Director-General  QU Dongyu

Working together with Arab countries to transform agri-food systems


18 February 2021, Rome – 

The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), QU Dongyu, today met virtually the Group of Arab Ambassadors in Rome where he had the opportunity to talk about the FAO’s reform and reorganization, its work and the importance of transforming agri-food systems in the Arab world.

In his opening remarks, the Director-General stressed that the continued structural reforms are making FAO more dynamic, results-oriented and closer to its Members.

“A new modular and flexible headquarters structure ensures efficiency, effectiveness and cross-sectoral collaboration. Breaking down silos and strengthening the enabling environment makes us better positioned to respond rapidly to emerging needs and priorities,” Qu said.

In 2021 “we will continue to strive towards efficiency, building upon the lessons learned to embed greater effectiveness in our work,” he added, highlighting that ongoing reform at headquarters will be accompanied by “reaping the fruits of change in the field and our offices worldwide.”

Among those who attended today’s meeting were the Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives from the Arab countries as well as the Ambassador of the Arab League in Rome.

In his remarks Egypt’s Ambassador and Chair of the Council of Arab Ambassador, His Excellency Hisham Badr, said he looked forward to collaborating with FAO through South-South Cooperation and appreciated the Director-General’s reform and the continued attention of youth and the role they can play in fighting hunger.

Oman’s Ambassador and Dean of the Arab Ambassadors, His Excellency Ahmed Salim Baomar, extended his appreciation to the Director-General on behalf of the Arab states and also thanked FAO for its efforts to fight hunger and poverty as well as the UN agency’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  He said the Arab countries are looking forward to working with FAO ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit

Her Excellency, Enas Mekkawy, the Arab League Ambassador, said she and other member countries appreciated the transformation and reforms undertaken by the Director-General and his efforts to make FAO more dynamic.  She reiterated the League of Arab States commitment to work with FAO to advance sustainable agricultural development and efforts to end hunger in the region.


Food systems transformation

The Director-General pointed out the COVID-19 pandemic had shown the fragility of current agri-food systems and underlined that FAO’s key priority is to lead global efforts to make agri-food systems more inclusive, resilient and sustainable.

“Transforming our agri-food systems can reduce poverty, increase access to healthy and diverse diets, develop new digital-led jobs for young people and women, help to rebalance inequalities, and build sustainable and resilient livelihoods,” he said.

Qu alluded to several initiatives and activities launched by FAO, such as the Hand-in-Hand Initiative and its state-of-the-art tools: The Hand-in-Hand Geospatial Platform, the Data Lab for statistical innovation, and the Earth Map.

He noted that Syria and Yemen are among the 34 countries that had joined Hand-in-Hand and that the United Arab Emirates had offered to support the design and implementation of a national Hand-in Hand Programme in Africa.

The Director-General also cited the  COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme,  the new  Strategy for Private Sector Engagement,  the Green Cities Initiative,  Food Coalition  and the 1000 Digital Villages Initiative, noting that there was also great potential to develop collaboration and joint action through  South-South Cooperation,  particularly for tackling the region’s water scarcity and the impacts of climate change.


“The challenges the world faces are too big for one country or organization to address on its own,” Qu said. “Broad partnerships and concrete joint efforts are required to bring all stakeholders together.”

New Strategic Framework

The Director-General also highlighted that FAO has developed a new Strategic Framework with an inclusive and transparent process, which involves involving extensive internal and external consultations, Governing Body meetings and informal consultations.

“The narrative guiding the new Strategic Framework supports the achievement of the 2030 Agenda by Leaving No One Behind through transformed agri-food systems for Better Production, Better Nutrition, a Better Environment, and a Better Life,” Qu said, noting that the new framework is guided by the Sustainable Development Goals 1 (No poverty), 2 (No hunger) and 10 (Reducing inequalities).

He told Ambassadors that there will be key events in 2021 to help transform agri-food systems around the Four Betters, including the G20 meetings, the UN Food Systems Summit and its Pre-Summit and FAO’s Youth World Food Forum.