262. Telegram From the Embassy in Italy to the Department of State1

33459. Subj: Twentieth Session of the FAO Conference: Summary Report.2 Ref: (A) Rome 31311,3 (B) Rome 32037,4 (C) Rome 32044.5

1. Summary. Despite existence at outset of several contentious, and at least one potentially explosive issue, the Conference successfully dealt with its business in an efficient and business-like fashion; all issues were seemingly resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned. The budget was approved by an overwhelming majority of countries, despite abstentions from a group of five major countries representing 56 percent of assessed budget contribution. The Near East Regional Office, by agreement of all countries in the region, was temporarily closed without abrogation of FAO’s agreement with Egypt. Wording was agreed on for numerous resolutions on topics from protectionism to designation of a World Food Day requiring the appending of a minimal number of reservations and interpretive statements. The Conference concluded in a spirit of amicability and essential unanimity of purpose. End summary.

2. Opening statements. As reported reftel (C), business of Conference preceded by inspirational speeches of Pope John Paul II and McDougall Speaker Kaunda, President of Zambia. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Bergland (reftel A), speaking early in list of ministerial statements stressed consistency of U.S. domestic agricultural policy with critical problem of world hunger and reaffirmed commitment of U.S. to that problem and to supporting the FAO in that effort.

3. State of Food and Agriculture. (See reftel B for detail).

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—Secretariat characterized situation as not offering room for complacency, particularly since per capita production in the least developed countries continues to fall, and overall, the developing countries were increasingly dependent on food imports. Many developing countries argued for more external assistance to help attain food self-sufficiency, and for a larger share in international trade so they could better afford the food imports they needed. A trade resolution with emphasis on protectionism was adopted with U.S. and other Western countries expressing reservations. Improvements in share of trade and terms of trade, were urged by many developing countries as essential elements in the New International Economic Order (NIEO). Most developed countries cited actions, mostly through MTN that could help the LDCs in their aspirations for more trade.

—Concerning fertilizer situation, many developing countries cited rising costs and argued that FAO program essential to help them get fertilizers they needed at prices they could afford. Secretariat noted that while voluntary contributions to the IFS lagging, they had received contributions to begin their “options system” which would also help low income countries to get fertilizer at less cost.

—Forestry discussion highlighted need for greater understanding of the role of forests as contributing to food and fuel and to conservation of croplands. Djakarta Declaration received unconditional support.6 Most speakers of developing countries urged strengthened FAO program in forestry.

4. Agriculture: Toward 2000. This exercise by FAO designed to provide agricultural basis for new international development strategy under preparation for the General Assembly, to meet aspirations of New International Economic Order. Assumptions and conclusions in draft document were thought by many delegates to be optimistic. Revisions planned, including a scenario with lower economic growth rates and considerations of energy costs. U.S. also questioned assumption of constant weather and constant prices in devising model.

5. Fisheries—Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).7 Discussion reflected relative priority of aquaculture vis-à-vis new FAO program for development and management of fisheries in EEZ, and the relative priority of small scale fisheries within EEZ program. A U.S. co-sponsored resolution was approved on FAO’s program of assistance for development and management of fisheries in Exclusive Economic Zones.

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6. Program of Work and Budget (PWB) 1980–81. Discussion indicated virtual unanimity of support for the programs, policies and priorities reflected in the proposed PWB. Developing countries supported the budget at a minimum level. Ninety-six (96) countries voted in favor; 5 major contributors accounting for 56 percent of the assessed budgets (UK, U.S., Canada, FRG, and Japan) abstained, reflecting difficulty with the magnitude of the budget—dols. 278.86 million for the biennium. Mexico also abstained, but on a technicality.

7. Review of field programs. Principal thrust of Secretariat was to criticize UNDP, explicitly charging it with mal-administration in choosing non-FAO sources to execute UNDP-financed projects. Most speakers highly complimentary of Secretariat document. U.S. remarks concerned with need for more stress on needs of rural poor; small, disadvantaged farmers; and landless workers; in the design, implementation and evaluation of programs/projects. Resolution on development assistance adopted. U.S. reserved on paragraph requesting increased contributions for special action programs.

8. Medium term objectives. U.S. critique of document, while generally favorable, argued that programs should reflect deliberate shift to assisting low-income food deficit countries; comprehensive approach to nutrition, rather than stressing data collection; and added emphasis to rural employment and increasing level of participation of women in development activities and the number of rural programs benefiting women.

9. Action from World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (WCARRD).

DG indicated steps FAO has taken in implementation of WCARRD Action Program (AP). FAO actively helping develop a number of regional development centers to assist countries in the implementation of the AP. FAO staff actively engaged in reviewing current and projected field programs to make them more responsive to AP goals.

DG presented FAO estimate that dols 20 million needed, on a voluntary basis, over next five years to finance these activities. Resolution, including target, approved by Conference. U.S. presentation strongly supportive of AP as means of reaching higher levels of equity and income.

10. Near East Regional Office. Director-General engaged in intense and prolonged discussions with both sides until eleventh hour in effort to reach compromise which would preclude a divisive vote on floor. Position of U.S. delegation throughout was completely supportive of Egypt. Compromise finally reached called for regional office in Cairo to be closed quote until decided otherwise by Conference unquote. Director-General authorized to determine which regional activities to [Page 861] terminate and which to carry on from Rome or elsewhere in region. Egypt’s 1952 agreement with FAO establishing the regional office in Cairo however, was not abrogated and Egypt continues as member of Near East Region with full rights to participate in activities of region.

11. Independent Chairman of the Council. Incumbent Chairman, Dr. Bukar Shaib (Nigeria) re-elected. In acceptance speech he expressed concern for improving efficiency of Conference and proposed possible alternative format. This will be matter for future Council consideration.

12. Comment.

—In general, Conference can be characterized as success in terms of U.S. objectives. While new budget somewhat exceeds U.S. ceiling, we are in substantial accord with direction and effectiveness of FAO programs. DG’s performance in defusing Cairo office issue, while, no doubt, further strengthening his hold on the organization, must also be recognized as an important element in the positive tendencies of the organization in recent years, e.g., avoiding politicization and gradually building a reputation as an effective technical organization.

—Despite protracted friction between U.S. and FAO over budget during past year, hopefully relative accord and good will which characterized outcome of Conference can be furthered in coming months.

—U.S. delegation comprised of strong people, working effectively as a team. Particular effort should be made to continue their involvement in FAO matters and utilize the experience derived.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790558–0627. Unclassified. Repeated to USUN and the Mission in Geneva.
  2. The 20th session of the FAO Conference took place in Rome November 10–28. Hathaway headed the U.S. delegation, comprised of Gardner, Brewin, Kriesberg, and Sorenson. For the text of the conference proceedings and other documentation, see Report of the Conference of FAO, Twentieth Session, Rome, 10–28 November 1979, FAO–GIC—C–79/REP (Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization, 1979).
  3. In telegram 31311 from Rome, November 13, the Embassy transmitted the text of Bergland’s opening statement. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790523–0772)
  4. In telegram 32037 from Rome, November 20, the Embassy reported on the first 3 days of debate in Commission I, focusing on reaction to the Director-General’s paper entitled The State of Food and Agriculture 1979. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790538–1146)
  5. In telegram 32044 from Rome, November 20, the Embassy summarized various statements made during the plenary session. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790538–1278)
  6. The Eighth World Forestry Congress, held under the auspices of the FAO, took place in Djakarta, Indonesia, October 16–28, 1978. The Djakarta Declaration endorsed an enlarged concept of multiple-use forestry in order to cultivate additional crops.
  7. An EEZ is a sea zone over which a state has rights over exploration and marine resources; it extends out to 200 nautical miles from a state’s coastal baseline.