Multi-Lateral Summaries > Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations 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, and also as a source of knowledge and information.

FAO helps developing countries and countries in transition modernize and improve their agriculture, forestry and fisheries practices, and ensure good nutrition for all. Since its founding in 1945, FAO has focused special attention on development in rural areas, home to 70 percent of the world’s poor and hungry people. FAO’s activities comprise four main areas:

  • Putting information within reach. FAO serves as a knowledge network. It uses the expertise of its staff - agronomists, foresters, fisheries and livestock specialists, nutritionists, social scientists, economists, statisticians and other professionals - to collect, analyze and disseminate the data that assists in development. A million times a month, someone visits the FAO Internet site to consult a technical document or read about its work with farmers. It also publishes hundreds of newsletters, reports and books, distribute several magazines, create numerous CD-ROMS, and host dozens of electronic forums.
  • Sharing policy expertise. FAO uses its years of experience to assist member countries in devising agricultural policy, supporting planning, drafting effective legislation, and creating national strategies to achieve rural development and hunger alleviation goals.
  • Providing a meeting place for nations. On any given day, dozens of policy-makers and experts from around the globe convene at headquarters or in its field offices to forge agreements on major food and agriculture issues. As a neutral forum, FAO provides the setting where rich and poor nations can come together to build common understanding.
  • Bringing knowledge to the field. FAO’s breadth of knowledge is put to the test in thousands of field projects throughout the world. FAO mobilizes and manages millions of dollars provided by donor countries, development banks, and other sources, to make sure the projects achieve their goals. It provides the technical know-how and, in a few cases, is a limited source of funds. In crisis situations, FAO works side by- side with the World Food Programme and other humanitarian agencies to protect rural livelihoods and help people rebuild their lives.

The FAO mandate is to raise levels of nutrition, improve agricultural productivity, better the lives of rural populations and contribute to the growth of the world economy. Achieving food and nutrition security for all is at the heart of FAO’s efforts.

TCB-related programme

The provision of information and analysis on trade issues affecting agriculture, fisheries and forestry, and assistance to member countries to build trade-related capacities have been long-standing FAO activities. FAO is committed to providing its Member States with trade-related assistance, as mandated in the World Food Summit Plan of Action. In support of the WTO negotiations on agriculture, FAO has strengthened its programme of technical assistance aimed at enhancing the capacity of Member States - especially developing countries and economies in transition - to participate effectively in the multilateral negotiations and to derive maximum benefit from global trade. FAO’s trade work dates back to well before the Uruguay Round of negotiations, and addresses broader policy and market issues of relevance to agriculture, fisheries and forestry. FAO’s approach is multidisciplinary in that it involves capacity building for trade, including analytical activities, as well as operational field activities with a direct impact on supply-side capacities. As such, trade is one of FAO’s priority areas for interdepartmental action. Broadly, the TCB programmes of the organization aim to:

  • Strengthen the supply-side capability of the agricultural sector, including fisheries and forestry, so that the sector is competitive and countries can take advantage of trade opportunities;
  • Ensure that trade and trade policies are conducive to overall economic development, agricultural development and food security;
  • Promote, develop and reinforce policy and regulatory frameworks for food, agriculture, fisheries and forestry;
  • Improve decision-making through the provision of information and analysis on trade policy and practices.

Successful Projects

The TCB programmes are intended to address member countries’ needs, particularly developing countries and countries in transition. The main beneficiaries are government and non-government entities in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors. FAO has been receiving an increasing volume of requests from a large number of members for information, analysis and technical assistance on a wide range of trade-related issues, notably in the area of trade policy (multilateral and regional trade negotiations), and implementation and compliance and has been providing technical assistance in a variety of forms.

Programmes on trade-related capacity building were initially implemented under an Umbrella programme under which FAO organized regional workshops in 14 sub-regions, reaching some 850 officials from 151 countries between 1991 and 2004. This programme was built upon as new needs and issues emerged, such as the Doha Round, to which extensive support to analysis and awareness raising was provided, Economic Partnership Agreements, Intra-regional trade, and challenges in the SPS and TBT and TRIPS Agreements.

Another example of a success story in this area is the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF), which resulted from a joint communiqué issued by the heads of FAO, the OIE, the World Bank, WHO and the WTO at the Doha Ministerial Conference in November 2001. The STDF is mobilizing resources and assisting countries in building capacity in SPS-related areas.

Recent TCB initiatives include:

  • Promotion of enhanced intra-regional trade through support to dialogue on the design and use of trade and related policy;
  • The role of trade and trade policies in mitigating the impacts of food price volatility; and
  • Support to the development of the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS).


FAO provides technical assistance in collaboration with international organizations, national governments, international and regional financial institutions and NGOs, as appropriate. It collaborates actively with WHO (for example, on food safety (SPS)), with the OIE (on animal health (SPS)), and with UNIDO on fisheries.

For more information:

TCB activities described in this guide


  • Mainstreaming appropriate trade policies in national development plans


  • Support for the multilateral trade negotiations


  • Legal framework improvement to match international agricultural treaties & obligations


  • Increase agricultural productivity


  • Strengthen food quality and safety programmes to meet SPS and TBT requirements
  • Strengthen live animal and meat import and export inspection programmes
  • Capacity building work in the framework of Codex Alimentarius
  • Technical assistance in compliance


  • Strengthening capacities in the area of commodity markets and trade