year budget for the organization, and elects Member States to the FAO Council.
The primary executive body of the FAO is the Council, and it meets at least once per year. The Council is composed of 49 states that are elected for staggered three-year terms. The Council is responsible for ensuring that FAO departments and offices meet the mandates and goals set by the FAO Conference. The Council plays an active role in overseeing and developing the current work programme and budget of the FAO offices. A general overview of the Council can be found here.
The Focus of the Food and Agriculture Organization
The FAO is organized into seven departments: Agriculture and Consumer Protection; Economic and Social Development; Fisheries and Aquaculture; Forestry; Climate, Biodiversity, Land and Water; Corporate Services, Human Resources, and Finance; and Technical Cooperation and Programme Management. The FAO employs more than 1700 professional staffers and more than 1500 support staff. The FAO has a budget of 2.6 billion USD and gets voluntary contributions of approximately 1.6 billion USD.
Within the departments outlined above, the FAO’s activities are focused on five areas:
Putting information within reach and supporting the transition to sustainable agriculture. Experts in the fields of agronomy, forestry, fisheries, livestock, nutrition, environment, social sciences and statistics conduct research that can be disseminated to developing countries. This takes form in many ways, including databases and reports like the FAOSTAT, which provides free access to food and agriculture data for over 245 countries, and the knowledge hub on agroecology.
Strengthening political will and sharing policy expertise. The FAO also lends its expertise and experience to developing countries to help them draft legislation and create national programs and strategies that alleviate hunger and help develop their agriculture infrastructure. In December of 2015, FAO offices in South Sudan worked with the local Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Industry to develop a training seminar for local fisheries officers on how to deal with aquaculture emergencies and emerging technologies.
Bolstering public-private collaboration to improve smallholder agriculture. Operating as a neutral third-party, the FAO is often involved in promoting equitable and sustainable cooperation between rich countries, international companies and developing countries. FAO offices worldwide host experts, governments and companies to broker agreements on food and agriculture issues. In January, FAO accepted a 14 million Euro contribution from Belgium to help relieve crises in the Sahel, Haiti and Iraq.
Bringing Knowledge to the field. Through development funds, research programmes and by responding to crises, the FAO manages thousands of field projects each year. The FAO works with the World Health Organization, the World Food Programme and other UN bodies on projects and reports, all aimed at providing developing countries with the assistance they need to promote sustainable development in the areas within the FAO’s purview. Such efforts include programs such as the Canary Current Large Marine Ecosystem Project (CCLME), which aims to reverse negative environmental effects from overfishing and promote sustainable fishing.
Supporting states to prevent and mitigate risk. FAO offices work to combat changing and emerging threats to agriculture and food security. They coordinate with developing countries to monitor, warn and report on a wide-range of things that can affect agriculture, food and nutrition. In April of 2016, the FAO warned of the potential danger to locusts that were spotted in conflict areas of Yemen and the danger they might pose to neighboring states Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Iran.
The FAO continues to build on its successes as it looks toward the future and the challenges involved in feeding an ever-growing population in a world where global warming presents new challenges to food security and agriculture. The FAO’s mandate to manage and combat global hunger is one of ever-growing importance. The FAO will be instrumental in helping the international community learn how to feed the world in 2050 and beyond.
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