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Director General  José Graziano da Silva

Talks with UNEP to put biodiversity higher on the global agenda

Graziano da Silva meets Executive Director

6 February 2017, Rome - FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva today met the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, Erik Solheim, for talks on cooperation between the two organizations.

Biodiversity is a key subject engaging both organizations, and Solheim urged that it be presented in a more accessible way to achieve a level of public concern comparable to that given to climate change.

“Biodiversity is about the beauty of nature, about the iconic species we can not live without: the cheetah, the tiger, the lion, the elephant, the polar bear. How can we be the generation that destroys this?” he said.

“It’s also about food and livelihoods. Biodiversity is absolutely critical to the variety of food in the world, so it is a critical issue for people,” he added. “Yet despite all the efforts, we are losing species and biodiversity everyday so we need to step up and do better.”

UNEP aims at helping people co-habit with nature without destroying it, and agriculture is a critical arena for that, he said.  

FAO and UNEP are natural partners in promoting best agricultural practices as a way of addressing climate challenges, including adaptation to higher average temperatures and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, he said. UNEP can help reinforce the environmental dimension of FAO’s work on sustainable agriculture and natural resources, and help identify “best practices for rice or cattle, or tea” or other products, he added.

Graziano da Silva informed Solheim of the creation of FAO’s new Climate, Biodiversity, Land and Water division, which will lead FAO's efforts to support countries in adapting food systems to climate change and fulfilling their commitments under the Paris Climate Treaty. It will also oversee all FAO work related to the sustainable management of land and water resources which underpin global food production.

Points of collaboration

Graziano da Silva emphasized FAO’s strong interest in collaborating with UNEP on issues related to biodiversity and ecosystem services, oceans, genetic resources for food and agriculture, and the role of pollinators.

In particular, he expressed hope for strong UNEP engagement with FAO’s work on global water scarcity, on initiatives linked to land restoration and soils, and on making productivity-boosting and conservation-enhancing “big data” solutions more accessible to smallholders in the developing world. 

He mentioned the need to promote sustainable agriculture, including tapping the potential of neglected and under-utilized crops, as a fundamental way to assure the conservation of plant and livestock species, create resilience in a context of climate change, improve diets and bolster the livelihoods of those engaged in primary food production and its value chains. He also emphasized the importance of supporting “in situ” and on-farm conservation of genetic resources, with the involvement of family farmers and local communities.

Strengthening ocean’s management cooperation

Both principals also agreed that changes in how the planet's marine resources are managed and used are needed to safeguard global food security and biodiversity.

To that end, the Director-General mentioned FAO’s Blue Growth Initiative, a new approach to marine resources to safeguard world food security and promote sustainable development through which the Organization is assisting countries in developing and implementing blue economy and growth agendas. It emphasizes conservation and sustainable management, based on the premise that healthy ocean ecosystems are more productive and represent the only way to ensure sustainable ocean-based economies. It also aims to ensure that small island developing states and developing world coastal states equitably benefit from their marine resources.

Graziano da Silva also mentioned FAO’s Agreement on Port State Measures, a ground-breaking international accord aimed at stamping out illegal fishing, as a milestone in the continuing effort to build sustainable fisheries that can help feed the world.

FAO Director-General noted he will attend the upcoming launch of the new research vessel Dr Fridtjof Nansen in Norway. One of the most advanced research vessels in the world, it was built as part of an ongoing FAO-Norway project to support developing countries improve the management of their fisheries and the assessment of their marine ecosystems. 

Watch Erik Solheim's remarks: