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Cablegate: Sparring with Fao Over Locusts

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.








E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Sparring with FAO over Locusts

REF: (A) Rome 722, (B) Rome 1488, (C) State 165987

1. (U) Summary. Over the past several weeks we have been
active in promoting a better international response to
the Sahel desert locust emergency. On September 10,
2004, USUN Rome invited permanent representatives of
potential donor countries and countries affected by the
current outbreak of desert locusts concentrated in
Northwest Africa to discuss the desert locust problem and
what can be done about it. The meeting gave the parties
an opportunity to sound out their views in advance of an
informal FAO meeting scheduled for the following Friday,
on September 17, 2004. In the FAO event, Director
General (DG) Diouf blamed poor donor response,
emphasizing the few funds "received," for FAO's slow
progress in controlling the desert locust outbreak.
Several affected countries lobbied for more
contributions, and some donor countries questioned FAO's
capacity to respond to the desert locust outbreak

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2. (U) In a press briefing later the same day, Diouf
reiterated the criticism of donor countries for the weak
international response to the crisis. In reply,
Ambassador Hall made a statement to Reuters that
expressed the US' serious disappointment with how FAO had
dealt with the crisis. The Ambassador also enumerated
FAO failings in more detail in a non-public letter sent
to DG Diouf. The Reuters service piece effectively got
through our message. In a meeting with the Ambassador on
September 21, Diouf agreed that there was room all around
for a better coordinated and implemented approach to the
crisis. On September 22, we received from Diouf a
detailed response to our letter. Both letters are being
sent septel. End summary.

US Mission Discussion with Donors

3. (U) At the September 10 meeting, Ambassador Hall opened
the meeting by inviting delegates to be candid in
discussing how the natural calamity arose and what should
be done now, and he also encouraged delegates to share
information received from their missions and field

4. (U) Dr. Yene T. Belayneh, USAID/DCHA/OFDA's locust expert,
summarized the genesis of the desert locust outbreak,
current status, extent of damage, and next steps. Dr.
Belayneh stated that much of the approximately $40
million pledged to FAO was provided too late to contain
the locusts, and he described likely scenarios in the
near future.

5. (U) Discussions shifted to FAO's role in mobilizing a
coherent and effective response to the locust crisis.
FAO was quick to point out that its main role is to
provide information and give advice to the governments of
affected countries. In addition, given FAO's mandate as
the lead UN agency for locust control activities, some of
the meeting's attendees were surprised that FAO did not
act earlier and establish its Emergency Center for Locust
Operations (ECLO) until August 25, 2004, more than ten
months after the initial locust outbreak and six months
after its formal appeal.

6. (U) FAO explained that ECLO's purpose is to avoid
duplication of effort at headquarters, communicate expert
guidance more effectively with the field and other
stakeholders. It also formalized an internal working

group consisting of representatives from three
departments: Administration and Finance (AF), Agriculture
(AG), and Technical Cooperation (TC), along with
coordination with the Office of the Director-General. In
addition, FAO stated that ECLO had been operational for
some time and the announcement was merely a formality.

7. (SBU) FAO also represented that although it has received
$24.2 million in formal commitments, only $9.5 million is
available for expenditures. The difference, $14.7M,
cannot be spent because, according to FAO, "We haven't
received the money from the donors." In addition to
formal commitments, FAO said that another $9.4 million is
in the pipeline. (Comment: These figures do not tally
with higher figures FAO provided a day earlier, nor do
they include funds provided in 2003 from the USAID/OFDA
grant for emergency pest control.)

8. (SBU) European and USG representatives delved more deeply
into FAO's use of available funds to respond quickly to
emergencies. FAO mentioned that it had established and
is using a rapid response fund, which it characterized as
a revolving fund of $2M. To date, FAO estimates that it
has used the fund to spend "in the neighborhood of $500K
to $1M."

9. (SBU) The Dutch Ambassador spoke at length about "serious
obstacles" faced by FAO in mobilizing resources and
reporting its actions effectively. He urged FAO to
provide more visibility and transparency about the use of
funds, particularly what FAO is providing in people and
equipment, in order to permit his government to assess
FAO's efforts to date. "We need more information about
how money is spent and where." He also urged FAO to
establish a mechanism for better regional coordination.

Diouf Meeting with Donors

10. (U) A week later, on September 17, DG Diouf provided an
extensive chronology of FAO's actions to notify the
international community about the locust upsurge, the
evolution of FAO's appeal from $9 million in February, to
$30 million in July, and now $100 million, and he also
praised FAO's organizational capacity to deal effectively
with the emergency.

11. (U) During several interventions DG Diouf stated that FAO
has "received" only $4 million "$2 million arrived two
days ago from the US" -- and he tied the limited funds
received with FAO's limited ability to respond to the
crisis. He also said that donor countries "committed"
$15.8M, but because funds in such amounts have not been
"received," (i.e., in the bank), FAO cannot "spend" or
"transfer" them to other accounts.

12. (SBU) Algeria, Cape Verde, Mali, and Mauritania asked for
more contributions, and Morocco suggested that a "new
mechanism" might be needed to control the outbreak.

13. (SBU) Responding to Diouf's criticism of donors while
neglecting his own organization's failures, Ambassador
Hall said that all parties -- donor countries, recipient
countries, "and the FAO -- could do better." He also
related that reports from the field about FAO indicate
that in spite of late contributions, FAO should have
responded more effectively and been better organized.

14. (SBU) France asked for greater visibility into all sources
of funds allocated for the desert locust outbreak. Italy

stated that the real issue is not whether the parties
have lived up to their responsibilities, but whether FAO
has the right mechanisms in place to manage funds
received. The Netherlands recommended that FAO focus on
limiting future crop damage because of the prospect for
food insecurity in the area. In addition, future
assistance may be bilateral, not multilateral, suggesting
that the Netherlands may provide funds to FAO at the
country level, but not to FAO headquarters.

15. (SBU) IFAD has given permission to countries in the region
to transfer a total of $1.5 million in IFAD-provided
funds to FAO at the country level. The EC announced that
it is supporting a request of 30 million Euros, that a
total of 32 million Euros for the locust outbreak will be
approved by the end of September 2004.

16. (SBU) Canada asked whether FAO has systems in place to use
such large infusions of funds. (Comment: We later
learned that this comment from the Canadian Ambassador
had deeply upset DG Diouf. Immediately after the
September 17 press conference, he chaired a two-hour
session going through FAO's actions with his senior
staff. His ending comment to his staff was, "Now that we
have the resources, we better deliver.")

Press play

17. (U) When Diouf took his criticism of donors to the press,
the Ambassador, in an interview with Reuters, levied a
barrage at FAO's own inadequacies in attacking the
crisis. The Reuters story achieved the results we hoped
for. In a meeting on September 21, Diouf admitted to the
Ambassador there was plenty of blame to share, from the
recipient countries, to the donors, to FAO, itself. In
Diouf's written response to the Ambassador's letter
criticizing FAO's performance in meeting the needs of
this crisis, Diouf agreed to our suggestion that an
after-action lessons-learned assessment would be useful.


2004ROME03669 - Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

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