9 December 2016
155th Session of FAO Council
Mr. Wilfred Ngirwa, Independent Chairperson of the Council;
Members of the Council;
Permanent Representatives to FAO;
Ladies and gentlemen;
I would like to start by thanking all of you for your endorsement of the adjustments to FAO’s working structure.
And for recognizing the urgency to enable FAO to better focus on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
This will consolidate the transformation process we have been promoting together since 2012.
I am also glad to see that the Council has welcomed the roadmap for the independent assessment of technical capacity of the Organization.
I also thank all of you for considering my proposal, and achieving a consensus to resolve the situation regarding the appointment of secretaries of bodies under Article XIV.
FAO will take the necessary steps to release the Vacancy Announcements for the appointments of the secretaries for IOTC and the Treaty.
These appointments will be based, above all, on the technical skills and qualifications of the candidates.
Let me observe that, in addition to the panel, all candidates for D level posts in FAO are submitted to a test called VAR (Vertical Assessment Review).
This is made by an independent forum based in Canada that works for the UN System. They provide a confidential detailed report about the competencies, managerial qualifications and other skills of the candidate.
FAO will also put in place, along with the Independent Chairperson of the Council, the consultations with the concerned Article XIV bodies to find a final solution to this matter.
Allow me to thank and congratulate especially Mr. Wilfred Ngirwa for his great effort and determination to achieve consensus on this agenda item.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We will soon start the discussions concerning the Programme of Work and Budget 2018-19.
Let’s not forget the extraordinary achievement we made in 2015, when, for the first time ever, we agreed on the level of the budget in the Session of the Council just before the Conference.
I invite you all to try hard to do the same in 2017, and achieve a consensus on the level of the budget in the next Council Session in April.
This will allow us to get rid of a very time-consuming issue, and concentrate on substantive matters during the Conference in July.
I recognize that many countries are experiencing a period of political, economic and financial instability. And that it will be difficult to ask for all countries to increase their contributions.
But we cannot lose sight of the importance of implementing the 2030 Agenda.
We should not save efforts and resources in this regard.
And FAO has a fundamental role to play.
But for this, the Organization needs from its Members Countries, particularly from developed countries, all the support to take forward its work and mandate.
I am committed to meet the expectations of the Conference to bring the level of funding of the Technical Cooperation Programme to at least 14 percent of the appropriation.
In 2016, we have forecast a small bonus in the budget, due to lower staff costs than estimated, resulting from low inflation factors.
But there is also a lot of uncertainty ahead, both regarding inflation, exchange rate and other funding elements.
So, I will need more flexibility to manage the budget, especially in times of scarcity.
This means for example keeping the vacancy rate between 10 and 15% as already agreed.
This also means mobilizing resources for the Special Fund for Development Finance Activities.
With the support of the Council, this Fund has been established to enable FAO to engage with the evolving development finance mechanisms, especially regional development banks.
The target funding level is 10 million US Dollars, which will be used in part to advance funding for technical assistance, and in part for investment programming.
I encourage all partners to contribute to the fund. This is important for FAO’s future work, especially on climate change.
I will continue to be committed to finding additional savings in efficiency, especially to convert administrative posts into technical positions.
This has allowed us to further cut bureaucracy and save an additional 4.5 million US Dollars this year. We have reinforced some important areas, such as AMR, climate change and also our Office in New York, which will have a key role in the review process of the 2030 Agenda.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to make some considerations regarding the decentralized offices.
Last June, the Council supported the principles and criteria identified by the Independent Review of the Decentralized Office Network, and affirmed the need to readjust coverage, while ensuring flexibility and no overall cost increase.
The Organization has taken steps to implement some cost-neutral decisions.
This includes the establishment of the Subregional Office for the West Africa region.
I have personally spoken with the presidents and relevant ministers of the three countries that have manifested interest to host the Office.
A decision will be announced in February, after a detailed corporative analysis.
Next week, I will sign in Beirut the Subregional Office Agreement for the Mashreq countries.
And we are moving forward to convert the office in Mongolia into a fully-fledged representation.
Other specific recommendations to reinforce or upgrade certain decentralized offices will need to have the support of the countries involved.
Ideally, this support should be in the form of a partnership and liaison agreement, as well as a contribution to the functioning of the office.
FAO will invite middle-high income countries that currently have a fully-fledged representation but limited programmes, or less than 1 million dollars in delivery per year, to explore either a multiple accreditation arrangement or an upgrade to a Partnership and Liaison Office.
Countries with a very limited presence might also wish to consider one of these modalities.
I will proceed as soon as possible with the appointment of the new Deputy Director-General for Programmes, the Chief Statistician and the head of the new Department on Climate, Biodiversity, Land and Water.
FAO welcomes the decision to include biodiversity as part of the title of this new department.
FAO is ready to give new focus to biodiversity, as also requested by our technical committees.
We hear the call of the Cancun Declaration, adopted at the ongoing UN Biodiversity Conference, COP 13.
Countries have pledged FAO to step up efforts to integrate biodiversity into the policies of their agriculture, forests and fisheries sectors.
At COP13, FAO announced the launch of a biodiversity platform to build bridges among sectors and help mainstreaming biodiversity.
And next month, FAO will launch The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture, developed under the guidance of FAO’s Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.
This will be the first global assessment of all biodiversity relevant to food and agriculture.
Regarding climate change, FAO intends to increase its support for countries to assess climate finance, through the Green Climate Fund and other sources.
At COP22 in Marrakesh, we launched the Global Framework on Water Scarcity.
We also announced the African Package for Climate-Resilient Ocean Economies, in partnership with the World Bank and African Development Bank.
FAO will strengthen its collaboration with the current COP presidency of Morocco, and with the coming presidency of Fiji, in order to support the organization of COP 23 next year in Bonn.
We are also reinforcing our partnership with the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UNFCCC.
We are finalizing a Memorandum of Understanding, which I hope to sign in April.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me take this opportunity to highlight some other issues, activities and initiatives in which FAO will be involved until the next Conference in July.
In January, I will participate in some important multilateral meetings.
Two of them will be held in Berlin: the Agriculture Minister Summit of the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) and the G20 Agriculture Ministerial Meeting.
I thank the German Government for the invitations.
I will also attend the Ministerial Meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), in Santo Domingo, and the General Assembly of the African Union summit, in Addis Ababa, as well as the NEPAD Heads of State Summit.
In March FAO will promote, with partners here at Headquarters, a high-level meeting on the management of the Red Palm Weevil Disease. This is a dangerous transboundary disease affecting palm trees.
In April, an important event will be organized in Victoria Falls focused on agro-industry for sustainable development. This has been promoted by the Ambassador Frederick Shava of Zimbabwe, president of ECOSOC.
The event is being co-led by FAO, together with NEPAD and the African Development Bank.
And very close to the FAO Conference in July, the High-Level Political Forum in New York will review several of the SDGs, including SDGs 1 (extreme poverty), 2 (hunger and malnutrition), 5 (women’s empowerment) and 14 (oceans).
The theme of the HLPF is "Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world". FAO is taking an active role in the preparation.
Also regarding oceans, FAO is actively involved in the organization of the UN Conference to Support the Implementation of SDG14.
This will be convened in New York in June and co-hosted by Fiji and Sweden. FAO is participating in all seven working groups that are preparing this Conference.
Concerning migration, FAO will intensify its participation in the Global Migration Group that gathers together UN agencies. We intend to draw attention to the relationship between distress migration, food security and rural development.
We will also explore migration issues in the celebration of World Food Day 2017.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I hope to see many of you next Friday in the high-level event on gender, which FAO is co-organizing with the Slovak Presidency of the European Union and the European Commission, in consultation with UN Women, IFAD and WFP.
The day before, on Thursday, we will be honoured to receive the visit of the President of Colombia, Mr. Juan Manuel Santos, and the European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Mr. Neven Mimica.
They will talk about the historic peace agreement in Colombia, and the recognition in this agreement that food security, agriculture and rural development are fundamental for sustaining peace and promoting sustainable development.
This is the way that FAO, according to its mandate, can support the Government of this peace process in Colombia and elsewhere.
As we conclude this Session of the Council, I wish a safe trip back home for those who are not based in Rome, and also a happy holiday season to everyone I won’t be seeing until next year.
Thank you very much for your attention.