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

Director-General Closing Statement at the 163rd Session of the FAO Council

6 December 2019

Thank you, Mr Independent Chairperson of the Council (ICC).

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning,

At the end of this Session of the Council, I would like to thank all delegations for their contributions. I sincerely thank you for your cooperation and contributions.

I listened to all comments and feedback with great interest.

I also want to express my appreciation for the Council’s approval of the proposed Innovation Office, the Biodiversity Cluster and the Office for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Least Developed Countries (LDCs), and Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs).

I welcome this approval as a strong sign of trust in the new FAO and a vote of confidence for my vision of the future of your Organization.

In addition, your endorsement of the proposed adjustments to the organizational structure and the creation of the Women’s Committee and the Youth Committee is of great significance.

Of course the readjustment of the organizational structure just started. Therefore, we need more support and a stronger consensus in the future, for next time.

This endorsement is a clear mandate that we accept humbly. We are well aware of the great responsibility that lies on our shoulders. The responsibility to deliver better, work harder and show more tangible results.

Your confirmation of the appointment of a new Deputy Director-General (DDG), Ms Elizabeth Bechdol, is also very important and well appreciated. I look forward to Ms Bechdol joining the Organization, with her new blood and new experience. That also indicates that FAO is younger and for the next generation.

I also highly appreciate the overwhelming support expressed by Members to the Hand in Hand Initiative. We will continue to elaborate the various aspects of this initiative and continue sharing updates on this with you.
Next year we will start with examples showing 10 or 20 countries from different categories. By these examples and cases, you will get familiar with what the new business model looks like.

We hope we can also build up not only a partnership between donors and recipients, but also how FAO can evaluate and monitor. Mr Máximo Torero and I participated in a Side Event during these Council meetings where we indicated it briefly, but we also want to gain insight into the procedures, which were already successful in Somalia over the past years.

In your remarks following my opening speech on Monday, many of you welcomed my enthusiasm to improve the working methods of the organization and instill transparency and accountability. I am humbled by your comments, and I will try my best through digitalization and other innovative ways and build a more flat FAO. There is a book called “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman that was published several years ago, and at FAO we need a flat organizational structure. That will avoid bureaucracy.

Other Members commended the wide range of activities undertaken in my first four months.

In that respect, let me give you a brief update on upcoming activities:

I will attend the COP 25 in Madrid next week.

I will give the Keynote Address at the World Youth Forum in Egypt at the end of next week.

After that, I will travel to Brussels to sign an agreement of EUR 40 million with the European Union (EU) to support Rural Entrepreneurship, Investment and Trade in Papua New Guinea. I appreciate it very much, with the new leadership of the EU, the President of the EU and all the relevant Commissions that I will have bilateral meetings with. I am very much aware that I have strong support from the EU based on multilateralism.

In Brussels, I will attend a luncheon with all Ministers of Agriculture and some Ministers of the Environment of the European Union.

In January, I will attend the Green Week in Berlin, where I will meet my counterpart there, the Minister for Agriculture Her Excellency Julia Klöckner. I will present FAO’s vision of Digital Agriculture and our concept for a future Digital Council.

Somehow, it is a destiny for me. I have focused on those issues since 2015, and then 2016, 2017, 2018, together with my colleagues, especially with the Ministers from Germany and other G20 Ministers. Finally, last time we met in January this year, they said “ask FAO to establish a Digital Council”. Now I am the person to finish that homework, so somehow it is destiny. I ordered the food but finally I will pay the bill. I was not prepared to pay the bill but I ordered good food, together with my colleagues, Ministers of Agriculture, from more than 60 countries.

I will also attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, where FAO will stress the paramount relevance of transforming food systems for the future of our planet. I asked Professor Schwab to put food system transformation as one of their themes. Therefore, I should go there to support him and to support FAO.

Twenty-twenty (2020) is also the year where we hold our Regional Conferences of FAO, where we ensure that the regional perspective of our work and vision is consolidated and confirmed.

As I said on Monday, we will strengthen the country offices and regional offices. I have already discussed with several regions to change the business model of the Regional Conferences. Not only to have internal meetings, we should have open, inclusive, integrated meetings with Member Countries, and then we can build up an experience-sharing mechanism.

As you can see, we are not slowing down! I said, we will slowly speed up. Ask my senior Management, after Christmas and New Year, we will be fully around.

Before continuing, I just want to give a short response to the statement made by the Staff Union. I like their attitude, it is constructive, and also I liked their tolerance. As I said, this Organization is old, big and poor. We have to be a little bit tolerant. We cannot solve any problems in one day or one night. However, there are categories, some things we can start to do, not big money, not big conflict.

That is why, you can see over the past four months, I started to change some things, which are not such a big deal, but it is very constructive. Then comes some issues in which we have to investigate carefully and get the real picture on how to handle it. However, we faced a big challenge, which was the change of the Health Insurance vendor. It was not easy; I really use this opportunity to thank to my DDGs, especially Mr Laurent Thomas, his team, and together with Mr Bashrat Ali. He is a Senior Retiree, but he still works as a very energetic boy. I appreciate them all, and, of course, there are quite a number of young staff that support them. I thought, all the health insurance issues were not simple questions, because they are closely connected with all the staff. Not only current staff but also retirees.

Actually, I can tell you now; this was one of the biggest challenges for me. Because we started very late, we were not in a good position, we were almost in the corner, but now the result is much better than I expected and it is smooth. I hope you appreciate their effort and good, sound results.

The Ombudsman and others, I should say Ombudsperson, not Ombudsman, to be careful. For the Ethics Officer, you still want to have more involvement; you know the procedure does not change so easily. They still have their own procedure or programme. In the future, we have to look at that to be more inclusive and more open.

For other big, challenging issues, we have to work together and to understand each other. I always say, when I was in China, all the staff asked for more welfare, more improved conditions, duty stations to be more comfortable, but money; Vitamin M. We had to think realistically, based on how much money we can get. Of course, your request is reasonable, we never say any request is not reasonable, but the reality is we have to solve the problem step-by-step, that is my attitude. I will try my best and ask you, on behalf of the staff, to be more understanding towards each other. These are the three categories I can tell you.

Excellencies, the Council was a major event accompanied by a large number of side activities. I want to thank all the Staff that worked hard in organizing the side events of this week. Their contribution is well recognized and much appreciated.

I want to conclude by recalling the wise words of my brother Ambassador Yaya Adisa Olaitan Olaniran, of Nigeria, at the opening, about how we must constantly remember that we are working for millions of people out there, the smallholders, the fisher folks, the herders, for them to get a better life. That is our real purpose, our real goal.
I assure you that my dedication to serve them and to transform FAO into a modern, efficient, effective and inclusive key player for a better world is becoming stronger every day.

I just spent 11 hours in Geneva to meet all the Principals who are related to humanitarianism and the Secretary of UNDP. We should be there. Mr Dan Gustafson went also there and came back for this closing session. He seems to have 120 percent of energy.

I hope you have a last chance to talk for three to five minutes about your thoughts, about your legacy.

Our staff is motivated, we are ready, and FAO is open for business! Have a nice weekend.

Now I would like to invite Dan Gustafson for five minutes, or if you like for ten minutes.