Nordic Statement, 174th session of the FAO Council (4-8 December 2023)
1. I deliver this statement on behalf of the Nordic Countries - Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and my own country Norway. We align ourselves with the EU statement.
2. Chair, ee meet at a very serious moment for global food security, global warming and climate change, conflict affecting food systems and food security, and the preservation of biodiversity. This serious situation must guide our work, and the proceedings of this council.
3. We take note of the document adjustments to the Program of Work and Budget 2024-25.
4. With a view to the decision by Conference to strengthen the budget by 5.6%, it is important for the Nordic countries to ensure that it is spent in line with priorities and guidance provided by members.
5. I noted the Director General’s four E’s and four R’s, in his opening remarks. We would like to underline, in this context, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and in particular SDG2 as fundamental for all activity at FAO.
6. It is critical that FAO build on its comparative advantages within the areas of its mandate, and we recall the guidance of the Conference emphasizing the important role of normative and standard setting work, as well as data and statistics to inform decision making. We want FAO to continue to be a global knowledge hub of excellence. We would have liked to see the guidance of the Conference more clearly reflected in the adjusted PWB. We take note of the proposed reduced resources to statistics and data work, and ask for further clarifications on FAOs priorities in this area. We reiterate that oversight functions must be prioritized.
7. It is also vital that the PWB supports operational action and contributes to results at country level. FAOs work must be aligned with action by the broader UN system, the UN Common Country Analysis (CCA) and the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks (UNSDCF).
8. Furthermore, we would like to comment on the following specific proposals in the document.
9. First, we take note of the proposal to establish an Office of Youth and Women. We appreciate the new information provided. Yet, the rational for establishing the new office remains unclear.
10. Empowerment of women and gender mainstreaming including youth are key priorities to the Nordic Countries. We wish to emphasise the importance of applying a programmatic approach for this work.
11. In this respect, we like to underscore the important work of The Inclusive Rural Transformation and Gender Equality Division (ESP) in ensuring the effective implementation, coordination, and reporting on FAOs cross- cutting work on inclusion, youth, gender equality, and women’s empowerment. The Nordics would support to strengthen this division.
12. Second, we underline the importance we attach to the work on One Health in FAO. We expect that the changes to the Joint Centre of WHO and FAO are made in a way that ensures the center’s crosscutting work. The One Health approach needs to influence all parts of FAO: s activities. The result of this needs to be monitored and evaluated.
13. Third, The 43rd Session of the Conference requested further information on efficiencies and savings. We are pleased to see a section on efficiency measures in the adjustment of the program of work and budget. We see this as a first step in a more transparent and complete reporting from Management on what you intend to do to improve performance, delivery, and efficiency in key areas. We look forward to annual reporting on results in a format where we can follow and monitor with respect to a concrete plan for the work, with expected outcomes and benefits.
14. Fourth, we also welcome the emphasis on the need to manage balance between assessed and voluntary contribution as well as to the influence of new forms of funding. We note the commitment by Management to continue the constructive dialogue with members on this important and challenging issue.
15. Fifth, we reiterate that it is essential for FAO to increase its efforts towards attracting more flexible funding. Building trust with resource partners and exploring different funding modalities that meets the reporting needs and visibility of donors are essential. We appreciate the efforts done in this regard with the flexible voluntary contribution mechanism (FVC) and the Special Fund for Emergency and Rehabilitation Activities (SFERA) but further work is still needed. Improved financial flexibility could increase FAO’s effectiveness and should be a priority of the organization.
16. We also need to avoid that FAO becomes a service provider for earmarked initiatives and projects that might impact FAO’s delivery of its core functions and the implementation of the agreed Strategic Framework. We would like to see clearly how the budget can support priorities in the Strategic Plan.
17. Sixth, we support the ambition and focus of FAO in producing normative products based on science and in cooperation with leading scientific institutions. We look forward to being able to see how these knowledge products can lead to results.
18. Finally, the Nordic countries stand ready to engage with Management and with other members on discussions aimed at improving transparency and building trust. We encourage Management to continue – and strengthen - an open dialogue with members during the biennium and leading up to the formulation of the next PWB.
19. Thank you!