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

Meeting with the Group of Friends of Food Security and Nutrition

FAO vision and priorities for Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development

12 February 2020


Thank you Madame, Thank you Chairwoman,

It is my great honour and I am happy to participate at  this meeting of  the Group of Friends of Food Security and Nutrition. I am here to share with you FAO’s vision and priorities for the Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development.

The world has achieved significant success over the last twenty years, or even 75 years when the UN was officially established and FAO established earlier than the UN itself, in Canada. My Canadian friend, of the younger generation, maybe didn’t know this. It was in Ottowa by US President Roosevelt; 8 days before the UN was officially established, on October 16, 1945. That’s why we are real early birds.  In Agriculture we should be early birds. Some colleagues had one meeting and that is already my third meeting for today.

I think food and agriculture issues always need to be central issues. No matter if you are UN an organization, a governmental organization, civil society, private or others. I think we have already made really important progress during the past  75 years, but, however, the current situation is not as good as it should be or as we expected. Last year my colleagues presented the SOFI report on the current situation on food security and nutrition, indicating that we still have 821 million people suffering from hunger and 2 billion people suffering from non-communicable diseases such as malnutrition and obesity.

That also indicates how important it is that we deal with these complex issues, food and agriculture is not a single sector issue like telecommunication or others. We call it a single sector, but agriculture and food are really complex issues.

Today the great progress in economic development that is behind the success in reducing hunger has also led to new problems. :

  • An increase in the global prevalence of overweight and obesity, which I mentioned and;
  • The environmental degradation, climate change, this is why this morning we had a brief on the locusts issues, because there are some areas in East Africa, where the situation is going to be the worst in 17 years in the history, for locusts and this is largely because of climate change and global warming. And also biodiversity losses, look at the food; if we went to the supermarkets in New York or in Europe, there is significantly less food diversity compared to 50 or 100 years ago. Then we had so much more food diversity.
  • So I think biodiversity loss and also growth in inequality, so that’s a lot of people they don’t have money to buy food. So food is adequate but food affordability and accessibility is not there. As income generation is one of the priorities for people who stay in rural area, more and more young people moving to the city without a purpose, without an employment contract.

Other global challenges are also compromising the sustainability of food systems: strong population growth, rapid urbanization, rural-urban migration (especially of youth), conflict and climate change.

If we continue doing business as usual, we will not meet SDG2.

Moreover, hunger and malnutrition will be major barriers to achieving the SDGs by 2030 if we do not take bold action now.

We must act in order to avoid that the impacts of climate change, environmental degradation, malnutrition and chronic diseases become irreversible.

FAO is committed to work together with the other Rome-based agencies, WFP, IFAD, in exploring new windows of opportunity for bringing about such change, at country-level, at regional and global levels. One such opportunity is the 2021 World Food Systems Summit, hosted by the UN Secretary General. Luckily we have a newly appointed Special Envoy. She just had a briefing two days ago in Rome to all the Member State Representative Ambassadors in Rome. Because in Rome we have more than 140 countries that have a representative there, some are also in Geneva, some in London and some in Brussels and the majority is in Rome. I think it was very good at least they got a clear message on the expectations of the SG for the Food System Summit.

The Summit will galvanize stakeholders around the common objective of maximizing the co-benefits of a food systems approach across the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and meet the challenges of climate change.  

The Summit provides a key contribution to the Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals. It will help to expand our knowledge, share experience and approaches, and create momentum for unleashing the benefits of healthy and sustainable food systems for all people. Summit is starting point, it is not the end of a journey. I consider Summit as recharge, re-energize the political willingness and commitment to help the Member Countries and decision makers to move on fast and efficient to have the transformation of food systems to a new state, with more food, better food, better environment, better nutrition, and  better livelihoods. For all, not only for farmers, for all citizens because 2030 there are more this 70% people living in the city, rather than in the countryside, so agricultural food systems is not only for the farmers, but they should be beneficial for all people. It is imperative that these advances serve the needs of the smallholder farmers and the SMEs that nourish the world. FAO, therefore, attaches great importance to the social dimension of transformation, ensuring that youth, women, consumers and the poor receive equal opportunities and a voice in decision-making. You know that’s why when I came to office, last August, I established the Women’s committee for FAO and Youth committee for FAO, and I was informed that I was the first one in the history of all the UN System organizations. We are really considering the needs of women and youth in the future. 

We want to build this platform for dialogue with member countries, because FAO has four functional service to the member countries.

First is policy consultation, policy consultation includes agriculture, rural dimension , women, youth and others.

Second is information collection and dissemination, this is why we have the locust early warning system, early action, based on the scientific evidence, based on data. And I shared the information with my member countries this morning and that is why the ambassadors here are fully convinced, because we base our work on the scientific data.

Third is the norm (standard) setting, IPCC for the transboundary diseases, and the Codex for food, standards and all the other standards.

The fourth function is capacity building, to help the member countries to build their capacity in food and agriculture systems.

To support countries, and in particular the SIDS, LDC and LLDC countries, in achieving the SDGs through sustainable agriculture and food systems, FAO has launched the Hand-in-Hand Initiative.

Also I have established two offices: The office for SIDS, LDCs and LLDCs and the other office is for innovation. It was approved last December at the Council meeting. It’s a way to change the governance and the business model of FAO. Focusing on vulnerable population in vulnerable regions.   

The Hand in Hand Initiative helps to bring Member States and their international organizations and partners (including the private sector) together to target investment and innovation for transformative change in rural areas where extreme poverty and hunger remain concentrated.

Last August, the UN  DESA had an evaluation on the progress of the SDGs and found the result, that progress is not as good as it should be and there I looked carefully and in detail, we found the most vulnerable regions should be more addressed and with collective coherent efforts.

That’s what the Hand in Hand Initiative will do. We invite the donor countries, no matter who you are, OECD or G20 or G7; and then we see the countries, which are SIDS, LDCs and LLDCs. They can work more closely and FAO wants to play the facilitator role to help them to strengthen and improve their efforts, especially also help them to improve the business model and the big data. That is why the Chief Economist is here. Maximo Torero has come with me, so if you have further questions, you can get in contact with him.

The Initiative is evidence-based, country-led and country-owned. Priority goes to countries where national capacities and international support are most limited. In addition, where operational challenges, including natural- or man-made crises, are greatest. This is in keeping with the UN’s priority commitment to “leave no one behind.” It is not just a slogan. We need something to implement action to realize that slogan with concrete action and business model. That is why I initiated the hand in hand matchmaking initiative. In short, we call it hand in hand initiative. Last September, during the General Assembly, I invited a lot of ambassadors to have a brief, I saw the Japanese ambassador here and also Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Agriculture and others. Doing so I think we can offer the tailored service and tangible results to the most vulnerable countries who need urgently. That is the substantial push to implement a scale-up, speed-up process of SDGs Decade of Action. I know that DSG Amina Mohamed is going to have an advisory meeting this month on the 28th. I was invited. So, I think we can do more tailored service.  

FAO is a professional organization, we have a mandate for seven custodies of 17 SDGs, 21 indicators, 39 goals. We have a lot of responsibility, but I want to share this responsibility with member countries.  FAO, we do not have a real budget, I said, 80% goes to the salary, 20% for daily running, so we depend on volunteer contributions and other competitive budget projects. So I think we at FAO can do more and do better; with your support and strong commitment. I look forward to working with you closely to transform the agro-food systems to a better situation for a dynamic world and for a better world, a world that needs food every day.


Thank you for your listening and thank you for your commitment.

Thank you.