The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is an agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to improve agriculture, forestry and fisheries practices, ensuring good nutrition and food security. FAO was established on 16 October 1945 in Quebec City, Canada, and to commemorate its foundation every October 16 is celebrated as the "World Food Day”. Actually FAO has 194 member States, along with the European Union and the Faroe Islands and Tokelau, which are associate members. The head office is in Rome. FAO works in partnership with institutions of all kinds: private foundations, grassroots organizations, companies, professional associations, other United Nations agencies, national governments and more. According to the Preamble of FAO Statute the member States promote separate and collective actions aimed at increasing the level of nutrition and standard of living under their respective jurisdictions; improving the production efficiency and distribution effectiveness of all food and agricultural products; improving rural populations conditions; expanding the global economy and to free humanity from hunger.
FAO was founded 16 October 1945, like first specialized agency within the United Nations. The settlement of this organization occurs at the end of World War II, because the war itself helped to give importance to the problem of food requirements imposed on the people and soldiers.
The first idea of an international organization for food and agriculture emerged in 1905, which lead to the creation of the International Institute of Agriculture (IIA), thanks Italian initiative.
The organization of work for the official establishment of FAO, begins in 1935 with the creation of ad hoc committee within the League of Nations and later in 1943 with the Hot Springs Conference in Virginia.
The Conference, which was attended by 45 countries, concluded with the approval of a final act contains 33 recommendations and the will to creation of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization1 . The concrete establishment of this organization was entrusted to the Interim Commission on Food and Agriculture, set up in Washington with representatives of each of the governments and authorities represented at the Hot Springs Conference. Two years later, in the Conference convened in Quebec City on 16 October was born FAO.
The most important initiatives promoted until today are the "Global Campaign Against Hunger", "World Food Programme (WFP)" and the creation of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
FAO provides development assistance, provides advice to governments on the subject of general policies, collects, analyses and disseminates information and acts as an international forum to discuss issues related to food and agriculture. Furthermore, its special programs assisting States to be prepared to deal with the crisis and provide emergency food assistance required. FAO mobilizes and manages millions of dollars provided by industrialized countries, development banks and other sources to make sure the projects achieve their goals. Since its founding, the organization has focused special attention on developing rural areas, home to 70 percent of the world's poor and hungry people. Finally, it defines international standards and conventions.
The main functions of FAO are regulated by Article I of its Statute:
1. The Organization shall collect, analyse, interpret and disseminate information relating to nutrition, food and agriculture. FAO serves as a knowledge network. It uses the expertise of its staff, agronomists, foresters, fisheries and livestock specialists, nutritionists, social scientists, economists, statisticians and other professionals, to collect, analyse and disseminate data. FAO also publishes hundreds of newsletters, reports and books, distributes several magazines, creates numerous electronic fora.
2. The Organization shall promote and, where appropriate, shall recommend national and international action with respect to:
a) scientific, technological, social and economic research relating to nutrition, food and agriculture;
b) the improvement of education and administration relating to nutrition, food and agriculture, and the spread of public knowledge of nutritional and agricultural science and practice;
c) the conservation of natural resources and the adoption of improved methods of agricultural production;
d) the improvement of the processing, marketing and distribution of food and agricultural products;
e) the adoption of policies for the provision of adequate agricultural credit, national and international;
f) the adoption of international policies with respect to agricultural commodity arrangements.
3. It shall also be the function of the Organization:
a) to furnish such technical assistance as governments may request. FAO lends its years of experience to member countries in devising agricultural policy, supporting planning, drafting effective legislation and creating national strategies to achieve rural development and hunger alleviation goals.
b) to organize, in cooperation with the governments concerned, such missions as may be needed to assist them to fulfil the obligation arising from their acceptance of the recommendations of the United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture and of this Constitution. Policy-makers and experts from around the globe convene at headquarters or in the field offices to forge agreements on major food and agriculture issues. As a neutral forum, FAO provides the setting where rich and poor nations can come together to build common understanding.
FAO has a staff with more than 3600 units and its internal structure is composed by: Conference of the Member Nations, Council of the Organization, the Director General, Departments, Regional Offices, sub-Regional Offices and Country Offices.
1. Conference of the Member Nations: meets every two years to analyze the activities and approve the work program; decrees the general policy and approves the budget; exudes the Rules of Procedure and the Financial Regulations of the Organization; may make recommendations to Member States on issues related to food and agriculture and elects the Council.
2. Council of the Organization: is the governing body of FAO and consists of 49 Member States with only one vote each and a prime minister appointed by the Conference. In carrying out its functions, the Board is assisted by a Programme Committee, a Finance Committee, a Committee of the Constitutional and Legal Matters, by a Committee of the products, a Committee of the fish ponds, a Committee of the forest, which a committee of agriculture and a Committee on World Food Security.
3. Director-General of the Organization: appointed by the Conference for a term of six years and is re-elected, and has full power and authority to direct the work of the Organization; participate without vote in all meetings of the Conference and of the Council and shall them to examine the proposals for appropriate action in the field of problems within their competence.
4. Departments: Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection, Department of Economic and Social Development, Department of Natural Resources Management and Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, Forestry Department, Department of Technical Cooperation, Knowledge and Communication Department and the Department of Human Resources, Financial and Physical.
5. Regional Offices: the principal function of the Regional Offices is the overall identification, planning and implementation of FAO's priority activities in the Region.
6. Sub-Regional Offices: monitoring the level of programme implementation.
7. Country Offices: Serve as the channel of FAO's services to governments and other partners (donors, NGOs, CSOs, research institutions, etc.).
Since 1994, FAO has undergone the most significant restructuring since its founding to decentralize operations, streamline procedures and reduce costs. Highlights of the reforms include the transfer of staff from headquarters to the field, increased use of experts from developing countries and countries in transition and broadened links with the private sector and non-governmental organizations.
Projects of the FAO field programme have two main funding sources:
-The Organization's core budget ( also known as the Regular Programme which is funded by contributions from FAO Member Nations).
Each FAO Member State pays annually its contribution to the budget Organization. The total FAO budget for 2012-13 is $ 2.4 billion. The 42% of the budget comes from contributions of member countries, while 58% through voluntary contributions from members and other partners. As for the research programs funded by FAO are more than 4,000, and include coordinated actions in different sectors: Agriculture (60%), Environment (12%), Nutrition and Feeding (11%), services (7%), Fisheries and Aquaculture (7%), Social (2%) and Forestry (1%).
Moreover, the largest number of projects (47%) and funding (approximately 52.3%) were allocated to the African continent, followed by Central and South America (21.4% -10.4%), the Continent Asia and the Pacific area (20.6% -24.9%) and, finally, the Middle East (6.6% -8.7%) and Europe (4.4% -3.7% ).
1 Cfr. Final Act of the United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture, Hot Springs V A May 18 to June 3 1943,Washington; US Government printing of. 1943.
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Editor: Giovanni AVERSA