The principal organs of FAO are the FAO Conference, the FAO Council, and the secretariat, headed by a Director General.
The supreme body of FAO is the all-member FAO Conference, which holds its regular biennial sessions in Rome in odd-numbered years. The conference determines the policy of FAO and adopts its budget. It makes recommendations relating to food, agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and related matters to member nations and to other international organizations. It approves conventions and agreements for submission to member governments. It may establish commissions, working parties, and consultative groups and may convene special conferences. It periodically elects the Director General, as well as the member nations to be represented on the FAO Council. Each FAO member has one vote in the conference.
The FAO Council, consisting of 49 member nations elected by the FAO Conference for three-year terms on a rotating basis (one-third of the membership stands down each year), meets at least once a year, under an independent chairman, as an interim governing body between meetings of the conference.
Under the supervision of the conference and the Council, the Director General has full power and authority to direct the work of FAO. Edouard Saouma of Lebanon was Director General from 1975 to 1993. Dr. Jacques Diouf of Senegal began a six-year term as Director General in January 1994. Reelected for a second term, he heads a staff of more than 3,700, including more than 2,000 persons working in various development projects in the field.
Headquarters and Regional Offices. FAO headquarters were in Washington, DC, until 1951. Since then, they have been located in Rome on extraterritorial grounds near the Colosseum and the Baths of Caracalla. The headquarters building was planned originally by the government of Mussolini, but construction was halted by World War II. Completed after the war, it was leased by the Italian government for the "permanent use and occupancy" of FAO at an annual rental of US $1.
Growth in staff and activities over the years created a need for more work space. Aside from additions to the main complex, office space was for some time rented away from the headquarters building. In 1993, the Italian government completed a major expansion of headquarters facilities, bringing all FAO staff together at the Terme di Caracalla address for the first time in 32 years.
Aside from headquarters in Rome, which also serves as the European regional office, FAO has regional offices for Africa in Accra, Ghana; Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok, Thailand; Latin America and the Caribbean in Santiago, Chile; and the Near East in Cairo, Egypt. There are also five liaison offices—in Geneva (Switzerland); Washington, DC, and New York; Brussels (Belgium); and Yokohama (Japan).
The FAO comprises eight departments: Economic and Social Policy, Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, Sustainable Development, Technical Cooperation, Administration and Finance, and General Affairs and Information. The Technical Cooperation and Sustainable Development Departments were created in 1994 through a process of restructuring to respond more effectively to evolving needs among the organization's member nations.