ROME, ITALY — The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) executive council on March 27 closed its week-long session by reaching consensus on the agency's biennial program of work and budget - an unprecedented move that reflects widespread appreciation for the leadership shown by Director-General José Graziano da Silva since he took office in 2012.

In the past, budget negotiations have extended well beyond the council session and were only concluded during FAO's conference.

"For the first time FAO members reached consensus on the budget level at council. Congratulations!" Graziano da Silva said in his closing address to what he described as a ‘historic’ session. "On behalf of FAO, I want to thank you for your trust in the organization and leadership.”

The budget recommended by the council for full delivery of FAO's program of work for 2016-17 amounts to $1.035 billion. The recommended program of work and budget level will be presented for formal approval by all members in June at the FAO conference, the highest governing body of the organization.

The director-general recognized the challenges faced by many FAO member countries and underscored their efforts made in a spirit of collaboration and mutual understanding during the council meeting. 

Graziano da Silva also welcomed the council's support to areas of higher priority identified in order to reflect shifting global trends and challenges, such as climate change and malnutrition.

"I appreciate the flexibility to adjust our program of work to emerging challenges and  the Sustainable Development Goals," he said referring to the new global development targets that are set to replace the Millennium Development Goals and in which agriculture and the fight against hunger are expected to feature prominently.

He also welcomed the council's decision to increase funding for the Technical Cooperation Program (TCP) by $6.1 million through extra-budgetary resources in 2016-17.

The council has also agreed to the setting up of a trust fund to ensure that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) receive increased support from FAO, in particular to adapt to climate change.

In its final report for the March 2015 session, the council said it appreciated "the transformational changes undertaken at FAO since 2012 (which) had resulted in a more efficient and effective organization."

The report also underlined the "importance of continuity" in the strategic direction taken by FAO since 2012 which includes focusing the Organization on five strategic objectives.

Another innovation introduced since Graziano da Silva's appointment as director-general has been the establishment of partnerships with a broad set of stakeholders including the private sector, civil society and academic institutions - something the council in its report said it would continue to encourage.

It also said it supported FAO's organizational restructuring proposals and emphasized the importance of consolidation of decentralization efforts.