Home > About FAO > Who we are > Director-General > Statements > detail
A statement by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva
Check against delivery

5 December 2016


 155th Session of FAO Council 


Mr. Wilfred Ngirwa, Independent Chairperson of the Council;

Members of the Council;



Permanent Representatives to FAO;

Distinguished delegates;

Ladies and gentlemen;

It is an honour to open the last Session of the Council in 2016.

I would like to start by mentioning that this year, important steps were taken on our common path to sustainable development.

In March, the United Nations Statistical Commission approved a set of 230 indicators to monitor progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

This was a missing piece in the architecture of the 2030 Agenda. 

And last month, the historic Paris Agreement on climate change entered into force two years earlier than expected.

We can consider that the framework for action to promote sustainable development is complete.

Now, we urgently need to act.

We have to strongly implement the SDGs and the Paris Agreement.   

It is a race against time to safeguard our planet and people’s lives.

In this context, I am proposing to adjust our management structure.

As you know, we are creating three units in our working structure:

a new Deputy Director General, who will be responsible for Programmes;

a new Office of the Chief Statistician; and

a Department for Climate, Land and Water.

I presented the rationale behind these changes in an informal seminar on October 13th.

I addressed this issue during the Joint Meeting of the Finance and the Programme Committees, which welcomed the proposal. 

And through an Information Note to this Council, we have provided the additional information requested by the Programme and Finance Committees for better clarification.

More specifically on three points:

First, the importance of approving the changes now, in this Council meeting; 

Second, the relationship between the Office of the Chief Statistician and the Statistics Division; and

Third, the budget neutrality of the changes.

As you can see, these adjustments are about management.

The new DDG for Programmes will coordinate the work towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

He will be accountable for the performance of the Strategic Programme Leaders, the SPLs, who have the main responsibilities towards supporting countries to achieve the SDGs.

The Deputy for Programmes will also oversee the related work on technical cooperation, resource mobilization, partnerships, South-South cooperation, the investment centre and monitoring.

All these functions together will be a fundamental part of FAO’s work in the coming years.

And this is too much responsibility for the ADG TC alone to handle, which is the situation we have now in place. 

We must elevate the reporting line concerning the SDGs implementation.

And give to this function the relevance it deserves in the FAO’s management structure.

The work on statistics and climate change will also substantially increase with the SDGs and the Paris Agreement.

Just to compare: the Millennium Development Goals’ framework had 61 indicators, of which FAO was responsible for 4 of them.

The SDGs have 230 indicators. Almost four times more than the MDGs. And FAO is custodian or co-custodian of 25 of them. It is six times more, a huge increase.

The Chief Statistician’s team will coordinate and align statistical processes at Headquarters and in the field, based on SDGs’ requirements.

And will be supervised by the new DDG-P, as well as the five SPLs.

The Statistics Division, in turn, will continue to produce the normative work and the world-class services that are used by Member Countries and others stakeholders.

Regarding climate change, the UN Climate Conference held in Marrakesh (COP22) marked the recognition that agriculture and food systems are fundamental for sustainable development.

Countries will need to increasingly focus on agriculture and food systems for adaptation and mitigation purposes.

So we are proposing that FAO has a specific department to address climate change, which is now a crosscutting theme in our Strategic Framework.

And the time to promote these adjustments is now.

Otherwise, FAO will lose precious time to better support Countries achieve the SDGs.

Concerning budgetary implications let me be clear: there is no request for additional funding to bear the costs of these new three positions.

These will be borne by savings in efficiency that have been found in the current biennium.

This means that there will be no incremental budget requirements neither in this biennium nor in the next.

This also means that we do not have to wait for the next PWB proposal to implement the changes.

Let me also mention some other measures we are taking to align our work with the SDGs.

This is highlighted in the Reviewed Strategic Framework and Outline of the Medium Term Plan 2018-21.

We have already identified 40 SDG targets to which FAO’s work directly contributes.

These SDG targets will be incorporated as the targets of our 5 Strategic Objectives.  

And we have also identified 53 SDG indicators to measure the work of the Strategic Programmes.

So the Organization will work in total coordination with the Sustainable Development Goals, under the supervision of the new DDG-P.

Distinguished Representatives,

With respect to the independent assessment of the technical capacity, both the Joint Meeting and the Programme Committee welcomed the Roadmap to the next Conference.

The draft report of the external experts will be presented at an informal briefing to Permanent Representatives on February 9th 2017.

Members and the Secretariat will be able to provide their views and comments.

The experts will then finalize their report, which will be presented to Session of the Council in April and to the Conference in July.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would now like to refer to the appointment of secretaries under Article XIV Bodies.

We cannot prolong this situation in which important bodies do not have secretaries.

This generates concrete risks for FAO in administrative terms.

We had to stop the recruitment for the
OITC after receiving the applications last January; and we need to soon open the VA for the Treaty.

I am sure that keeping this situation pending is also not in the interest of the bodies concerned.

To resolve the situation, I have proposed to include two representatives of Members in the selection panel of Secretaries.

A short list of selected candidates will be appointed by the DG and then submitted to board members for confirmation, in accordance with legal texts and UN rules and practices.

To try to move forward, I am proposing that the secretary be appointed for a period of two years.

At the end of this period, the bodies themselves will be able to reconfirm, or not, the appointment of the secretary.

And during this period of two years, the FAO secretariat or the ICC, if decided by the Council, will carry out consultations with bodies to find a final solution.

Let me clarify that we have already been in informal consultations with IOTC members, as well as with Members of the Treaty at least since last year.

Last April, we formally brought to the attention of IOTC Members our concerns and proposals through a written circular communication.

We reiterated these concerns through a formal statement to the last session of the IOTC in May. The Legal Counsel himself attended this meeting on my behalf.

But Members have not taken action. Nor even replied to our demands.

I call for your support to this proposal that is presented today, as a temporary compromise that will allow us to move forward and continue to seek a final solution.

We have to urgently resolve this administrative issue, and focus our attention on the main challenges we need to address together.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Last week, we held a very successful symposium on improved nutrition and healthy diets.

We took stock on the implementation of the ICN2 commitments. And provided a platform for the exchange of knowledge and practices.

Let me highlight the two main conclusions:

First is that nutrition must be considered a public issue in all countries, rich and poor, and it need to be addressed through adequate national policies and legislation.

Second is that to produce healthy diets, we need to start with healthy soils and healthy seeds, then promote sustainable agriculture and finally achieve a food chain that can minimize food waste and loss.

In the meantime, we need to assure adequate remuneration for family farmers and empower consumers to choose healthy food.

So we need to promote healthy and sustainable food systems from production to consumption.

Next week, we are co-organizing a high-level event on Gender.

This will gather governments, UN agencies, civil society and others to reflect on the causes and consequences of gender disparities in rural areas.

And to identify challenges and opportunities for unleashing the potential of rural women and girls to end hunger and poverty, particularly in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals.

FAO pays a lot of attention to gender, which is a crosscutting theme in the strategic framework.

We have good results on gender, as demonstrated in the Programme Implementation Report 2014-15, and we will provide an update in the Mid-Term Report in 2017, as requested by Council. 

In addition, the evaluations of all 5 strategic objectives will contain an annex on gender.

And there will be a global evaluation to be presented to the Conference in 2019.

FAO takes gender seriously. This is very important in achieving our objectives.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Before concluding, I am very proud to share with you the formal recognition of the United Kingdom of FAO‘s good performance over the last years.

In 2011, the UK’s Multilateral Development Review (MDR) had placed FAO in the “special measures” category, and classified the Organization as “poor value for money” for the UK taxpayers.

FAO was then formally informed that if we did not improve, our funding would be at risk.

But now, in the 2016 Multilateral Development Review, FAO has been appointed as the organization that has improved the most. 

Let me mention an extract of the review: “FAO stands out in this 2016 Review as a much improved performer. This improvement was underpinned by strong direction from the top of the organisation.”

All 38 UN agencies are categorized as weak, adequate, good or very good. FAO is classified as “good”, along with WFP and IFAD.

This is outstanding recognition of the measures we have implemented since 2012, management and member countries together, to make FAO more and more efficient and effective.

Let me highlight that since I took office, I have been pushing for consensus in our decisions.

And I have been saying from the very beginning that building consensus takes time. But once we achieve it, we pave the way for moving ahead smoothly and strongly.

However, the temporary lack of consensus should NOT block decisions or actions that the Organization needs to take.

It is time to act. It is time to implement the commitments we have made to achieve sustainable development.

I look forward to meeting you again in the closing session of this Council, and announce some concrete substantive actions we intend to take until the Conference next July.

I thank you very much for your attention and patience.