FAO's mission

FAO's activities comprise four main areas:

Putting information within reach. FAO serves as a knowledge network, and uses the expertise of specialized staff (agronomists, foresters, fisheries and livestock specialists, nutritionists, social scientists, economists, statisticians and other professionals) to collect, analyse and disseminate data on aid development. Information is published through reports, publications, books, magazines, CD-ROMS, and of course the FAO website.

Sharing policy expertise. FAO lends its years of experience to member countries in devising agricultural policy, supporting planning, drafting effective legislation and creating national strategies to achieve rural development and hunger alleviation goals.

Providing a meeting place for nations. Policy-makers and experts from around the globe convene at FAO headquarters or in field offices to forge agreements on major food and agriculture issues. As a neutral forum, FAO provides the setting where rich and poor nations can come together to build common understanding.

Bringing knowledge to the field. FAO mobilizes funds and runs field projects throughout the world to provide its technical know-how. In crisis situations, FAO does its best to work side-by-side with the World Food Programme and other humanitarian agencies to protect rural livelihoods and help the poorest to rebuild their lives.

A bit of history: from the origins in 1943 to an in-depth reform process

In 1943, forty-four governments, met in Virginia (United States) and committed themselves to founding a permanent organisation for food and agriculture: the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

In 1945, the first session of FAO Conference, took place in Quebec City (Canada) and established FAO as a specialized United Nations agency. In 1951, the FAO headquarters moved from Washington DC to Rome. FAO's mandate is to raise levels of nutrition, improve agricultural productivity, better the lives of rural populations and contribute to the growth of the world economy.

But the change in the world's agricultural economy and the emergence of new challenges have slowly put FAO under pressure for an in-depth reform. Launched in mid-2004, commissioned by the FAO Council and Conference and overseen by a Committee of the FAO Council, the Independent External Evaluation (IEE) was the first-ever independent external evaluation of FAO in its sixty-year history. Its specific objective, mentioned in its terms of reference was ”[...] to chart the way forward in order to make FAO fit for the 21st century and the challenges ahead”. The reforms seeks not only to improve the overall institutional performance of FAO, including its governance, but also to help shape an FAO which can cost-effectively support humanity in facing the challenges of this 21st century (fight against hunger and poverty, climate change, etc).

In November 2007, the Conference welcomed the report of the IEE and passed a resolution on the Follow-up to the IEE that included the establishment of a time-bound Committee of the Conference (CoC-IEE). In November 2009, the Special Session of the Conference endorsed the Immediate Plan of Action for FAO Renewal and extended the CoC-IEE to further develop outstanding aspects of follow-up and report to the FAO Conference in 2009 and 2011. For more information about the IEE and the FAO reform process, click HERE

How is FAO governed?

FAO is governed by the Conference of Member Nations, which meets every two years to review the work carried out by the Organisation and approve a Programme of Work and Budget for the next biennium. Today, FAO counts 194 Member Countries, two Associate Members (Faroe Islands and Tokelau) and one Member Organisation (the European Union). Singapore, South Sudan and Brunei Darussalam were the latest countries to join FAO in June 2013.

The Conference elects a Council of 49 Member Nations to act as an interim governing body. Members serve three-year, rotating terms. The Conference also elects the Director-General to head the agency.

FAO head and staff

humanitarian aid photo

The current Director-General, Mr José Graziano da Silva, of Brazil, (Mr Graziano's biography pdf - 579 KB [579 KB] ) started his term in January 2012; he has been reelected for a second 4 years-term (1 August 2015 - 31 July 2019) with the votes of 177 countries during FAO's 39th Conference.

FAO employs both professional and general service staff. Over half of them (60%) work at Headquarters in Rome, while the others (40%) carry out FAO activities worldwide, from offices based in more than 130 countries. FAO currently maintains 5 regional offices, 9 sub-regional offices, 5 liaison offices and 80 FAO representations, in addition to its Headquarters in Rome.

Back to Work with FAO