FAO budget cuts will make mockery of Food Summit, says G-77

ROME, Aug 15 (G-77) - The most important activity for the Rome chapter of the Group of 77 in the coming months is the 29th FAO Conference scheduled to take place on November 7-18, Ambassador Noel de Luna of the Philippines, chairman of the Rome chapter said. This is because it will be the first conference after the World Food Summit of November 1996, he said.

Ambassador de Luna said "the most important issue for us is what signals will this Conference send after the Summit."

Concretely, since the goal of the summit is to reduce the number of hungry and malnourished from 800 million to 400 million by the year 2015, logically this can only be done only if the FAO has the resources to do it, among others.

However, he pointed out, the FAO Director General is only asking for a zero real growth budget of about $ 689 million for the biennium 1998-99: the current budget of $ 650 million for 1996-97 plus around $ 39 million adjustments for cost increases.
Major contributors though believe that the FAO should reduce its budget to a $590 million-$610 million range. Consequently with a budget reduction, the programme of work will also be reduced.

The Group of 77 believes that this situation will send the wrong signals to the world's poor and hungry. Considering the successful conclusion of the World Food Summit, the budget and programme should in fact be increased and expanded, the ambassador said.

"It may be argued that while the Summit did squarely put the responsibility of feeding the hungry and malnourished on national governments-- a fact which all of us know in the first place, due to the complexities of global production and trade resulting from historical developments-- international and multilateral organisations still have an important role to play in alleviating hunger and malnutrition," he added.

If the role of the FAO would only be limited to monitoring the number of hungry and malnourished-- some would say, bean counting-- then there would have been no need for a summit in the first place, he added.

The intent of the summit though was not for the FAO to count the number of the hungry and malnourished. The intent was for the FAO to refresh its mandate and play a proactive role in reducing the hungry and malnourished through concrete and real means, such as the Special Programme for Food Security.

The G-77 believes that further budget cuts in the FAO will only render a mockery of the Summit and its noble goals, Ambassador de Luna said.