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Food and Agriculture Organization

Food and Agriculture Organization

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 specialized 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 policy.

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, is translated as "let there be bread". As of August 2018, The FAO has 197 member states, including the European Union (a "member organization"), Niue and The Cook Islands (States in free-association with New Zealand), and the Faroe Islands and Tokelau, which are associate members.[3]

100lire(FAO's celebration.)
Obverse: Young woman with braid facing left.Surrounded byRepubblica Italiana[Republic of Italy].Reverse: Cow nursing calf, face value & date.FAO at bottom andNutrire il Mondo[Feed the world] at top.
Coined minted byItalyin 1970s to celebrate and promote Food and Agriculture Organization.
Food and Agriculture Organization
Formation16 October 1945
TypeUnited Nations specialised agency
Legal statusActive
Director-GeneralQu Dongyu
United Nations Economic and Social Council
International relations portal


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 by the King of Italy Victor Emmanuel III.[4]

Later in 1943, the United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt called a United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture.

Representatives from forty-four governments gathered at The Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia, US, 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.[5] The First Session of the FAO Conference was held in the Château Frontenac in Quebec City from 16 October to 1 November 1945.

World War II effectively ended the International Agricultural 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.[6]

From the late 1940s on, FAO attempted to make its mark within the emerging UN system, focusing mostly on supporting agricultural and nutrition research and providing technical assistance to member countries to boost production in agriculture, fishery, and forestry.[7]

During the 1950s and 1960s, FAO partnered with many different international organizations in development projects.

Structure and finance

Lester Bowles Pearson presiding at a plenary session of the founding conference of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. October 1945

Lester Bowles Pearson presiding at a plenary session of the founding conference of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. October 1945

In 1951, FAO's headquarters were moved from Washington, DC, 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 eight departments: Agriculture and Consumer Protection, Climate, Biodiversity, Land and Water Department, Economic and Social Development, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Forestry, Corporate Services and Technical Cooperation and Programme Management.[8]

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.[9]


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 2018–2019 is USD 1,005.6 million.[10] 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 2016–2017.

This overall budget covers core technical work, cooperation and partnerships, leading to Food and Agriculture Outcomes at 71 percent; Core Functions at 11 percent; the Country Office Network – 5 percent; Capital and Security Expenditure – 2 percent; Administration – 6 percent; and Technical and Cooperation Program – 5 percent.


  • John Boyd Orr, October 1945 – April 1948

  • Norris E. Dodd, April 1948 – December 1953

  • Philip V. Cardon, January 1954 – April 1956

  • Herbert Broadley, (acting) April 1956 – November 1956

  • Binay Ranjan Sen, November 1956 – December 1967

  • Addeke Hendrik Boerma, January 1968 – December 1975

  • Edouard Saouma, January 1976 – December 1993

  • Jacques Diouf, January 1994 – December 2011

  • José Graziano da Silva, January 2012 – July 2019

  • Qu Dongyu, August 2019 - 31 July 2023[11]

Deputy Directors-General


FAO headquarters

FAO headquarters in Rome.

FAO headquarters in Rome.

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 offices

Sub-regional offices

Liaison Office for North America in Washington, DC

Liaison Office for North America in Washington, DC

Liaison offices

  • Liaison Office for North America, in Washington, DC

  • 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 hunger.[12]

  • 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 agricultural systems.

Two fundamental areas of work – gender and governance - are fully integrated in the above strategic objective action plans.

Programmes and achievements


Codex Alimentarius

FAO and the 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 organization.

World Food Summit

In 1996, FAO organized 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.[13] At the same time, 1,200 civil society organizations (CSOs) from 80 countries participated in an NGO forum. The forum was critical of the growing industrialization of agriculture and called upon governments – and FAO – to do more to protect the 'Right to Food' of the poor.[14]


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.[15]

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 in India.

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 undernourishment.

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,[16] and Anggun.[17] and soccer players Roberto Baggio and Raúl, to name a few – have 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.

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 food.[18]

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,[19] which has significantly increased food production, thereby providing cheaper food and boosting

FAO–EU partnership

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.[20] FAO is receiving a total of around €200 million for work in 25 countries, of which €15.4 million goes to Zimbabwe.[21]

Food security programmes

The 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 operates.[22]

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.[23]

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."[24] 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.[25] 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.[26]

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.[27]


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 July 2018, 183 contracting parties have ratified the treaty.

Alliance Against Hunger and Malnutrition

The Alliance Against Hunger and Malnutrition (AAHM)[28] 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 (FAO),[29] UN World Food Programme (WFP),[30] International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD),[31] – and Bioversity International.[32]

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.[28]

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).[34] 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 organization.

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.[35]

Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building

The Food Price Index (FAO) 1990-2012

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.[36] 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.[37] 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 resources.[38]

Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)

The Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) Partnership Initiative was conceptualized and presented by 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."[39] 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.


One of FAO's strategic goals is the sustainable management of the world's forests.

The Forestry Department [40] 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 programmes.

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.[41] The Global Forest Resources Assessment [42] 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?,[43] the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015 Desk Reference[44] containing summary tables, 234 country reports[45] and the FRA 2015 Infographics.[46] Moreover, in 2015, the journal Forest Ecology and Management published a special issue, Changes in Global Forest Resources from 1990 to 2015 [47][48] reporting forest change over the period 1990–2015.

Every two years, FAO publishes the State of the World's Forests,[49][50] a major report covering current and emerging issues facing the forestry sector.

Since 1947, FAO has published the FAO Yearbook of Forest Products,[51] 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 forest products.

Unasylva,[52] 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.[53]

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.

The Forestry Department is also organized geographically in several groups covering the whole world's forest ecosystems.

One of them is the Silva mediterranea workgroup, covering the pan-mediterranean region.


FAO fisheries expert, Ceylon, 1950s

FAO fisheries expert, Ceylon, 1950s

The FAO Fisheries and 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.

The work of the Fisheries and 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.


ESSG is an acronym for the Global Statistics Service, the major "section" of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization - Statistics Division. It is responsible for updating and disseminating the FAOSTAT report [97].[54][55] This 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, Aquastat.[56]

Flagship publications

Every year, FAO publishes a number of major ‘State of the World’ reports related to food, agriculture, forestry, fisheries and natural resources.

  1. State of Agricultural Commodity Markets [98]

  2. State of Food and Agriculture [99]

  3. State of Food Insecurity in the World [100]

  4. State of the World’s Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture [101]

  5. State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture [102]

  6. State of the World’s Forest Genetic Resources [103]

  7. State of the World’s Forests [104]

  8. State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture [105]

  9. State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture [106]

  10. State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture [107]

  11. Status of the World’s Soil Resources [108]


FAO member states FAO associates

FAO member states FAO associates

There are a total of 197 members comprising 194 member nations, 1 member organization and 2 associate members.

  1. Afghanistan

  2. Albania

  3. Algeria

  4. Andorra

  5. Angola

  6. Antigua and Barbuda

  7. Argentina

  8. Armenia

  9. Australia

  10. Austria

  11. Azerbaijan

  12. The Bahamas

  13. Bahrain

  14. Bangladesh

  15. Barbados

  16. Belarus

  17. Belgium

  18. Belize

  19. Benin

  20. Bhutan

  21. Bolivia

  22. Bosnia and Herzegovina

  23. Botswana

  24. Brazil

  25. Brunei

  26. Bulgaria

  27. Burkina Faso

  28. Burma

  29. Burundi

  30. Cambodia

  31. Cameroon

  32. Canada

  33. Cape Verde

  34. Central African Republic

  35. Chad

  36. Chile

  37. China

  38. Colombia

  39. Comoros

  40. Democratic Republic of the Congo

  41. Republic of the Congo

  42. Cook Islands

  43. Costa Rica

  44. Côte d'Ivoire

  45. Croatia

  46. Cuba

  47. Cyprus

  48. Czech Republic

  49. Denmark

  50. Djibouti

  51. Dominica

  52. Dominican Republic

  53. Ecuador

  54. Egypt

  55. El Salvador

  56. Equatorial Guinea

  57. Eritrea

  58. Estonia

  59. Eswatini

  60. Ethiopia

  61. European Union[1]

  62. Faroe Islands[2]

  63. Fiji

  64. Finland

  65. France

  66. Gabon

  67. The Gambia

  68. Georgia

  69. Germany

  70. Ghana

  71. Greece

  72. Grenada

  73. Guatemala

  74. Guinea

  75. Guinea-Bissau

  76. Guyana

  77. Haiti

  78. Honduras

  79. Hungary

  80. Iceland

  81. India

  82. Indonesia

  83. Iran

  84. Iraq

  85. Ireland

  86. Israel

  87. Italy

  88. Jamaica

  89. Japan

  90. Jordan

  91. Kazakhstan

  92. Kenya

  93. Kiribati

  94. North Korea

  95. South Korea

  96. Kuwait

  97. Kyrgyzstan

  98. Laos

  99. Latvia

  100. Lebanon

  101. Lesotho

  102. Liberia

  103. Libya

  104. Lithuania

  105. Luxembourg

  106. Madagascar

  107. Malawi

  108. Malaysia

  109. Maldives

  110. Mali

  111. Malta

  112. Marshall Islands

  113. Mauritania

  114. Mauritius

  115. Mexico

  116. Federated States of Micronesia

  117. Moldova

  118. Monaco

  119. Mongolia

  120. Montenegro

  121. Morocco

  122. Mozambique

  123. Namibia

  124. Nauru

  125. Nepal

  126. Netherlands

  127. New Zealand

  128. Nicaragua

  129. Niger

  130. Nigeria

  131. Niue

  132. North Macedonia

  133. Norway

  134. Oman

  135. Pakistan

  136. Palau

  137. Panama

  138. Papua New Guinea

  139. Paraguay

  140. Peru

  141. Philippines

  142. Poland

  143. Portugal

  144. Qatar

  145. Romania

  146. Russian Federation

  147. Rwanda

  148. Saint Kitts and Nevis

  149. Saint Lucia

  150. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

  151. Samoa

  152. San Marino

  153. Sao Tome and Principe

  154. Saudi Arabia

  155. Senegal

  156. Serbia

  157. Seychelles

  158. Sierra Leone

  159. Singapore

  160. Slovakia

  161. Slovenia

  162. Solomon Islands

  163. Somalia

  164. South Africa

  165. South Sudan

  166. Spain

  167. Sri Lanka

  168. Sudan

  169. Suriname

  170. Sweden

  171. Switzerland

  172. Syria

  173. Tajikistan

  174. Tanzania

  175. Thailand

  176. Timor-Leste

  177. Togo

  178. Tokelau[2]

  179. Tonga

  180. Trinidad and Tobago

  181. Tunisia

  182. Turkey

  183. Turkmenistan

  184. Tuvalu

  185. Uganda

  186. Ukraine

  187. United Arab Emirates

  188. United Kingdom

  189. United States

  190. Uruguay

  191. Uzbekistan

  192. Vanuatu

  193. Venezuela

  194. Vietnam

  195. Yemen

  196. Zambia

  197. Zimbabwe

The UN member state that is a non-member of the FAO is Liechtenstein.[57][58]

Some countries may denote specific representatives to the FAO, for instance the 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.


1970s, 80s, 90s

There has been public criticism of FAO for at least 30 years.

Dissatisfaction with the organization's performance was among the reasons for the creation of two new organizations 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 organizations.[59] At the same time, the World Food Programme, which started as an experimental three-year programme under FAO, was growing in size and independence, with the Directors of FAO and WFP struggling for power.[60]

Early in 1989, the organization came under attack from The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington, DC. 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".[61] In September of the same year, the journal Society published a series of articles about FAO[62] 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 organization) as "FAO's chief spokesman for non-transparency".[63]

Edouard Saouma, the Director-General of FAO, was also criticized in Graham Hancock's book Lords of Poverty, published in 1989.[64][65] 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".[66]

A year later, in 1991, The Ecologist magazine produced a special issue under the heading "The UN Food and Agriculture Organization: Promoting World Hunger".[67] 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 Barbara Dinham.


The 2002 Food Summit organized by FAO was considered to be a waste of time by many of the official participants.[68] Social movements, farmers, fisherfolk, pastoralists, indigenous peoples, environmentalists, women's organizations, trade unions and NGOs expressed their "collective disappointment in, and rejection of the official Declaration of the...


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".[70] In response to the report, more than 650 organizations 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 organizations 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".[71] 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".[72]

In May 2006, a British newspaper published the resignation letter of Louise Fresco, one of eight Assistant Directors-General of FAO. In her letter, 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".[73]

The 32nd Session of FAO's Committee on World Food Security in 2006, attended by 120 countries, was widely criticized by non-governmental organizations, but largely ignored by the mainstream media.

Oxfam called for an end to the talk-fests[74] while Via Campesina issued a statement that criticised FAO's policy of Food Security.[75]

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".[76] 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 be invented".

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".[77] 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".[78]

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.[79]

In 2015 FAO was criticized by The Economist

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.[80][81] Critics included Transparency International.[82]

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 follow 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.[83]

From 2013, an English-language newspaper based in Rome, The Italian Insider, made several allegations of nepotism and corruption within FAO and reported on poor management-staff relations. In June 2018, FAO and four of its officials took the paper and its editor, John Philips, to court alleging defamation, using a law dating back to the fascist era in Italy.[84] Reporters Without Borders condemned “the disproportionate nature of the defamation proceedings”, for which the newspaper was liable for a fine of up to Euros 100,000 and the editor at least three years in prison.[85] The case was adjourned until January 2019, when it was further adjourned until May 2019. The January hearing was considered by the British satirical magazine Private Eye to have been “one of the more surreal courtroom scenes in modern times”, involving dispute as to the meaning of an English slang word used by the Insider.[86]

World food crisis

In May 2008, while talking about the ongoing world food crisis, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal expressed the opinion that FAO was "a waste of money" and that "we must scrap it". Wade said that FAO was itself largely to blame for the price rises, and that the organization's work was duplicated by other bodies that operated more efficiently, like the UN's International Fund for Agricultural Development.[87] 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.[88]

The response to the summit among non-governmental organizations was mixed, with Oxfam stating that "the summit in Rome was an important first step in tackling the food crisis but greater action is now needed",[89] 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".[90] 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."[91]

FAO renewal

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 their implementation.[92]

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 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.[93]

See also

  • FAO Country Profiles

  • Regional Animal Health Center for North Africa

  • World Summit on Food Security


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