European Union External Action

The UN in Rome and the EU

Signing ceremony with the Heads of the UN Rome-based agencies and EU Commissioners Georgieva and Piebalgs ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano
Signing ceremony with the Heads of the UN Rome-based agencies and EU Commissioners Georgieva and Piebalgs ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

How we work with the UN organizations in Rome

Created in 1993, the EU Delegation works with the UN Rome-based agencies, promoting the Community's interests as embodied in common policies, including agricultural, fisheries, environmental, and health and safety policies. In addition, the Delegation represents the EU in its role of providing external assistance, through programmes of the three UN agencies. The working relations between the EU and the UN are based on a Financial and Administrative Agreement (FAFA)

On 27 June 2011, the European Commission, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) signed a Statement of Intent on Programmatic Cooperation on Food Security and Nutrition [6 MB] to harmonise and coordinate the implementation of their goals related to food security and humanitarian food assistance.

The Delegation is permanently in close contact with the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Directorates-General (DGs) of the European Commission in Brussels to communicate with and inform the headquarters about the most important issues dealt with in Rome. It receives instructions from the various EU services in Brussels to defend and explain the EU's positions at the various meetings in Rome.

The EU acts and takes decisions in a very specific way in each of the three UN bodies in Rome, since each of the three UN bodies has a specific mandate and legal status, and since the EU itself has a different kind of membership in each of them. The three different situations can be summarised as follows:

  • Member of FAO: the EU is a full permanent member of the FAO Council and Conference, on an equal footing with member countries of FAO, except for voting rights.
  • Permanent observer in WFP: as the name indicates, the European Commission has a permanent seat on the Executive Board, but as an observer. It can speak, but only after member countries of the Board have.
  • Simple observer in the IFAD: the EU is not a member.

 

 

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)

FAO is the first UN agency and was created in 1945, at the end of the Second World War, to raise levels of nutrition, improve agricultural productivity, better the lives of rural populations and contribute to the growth of the world economy.

FAO of the UN leads international efforts to defeat hunger. Serving both developed and developing countries, FAO acts as a neutral forum where all nations meet as equals to negotiate agreements and debate policy. FAO helps countries to modernise and improve agriculture, forestry and fishery practices and ensure good nutrition for all.

Since 1991, when the EU became the 161st member (as a Member Organization) of FAO, the EU-FAO partnership has continued to grow.

For the EU, FAO is a centre of excellence and knowledge with regards to normative work and policy advice in the main areas within its mandate.

 

EU status in FAO

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)

The EU became a full FAO Member in 1991

On 26 November 1991, the EU became the 161st member (as a Member Organization) of FAO. Indeed, this accession represented an institutional breakthrough as it was the first time that the EU became a Member as such of a UN body, and the first (and unique up to now) time FAO welcomed a Member Organization.

The EU accession was made necessary due to the transfer of competences from the member countries to the EU for a range of matters under the scope of FAO (such as agriculture, fisheries, trade, health and consumer protection).

The status of membership of the EU required changes in the Basic texts of the Organization (Constitution of FAO), which were approved by the FAO Conference of 1991.

In addition, the EU membership introduced the concept of the 'alternative exercise of Membership rights' between the EU and its countries, which applies not only to voting rights but also to speaking rights. This means that whenever the EU exercises its right to vote, its countries shall not exercise theirs, and conversely.

The EU and its countries have to prepare all meetings of the FAO Governing Bodies (Council and Conference), as well as their Subsidiary Bodies, in a coordinated manner, so as to agree on joint positions and on statements on all substantive items of the agenda.

Basically, the EU speaks, negotiates and votes on issues of EU competence, whereas the presidency speaks, negotiates and votes on issues of EU countries' competence. There can be no cumulative exercise of rights of the EU and the EU countries. In practice, the following scenarios may arise:

EU competence: when EU competence is exclusive or predominant, the EU will have the right to vote and hence will speak on behalf of the EU and its 28 countries.

EU countries' competence: when EU country competence is exclusive or predominant, the country will have the right to vote, and, hence, the Council Presidency will speak on behalf of the EU.

EU-EU countries' shared competence: when competence is shared, it is either the EU or the country that takes precedence, and hence will vote and speak on behalf of the EU.

 

Under this process, EU coordination meetings take place in Brussels in the Coordination Working Party (FAO), during which, for all FAO meetings and all agenda items, a common position must be reached by the EU and the EU countries. In practice, this translates into statements being negotiated, finalised and agreed to by all parties. This allows for the EU to speak with one voice. This system, in place for 15 years now, is working to everybody's general satisfaction. Informal EU coordination meetings also take place in Rome, amongst the 28 EU Permanent Representatives to FAO, at least on a monthly basis, and before meetings if needed.

 

EU-FAO cooperation

In 1991, a first Framework Cooperation Agreement was reached with the European Commission.

In 2004, a Strategic Partnership Agreement was established between the EU and FAO with the aim of enhancing the effectiveness of both partners in their efforts to achieve common goals and objectives in the field of development and humanitarian affairs. The new partnership focuses on fostering closer collaboration on:

  • food security
  • sustainable rural development
  • nutrition
  • resilience
  • gender
  • food safety and quality
  • climate change
  • statistical cooperation and information exchange.

Under this new partnership agreement, the EU and FAO have further enhanced the policy dialogue at Headquarters level and strengthened collaboration, particularly at country level. A policy dialogue at senior level takes place once a year between FAO and the EU.

The EU contributions to FAO's extra budgetary resources in 2015 were around USD 160 million, with Africa as the first beneficiary. These figures outline the EU's strategy to increase its focus on Africa.

FAO has a Liaison Office with the EU in Brussels in order to follow closely the work of the European institutions (Commission, Parliament, Committees, Council, European Economic and Social Committee) in areas of relevance to FAO policies and programmes, and facilitate communication and cooperation between FAO and these institutions.

For further information on FAO's activities and ongoing projects with the EU, visit the FAO-EU website: http://www.fao.org/europeanunion/en/   

EU financial contribution to FAO

FAO's Regular Programme budget is funded by its Members, through contributions set at the FAO Conference. The regular budget is composed of assessed contributions, each country having the obligation to pay an annual contribution calculated under UN budgetary rules. This regular budget is used to finance the daily functioning of FAO as well as basic actions directly falling under its mandate (such as technical cooperation). Since each of the 28 EU countries are paying their own contribution, the EU does not contribute to FAO's regular budget as such, but pays an annual fee to cover the additional administrative costs incurred due to its membership of the Organization.

In addition to the regular budget, FAO relies extensively on extra-budgetary resources from member countries to finance specific programmes and projects. The voluntary contributions provided by members and other partners support technical and emergency assistance to governments, as well as direct support to FAO's core work. The voluntary contributions are expected to reach USD 1.7 billion for the 2016-2017 biennium. The EU is the largest donor to FAO's extra-budgetary resources.

 

WFP (created in 1961 and operational in 1963) is the food assistance programme of the United Nations. Its mission is to meet emergency needs of victims of natural and man-made disasters, displaced people, and more generally the world's hungry poor. The agency also provides the logistics support necessary to deliver food aid to the right people at the right time and at the right place.

Since it was founded, WFP has fed more than 1.,4 billion people, and invested more than USD 3 billion in emergency relief and rehabilitation. On average, WFP aims to reach more than 80 million people with food assistance in more than 80 countries.

WFP relies entirely on voluntary contributions, made either as cash, food or basic items necessary to grow, store and cook food. Governments are the principal source of funds, but businesses and the private sector increasingly provide their own contributions. WFP Projected Income for 2016 is USD 4.9 billion.

The EU as a whole (i.e. the EU countries and the Commission) is one of the world's main humanitarian aid donors; the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) is the service of the European Commission responsible for this sensible task and is directly concerned by WFP activities. ECHO’s mandate is to provide emergency assistance and relief to the victims of natural disasters or armed conflict outside the EU. The aid is intended to go directly to those in distress, irrespective of race, religion or political convictions.

 

EU-WFP cooperation

The EU is one of the largest donors to WFP with a total contribution of €250 million in 2015.

ECHO is among WFP’s top donors. Every year, ECHO supports WFP operations in more than 30 countries including responses such as in Haiti, Pakistan and the Horn of Africa. ECHO’s support also funds innovative new projects such as cash-and-voucher programmes as well as enhancements to WFP’s logistic capacity.

In order to consolidate their relations, the EU and WFP signed on 2 September 2005 a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), by which they confirmed their intention to establish a Strategic Partnership in order to fight world hunger. In order to maintain a close relationship with WFP, an annual Strategic Dialogue takes place every year. Furthermore, regular dialogue between the EU and WFP is ensured by the EU Delegation in Rome and the WFP Office in Brussels, to enhance EU/WFP relations and improve the EU's total contributions.

 

EU Status in WFP

Legally speaking, the European Commission is not a member of WFP, but has a privileged status on its Executive Board and sits at the main table as a special observer. This unique status offers the advantage to the EU of sitting permanently at the Executive Board and is a reflection of the importance of the EU’s position as one of the major donors.

 

 

IFAD was created in 1977 as an international specialised UN fund to mobilise resources for financing projects specifically designed to improve food production systems, the nutritional level of the poorest populations in developing countries and the conditions of their lives. Through low-interest loans and grants, IFAD develops and finances projects that enable poor rural people to overcome poverty themselves, through individual or collective initiatives, projects and small businesses.

Working with rural poor people, governments, donors, non-governmental organisations and many other partners, IFAD focuses on country-specific solutions, which can involve increasing rural poor people's access to financial services, markets, technology, land and other natural resources.

 

EU Status in IFAD

The EU has a status of a simple observer in the IFAD Governing Council and works with the International Fund on specific projects. Because of its specific status of 'observer', the EU does not attend the meetings of the Executive Board (three times per year) or the so-called replenishment meetings, but is invited to the yearly meeting of the Governing Council. Despite this 'limited' status, the EU-IFAD cooperation has been growing sharply to reach a solid financial and political partnership.

 

EU partnership with IFAD

In September 2004, a FAFA was signed by IFAD and the EU. This agreement allows the two institutions to lower transaction costs for joint projects, access more long-term funding and identify more areas for collaboration.

The rationale for EU-IFAD cooperation is based on both the added value which IFAD can offer, and the similarity of our approaches towards sustainable rural development. IFAD is present in the field, strengthening technical and institutional capacity in a number of areas of particular interest to the EU, including food security, sustainable rural development, poverty eradication, environment, gender and the dialogue with civil society, and works closely on these issues with rural communities at grass roots level.

 

Signature of the MoU

The EU and IFAD signed, on 4 October 2012, an MoU to further strengthen cooperation and to join resources to scale up respective support to food and nutrition security and agriculture and increase the respective impact in these fields. Cooperation focuses on developing technologies for sustainable agricultural intensification by increasing production by using resources more efficiently, promoting innovative rural financing mechanisms, like private-public funding facilities, that primarily benefit smallholders, providing assistance for small farmers to adapt to climate change, and securing equitable access to land.

MoU [295 KB]

 

EU financial support

Since 1978, the EU has co-financed numerous IFAD rural development projects in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe, with a contribution of almost €800 million since 2007.

Concluding a round of intensive high-level discussions and meetings throughout 2007, a Contribution Agreement was signed in 2008 to channel, through IFAD, EU financial support to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research centres (CGIAR centres). Since then, IFAD has managed the European Commission's funding for the CGIAR.

http://www.ifad.org/partners/ec/operations/sfoap.htm

 

 

The CFS was set up in 1974 as a separate technical committee within FAO. It was rather marginal and invisible until a major reform in 2009 reinvigorated the Committee. This reform made the CFS:

  • a Committee supported by all three Rome-Based Agencies (FAO, IFAD and WFP);
  • more science-based in its deliberations and recommendations through the creation of a High-Level Panel of Experts (HLPE), composed of  eminent academics;
  • an inclusive body with the full involvement (except for voting rights) of civil society and the private sector;
  • more efficient, through the creation of a professional full-time secretariat to support the work of the CFS.

The CFS is nowadays the most inclusive global multi-stakeholder platform for promoting coordination, policy convergence and support/advice to countries and regions on food security and nutrition.

The CFS meets 1 week per year in plenary format (in October) and in-between sessions through a series of events and Open-Ended Working Groups. The Committee reports annually to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC) and to FAO.

 

 

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