Director-General  QU Dongyu
A statement by FAO Director-General QU Dongyu

Joint Meeting of the Programme and Finance Committees 

4 November 2019


Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,

Excellencies, distinguished Colleagues, I say colleagues because we are in the same boat, we are not separate.

It is my pleasure to be here with you today for the first time in my capacity as Director-General of FAO. As Hans already said, I came to Rome officially on July 28, so 99 days ago. But I came to the office officially on 1 August, even though I have worked for FAO since 23 June. I even had a meeting on July 15, that week, together with my trip in New York. All the costs then were covered by the Chinese government, and we didn’t spend any FAO coin during the transition period. I say that because I am fully engaged in what I say, in what I promised.

I would like to provide you with an update on my decisions, activities and initiatives taken in the past days in the office.

Recognizing that staff are the main asset of FAO, I promised to work hand in hand with them, listen to them and lead by example.

I stressed my plan to take necessary measures to increase the satisfaction of our Members with our work and delivery. Of course, it is not easy, not so quickly, but you can see the movement, the mood, in this building is changing.

Today, I can assure you that all this is achievable, by establishing dialogue, building trust, increasing efficiency and focusing on accountability; we will make this Organization more dynamic, more transparent and more inclusive. Not only with Member Countries but also with staff, with civil society, and with international partners.

Concretely, our actions are focused on four areas:

  • improving internal governance and boosting staff morale;
  • launching important initiatives;
  • strengthening collaboration with Members, the private sector, academia and civil society; and
  • increasing FAO’s international visibility and reputation.

It is quite easy for you to follow what I have done because I have created transparency and put all my activities on the website after 30 minutes, including all the activities that happened in New York or in Japan or in Geneva or others, except for my 6-7 hours of sleeping, which are not broadcasted!

In the spirit of transparency, you can follow all my activities that I have mentioned.

Concerning internal governance, we are working hard to strengthen the delegation of authority to DDGs, ADGs and Directors.

We adapted maternity leave to the duration recommended by WHO and aligned long-range duty travel conditions with those of the UN system, especially taking into account the experience of WFP during the past two years.

Staff morale is of great importance to me. Satisfied and happy staff are productive and efficient staff.

I started my work at FAO by visiting staff in their individual offices and I continue to have lunch with them in the cafeteria on the 8th floor.  At the beginning, people thought it might be a showcase, one time only, but I can tell you: every day if I am here in Rome, in this building, I will be and I have been, in the cafeteria. I pushed for change in the FAO cafeteria service, the quality of food, even small management. It is a start, after 20 years the machinery needs some oil to have less friction.

I also place special value on building team spirit and granting opportunities to young employees while valuing the experience and accumulated knowledge of more seasoned staff.

This is why I have introduced the Employee Recognition Initiative, which will allow managers and fellow workers to honour colleagues for their contributions to FAO’s work.

Annually, we will be recognizing 200 employees, 100 of whom will be young employees.

We have also set up a Youth Committee and a Women’s Committee to emphasize young talent and female staff. This will serve as a platform for dialogue with Members to make FAO’s work in those areas more visible and thereby improve the conditions of youth and women in rural communities.

We launched FAO’s Hand-in-Hand Initiative, which prioritizes targeted work that benefits people in the world’s most vulnerable regions including Small Island Developing States, Least Developed and Landlocked Countries.

I am very pleased to report that the Initiative has been very well-received by Members, many of whom have particularly welcomed the concept of “matchmaking” which aims to bring together receiving countries with stronger support from donor countries to achieve SDG 1 and SDG 2 as efficiently as possible.

Here, I would like to highlight or underline that I use the term “donor countries”. I did not use developed, or OECD, or others. “Donor” means you can offer something, you are a donor, it is not only about your GDP or you are traditionally developed or a new emerging power, no. Donor countries. Any country willing to help other vulnerable people, vulnerable countries, you can become a donor.

 I cracked this term many times in my Cabinet. They are sticking on these terms such as developed, developing, OECD, G77, you name it. Now I want to say donor countries.

FAO needs to strengthen its outreach, collaboration and interactions with Members, the private sector, academia and civil society to share our vision and priorities for achieving the SDGs.

Since 1 August, I have met Heads of State or Government, Ministers, Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives from over 80 Countries.

I was particularly pleased to be invited by Italy’s Prime Minister only four days after starting the job. Prime Minister Conte also honoured FAO by delivering the Keynote Speech on World Food Day last month. This is an indication that the host country is politically supporting FAO, very much.

The new results-oriented business model of FAO is based on strong partnerships with the private sector. As such, a strong engagement with the private sector has been a policy priority for me.

On the margins of the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly, I met with representatives from major multinational companies, to outline the Hand-In-Hand Initiative, which also depends on stronger partnership with private-sector players.

Also in New York, I held a very fruitful bilateral meeting with Bill Gates at FAO’s New York Office for the first time. I also hosted the UNDP Administrator in the New York Office for the first time in the history of FAO. He expressed his strong support and the readiness of his foundation to partner with FAO, particularly around data and innovation. Recently he wrote a letter to me appreciating what FAO has done in the past three months, noting that he believed in FAO’s potential to become the global leader on science-based agricultural solutions.

I also met the Chair and CEO of Danone, Mr. Emmanuel Faber, and we signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together on improving global nutrition and food systems and the knowledge surrounding it, and promote responsible agricultural value chains for more sustainable food systems.

More recently, FAO signed a MoU with the Dutch Entrepreneurial Development Bank, FMO.

I was fully engaged in the 46th Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), where I also met with the Private Sector Mechanism to discuss concrete proposals to translate the Hand-in-Hand Initiative into actions. For CFS, I was personally involved in about 7 activities. I said to them, I support you not only with my speech but also with my actions.

FAO needs close links to civil society, academia and research institutions.

I invited Professor Jeffrey Sachs of the University of Columbia to deliver the lecture of World Food Day this year at FAO Headquarters. I had an excellent exchange with Professor Klaus Schwab, Executive Chair of the World Economic Forum in Geneva last month.

I want to bring FAO and the world food system back to the major stage. Next year, I asked him to put food security as one of the major themes. That is a way for FAO not to be marginalized or ignored.

We discussed future collaboration and I had a fruitful talk with Dr. Robert Bertram, Principal Scientist of USAID.

In the past three months, I also met with numerous academic and research institutions, including the CGIAR Chairperson, and also Wageningen University and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences offered their services and others, you name it. It is through that that I really wanted to build some space and professionalism for FAO and I am going to invite influential scientists and politicians to become an Advisor Committee, as I promised. Maybe next month, we are preparing, Maximo and I have been working together on this in the past few months.

At meetings with representatives of indigenous peoples, I underscored the importance FAO gives to learning from each other and working together.

Raising FAO’s profile as a knowledge center and promoting its global normative work on food and agriculture is among my top priorities.

I have therefore participated in a number of high-level events, including the 74th session of the UN General Assembly in New York, where I also signed a $28 million funding agreement with the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs to build more resilient food systems in protracted crises.

During my visit to the United States, I also had excellent talks with the Secretary of USDA, the Administrator of USAID and other top US officials.

This visit was also an occasion to hold a series of meetings with the World Bank Group and other International Financial Institutions to increase collaboration with FAO. So, the Hand-in-Hand Initiative, not only in government but also among the international governmental agencies, we work together. These included the International Monetary Fund, the International Finance Corporation, the Global Environment Facility, and the Inter-American Development Bank.

In Yokohama, Japan, I attended the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development, where I met top Japanese officials and several African Heads of State, ensuring them of FAO’s support and exploring new areas of collaboration. FAO highly appreciates the long-term support of the Japanese government and the people and the private sector also, to Africa. We are on the same line of thinking and doing. 

I 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 the African producers of cotton and other commodities, because I wanted to strengthen collaboration between FAO and the WTO to help, for Africa especially, the producers to have more accessibility to the market, within Africa and other regions.

In a visit to Moscow, I 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  "Golden Autumn - 2019" Exhibition.

I personally witnessed the big progress of the Russia exhibition. Five years ago, I was there, it was completely different, but now it is very up to date.

In a historical first visit of an FAO Director-General to Belgrade, I met the Prime Minister of Serbia and several Ministers. I was very impressed by the food diversity available in the open markets. That is why you gather the learning from the people and the country. Here, they love to talk about biodiversity, it is very important, but consumers, producers and other people who do not work in agriculture are more concerned with food diversity. That is what, if you have time to see it, the open markets have, you see food diversity is there, with international standards, cheaper and good.

I also participated in the Our Ocean Conference in Oslo, I think Ms. Semedo was supposed to be there but it is good for me to take care of Aquaculture, because during past years, aquaculture, fisheries and forestry is not highly recognized in this Organization.

That is why I said I would go myself, to show that we appreciate all the staff who work in these fields. We are FAO, agriculture, but agriculture includes fisheries, aquaculture and the environment.

It is very important to balance this because the world is changing.  I appreciate that because when I had interesting exchanges with the Prime Minister, she has a lot of experience with the environment, and aquaculture and oceans, and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, International Aid, Fisheries and other Members and even the way of doing business with the Norwegian government, we have to learn. They are respected leaders, and how to bring their ideas and models to help other Members, I think we can learn from the Norwegian government.

This was also the occasion to witness the signature of EUR 40 million, five-year programme between the EU and the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific States), where FAO will boost the development of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

Let me now turn to the agenda of our meeting today.

I have reflected the decisions and guidance of Conference in the adjustments to the PWB 2020-21. Of course, it is just a start.

Furthermore, I am also proposing initial adjustments incorporating the vision that I presented to you during my campaign, of building a dynamic FAO for a better world, while remaining committed to the original aspirations, mandate and mission of the Organization.

We will attain zero hunger and improve the livelihoods of people through better production, better nutrition, better environment and a better life.

I am committed to improving our ways of working through even greater inclusiveness, strengthening the Organization to serve Member Countries and work for the people and the farmers.

Our focus will be on match-making and partnerships, innovation – including building a ‘digital’ FAO, and stronger investment and capacity building of Member Countries, so that together we can tackle the challenges that lie ahead and achieve the 2030 Agenda.

As requested by the Conference, I have increased funding for FAO’s work on the Joint FAO/WHO Food Safety Scientific Advice Programme, in short it is CODEX.  After so many years of debate and discussion, Beth Crawford, it is about one million? So as a poor Organization, one million is a big number for me, I learned this time. At the beginning I thought it was small but Beth Crawford told me it is quite big. If you say one million, that’s back to the 1930’s, when we heard of a million it was a big number, but now a million is quite small. But we are poor, so we have to survive.

And also on the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), as well as dedicated additional resources for mainstreaming biodiversity at FAO. Because we are FAO, we are dealing with Biodiversity and we have Bioversity International after this meeting, I am going to talk with the Director-General of Bioversity International who wants to build a more close cooperation with them, those professional international organizations.

I told you during my campaign I will use my network for them I encourage them to reform CGIAR.

Next week they will have a meeting in China and they will make a decisive decision on big reform and that creates a good environment to cooperate with FAO more substantially.

I have proposed a new Office for Innovation to consolidate and strengthen FAO’s innovative spirit, including innovation of science and technology, innovation of cooperation models, and capacity building.

I have also proposed a new Office for SIDS, LDCs and LLDCs to coordinate FAO’s work and to ensure that the special needs of these vulnerable populations and countries are met. With the Hand in Hand initiative with professional support from ES and other programs we can build up an interdisciplinary force within FAO.

I am also strengthening the Regional, Sub-Regional and Country Offices in knowledge management, monitoring and evaluation, to help decentralized offices further adopt a programmatic approach in their work. Unleash their power, their potential. That’s my thought. The Country Office, sub-office, in the front, they should have a more decisive role in this.

These measures aim to empower country offices to rise to the challenge and increase their energy, efficiency and self-determination. That is what I am going to do.

Of course, I am also ensuring that we have efficient and effective oversight functions in place, as well as strong financial control and human resource management.  So on the one hand, you have to unleash their power, on the other hand, you have to build up a more systematic control. Power without control leads to crash. Without decentralization there is no efficiency, no effectiveness, so we have to keep these two balanced. I have also improved travelling conditions. Three DDGs plus Maximo control the overall cost, let’s say 5 percent, so you have room, you have room to play. So not increase travel costs but you can improve travel condition quality, within that arrangement.  So we always have to consider two sides.

This is why I have added additional resources to the Office of the Inspector General. They asked but now I did more, I have three and half years experience in OIG in China. It is very important. As a big Organization you need professional people to closely watch what they are doing. Their working conditions should be great, their basic requirements should be respected and let them do independently.

We have strengthened the Finance Division, established a post for the Ombudsman role, and proposed moving the Office of Human Resources under the Corporate Services department.  Maybe next time I will have more details after the Council meeting in May. We are preparing, because now the Director of Human Resources is still on the way, we are internationally recruiting, once he/she is there, then we have a concrete arrangement to move Human Resources to the Corporate Services department.

I am pleased to report that I have identified the funding required for the proposed changes fully from cost savings and efficiencies.  If you look at the report from the Finance Committee we are not as bad as expected. Of course, we need more. The more the better, but sometimes we have to spend better and then we can get more. That is our philosophy.

No programmatic cuts were required nor is there any negative impact to the agreed Programme of Work.

This is my first set of proposals that I submit to you, and I look forward to Members’ feedback and guidance, also with positive evaluation and suggestions.

During 2020, I hope to submit for your consideration a broader review with additional proposed adjustments to the Programme of Work and Budget.


During my campaign and at my election, I had pledged my commitment to the Organization’s zero tolerance policy regarding harassment, sexual harassment and abuse of power. 

My goal is to create a workplace in which all employees can freely express concerns about possible prohibited conduct and to spread the Zero Tolerance Policy throughout the corporate culture of FAO. 

This is a very serious challenge, I realise, where much work has to be done in FAO and where all managers are accountable for their actions and for ensuring a safe workplace environment.

We will ensure that necessary resources are allocated to address the challenge in all its dimensions.

My senior staff will report on numerous actions and decisions, when this agenda item will be discussed. Let me just mention a few selected ones.

I am pleased to inform you that a revised Whistleblower Protection Policy has been issued on day one, when I got in the office.

The Model Code of Conduct to Prevent Harassment Including Sexual Harassment at UN System Events is currently being adapted to FAO’s policies and regulations. 

We also took immediate action concerning the investigation of cases as soon as I took office. There are now several cases you know that are under investigation, independent investigation.

The establishment of the Youth and Women Committees is also part of our systematic approach to empower our staff and thereby protect them from all kinds of abuse. Because only the staff, to be organized, or employees to be organized, they have a collective power, they can defend themselves, not only individual case you can bring to the court, or bring to the discipline committee whatever, that’s one way. Another way you organize the people, then you can not only protect the rights of the FAO system, you can also use this as a platform for dialogue with Member Countries who need an enabling policy for women, for youth. These are essential topics for agriculture and rural development.

So, I think if we make these kind of strategy arrangements in time and all these Member Countries will benefit from that. Because some country they have a Minister for Youth, some country they have association, some country they have an NGO, but no matter what kind of form, we  have, with these two committees, a platform to cooperate and work with them. That is our role, our function.

Looking to the future, a new staff satisfaction survey will be launched, which will include specific questions on the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace.

We wanted the Director of Human Resources ad interim to postpone or delay it a little bit because if not, all the evaluation will be based on the previous on, but several months later they might have a different approach. But some Member Countries asked us to do so, I say let’s do it, it’s not a question of time - it’s a question of results which is linked to the current situation. 

We have to report what situation is, what are your impressions before 1 august? What are your impressions right now? Or before the end of the year?

If you ask these questions, then you can see the difference between what is before 1 August and after.

We cannot solve a lot of things in 1 day or 1 month. Also it’s a warning system of how to improve the job and work better in the future.

I am very positive on that no matter whether the results are negative or not.

We have to scientifically design the question. That is all I want to remind you.

Concerning unspent balances, and as requested by the governing bodies, we have prepared a proposal on how to approach the use of any unspent balances of the biennial appropriation in a more systematic way. Actually, it is not unspent, because we had to be careful with how to deal with the unspent balance in the proper way.

The proposal was already reviewed by the CCLM, which has provided clear guidance on the matter.  I hope the Committee will give the final word on that how to ask us to propose in future how to empower us how to spend the rest of the money.

We hope that this relatively straightforward proposal will meet with your approval, taking into consideration the guidance of the CCLM.

Today, we will also discuss the progress report on the Rome-based Agencies’ collaboration.

As I have stated on numerous occasions, we have forged a Real Brotherhood Alliance to achieve the SDGs, particularly SDG 2, and to place food security and agriculture at the forefront of the global agenda.

In this regard, we are eagerly awaiting the Secretary- General’s announcement to formally launch the Food Systems Summit. That’s a good engine, to push us to work closely at a larger picture.

I look forward to working hand in hand with the Members, and the RBAs and other international partners to support the Secretary-General in ensuring a successful event with political impact, tangible results and concrete follow-up actions.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Numerous activities and initiatives are in the pipeline to be announced and implemented in the following months.

I intend to participate at the upcoming Chief Executives Board Meeting in New York in ten days, where the Principals of all UN Agencies gather under the leadership of the Secretary-General to review the state of the world and agree on common action.

In December, I will attend the Inter-Agency Standing Committee in Geneva, given the importance of ensuring coherence of preparedness and response efforts and agreeing on priorities for strengthened humanitarian action. Because agriculture in rural areas is one of the main concerns in humanitarian action.

Collectively, we will also start to take concrete action in relation to preparing the Food Systems Summit, under the direct leadership of the UN Secretary-General through his nomination of a Special Envoy for the Summit.

FAO will be engaging with Members on this in due time. Some Members are waiting for concrete dialogue but I say it is too early for me because I don’t know who will be the Special Envoy, once he/she is nominated, I definitely will invite them to come to Rome and have an informal and formal dialogue together with the Member Country Representatives and then we can design the World Food Summit together, no doubt.

We are also preparing a series of events to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of FAO next year and linking these with the UN celebrations. In this respect, I do hope my senior managers and Member Countries can propose your ideas or suggestions on how to celebrate the 75 years’ Anniversary in a proper way, economically spend less, and be more influential. That is what we need your innovative thinking and way of doing business for.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have reported to you today on a large number of activities, initiatives and actions, and it is my intention to continue keeping the Membership, the staff and the wider public well informed in the future, mainly through the revamped FAO website. We are also have an expert team working together how to modernize, revamp the FAO website, which is a bridge between FAO and Member Countries, between Headquarters and Regional Offices, between the managers and the farmers and we want to build up the whole site of the digital world agriculture and food system in the future. That is my aim to build the digital FAO.

These are the very first steps of a wonderful journey that we are taking together towards a world free of hunger.

Let us work together, learn together and contribute together!

Thank you for your support and your attention.