Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Logo with the Latin motto
Fiat Panis ("Let there be bread")

FAO main building in Rome
Organization type Specialized agency
Abbreviation FAO
management China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China Qu Dongyu
(since August 1, 2019)
Founded October 16, 1945 in
Quebec , CanadaCanadaCanada 
Headquarters Rome , ItalyItalyItaly 
Upper organization United NationsU.N. ECOSOC

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations ( English Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations , FAO , French des Nations Unies pour l'alimentation et l'agriculture organization , ONUAA ), in the German language as Food and Agriculture Organization called, one is a specialized agency of the United Nations based in Rome .

Its task is to improve the production and distribution of agricultural products in general and food in particular worldwide in order to ensure nutrition and improve the standard of living . For this purpose she has z. B. developed the Codex Alimentarius , which defines international standards for food safety.

tasks and goals

The tasks and goals are set out in a separate constitution , more precisely in its preamble . The most important are:

  • Raising the food and living standards of the peoples
  • Improving the production and distribution of food
  • Improving the living conditions of the rural population
  • Contribution to the development of the world economy and thus to the liberation of people from hunger

The FAO must not interfere in the political situation of its member states.

The most important means of performing these tasks is technical assistance, especially for less developed regions. For example, conveying technical know-how for the production of food. In reality, however, this desired technology transfer poses numerous problems. Above all, valid patents that prohibit the free transfer of knowledge, as well as adverse political conditions in the recipient regions, as well as the cultural differences between rural and industrialized regions.

If you look at the areas of responsibility, you can see that there are numerous overlaps with the areas of responsibility of other UN specialized agencies, which can lead to conflicts with the WHO and the World Bank , for example. With the 2030 Agenda, the FAO has a central role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).


The " International Agricultural Institute " , which existed from 1905 to 1948 and was based in Rome, can be seen as a predecessor .

The proposal to found the organization was introduced in 1943 during a UN conference in Hot Springs (USA). Following this proposal, a committee was formed and charged with preparing the establishment of the new organization. Two years later, on October 16, 1945, the first 42 member states in Québec , (Canada) signed the charter. The FAO was thus a new official sub-organization of the United Nations and had its headquarters (until 1951) in Washington DC (USA). Since then, the World Food Day, also known as “World Hunger Day ”, has been a UN memorial day to commemorate the founding day. In 1951 the FAO moved from Washington DC to Rome .

During the 1950s and 1960s the organization was part of far-reaching efforts to stimulate agricultural production. When it comes to nutrition, the FAO has long committed itself to the cause of so-called protein deficiency and promoted a.o. a. Milk production and protein-rich supplementary nutrition without, however, being able to improve the basic problems of nutritional supply. However, many aspects of the FAO's history remain unexplored.

A program to reform the organization has been running since 2008.


As the organization belongs to the so-called “autonomous specialized organizations” of the UN, states that are members of the UN are not automatically members of the FAO. It is also possible - and has already happened - that states become members that are not members of the UN. At the beginning (1945), the FAO had 42 Member States today (2014) 194 States and the Confederacy EU - member .

When a state becomes a member of the FAO, it is entering into commitments, see "Tasks and objectives". In order to be able to compile comprehensive international statistics and databases, the FAO also obliges the states to provide it with data, especially in the areas of nutrition, agriculture and forestry.

Fields of activity

The activities cover four areas:

  • The FAO acts as a knowledge network. Plant and forest scientists, fisheries and livestock specialists, nutritionists, social scientists, economists, statisticians and other professionals collect, analyze and disseminate data. The FAO website is visited a million times a month. The FAO publishes hundreds of newsletters, reports and books, magazines, CD-ROMs and electronic data. The FAO also operates some online communities, such as For example, the e-Agriculture , which focuses on ICT application projects in agriculture, or the FSN Forum, which specializes in food security issues.
  • The FAO advises member states on agricultural and development policy.
  • The FAO provides a forum for politicians and experts from all over the world to discuss important international food and agriculture issues.
  • The FAO oversees thousands of projects around the world. It mobilizes and has millions of dollars from developed countries and development banks. The FAO provides technical knowledge and in some cases financial support. In times of crisis, it works with the World Food Program and other humanitarian organizations.

organization structure

The conference

The highest body of the FAO is the so-called conference. As a rule, it meets every two years (special meetings are also possible) and elects the General Director for a term of six years (each member state has one vote). Its main activity is to determine the budget of the organization and its work program.

The Council and the Council President

Between the meetings of the conference, the FAO Council exercises control over the organization. It consists of 49 representatives from the member states whose term of office is three years and who meet twice a year. The work of the council is supported by committees, commissions, bodies, working groups and expert panels. Just as the council performs a supervisory function, the independent chairman of the council can be compared to a supervisory board chairman.

The Secretariat and the Director General

The secretariat is the executive body; the general director is the head of the secretariat. He is assisted by a deputy director general.

The secretariat is structured as follows:

  • "Office of the General Director"
    • Seven "departments" ( Departments ); each subdivided into “divisions”, each subdivided into “services”.
    • The five regional offices spread across the different continents also report (directly) to the Director General.

The seven main divisions ( Departments ):

  • "Technical" main departments
    • for economic and social policy
    • for agriculture
    • for fishing
    • for forestry
    • for development
  • Main Department of Administration and Finance
  • Main General Affairs Department

There are also a number of other units and programs that also report to the Director General.

Previous directors of the FAO with terms of office
No. director country Term of office
1 John Boyd Orr United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom October 1945 - April 1948
2 Norris E. Dodd United StatesUnited States United States April 1948 - December 1953
3 Philip Vincent Cardon United StatesUnited States United States January 1954 - April 1956
4th Herbert Broadley United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom managing April 1956 - November 1956
5 Binay Ranjan Sen. IndiaIndia India November 1956 - December 1967
6th Addeke Hendrik Boerma NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands January 1968 - December 1975
7th Edouard Saouma LebanonLebanon Lebanon January 1976 - December 1993
8th Jacques Diouf SenegalSenegal Senegal January 1994 - December 2011
9 José Graziano da Silva BrazilBrazil Brazil January 2012 - July 2019
10 Qu Dongyu China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China since August 2019

Offices and employees

In addition to its headquarters in Italy, the FAO is represented in a further 130 countries. In 1980 the organization had 7,500 permanent staff, around half of whom worked in Rome. On April 1, 2011, the FAO had 3,691 permanent employees.


With its Edible Insects campaign , the FAO aims to establish insects as a real food alternative ( entomophagy ) in tropical and subtropical regions to remedy the lack of animal protein. In addition, insect breeding offers economic opportunities for the local population, as it can be operated on a small scale without much technical effort. The products can be sold on the local markets and provide small farmers with an important source of income.


The organization has, firstly, a proper budget made up of funds from the member states, and also a considerable extraordinary budget made up of funds from the member states. a. the UN.

The member states finance the regular budget according to the size of their national product. In 1945, the year the FAO was founded, it was $ 2 million; in 1978 it had already exceeded $ 200 million.

The FAO's annual budget for 2018–19 was $ 2.6 billion. 39% came from regular contributions, 61% were voluntary contributions from member countries and other organizations.

Criticism of the FAO

Nutrition experts from development organizations such as Bread for the World , GRAIN and FIAN complained in 2013/2014 that the FAO's reports on the successes in fighting hunger were partly based on unrealistic statistics. For example, the calorie requirement on which some calculations are based would be set too low, regional successes in the provision of food (China and Vietnam) would hide the fact that no significant progress had been made in many countries, and severe, but only temporary, supply crises would not be appropriate considered. Contrary to its commitment to promoting family businesses, the FAO would also support large industrial companies with corresponding social and ecological upheavals.


  • Willi Albers (Ed.): Concise Dictionary of Economics , (HdWW), 1980, Volume 2, (keyword "FAO", pp. 600–608)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. accessed on June 23, 2019
  2. Willi Albers (Ed.): Handwörterbuch der Wirtschaftswwissenschaft (HdWW), 1980, Volume 2, p. 601 (keyword: FAO).
  3. ^ Corinne A. Pernet and Amalia Ribi Forclaz: Revisiting the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO): International Histories of Agriculture, Nutrition, and Development. International History Review, accessed June 24, 2018 .
  4. Own presentation on the FAO homepage.
  5. Willi Albers (Ed.): Handwortbuch der Wirtschaftswwissenschaft , (HdWW), 1980, Volume 2, p. 601 (keyword: FAO).
  6. Own presentation on the FAO homepage.
  7. Willi Albers (Ed.): Handwortbuch der Wirtschaftswwissenschaft , (HdWW), 1980, Volume 2, p. 602 (keyword: FAO).
  8. Own presentation on the FAO homepage.
  9. (E-Book) Try what is crawling there - The practical insect food guide ( Memento of the original from October 6, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Authors: Desirée Bea Cimbollek, Ralf Krause, Thomas S. Linke; Berlin 2014. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  10. Willi Albers (Ed.): Handwortbuch der Wirtschaftswwissenschaft , (HdWW), 1980, Volume 2, p. 602 (keyword: FAO).
  11. accessed on August 10, 2019
  12. Frankfurter Rundschau from October 14, 2013, accessed on August 10, 2019
  13. Weltagrarbericht from November 10, 2014, accessed on August 10, 2019