Director-General  QU Dongyu

The FAO Director-General’s first 100 days in office

©FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto


Qu Dongyu is pressing forward with his pledge to make FAO more transparent, accountable, inclusive and efficient. In his first 100 days in office, he has improved internal governance, launched important initiatives and strengthened collaboration with member states, the private sectors, academia and civil society.

11 November 2019, Rome – Just 100 days into his term in office, FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu has already made significant strides to shape FAO in line with his commitment to build a dynamic organization for a better world.

Recognizing that people are key to every success, and that the Organization’s employees are its greatest asset, the Director-General, from his first day on the job, has put into practice measures to swiftly boost work-place morale and to improve internal governance. At the same time, he has acted decisively to safeguard FAO’s integrity, showing zero tolerance for all kinds of harassment - including sexual - and abuse of power.

With a down-to-earth attitude, Qu has made the effort to meet employees in their individual offices and has taken his meals with them in the canteens at FAO’s headquarters.  The Director-General has also adapted maternity leave to the duration recommended by the WHO and aligned long-range duty travel conditions with those of the UN system.

Acknowledging the contributions of youth and experience  

The Director-General places special value on building team spirit and granting opportunities to young employees while valuing the experience and accumulated knowledge of more seasoned staff. To this end he has introduced the Employee Recognition Initiative, which will allow managers and fellow workers to honor colleagues for their contributions to FAO’s work. Through this, 200 employees, 100 of whom will be young employees, will be recognized on an annual basis.

Placing special emphasis on the development of young talent at FAO, as well as ensuring that the contribution of women at all levels of the organization is valued and promoted accordingly, the Director-General has set up a Youth Committee and a Women’s Committee.



©FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto ©FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto


Strengthening relations with Member States and international organizations

Since day one, the Director-General has moved to bolster FAO’s collaboration and interactions with Member States and was particularly pleased, after only four days in office, to be invited to a meeting by the Prime Minister of Italy, FAO’s host country. Prime Minister Conte also honored FAO by delivering the keynote speech on World Food Day last month.

To date, Qu has bilaterally met heads of state or government, ministers, ambassadors and permanent representatives from over 80 countries. With all of them, he has listened to their views and ideas and shared his vision and priorities for achieving the SDGs. In these discussions, the Director-General underscored his intent to implement FAO’s mandate, to strengthen cooperation with Member States, and to do so in a transparent manner.

In this context, Qu has also launched FAO’s Hand-in-Hand Initiative, which prioritizes targeted work that benefits people in the world’s most vulnerable regions, particularly Small Island Developing States, Least Developed and Landlocked Countries.

The Initiative has been very well received by Member States, many of whom have particularly welcomed the concept of “matchmaking” which aims to bring together donor and recipient countries to achieve several SDGs.



©FAO/Giulio Napolitano ©FAO/Fredrik Varfjell


Bringing the private sectors on board

The Director-General is implementing a new results-oriented business model at FAO based on strong partnerships in which the private sectors play a critical role. As such, a strong engagement with the private sectors has been a policy priority for the Director-General. This is fully aligned with recent calls from the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, to engage business leaders in the challenge of financing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

On the margins of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, Qu met with representatives from major multinational companies to outline the Hand-In-Hand Initiative where he stressed how the Initiative’s success also depends on stronger partners at all levels, including with private-sector players.

The Director-General also held a very fruitful bilateral meeting with Bill Gates at FAO’s New York Office. The technology investor and philanthropist expressed his strong support and the readiness of his foundation to partner with FAO, particularly around data and innovation, noting that he believed in FAO’s potential to become the global leader on science-based agricultural solutions.

Also in New York, Qu met with the Chairman and CEO of Danone, Emmanuel Faber, and they signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together on improving global nutrition and food safety knowledge, and promote responsible agricultural value chains for more sustainable food systems. More recently, FAO signed a MoU with the Dutch Entrepreneurial Development Bank FMO.

Back in Rome, he also met with the Private Sector Mechanism on the sidelines of the recent 46th Plenary of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) to discuss  concrete proposals to translate the Hand-in-Hand Initiative into actions.

Of the 20 companies that attended the meeting, over half were able to present concrete proposals, and all parties agreed to forge forward with strong partnerships and tangible action plans. The companies also underscored actions already underway, such as Unilever’s work on sustainable tea supply chains and Bayer’s pledge to empower 100 million smallholder farmers with tailored seeds, crop protection products, digital tools and partnerships.

Reaching out to civil society and academia

In the context of building strong, inclusive partnerships across sectors, the Director-General has met with leading exponents of civil society and indigenous peoples representing small-scale food producers and family farmers at the Forum of the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples' Mechanism which included the World March of Women, La Via Campesina, the International Women's Alliance and ROPPA - organizations representing a broad array of global regions. Qu emphasized the importance of learning and working together and outlined his vision on the importance of digital solutions for agriculture, which can play a decisive role in improving the livelihoods of small scale and vulnerable food producers, particularly in relation to the impacts of climate change.

In line with his goal to forge closer links between FAO and academic and research institutions, the Director-General invited Professor Jeffrey Sachs of the University of Columbia to deliver a lecture on World Food Day at FAO this year. This was the first in a series of several special events at FAO involving prominent international experts.  The Director-General also had an excellent exchange with Professor Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum in Geneva last month, where they discussed future collaboration, and he had a fruitful talk with Dr. Robert Bertram, Principal Scientist of USAID.




Increasing FAO’s international visibility and reputation

Raising FAO’s profile as a knowledge centre and promoting its global normative work on food and agriculture - including CODEX - while reinforcing the agency’s position to respond globally to food crises, are also among the top priorities of the Director-General.

As part of his efforts to achieve this, Qu has participated in a number of high-level events, including leading FAO’s delegation to the 74th session of the UN General Assembly in New York, where he also signed a $28 million funding agreement with the Netherlands to build more resilient food systems in protracted crises.

During his visit to the US, he had excellent talks the US Secretary of Agriculture, the Administrator of USAID and other top US officials.

In Washington DC, the FAO Director-General held a series of meetings with the World Bank Group and other international financial institutions aimed at increasing their collaboration with FAO. These included the International Monetary Fund, the International Finance Corporation, the Global Environment Facility, and the Inter-American Development Bank.

The Director-General also visited Yokohama, Japan for the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development, where he met top Japanese officials and several African heads of state, assuring them of FAO’s support and exploring new areas of collaboration. The Director-General used the occasion to express FAO’s high appreciation for the long-term support of Japan to Africa.

Qu also participated at the first World Cotton Day event held at the World Trade Organization's headquarters and co-organized by FAO in Geneva.  This was an occasion to discuss ways and means of jointly supporting African producers of cotton and other commodities.

Also in Geneva, the Director-General discussed with the heads of several UN entities based there, including ITU, UNOG, WHO and WTO, how to optimize inter-agency collaboration for the benefit of Member States, in particular through joint initiatives and triangular cooperation.

In a visit to Moscow, the Director-General met with the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation and other top officials and presented FAO’s thoughts on Green Agriculture  at the high-profile International Agro-Industrial Forum on the sidelines of the 21st "Golden Autumn - 2019" Exhibition.

In his visit to Belgrade – the first by a FAO Director-General – Qu met the Prime Minister of Serbia and the country’s Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Agriculture and Environmental Protection. During the visit, the Director-General was very impressed by the food diversity available in the open markets.

Qu also participated in the Our Ocean conference in Oslo, where he had interesting exchanges with the Norwegian Prime Minister, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, International Aid, Fisheries and other members of the Norwegian government. In the Norwegian capital the Director-General also witnessed the signature of a €40 million, five-year programme between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States through which, FAO will boost the development of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.