The FAO Country Profiles are a multilingual web portal which repackages the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) information archive on its global activities in agriculture and food security in a single area and catalogues it exclusively by country and thematic areas. The organization aims to offer decision-makers, researchers and project formulators around the world a fast and reliable way to access country-specific information on national food security situations without the need to search individual databases and systems. It aids FAO's database by providing a simple interface containing interactive maps and charts.
FAO has always highlighted information and Knowledge sharing as priority areas in fighting hunger and achieving food security. In this context, FAO identified that countries could improve their national programmes on agriculture and food security if they could access FAO's information through a cross-sectoral (or interdisciplinary) country-based approach. However, despite the existence of a large number of country-based information systems in FAO, the information managed by the various systems lacked integration. Information tended to be generated and used in a circumscribed manner and tailored to a specific system, department or sector.
The FAO Country Profiles portal, initially called FAO Country Profiles and Mapping Information System, was launched in 2002 responding to the Organization's need to provide FAO web site's users an easy to use mechanism to find FAO country-specific information without the need to search individual FAO web sites, databases or systems. The system was designed to integrate analytical and multilingual information with thematic databases and digital map repositories and to facilitate access to information on multiple factors contributing to national food insecurity.
Since its launch, the system has grown by incorporating more and more data sources. This was achieved thanks to a corporate effort to reduce information silos and the adoption of international standards for country-based information management throughout the Organization.
The methodology behind the FAO Country Profiles is rather simple; it links, reuses and repackages data and information from most relevant existing FAO databases and systems.
The FAO Country Profiles covers current FAO Members and Associated Nations. Once a country is selected, the portal presents to the user documents, news feeds, statistical data, project details and maps from relevant FAO databases and systems for the selected country and categorized according to thematic areas.
The thematic areas are grouped in two categories:
Country pages provide access to or integrate the following thematic profiles and systems.
There are various international standards and coding systems to manage country information. Historically, systems dealing with different types of data used different coding systems that were tailored to specific data type requirements. For example, statistical systems in the United Nations commonly use the M-49 classification and pigmentation (also known as UN code) or the FAOSTAT area classification; mapping systems could use geographic coordinates or GAUL codes; textual systems (document repositories or web sites) could use ISO 3166-1 alpha-2, ISO 3166-1 alpha-3 or AGROVOC keywords; etc.
The FAO Country Profiles provide access to systems managing statistics, documents, maps, news feeds, etc., therefore one of its key aspects to succeed was the mapping of all these country codes.
For this purpose a geopolitical ontology was developed. This ontology, among other features, maps ISO2, ISO3, AGROVOC, FAOSTAT, FAOTERM, GAUL, UN, and UNDP codes for all countries.
Besides the profiles for each country the portal also provides access to other important global resources, such as:
The FAO Country Profiles keeps updated for the public the list of LIFDC countries. This list is revised every year according to the methodology explained below. The new list of the LIFDC, stands at 62 countries, four less than in the (2012) list. These are: Georgia, Syrian Arab Republic, Timor-Leste, Republic of Moldova. While Moldova graduated from the list on the basis of net food-exporter criterion, the other graduated based on income criterion.
The classification of a country as low-income food-deficit used for analytical purposes by FAO is traditionally determined by three criteria:
In order to avoid countries changing their LIFDC status too frequently - typically due to short-term, exogenous shocks - an additional factor was introduced in 2001. This factor, called "persistence of position", would postpone the "exit" of a LIFDC from the list, despite the country not meeting the LIFDC income criterion or the food-deficit criterion, until the change in its status is verified for three consecutive years.
The FAO Country Profiles is FAO's source for dissemination of FAO's Member Nations and Associated Nations official flags. The update of any country flag is coordinated with the other United Nations agencies. All flags are made available in a standardized manner which also aims to help web site owners to ensure that they always display the official country flag.
The standard URL for any given country flag would be composed by: the generic URL: "http://www.fao.org/countryprofiles/flags/" to which the ISO 3166-1 Alpha-2 code for the country is added, plus the image format suffix ".gif". For instance, the URL for the Argentina flag would be: http://www.fao.org/countryprofiles/flags/AR.gif, with AR being the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 code of Argentina .
Early criticism of the FAO Country Profiles was that, in its inception phase, it only contained very few resources. Since 2002, the number of available resources has increased to cover country-based information and data, directly linked from FAO's web pages or FAO's digital repositories. Over the last years, another identified area for improvement was the simplicity of the system methodology, being the resources only linked from country pages and thus, lacking real integration. This need was addressed by starting to integrate additional data, such as, the fisheries charts or the news and events items taken from AgriFeeds. In addition, in order to provide more complete country profiles, the system started to link or integrate non-FAO resources.