FAO anti-American bias clouds Graziano U.S. trip

Meeting of minds: FAO DG Graziano (right) with then U.S. Ambassador to FAO David Lane, who subsequently was sacked by the State Department.

ROME – The U.S. Congress is stepping up pressure on the Obama administration to remedy the erosion of U.S. participation in staffing at the Food and Agriculture Organisation and other UN agencies as José Graziano da Silva prepares to travel to Washington to lobby to be allowed to have a third term as FAO Director General, diplomatic sources say.

 During a Congressional hearing on the Fiscal Year 2017 budget request, Jeff Duncan, Republican, the Chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommitee, which is under the construct of the Committee on Foregn Affairs, made a very clear and decisive statement about U.S. funding of International Organizations with deficient quotas of American professionals.

 “I am concerned about the outsized share of U.S. support for these organizations,” Congressman Duncan said, “the limited numbers of U.S. personnel working in these organizations to support U.S. objectives, and the seemingly low level of influence the U.S. has, given the amount of money the American people provide.”

 Congressmen are concerned that at the Rome-based FAO, the numbers of US representation when Graziano took office (146 regular program posts) have plunged to less than 99, according to the latest numbers available to FAO sources in June. The U.S. Ambassador to the FAO, David Lane, was dismissed by the State Department in July for failing to defend US interests at the troubled agency, evidently because he hoped to become deputy director general of the FAO, as the Italian Insider disclosed this week.

 The United States is the largest donor to the FAO but Brazilian Graziano has consistently reduced the number of U.S. and most other OECD country staff in professional posts in favour of cronies from Latin America, Spain and Portugal and former Portuguese colonies in Africa, FAO watchers say.

 As far as General Service staff are concerned at the FAO, who also are paid by regular program funds, no GS staff who are Americans have been hired since the DG took office. The only American known to have been promoted since Graziano has been in office is Portuguese speaking Dan Gustafson, a longtime sidekick whose job Lane was reputedly angling to take over.

That does not include a handful of Italians and other nationals who have obtained dual citizenship, such as Paola Dini, the daughter of former Italian Prime Minister Lamberto Dini, who was promoted to be head of protocol despite having no diplomatic experience.

  Against this murky background, it seems unlikely that the State Department and the Department of Agriculture will advise President Obama to encourage Graziano to nourish hopes of changing the rules of the FAO to allow him to stay on for a third term of office of two years, the main purpose of his visit to Washington scheduled to start Sept. 15. It also is possible that the United States may withold its assessed contribution to the FAO this year that normally would be paid this month, the sources added, which would plunge the FAO into a financial crisis. The United States and Britain have withdrawn funding from the FAO in the past because of its failure to reform itself and because it was perceived as spending too much administering itself in Rome rather than fighting hunger and poverty in the field.

 Graziano is believed to have asked for an audience with the US President to seek the green light for his latest ambition though it is unclear if he will be given access, U.S. diplomatic sources told the italian Insider.