Director-General  QU Dongyu

Director-General invites young employees to learn from retirees and strengthen the big FAO family


25 June 2020, Rome – FAO today brought together young employees to learn from the experience of the UN agency’s retirees at the first-ever event designed to promote knowledge and inspiration exchange in the fight against hunger and poverty. Five retirees were invited to share their experiences at the online event attended by more than 400 current employees.

The Director-General QU Dongyu opened the event saying the initiative was designed to “create harmony and learning” for the “big FAO family”.

Qu hoped the initiative would “light a fuse” that would lead to ongoing dialogue between staff and retirees who can greatly help current employees to enhance and enrich their careers, bringing together “experience and youth, seniority and innovation.”

In the last ten years, about 1200 colleagues retired from FAO or separated after reaching 55 years of age. “They contributed in diverse technical, operational and managerial fields to the work of FAO. The wealth of experience and knowledge they represent is tremendous,” highlighted the Director-General. He compared this wealth to a ‘gold mine’ 

Qu also observed that about 40 percent of the entire FAO workforce is now under the age of 40 and stressed the need for young employees to combine their knowledge with experience and innovation. 

“They represent the future of FAO and as a group they are key to establishing innovative and modern work processes at FAO and across global agriculture, ” he said.

“A world free of poverty and hunger is only possible with the involvement of young people. I hope today’s event creates a good momentum to further strengthen the culture of open exchange of ideas and experiences amongst the FAO family,” Qu concluded.

The Director-General informed the gathering that a mentoring programme is under preparation in collaboration with the Women and Youth Committees.

The retirees welcomed the opportunity to participate and share their insights with employees.

John Ronald ‘Deep’ Ford has had more than 30 years’ experience working as an economist in agricultural trade, food security and rural development policy and planning. He worked at FAO for 15 years. “I know this institution inside out. Working for FAO should be considered an immense opportunity to grow,” he told the webinar.

Alhaji M. Jallow retired from FAO in 2018 after a lengthy career in fisheries and aquaculture. He said it was important for young people to build their career based on technical know-how, languages and learning.  

“Young people have to have incentives,” he said. “FAO has great structure and capacity to deliver.”

Laura Farallo-Casano, who retired from FAO in 2015 said the retirees had a lot to contribute to young people if they were willing to listen. She started working at FAO in the Field Programme Development Division and had a number of positions during her working life.

Fernanda Guerrieri held numerous positions in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America during her 30 years at FAO. In that time she received several prestigious awards from countries such as Hungary, Italy, Vietnam and Russia.  

Shivaji Pandey has a background in plant breeding and plant genetics with over 40 years of experience in food and agricultural research, and 14 of them at FAO. From 2013 until 2018 he served as Special Advisor for Sustainable Food and Agriculture with FAO. He told FAO staff members: “You are in the right place at the right time if food and agriculture are your passion.”

Staff who took the floor at the Q&A segment of the event, expressed their profound appreciation for the attention and support of the Director-General to young employees since the beginning of his mandate last August. 

Today’s virtual event follows a series of “town hall” meetings that the Director-General has had with staff recently.

On 30 April, more than 2000 employees based in Rome heard the Director-General and senior management review FAO’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and outline plans for a gradual and safe return to headquarters.

In early June, Qu interacted with FAO employees that work in decentralized offices. More than 4000 employees joined the Director-General and senior management on that occasion.

Besides the two staff town hall meetings, the Director-General held a virtual meeting with all FAO country and regional representatives in April to discuss FAO’s responses to COVID-19. It was also the first time in history all FAO representatives came together in one meeting.