Jacques Diouf, who was reelected for a third term on Monday, knows that the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has come under attack for being inefficient and ineffective, but hopes that a new package of reforms could help improve the UN agency's effectiveness.
The raft of new initiatives, which was introduced at the 33rd session of the FAO's governing body, includes the monitoring, surveillance and treatment of 13 million hectares of infested farmlands in the countries of the Saheland North Africa and the provision of over $7 million in assistance to 10 countries in the Caribbean following the cycle of hurricanes in 2004 and 2005.
It also includes assistance for farmers to restart their farming activities in the wake of the destruction caused by the earthquake in northern Pakistan, and increased efforts to contain at source the spread of highly pathogenic avian flu, for which an estimated $500 million are needed for the next three years.
The director-general said that the proposed new structure of FAO would facilitate the Organisation's efforts to help countries achieve the eight UN Millennium Development Goals, in particular goal number one, calling for a reduction by half in the proportion of populations living in hunger and poverty.
"It is high time we put a stop to this tragedy which also costs developing countries billions of dollars in lost productivity and earnings," said Diouf.
But many believe that far-reaching reform is needed if the FAO is to be an effective tool in improving global agriculture and tackling hunger. Diouf himself noted that for 2004-2005, the FAO conference had approved a budget level of $749.1 million, which was an increase in nominal terms over the previous biennium but in real terms meant a cut in resources of some $51 million.
This at a time when world hunger has never been a bigger issue. At the 1996 World Food Summit leaders from 186 countries pledged to halve world hunger by 2015, but a decade on, there are 18 million more hungry people. Nearly a billion people are without sufficient food, and at current rates it will take 120 years to halve the hungry.
This would suggest that the FAO is not fulfilling its mission. For while the organisation has immense technical expertise and understands the mechanisms of hunger better than anyone, it does not have the resources - and this latest raft of reform does not address this issue.