Rome -- FAO has made good progress in the last two years but much remains to be done, according to a new report published by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID).
The DFID's MAR Update report on FAO comes just over two years after DFID's Multilateral Aid Review (MAR) which rated FAO 'poor value for money' for the British taxpayer.
The report recognizes the complex challenge of implementing long overdue changes to FAO and the considerable progress made in the last two years.
DFID released summary MAR Update reports on 24 agencies last Thursday, 18 July 2013. Eighteen more will be published later this year. Each report shows how well DFID thinks agencies have done to address weaknesses identified by their original MAR in 2011. FAO and 11 other agencies have made 'reasonable progress' since 2011 according to DFID, whilst 12 have made 'some progress'.
Particularly satisfying is that the DFID report embraces the vision underpinning the changes being made at FAO. It understands that the aim of change is to maximize the ability of all FAO staff to make a difference to hunger through their work, regardless of location or job description.
'Organisational change is introducing a new focus on results across the organisation from headquarters to country offices, which is unprecedented in FAO... increased focus is being placed on the greater effectiveness of country offices to ensure strengthened results and impact at the country level', says the report.
Commenting on the new Strategic Framework and the work of the Strategic Objectives (SO) teams, DFID's report observes that 'FAO's normative work has too often been planned, programmed and implemented in silos, which reduced cohesion and complementarity across normative work.
FAO is addressing this problem through the shift to five cross-cutting strategic objectives with integrated Strategic Objective Action Plans for greater synergy and alignment. The matrix management structure proposed for 2014 is also intended to introduce a new cross-sector way of working to break down current organisational silos. This will require a fundamental shift in business practices and culture'.
The report recognizes that large-scale organizational change can involve tough choices: 'Management is committed to changing the organisation to improve performance and has taken some difficult decisions, including in human resource management. This represents significant change in FAO and is helping to create a renewed culture, with a greater focus on results'.
DFID welcomes the 'greater culture of value for money ... being introduced across the Oganization' but recognizes that it will take time to become embedded fully.
It also applauds the work done by staff throughout FAO to implement the new Global Resource Management System, noting that 'the new system represents a step-change in the quality, timeliness and transparency of financial information...'
The original MAR was weak in its consideration of FAO's technical and normative work. This has been recognized and the MAR Update gives good recognition to FAO's excellence in many areas: 'FAO continues to build on its good reputation for technical work in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, livestock, plant health and natural resources management; as well as in the global monitoring and reporting on food and agriculture'.