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The Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN


Rome, Italy



Description: The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) is part of the UN system. Its main focus is on the achievement of food security.

The FAO seeks to ensure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. Its three main goals are: the eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition; the elimination of poverty and the driving forward of economic and social progress for all; and the sustainable management and utilization of natural resources, including land, water, air, climate and genetic resources for the benefit of present and future generations.

The FAO has 194 Member Nations, two associate members (the Faroe Islands and Tokelau) and one member organization (the European Union).

Organization Type: International Inter-Governmental Organization
Issue areas covered:

FAO's activities comprise five main areas:

  • Serving as a knowledge network. Providing information to support the transition to sustainable agriculture. 

  • Strengthening political will and sharing policy expertise. Helping member countries to devise agricultural policy, supporting planning, drafting effective legislation and creating national strategies to achieve rural development and hunger alleviation goals. Convening policy-makers and experts to forge agreements on major food and agricultural issues.

  • Bolstering public-private collaboration and resource mobilization to improve smallholder agriculture. 

  • Generating knowledge through field projects. 

  • Supporting countries to prevent and mitigate risks and threats to agriculture, food and nutrition.

The FAO has also given support to the formulation of regional agricultural policies.
They provide support and technical assistance on projects connected to food security, including livestock, fisheries and animal health projects.
They also support the development of advisory and agricultural extension services.
They have done work on human-wildlife conflicts.

The FAO is a One Health/One Welfare partner with the OIE and WHO.

The FAO has a Gateway to Animal Welfare. This provides information on the welfare of farm animals and opportunities to engage in commonly developed projects and thematic discussions.

The FAO is a major supporter of the World Committee on Food Security (CFS), which is an inclusive international and intergovernmental platform for stakeholders to work together in a coordinated way to ensure food security and nutrition for all. The Committee reports to the UN General Assembly through the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and to the FAO Conference.

The FAO jointly developed with the OECD on “Guidance for Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains” to help enterprises observe standards of responsible business conduct to ensure that their operations contribute to sustainable development and do not lead to adverse impacts. This includes animal welfare and specifies that this should be in accordance with or exceeding OIE 

The FAO is on the Steering Group of the World Bank-led “Wageningen Process”, which is developing good practice for animal welfare in development projects. WAN is also on this Steering Group.

The FAO recognizes that animal welfare should be at the heart of sustainability.

It also spreads some very relevant messages, for example:

video – “What if we change our diets?” which is about how to feed a hungry planet (growing populations and demands of developing societies). This includes messaging about changing from animal-based foods to crops.

A World Food Day (October 2016) educational resource on “Climate is Changing” – includes messages on eating less meat, going organic and cutting down on food waste.

The FAO has a Treaty tackling illegal fishing. This includes work on the prevention, deterring and elimination of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. See here.

Key opportunities and dates for input: 

There are periodic opportunities for engagement through the Gateway to Animal Welfare. These include E-Consultations and expert meetings.

The CFS holds an annual Plenary session every October at the FAO in Rome, Italy.

Requirements for participation: 

There is an opportunity to sign up for newsletters from the Gateway to Animal Welfare and to submit information.

There is also an opportunity to sign up for CFS information.

Advocacy Opportunities:
  • Alex Hammond-Seaman of the RSPCA International undertook a secondment to the FAO to develop their AW work. As the political importance of AW grows, there will be further secondment opportunities – not only with the FAO, but also in other international and development organizations and Regional Economic Communities (RECS), simply because there is a lack of AW knowledge, experience and capacity in international and regional organizations. This would be an excellent investment of AP and foundation funding.

  • Despite the development of AW activities and messaging, some parts of the FAO are not so supportive of the development of AW work within its programs. Also, some FAO programs still continue with no mention of AW – for example, they have a Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries’ which includes conservation and management aspects, but does not mention animal welfare. This has been quoted in support of seal culling in Namibia (i.e., sustainable use). Also, FAO works with national governments in drafting relevant policies, but often neglects to mention AW. APO advocacy could positively influence this situation.

  • One useful consultation on “Capacity Building to Implement Good Animal Welfare Practices” identified a variety of improvements, which are published in a report of this expert meeting. Paragraph 9 of this report contains the expert’s recommendations, many of which are excellent and have not yet been implemented (although the report was written back in 2008).

  • There are opportunities for FAO advocacy in areas such as:

    • Asking the FAO to always include AW in their work on national agricultural (and livestock/fisheries) policies.

    • Ensuring that animal welfare is included in all their projects and technical support on programs involving livestock, fisheries and wildlife.

    • Asking the FAO to influence the wider donor community to include animal welfare in all programs involving livestock, fisheries and wildlife.

    • Using their influence to ensure that all programs involving the development of advisory and agricultural extension services include the development of animal welfare knowledge and expertise.

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