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

Speech for FAO Director-General

75th Anniversary Celebration Ceremony with Canada and the United States

22 October 2020, 15:00 Rome Time

As prepared 

 

Honorable Ministers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. It is both, an honor and a pleasure for me to be with you today to mark FAO’s 75th Anniversary ahead of the sixth Informal North American Regional Consultation. 

2. In fact, I was looking forward to being in Quebec City in person with all of you, to celebrate this milestone and share with joy the eventful celebration for the seventy five years of our journey together. 

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3. Canada and the United States hold a special place in FAO’s memory and in our heart. 

4. It was in Hot Springs, Virginia, USA where the seed of FAO was sown. President Franklin D. Roosevelt convened the Conference on Food and Agriculture at the Homestead Hotel in 1943 where 44 participating governments committed to founding a permanent organization for food and agriculture to eliminate hunger, promote nutritional well-being and increase agricultural productivity.

5. The seed sown in 1943 at this historic conference bloomed in 1945 in Quebec City, Canada where FAO was born and its first session held at the renowned Chateau Frontenac overlooking the majestic St. Lawrence river.

6. The world in the wake of World War II was ravaged and hungry. Millions lost their lives in the conflict, millions more were dying of starvation. Farming was devastated. 

7. FAO was tasked with taking the world out of this misery and on to a path of equitable development with access to adequate and nutritious food for all. 

8. It was a daunting task, but our leadership’s commitment, our employees’ tireless work and the strategic guidance and huge support from our Members, gave us the strength to take on this historic challenge. 

9. It gives me immense pride to state that commendable work has been done over the last seven and a half decades. Farm outputs have increased exponentially, famines have been averted and hundreds of millions have been rescued from hunger and poverty. None of this would have been possible, as I said, without your support.

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10. Since 1945, Canada and FAO have worked together towards finding solutions to the most pressing issues of our time and new ways of delivering support to those in need. Canadian contributions over the years have enabled FAO to reach vulnerable populations in crisis affected areas, while supporting rural transformation through investments in agricultural productivity, livelihood opportunities, and women’s empowerment.

11. Over the decades, the United States has grown to become our largest financial contributor and a pillar of strength for us to lean on. The US is indeed a key partner, collaborating across all our areas of work, from global food trade and safety, to disaster assistance and resilience building to advancing science and innovation for taking global agriculture forward.

12. Today, as we celebrate the 75th anniversary it is my duty and honour to place on record our gratitude to both these great nations for being such meaningful partners to FAO.

13. While we recognize our successes in enhancing production and making it more sustainable and resilient, in eradicating entrenched animal diseases, promoting aquaculture and building livelihoods, I am fully cognizant of the difficult journey that lies ahead.

14. Our work is far from done.   

15. After diminishing steadily for decades, hunger is on the rise again. Nearly 700 million people still suffer from undernourishment and over 2 billion are malnourished. COVID -19 and the economic recession it has brought with it is bound to add nearly 130 million more to the ranks of the hungry and malnourished.  

16. The pandemic has laid bare the fragility of our agri-food systems, the frailty of our food supply chain, the precarious nature of the agricultural labour force and the thin line that separates many families from poverty.

17. Now, more than ever before, is the time for all of us to come together, and ensure deliverance from hunger and malnutrition, especially for the marginalized and vulnerable populations.  

18. The urgent need to address global food security is rightly recognized. Ending hunger, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture are critical challenges for the world. 

19. These are not challenges that any one country can solve alone. They will require not only renewed efforts to improve domestic policies and capacities, but also a strong focus on strengthening international cooperation to ensure that adequate investments in science, research and innovation are made for achieving better production, better nutrition, better environment and a better life.  

20. I am convinced that embracing innovation and technology in agriculture is the way to transform our agri-food system and sustainably feed the world for centuries to come.

21. At FAO, we have made a good start. FAO is advancing a corporate culture of innovation, in terms of our mindset and business mode. We are working hard to build a Digital FAO and enhancing our digital service to Members.

22. In order to leave no one behind we are placing a priority emphasis on countries and areas most affected in terms of hunger and poverty levels. This is what the Hand-in-Hand Initiative is focusing on. It aims to accelerate agricultural transformation and sustainable rural development based on data and information. 

23. The Initiative counts on state-of-the-art technologies, such as the Hand-in-Hand Geospatial Platform, which delivers key information for decision-making, and the Data Laboratory for Statistical Innovation, which combines unconventional data sources, big data, artificial intelligence, and data science for decision-making and impact evaluation.

24. And to cope with the pandemic, we launched a comprehensive COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme. The programme focuses on scientific data collection, purposeful poverty-reduction strategies, enhanced trade and food safety standards, and greater preparedness against the next zoonotic pandemic, amongst many other priority areas.

25. To deliver upon these, we need an agile, vigilant and responsive FAO; a lean organization with minimum redundancy; a flat horizontal organization with no silos; an open and transparent organization with deep and meaningful partnerships; a modern organization with science and innovation as its building blocks.

26. As we meet to mark 75 years of our organization, it is my promise not to rest until we succeed in transforming the Organization, to take on today’s and future challenges head on and work tirelessly in partnership with all nations and stakeholders to eradicate hunger and malnutrition for all times. 

27. Let me end by quoting President Roosevelt, who said “The primary responsibility lies with each nation for seeing that its own people have the food needed for health and life, but each nation can fully achieve its goal only if we work together.” 

28. My call to all of you today is a call for solidarity and a call for action.  

29. I thank you.

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