73 Australian Government to Addison

Cablegram 238 CANBERRA, 29 August 1947, 4.15 p.m.


Your 592-Future Policy of F.A.O.

We agree that all international organisations should concentrate on work which is likely to lead to practical recommendations for action by Governments, and that they should only summon conferences with clear cut objectives in view.

2. With this in mind we have considered the functions of F.A.O.

with a view to clarifying our ideas on future policy. Functions of the organisation may be classified as:-

(i) Economic work, particularly work leading to commodity agreements and understandings;

(ii) Nutritional work;

(iii) Technical agricultural work (dissemination of knowledge, technical missions, etc.)

Since May 1946, however, F.A.O. has become involved unavoidably in a heavy programme of short term work, which by its very nature has required frequent conferences. Although this short term work was not originally envisaged, it has probably been carried out more effectively by F.A.O. than it would have been by independent agencies which would have tended to confuse member nations' short and long term objectives.

3. We feel that it should now be possible to reduce this short term work, and that F.A.O. should be able to devote an increasing proportion of its resources to carrying out its original functions.

4. Our comments on F.A.O.'s long term work are:-

(i) On the economic side the staff of F.A.O. within the limits set by short term activities has made a useful contribution. From our knowledge of the recent meeting of the Economics and Statistics Advisory Committees we believe a reasonable effort is being made to link short term and long term economic policies and to emphasise the importance of the latter. The success of F.A.O. in this field depends largely on the support received from individual Governments.

(ii) Nutritional work of F.A.O. appears to have been hampered somewhat by shortage of staff and we also feel that the work of this Division could be better directed. In particular, we should like to see less time spent on collating reports, which are available in any case, and more emphasis placed on field work.

(iii) We agree technical agricultural work is seriously lagging.

The main difficulty here seems to have been the failure to develop staffing adequately. This may or may not be the fault of F.A.O., but there should certainly be an effort to put more drive into this phase. Until more rapid progress is made in developing F.A.O.'s role of disseminating information, material and practical knowledge, especially on the non-economic side, the organisation might appear only as a body overburdened with short term problems and conferences. As already mentioned, we believe that the tapering off of F.A.O's short term work will provide an opportunity for more effective efforts in this field.

[AA: A1068, ER47/4/6]