Director-General  QU Dongyu
A statement by FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu
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Council of the Ministers for Agriculture and Fisheries of the European Union (AGRIFISH)

Brussels, Belgium

16 December 2019

It is my great honour and pleasure on my first visit to Brussels as Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to address the EU Council of Ministers of Agriculture and Fisheries.

I would like to particularly thank the Finnish Presidency for the invitation and for organizing this lunch. Over the last months, FAO and the Finnish presidency have collaborated very successfully on a number of issues.

First of all, let me congratulate you for adopting the conclusions of the Council on Stepping-Up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests.

The call for immediate follow-up and dialogue with the private sector and civil society holds promise to implement the international coordination, partnerships with producing countries, as well as research and financial activities.

Deforestation and sustainable land use are global problems requiring multilateral collaboration with an emphasis on concrete implementation.

FAO is ready to contribute and can support the setting-up of comprehensive solutions looking at sustainable forest management, the provision of technical expertise, global networks, and engagements with countries.

The European Union and FAO have recently signed a project agreement for what is the largest contribution of the European Union in the Pacific region.

The funds will help vulnerable populations living in Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea hosts one of the largest, intact, tropical forests in the world. A critical eco-system threatened by deforestation.

FAO has been working in the country to assess forests resources through a multi-purposes inventory and to report on degradation and deforestation using innovative tools.

Agricultural and forestry sectors must work together to increase food production sustainably while increasing forest area and meeting climate change goals. FAO can lead international coalitions with knowledge, innovation, networking, and research support.

Forests are at the heart of our mission to eradicate hunger and are central to many of the Sustainable Development Goals.

An example of the work we do at FAO is to manage and conserve the world’s forests: At COP25 in Madrid, FAO launched the first global assessment of trees and forests in the world’s drylands.

More than a quarter of the world’s forests are located in drylands. Contrary to what many think, drylands are productive landscapes with environmental value but also considerable economic potential. 

Excellencies,

I am grateful for being here just a few days after the new European Commission took office. On behalf of FAO, I have a lot of expectations from the EU leadership.

It is an exciting time for Europe. It is also a decisive time for Europe. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has started her term in a very dynamic way.

She sees the urgency to swiftly take actions for Europe, as I see the urgency to take actions to reverse the lack of progress for many of the Sustainable Development Goals; including SDG 2, which stands at the heart of our mandate.

As FAO we very much welcome the European Green Deal, which aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve biodiversity, achieve zero pollution, and make European food systems more sustainable through the Farm to Fork Strategy.

FAO works with its Members to improve the sustainability along the whole value chain. This also includes agriculture, forestry and fisheries as well as consumer information, food safety as well as animal and plant health.

The UN Food Systems Summit which will take place in 2021 will be an excellent occasion to discuss all those challenges at the highest political level. I very much hope to see the European Union and its Member states represented at the highest level and to be more engaged and promoted.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

In China, we say: “when the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals; just adjust the action steps”. I believe the new Green Deal the Commission is preparing is one of those action steps.

I believe it will be fully aligned with the action steps we are taking at FAO. I am looking forward to defining the synergies and strengthen our cooperation with the new Commission.

Not long ago, I was in your place. Before becoming the DG of FAO, I was Vice-Minister of Agriculture of China. I still have very fresh in mind all the challenges you are dealing with every day, and I am happy to see here today many of the old and new Ministers I know.

In many countries, the Ministries for agriculture, forests, rural development and fisheries are separate. But as I have said before, nature is not separate. Nature is united on the land and under water.

FAO is deeply committed to sustainable oceans and fisheries. Fish gives 3 billion people 20% of their daily protein intake.

Few weeks ago, I was pleased to sign in Oslo a five year programme supported by the European Union and the ACP, through which FAO will boost the development of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture in the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific regions.

Yet, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU), costs up to 21 billion euros annually, and severely undermines the sustainability of our planet’s fisheries resources.

To combat this, FAO has fostered the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), the first binding international agreement that specifically targets IUU fishing.

The European Union as an FAO Member Organization is a Party of this agreement. I am happy to announce that the third PSMA meeting of the parties will take place here in Brussels in December 2020.

The Parties will look into the challenges they face in implementing the Agreement and identify new innovative ways for the effective implementation.

This brings me to the point of innovation in agriculture. It has been one of my promises when I took office to focus on innovation. Business as usual is just not good enough anymore.

We have to innovate, we have to think differently, we have to dare to find solutions nobody has thought of before. And we have to do this fast, as time is running out for the 2030 agenda goals and for our planet.

This is why in my first 100 days in office I launched the Hand-in-Hand Initiative.

The Hand-in-Hand Initiative will prioritize assistance in countries where the prevalence of poverty, hunger and malnutrition is high and capacities and resources are constrained.

The Hand-in-Hand initiative had the enormous support from the EU member states.

The initiative will seek to use the most sophisticated tools available, including digital technology and advanced geo-spatial modelling and analysis, to identify the best opportunities to improve the livelihoods of rural populations.

It is a new way of doing business and a unique opportunity. A promise that as partners we can work together to end poverty and hunger and build prosperity.

Along the same line of thinking, I was very pleased that the FAO Council approved my proposal to create an office for the SIDS, the LDCs and the LLDCs. This office will ensure that the special needs of the vulnerable populations in these countries are met.

Investing in the preservation and management of their biodiversity, climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as nutrition and food systems is essential to place them on track for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and I note that SDGs performance is far behind. In this connection, we would greatly appreciate your support to kick-start these efforts and initiatives with €100 million.

Excellencies,

The European Union and its Member states are currently FAO’s largest donor.

I appreciate this very much. The experience of the European countries has historic value for other countries.

I want to thank you for showing us your trust in what we do and how we do it.

And I want promise to each one of you that under my leadership, FAO is and will remain your trusted partner in our efforts to nourish the people while nurturing our planet. We can only do this together.

Let us work together, learn together and contribute together!

Thank you very much.

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