Edouard Saouma

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Edouard Saouma (1980)

Edouard Victor Saouma (6 November 1926; Beirut – 1 December 2012; Beirut) was a Lebanese civil servant who served as Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) for three consecutive terms from 1976 to 1993.[1]

Early career[edit]

After completing his studies at the École Nationale d'Agriculture de Montpellier (1949–1952), Saouma served as Director of the Agriculture Experimental Center of the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon (1952–62), Deputy Regional Representative of FAO for Asia and the Far East (1962–65), Director of the Land and Water Development Division of FAO (1965–75), and then Director General of the FAO.

Camberly Group[edit]

The nations that wanted to replace Saouma in the 1987 elections concerted their strategy in secret meetings of what is known as the Camberley Group,[2] after the town in England where the first meeting was held. The original members of the group were Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, West Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. The U.S. was at first excluded because of the strong support given to Saouma by its ambassador Millicent Fenwick (a former member of Congress). This effort proved futile, as Saouma was re-elected.[3]


Saouma's tenure at FAO was marked by dedication to (and support from) third world countries,[4] his independence from major donor countries, US, Canada, Australia, and his numerous initiatives.[citation needed]. Yet many food experts believe that Saouma was more successful than he might have been otherwise in identifying the F.A.O. with the fight against global hunger.[5]

Saouma's controversial leadership was assessed by an unclassified State Department message[6] to American diplomatic posts which stated of Saouma: He has done an excellent job managing the organization and keeping internal program discipline. He has increased F.A.O.'s capacity to deliver technical assistance and strengthened its early warning system. Under his leadership, F.A.O. has steadily decreased the proportion of its budget which is devoted to administrative expenditures.

However, under Saouma's leadership FAO lost a substantial share of support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and from several industrial nations. This was caused by Saouma's withdrawing FAO Country Representatives from UNDP offices the world over and establishing separate FAO offices; UNDP reacted by executing its own agriculture projects, instead of financing their execution by FAO. Saouma also allowed FAO Fisheries Department to focus efforts and publicity on promoting and supporting the 200-mile "exclusive economic zones" of coastal nations. This led to exclusion or increasing the operational costs of major distant-waters fishing fleets that as a rule belonged to industrial nations and major FAO donors. The consequence was substantial reduction of donor-financed FAO fisheries projects. Finally, Saouma considerably increased the number of professional staff from developing countries at the expense of professionals from developed ones, which resulted in certain decline in FAO's general level of experience and expertise.

In recognition of his decisive role, the FAO Conference established in November 1993 the Edouard Saouma Award[7]

Major achievements[edit]

1976: Establishment of FAO Technical Cooperation Program.

1977: Creation by the FAO Conference of a new Program called Prevention of post harvest food losses with an initial capital of US$20 million.

1978: Completion of the FAO Fourth World Food Survey which estimated about 455 million people undernourished in developing countries.

1979: The first World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development was organized by FAO and held at its H.Q. in Rome. The Conference agreed upon a Declaration of Principles and a Program of Action to conquer Rural Poverty. Establishment of the World Food Day. It will be observed by all member countries on 16 October, to coincide with the anniversary of FAO's foundation on 16 October 1945

1981: First World Food Day observed by 50 member countries. Adoption of the FAO World Soil Charter[8] which indicates the necessary action to protect, restore soil and prevent desertification.

1982: Completion of the World Study on The Potential Capacity of Demographic Charge on the soils of the Developing countries.

1983: Adoption by the Conference of the International Undertaking on the Plant Genetic Resources, for the prospecting, conservation documentation, access and integrated use of the genetic resources. Creation of the International Commission on the Plant Genetic Resources[9].

1984: First [10] held at FAO H.Q.

1985: The FAO General Conference adopted the strategy for the development and management of fisheries and the five Action Programs as proposed by the Fisheries Conference. Adoption by the FAO Conference of an International Code of Conduct for the distribution and use of the pesticides which stressed the responsibilities and obligations of citizen, developed, developing countries, governments and others vis a vis the problem of food security. It also gave a new meaning for food security. Adoption by the FAO Conference of the World Compact on Food Security[11] which gave a new definition of world food security and stated the responsibilities and obligations of Governments, Organizations and Individuals in resolving this acute problem Launching by the Conference of the Tropical Forestry Plan, with the cooperation of IBRD, UNDP, and the World Resources Institute and the participation of 90 countries. Adoption by the Conference of the Program for the World Census of Agriculture to take place in 1990. Celebration of the first International Year on Forestry adopted by the Conference.

1987:24 session of the General conference was re-elected as Director-General of FAO, met with the Minister of agriculture and forestry of Bulgaria Alexi Ivanov who Edouard Saouma thanked for the provided crucial support of the Bulgarian government and personally by the Minister Alexi Ivanov and marcet 20 years of Bulgaria's membership in FAO discussed and forthcoming project in Bulgaria.

1992: First World Nutrition Conference held at FAO HQ and organized jointly with World Health Organization. Full implementation of[12] (FAO's World Agriculture Information Center) conceived and developed by Dr. Milan Trukulja former Director of FAO Statistic Division. Waicent contains the World's most comprehensive data on agriculture, fisheries, forestry, nutrition and rural development. Adoption of the FAO International Declaration on Responsible Fishing which lay down the basis of the first international code of conduct in the field of fisheries.

1993: Adoption by the Conference of the FAO International Code of conduct for Plant germoplasm collecting and transfer.[13] Agreement by the Conference for the Establishment of the [14], for the management of stocks of tuna and tuna like species in the Indian Ocean. Completion of a new building of 6,000 sqm of office space financed and built by the Italian Government. It allows for the first time in 32 years the grouping together of all headquarters staff.


  • Grande Croix de l'ordre National du Cedre (Lebanon)
  • Prix Said Akl Prize (Lebanon)
  • Chevalier Mérite Agricole (France)
  • Commandeur de la Légion d'Honneur (France)
  • Cavaliere di Gran Croce (Italy)
  • Grand Officier de l'Ordre National (Chad)
  • Grand Officier de l'ordre du Volta (Ghana)
  • Grand-Croix de I'Ordre National de la Haute Volta (Burkina Faso)
  • Grande Croix Merite Agricole (Spain)
  • Knight Commander of the Order of Merit (Greece)
  • Order del Merito Agricola (Colombia)
  • Gran Cruz de la Orden Nacional al Mento (Colombia)
  • Gran Official de Orden de Vasco Nuiiez de Balboa (Panama)
  • Orden al Merito Agricola (Peru)
  • Order of Merit
  • Ordre du Merite (Mauritania)
  • Grand Officier de I'Ordre de la Republique (Tunisia)
  • Grand Officier de I'Ordre National (Madagascar)
  • Gran Orden de Rio Branco (Brazil)
  • Banda Aquila Azteca (Mexico)
  • Grande Croix Andres Bello (Venezuela)

Honorary Doctorates[edit]

  • University of Gembloux (Belgium)
  • University of Agriculture Sciences of Godolla (Hungary)
  • University of Keszphely (Hungary)
  • Punjab Agricultural University (India)
  • University of Jakarta (Indonesia)
  • University of Bologna (Italy)
  • University of Florence (Italy)
  • University of Seoul (Republic of Korea)
  • Universidad - Nacional Autonoma (Nicaragua)
  • Faisalabad Agricultural University (Pakistan)
  • Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina (Peru)
  • University of Los Baiios (Philippines)
  • University of Warsaw (Poland)
  • University of Uruguay
  • Agricultural University of Prague (Czechoslovakia)
  • Institut Tropical et sous Tropical (Czechoslovakia)
  • Catholic University of America, Washington D.C. (USA)
  • University of Montpellier (France)
  • Instituto Superior Cienciads Agropecuarias de la Habana (Cuba)
  • University of Mongolia