2 December 2013
148th Session of the FAO Council
It is a pleasure to welcome you to FAO.
We have come a long way since I first spoke to you as Director-General elect in December 2011. We have made important changes in the Organization over the last two years.
I can say that now we have a clear focus. We have a team that is learning to work together. We have a plan and a budget –approved by you during the Conference last June.
We have defined concrete results and mapped out what we need to do to achieve them. And we already have the work plans to implement all that we have agreed to in paper.
The bulk of the results-based management planning process is complete. And our focus now shifts to implementation.
And allow me to point out that, in 2013, we already began executing six programmatic regional initiatives linked to the new strategic direction of FAO. They are framed by the new strategic objectives and respond to regional priorities defined at our last Regional Conferences.
These initiatives test-drive a new way of working in FAO.
The Corporate Program Monitoring Board, that I personally chair, is reviewing carefully and regularly the progress made, and the challenges going forward.
The results so far are very encouraging.
And we are scaling-up this way of working, defining new corporate initiatives for 2014-15, which address global, regional and sub-regional needs.
Management and staff are fully immersed in this process.
For this effort to succeed, I need your cooperation.
I need you to resist the temptation to micromanage. Please refrain from asking all the details on how we will implement our work. You will see and judge the results when we present them to you. Now, we deserve your trust.
You have approved a reviewed strategic framework and Program of Work and Budget. We are acting on your guidance and we will report back to you.
I also need you to let my team focus on their work.
Senior managers have always been accommodating of discussions with Members.
They will continue to be available in this Council and at other moments, as necessary.
However, they cannot possibly respond to the requests of over 190 members without this affecting their work. So, I ask you to knock on two doors when contacting FAO.
For any request relative to conference services, meetings and protocol, please contact the CPA director.
For any issue related to FAO´s substantive work, please contact Cabinet. Our doors are always open.
So, our attention is now on the delivery of the Program of Work and Budget.
By 2015, I expect you to see that the renewed FAO is not only on the right track, but is also delivering as expected and is better responding to your needs, within the framework we have agreed on.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As requested by Members, our PWB integrates regular program and extra-budgetary resources.
That means that the full delivery of our program of work depends not only on the regular program budget approved at Conference, but also on voluntary contributions. And we need 1.4 billion dollars for the next biennium.
In the past, extra-budgetary funding were sometimes directed to specific interests that did not always fall within the top priorities of the Organization.
We cannot have that anymore. It is important that your voluntary contributions add to the strategic coherence that we have found.
You have approved a Program of Work by consensus. That is where funding needs to go. I also need your full support on this.
I would also like to recall that the budget approved by Conference required 37 million dollars in savings to be found.
As reported to the Program and Finance Committees, we already identified economic savings worth 34 million dollars. We will find the remaining 3 million dollars from operating costs during the next biennium.
In addition, we will need to find further 2 million dollars in efficiencies towards FAO’s cost-share of the United Nations Resident Coordinator network.
This will be complemented by the 2 million dollars from the FAO Country Office budget endorsed by the Finance Committee in the adjustments to the PWB to cover the total contribution of 4 million dollars required from FAO to this network.
Allow me to add that, as has already been explained, most of the savings are being found in staff costs, which represent three-quarters of our budget.
I want to reaffirm that I am doing what is within my authority to control these costs, which have risen from 70 to 75 percent of our total budget in the past 10 years.
But, as you know, the main responsible for decisions related to staff costs are the United Nations General Assembly and the International Civil Service Commission.
In this regard, I would like to recall our understanding during the budget negotiation.
I assured you that I would find the savings and preserve the program of work, as you requested. I have kept my end of the agreement.
In turn, you would appeal to your Capitals, calling for more vigilance by the General Assembly and the ICSC with regards to staff costs increases across the UN System.
I am just back from New York and I am sorry to say that you have to speak louder and be more proactive, because your voice was not heard yet. The decisions taken until now do not change the trend to increase staff costs in the next biennium.
This leaves FAO in a very difficult position.
Staff costs are rising and the FAO budget has lost 30 percent of its real value over the past 20 years.
At the same time, our responsibilities increase as Members ask us to do more and more.
These are two trends that need to change. If they continue pulling FAO in different directions, they will continue to cause serious damage to the organization.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I have spoken a lot of what we are doing inside FAO. But this is only relevant as long as it has positive effects beyond our walls.
That is why I have also spent significant time speaking to governments and partners in their homes, in all regions of the world.
And even though we are still in the beginning of a long process, I can feel the good will and trust in the path that we are on.
We know that to help our Members achieve our main goal of food security, we need to be able to offer comprehensive support that ranges from production to social protection.
We are aware of the high expectations upon us. We have them, too. And we are excited about the challenges ahead.
I also want to highlight the growing commitment to end hunger that I have witnessed. Allow me to mention the example of Africa.
At the high-level meeting on food security co-organized by the African Union, FAO and the Lula Institute, in July, African nations set the goal to end hunger by 2025.
The region’s leaders should confirm this bold commitment at one of the African Union Summits next year.
2014 will also be an exciting year with the International Year of Family Farming.
The International Year was successfully launched a few days ago in New York. Last week, I also attended a very interesting event on family farming organized by the European Commission.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As always, you have a full agenda this week.
I wish you fruitful discussions and look forward to receiving your guidance.
Thank you very much for your attention.