On 13 June 2015, in Rome, Italy, the 39th FAO Conference ended a week-long session during which Members, in record attendance, approved the agency's biennial programme of work and budget and sent a strong signal of support for continuing the strategic direction charted out by Director-General José Graziano da Silva. The Conference formally approved a regular budget of $1,035.7 million for delivery of FAO's programme of work over the period 2016-2017.
Graziano da Silva in his closing statement to the Conference outlined FAO's priorities for the coming years, in particular the eradication of hunger, raising levels of nutrition and addressing climate change.
"If FAO's main mission is to end hunger and malnutrition, then FAO needs to offer holistic support, needs to support sustainable production and management of natural resources, needs to be able to offer support in social protection to reduce rural poverty, needs to improve access to markets by family farmers and needs to help build resilience in rural populations," he said.
The need to eradicate hunger was also underscored by Pope Francis when he met participants to the Conference during a special audience at the Vatican earlier in the week. In particular the Pontiff urged the creation of a sense of global solidarity to ensure food security for all people, the importance of reducing food waste and the provision of education on nutrition issues.
In its final report, the Conference "expressed ... support for the Director-General's vision" and underlined "the importance of continuity in the strategic direction of the Organization in the Medium Term Plan 2014-2017".
FAO's next Programme of Work and Budget "will consolidate our work on the (five) strategic objectives and will add emphasis to climate change and nutrition," Graziano da Silva told Conference participants.
He also said that FAO would continue with its efforts to support South-South Cooperation - the sharing of experiences, policies, technology and resources between and among developing countries.
Today's final Conference report also stressed the importance of consolidating decentralization efforts "on a region-specific basis".
Graziano da Silva said that he would press ahead with the process of change, including reinforcing FAO's subregional offices "to improve our support in regions such as West Africa, Central Asia, the Pacific Islands and the Caribbean."
"I want to assure you that we will continue to do this without weakening the technical and normative capacity at Headquarters," the FAO Director-General, added
"This is not magic it is the result of streamlining administrative procedures, of cutting red tape so that we can do more and better with less," he said.
Record level of attendance
The Conference session began on 6 June with the overwhelming re-election of Graziano da Silva to a second term in office which will run from 31 July 2015 to through July 2019.
The sole candidate, he received a total 177 votes, which represents the highest number of favourable votes ever garnered by a candidate for the Organization's top post.
Setting another record, this year's meeting of the biennial Conference was attended by 191 delegations, the highest level of participation in the Organization's history. These included 16 heads of states and government and 116 ministers. A total of 1,700 delegates attended the Conference.
The Conference awarded in a special ceremony 72 countries for having achieved the MDG target of halving the proportion of hungry people. Of these, 29 have also met the more stringent goal to halve the number of hungry people as laid out by governments when they met in Rome at the World Food Summit (WFS) in 1996.