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

Hundred and Sixty-fifth Session of the FAO Council

Rome, 30 November 2020

Opening Statement

by

Dr. QU Dongyu

FAO Director-General

As delivered

 

 

 

Mr Khalid Mehboob, Independent Chair of the Council,

Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  1. It is my pleasure to address you today at the opening of this Council Session.
  2. I am happy to see that you are all safe and well.
  3. The world has continued to change rapidly and much has happened inside FAO since we met last time.
  4. The adjustments we have introduced have helped us to react better to the new normal and strengthened our capacity to better serve our Members.  
  5. Today, I will update the Council on FAO’s most important activities, share the status of implementation for the decisions of the last Council session and present new proposals and Initiatives.
  6. With the structural reform achieved and the collective leadership, FAO’s major activities are running smoothly
  7. Throughout my intervention, you will recognize a clear message centered around three elements: Promises kept, Results delivered and a clear Vision of our next steps.
  8. Detailed examples and figures can be found in my written statement, which the Secretariat circulated earlier this morning.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

  9. Since the last Council, we continued to strengthen collaboration with Members and partners; and to increase FAO’s international engagement, visibility and reputation.
  10. We did this in the framework of our initiatives, through bilateral and multilateral engagements and other forms of active outreach.
  11. Our flagship Hand-in-Hand Initiative is advancing very well.
  12. One year after its launch, the Hand-in-Hand Initiative (HiHi) is supporting the efforts of 30 countries to end poverty (SDG1) and hunger and all forms of malnutrition (SDG2) in a country-owned and country-led manner.
  13. Based on the wide interest and overwhelming positive reactions received so far, I am confident that this number will increase significantly in the coming months.
  14. In my written statement, you will find numerous examples of how the initiative is already fully engaged at country level.
  15. In July, we launched the Hand-in-Hand Geospatial Data Platform.
  16. The platform was a major step in breaking down traditional "silos" in FAO and contributing to the wider organizational objectives by increasing the exchange of knowledge and leveraging data.
  17. In September, together with Google we launched Earth Map, an innovative, free and open-source Big Data tool, developed by FAO.
  18. All these Hand-in-Hand engagements have shared principles and common elements:
  19. As promised, we are targeting the poorest and the most vulnerable and, in response to COVID-19, which has pushed more countries into food crisis, we have expanded our reach to ensure that those who have been most affected by the COVID-19 crises can benefit from the HiHi approach.
  20. We have been moving very quickly to build technical and analytical capacity for evidence-based decision-making through the HIH geospatial platform.
  21. We have been building deeper partnerships with donors and International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and developing new joint agendas with a wide range of global institutions and organizations from research, business, and foundations.
  22. We are engaging NGOs, the private sector, and producer organizations as well as other networks of experts and practitioners who are willing to work with us in the spirit of the Initiative; and
  23. We have been designing dashboards to provide transparency, accountability and improved coordination support to our Members, our many Hand-in-Hand partners and ourselves, and to enable us to anticipate and adjust to changes as required over time.
  24. And we have done all this in most cases without the need for field missions.
  25. As you can see, we are walking the talk when it comes to integrating innovative approaches and digital technologies in our core business.
  26. The International Platform for Digital Food and Agriculture is another important element in this approach.
  27. We have developed Draft Terms of Reference, as requested by the Council, and we have initiated their review by the technical committees.
  28. On 3 December there will be a High-level Dialogue on the International Platform for Digital Food and Agriculture with all Members, where we will discuss potential and challenges.

    Distinguished Delegates,

  29. From the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic, FAO used its technical expertise and international standing to raise awareness, disseminate knowledge and rally concrete action.
  30. I asked the Secretary-General to talk to the leaders in the most vulnerable countries to run their crop calendars, their agriculture calendars, and not to use export restrictions, because they will increase prices and will exacerbate food price volatility.
  31. We raised international awareness by publishing joint statements, such as the one with WHO and WTO on mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on food trade and markets and the joint statement issued just before the G20 Agriculture Ministers’ meeting together with the World Bank, WFP and IFAD.
  32. We convened a number of meetings with Ministers to ensure countries designate food and agriculture as essential services during lockdowns.
  33. As a historic first, and in collaboration with the African Union, we held a virtual meeting with 45 of Africa’s Agriculture Ministers, with the attendance of the EU Commissioner for Agriculture, and representatives of the African Development Bank and the World Bank.
  34. The meeting produced a ministerial declaration and established an African Union-FAO Task Force on the impacts of COVID-19 on Food Security and Nutrition.
  35. A Tripartite Ministerial Meeting (Agriculture, Trade and Finance) the first meeting of its kind in response to the COVID-19 emergency, was convened in July by the African Union Commission with technical support from FAO
  36. And just last week, we held a Ministerial meeting of the African Union-FAO Task Force attended by 20 Ministers and a total of 120 participants to ensure concrete joint action. 
  37. FAO assisted the Agriculture Ministers of 25 Latin American and Caribbean countries sign an agreement to join forces to protect food supply for more than 620 million people in the region.
  38. We made a wealth of information and technical expertise freely accessible on our web site:
    • More than 70 analysis and policy brief documents to the various aspects of the pandemic’s impact are available.
    • Answers to the most frequent questions on the impact of COVID-19 on food safety, fisheries and aquaculture, forestry, investments and on food and agriculture as a whole can be found on the site as well.
    • A mapping tool displays information on planting and harvesting months for key food and agriculture commodities.
  39. In July 2020, we launched the FAO comprehensive COVID-19 Response and Recovery Program, for immediate and medium to longer-term actions to prevent the health crisis becoming a food crisis.
  40. This holistic program is designed not only to help countries for recovery but also to build back better and stronger towards transforming agri-food systems. 
  41. We have called for 1.3 billion US dollars around seven priority areas of work. These priorities are identified through a bottom-up approach in consultation with national governments and institutions, and this initial investment will be necessary to support the most vulnerable countries and people in need.
  42. These areas include One Health approach, data for decision making, social protection programs, rural women empowerment, inter-regional cooperation, trade facilitation, market transparency and many others.
  43. Up to now we have mobilized more than 193 million US Dollars through voluntary contribution and technical cooperation programs, and the projects are under implementation, hoping to reduce the funding gap and increase our support to the countries.
  44. Another important initiative that was launched on 5 November 2020, is the Food Coalition. This initiative is proposed by the Government of Italy and led by FAO with the participation of our key and strategic partners.
  45. The Food Coalition will support the COVID-19 response and recovery program by raising awareness, mobilizing financial resources, technical expertise, and innovation. 
  46. FAO will serve as a neutral leader and convener of the Food Coalition, with our expansive network of country offices all around we will ensure that the views and needs of countries and national partners are fully prioritized.
  47. We look forward to your active participation and engagement in the Coalition.
  48. In July weunveiled the Technical Platform on the Measurement and Reduction of Food Loss and Waste thatbrings together information on measurement, reduction, policies, alliances, actions and examples of successful models applied to reduce food loss and waste across the globe.  
  49. The platform is a gateway to all related FAO resources, including: the largest online collection of data on which food is lost and wasted and where; discussion forum on food loss reduction; examples of successful initiatives; e-learning courses; food loss and waste policy briefs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic; and tips on what everyone can do to reduce food waste.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

  50. FAO continues to play a vital role in supporting resilience and emergency preparedness.
  51. Desert Locust response and Fall Armyworm are of highest priority for FAO. 
  52. For Desert Locust, resource partners stepped up fast and generously. To date, over USD 203 million have been raised. 
  53. In the Greater Horn of Africa and Yemen, almost 1.3 million hectares have been treated since January 2020.
  54. Furthermore, with the efforts made in the region, it is estimated that over 2.5 million tons of cereal have been protected, valued at USD 765 million.
  55. This is enough to feed more than 17 million people for one year and protect more than 1.2 million pastoral households from livelihood loss and distress in Ethiopia alone.
  56. The situation appears to be better than a year ago, but the fight is far from over.
  57. The Global Action for Fall Armyworm Control activities are ongoing.
  58. Eight demonstration countries and 53 pilot countries have been identified for a radical intervention at national and farmer level through a new business model that reaches over 50 percent of maize acreage in the three target regions Africa, Asia and the Near East.
  59. Two main oversight bodies have been established:
    • The Steering Committee, that I chair and that is composed of over 20 high-level leaders, has met twice already to guide the development and implementation of the Global Action.
    • The Technical Committee chaired by the USAID Chief Scientist, comprising more than 50 technical leaders met three times to provide technical advice to the Steering Committee.
  60. A Secretariat for Fall Armyworm Control to ensure the day-to-day implementation work is hosted at FAO by the Plant Protection and Production Division and led by its Director.
  61. Earlier this year, we introduced an innovative talking smartphone app known as NURU, available in 29 languages, that channels valuable real-time and field-level information and supports smallholder farmers with specific tips on how to manage infestations.

    Distinguished Delegates,

  62. In addition to our full engagement with Members and partners in facing the impacts of the pandemic on agri-food systems, we continue maintaining our focus on the safety and health of FAO’s employees and their families world-wide.
  63. As I am the Designated UN Official for Italy, FAO also coordinates the interaction of all 25 UN agencies with our host country Italy – these Security Management Team Meetings are now widely recognized as a model of effective UN collaboration.
  64. FAO COVID-19 related plans, both for headquarters and Decentralized Offices, continue to be aligned to WHO medical guidance and the respective Host Government’s precautionary and containment measures; in the case of Decentralized Offices, close relation with UN Country Teams has been maintained.
  65. FAO plans have been driven by the principles of caution, adaptability and flexibility, supported by close monitoring and observation of the measures in place at each stage to enable early adjustment or correction, as required.
  66. At headquarters, physical presence has been kept to a minimum; teleworking, rotation and flexible working arrangements were adopted to be able to adapt to a fluid, evolving context.
  67. Earlier this year, I signed an agreement with the Italian Red Cross, on behalf of all UN agencies operating in Italy, on measures aimed at protecting the health of employees and visitors to the agencies' premises in the context of the pandemic.
  68. Our collaboration with the Italian Red Cross is excellent and I thank them in the name of all UN agencies operating in Italy.
  69. All these measures contributed to maintaining a relatively low level of contagion among FAO employees worldwide.
  70. As of 26 November 2020, a total of 182 COVID-19 cases were registered among FAO employees worldwide, of which 141 have fully recovered, 36 are symptomatic at home or under treatment and unfortunately 5 passed away before July.
  71. That is out of a total of 14 217 employees worldwide.
  72. We launched a massive winter flu vaccination campaign at headquarters to further protect the safety and health of employees and their families.
  73. We ensured that Easy-to-access COVID-19 test capacity was made available to FAO employees and their families, as well as to FAO retirees, thus ensuring the conditions for early intervention in case of virus detection.
  74. 74.    We established rapid antigen swab testing for COVID-19, at headquarters in a drive-through modality.
  75. 75.    I am happy to inform that this service will be extended to accommodate all colleagues from the Rome-based agencies and their immediate families, as well as permanent representation diplomats and their dependents as of Thursday (3 December).
  76. The agreements signed with hospitals and private clinics in Rome were shared with Regional Offices to facilitate possible replication in other duty stations.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

  77. The Organization has shown an extraordinary capacity to move to the new working modalities during difficult times, thereby accelerating the transformation into a digital FAO.
  78. Today, we are proud to say that FAO’s Virtual and Digital Workplace is a reality.  
  79. We started with the improvement and revamp of the entire FAO website’s functionality, content, look and feel. This enabled it to serve as platform to support and include Members, other UN organizations, partners, and farmers, particularly smallholders.
  80. FAO’s web presence today reflects the central role of our mandate and is a source of pride of how far it has evolved in 15 months.
  81. We created the Digital Tiger team, to rapidly enable teleworking and ensure a unique 24/7 response, with a scale up from IT security, the Global Service Desk Global Support services and the automation of collaboration and communication tools for trainings to provide the maximum and most efficient help to all employees worldwide
  82. As a result, we have complete teleworking enabled and in use globally through a new direct and secure Virtual FAO access.
  83. We are continuing to spearhead the holistic concept of a digital organization within the UN family, being well ahead of the curve.

    Distinguished Delegates,

  84. This new digital FAO delivers Digital Public Goods for you, distinguished Members!
  85. We have created an impressive FAO Digital Portfolio: a global catalogue of FAO’s more than 250 digital products that support our work in the field and empower FAO’s digital technologies.
  86. And we establishedthe Digital Service Portfolio: A cloud-based platform that offers information and advisory messages to the farmers in the field and connects governments directly to farmers.
  87. After being deployed in 2019 in Egypt, it is now being upscaled in Rwanda and Senegal and is in progress in Iraq, Jordan and Tanzania.
  88. In numbers this means 37 333 farmers registered for Short Message Service (SMS) Broadcasting.
  89. Another impressive number: Our E-Agriculture Community of Practice has now about 18 000 Members. This global platform offers capacity development activities, shares updated information and collects best practices in digital agriculture.
  90. This is the information sharing economy that I had promised you. And this is just the beginning!

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

  91. The five 2020 Regional Conferences, and the one informal Regional Conference, were all held in virtual format, which is a historic first for FAO and I am grateful to the Host Countries, and all Members for agreeing to hold them virtually this year.
  92. One of my first priorities as Director-General was to transform the Regional Conferences from largely formal, stand-alone events, into dynamic and efficient platforms for policy setting, capturing feedback from all involved.
  93. I am happy to say that we achieved this in 2020, as the Regional Conferences were a success.
  94. By changing the business model, we brought the Conferences closer to our Members making them truly Member-centered.
  95. The virtual modality allowed for more interaction and elevated levels of discussions.
  96. We opened the door to the private sector to engage within the Regional Conferences alongside all other Non-State actors.
  97. The Regional Conferences reached unprecedented levels of participation.
  98. In Latin America and the Caribbean for example, a region with 33 Members, we had one Prime Minister, three Ministers of Foreign Affairs, 50 ministers and 40 vice-ministers attending, in addition to 346 other government officials and 103 Observers from a wide diversity of sectors and organizations.
  99. Every day, there were more than 10 000 people following the Conference via social media.
  100. In Africa, nearly 900 participants from 48 countries registered for the Regional Conference.
  101. The Ministerial Segment was opened by a Head of State and attended by 95 Ministers including 11 Deputy-Ministers as well as 50 observers from the private sector and civil society.
  102. Nearly 2 000 followed via webcast and there were well over 110 000 people engaged on social media.
  103. In Asia and the Pacific as a pioneer of RCs, the Ministerial-level session included 31 Ministers and 28 Vice Ministers and other high-level delegates, with the Regional Conference reaching a total of more than 600 participants.
  104. More than 1 300 viewers followed the event via webcast. The inaugural ministerial session was the longest, continuous, virtual meeting in FAO’s history with 9 hours.
  105. In the Near East and North Africa, 29 Members of the Region attended with about 1 000 people participating at the Senior Officers Meetings and more than 300 at the Ministerial Segment.
  106. On Social media, nearly 37 000 pages impressions in Arabic and 15 000 in English reflect the strong interest in the event.
  107. In Europe and central Asia, the Regional Conference came to its conclusion with historic numbers of participation: 51 countries; 15 ministers and 16 vice ministers, 200 delegates and 90 observers.
  108. More than 1 500 people were following the Conference every day via webcast and over 15 000 engaged on social media.
  109. And I also invited the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) to organize a side event at all Regional Conferences this year, as a signal of our strong commitment to the Committee, and to encourage Members to take advantage of the Committee and its products.
  110. The Regional Conferences 2020 marked a historical turning point and strengthen global solidarity among FAO members through modern modalities, transparency and inclusiveness and by offering content, context and real suggestions.

    Distinguished Delegates,

  111. The new FAO continues to strengthen its role within the UN System, as a dynamic member, trusted partner and professional knowledge organization of UN big family.
  112. This was what I had promised the UN Secretary-General at our meeting only a few weeks after assuming the leadership of FAO, and we are keeping our promise.
  113. In September, I was invited again to the United Nations Security Council, where I provided an update on the food security situation in a number of countries around the world experiencing food insecurity, together with OCHA and WFP.
  114. During the UNGA, as part of the Global Network Against Food Crises (GNAFC) high-level event we presented a review of the most recent global data available on how the knock-on effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are driving up acute hunger in vulnerable countries.
  115. As a historic first for an FAO DG, I spoke at the ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment 2020, highlighting the disease’s impact on humanitarian and hunger crises.
  116. My Speech at the SDG Summit 2019 on behalf of UN sister agencies offered our perspective on food system transformation and ensured that the matter was prominently placed on the international agenda.
  117. As another historic first, I participated at the UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Principals Meeting in Geneva together with UN counterparts whose agencies, like FAO, work on the humanitarian front. The strengthened cooperation with the Committee and the Principals reflects the open approach of the new FAO.
  118. At the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) Sessions, I expressed FAO’s commitment to transforming food and agricultural systems and shared our dynamic approach towards reforming and digitalizing the Organization.
  119. Within the UN Summit on Biodiversity of the UN GA 2020, I participated on behalf of several UN agencies, representing the United Nations system at the ‘Leaders Dialogue on how to mainstream biodiversity issues into the broader drive for sustainable development’. The panel was co-chaired by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan. I conveyed a clear message: Biodiversity loss undermines global efforts to tackle poverty and hunger - no biodiversity, no food diversity.
  120. And I actively participated in many other high-level meetings and events organized by the UN Secretary-General, the President of the UN General Assembly, ECOSOC and others, raising awareness and encouraging Members to work in concert to overcome the challenges we face.
  121. As a strong advocate of the UN Development System reform, we realize the importance of brokering effective partnerships with UN agencies to meet the SDGs and achieve the 2030 Agenda, particularly in these difficult times. 
  122. We collaborate with other UN Agencies across the seven priority areas of FAO’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Program to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on people and livelihoods. 
  123. FAO’s new Strategic Framework is placing the 2030 Agenda at the center to ensure better integration with the UN Development system reform.
  124. To achieve the Four Betters and Hand in Hand Initiative, FAO is concentrating major efforts on leveraging UN partnerships and achieving tangible results on the ground.
  125. FAO has contributed to all 26 UN Cooperation Frameworks that were signed since the UNDS Reform, including the preparation of the joint Common Country Analysis in these countries.
  126. Overall, FAO is present in 112 UN Cooperation Frameworks/UNDAFs countries, and in 94% of the cases FAO is directly contributing to joint country planning and programming.
  127. Within our cooperation with the UN Environment Program (UNEP), we hosted the 31st Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer at FAO headquarters. And we will co-lead the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 with UNEP.
  128. Our strong belief in UN solidarity and collaboration was also reflected in hosting the CBD Second meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework February of 2020.
  129. The meeting that was attended by more than 1 000 delegates, was also an occasion to highlight FAO’s interest and willingness to collaborate on environmental issues given their direct link to agriculture.
  130. We are enhancing our strategic collaboration with UNDP. This evolving partnership will ensure access to a wider range of sectoral policy makers to facilitate SDG policy integration.
  131. With the Executive Director of UN-Habitat we agreed on transforming our Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to a Memorandum of Action (MoA) to jointly work on the Green Cities and the 1000 Digital Villages Initiative.
  132. Our new MoU with the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary-General will boost sustainable rural tourism, help strengthen rural economies and conserve ecosystems, and we will collaborate on the 1000 Digital Villages.
  133. With the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) we called for early warning and early action to avoid disasters during the launch of the 2020 State of Climate Services Report to which FAO contributed.
  134. RBA Collaboration is evolving very well. It occurs in over 80 % of the countries where more than one RBA is present! And, the number of joint RBA programs has almost doubled since 2017 reaching more than 50 countries today.
  135. And we have underscored our international engagement by organizing and participating at numerous international days – in addition to World Food Day - , from the first International Tea Day, the first International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, International Women’s Day, International Forests Day, International Mountain Day, World Fisheries Day, World Bee Day and others. 

    Distinguished Delegates,

  136. We continue our global efforts of outreach to build partnerships, raise awareness and provide technical expertise in international fora.
  137. With our host Italy, we established a privileged relationship: Only four days after taking office I was invited by the Prime Minister to a very fruitful exchange.
  138. We had the pleasure of welcoming the Prime Minister at FAO headquarters for World Food Day 2019.
  139. I also had the pleasure of being invited by Italy’s President of the Republic, to his residence, where we discussed future cooperation and he expressed his support to the Hand-in-Hand initiative,
  140. In a number of discussions with Italy government we have agreed to FAO firmly supporting Italy's G20 Presidency in 2021, which is an excellent opportunity to promote initiatives stemming from FAO's mandate.
  141. Before the pandemic, I visited numerous countries and attended important events, interacting with Heads of State, Decision-makers, Ministers, the Private Sector, Civil Society and Farmers.
  142. In Bangkok, Beijing, Belgrade, Berlin, Brussels, Cairo and Sharm El-Sheikh, Geneva and Davos, Islamabad and Multan, Lao PDR, Oslo, Madrid and Cordoba, Moscow, Tokyo and Yokohama, Washington D.C. and New York, our message was clear: The new FAO has a lot to offer and is ready to serve you better! 
  143. My travel plans to Africa and Latin America had to be put on hold, due to the pandemic, and I look forward to these visits as soon as the circumstances allow for them.
  144. In September, I presented the Virtual Ministerial Conference on the Great Green Wall with a number of key areas, where the Organization has assets critical to the initiative’s success, including modern geospatial technologies and the WaPOR remote-sensing platform to assess water productivity.
  145. In October, I was invited by the Committees of Foreign Affairs and of Agriculture in the Italian Chamber of Deputies to give a keynote address on the impacts of COVID-19 on global food security and on the proposed Food Coalition.
  146. In the past months, I held bilateral meetings with the Executive Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans and the EU commissioners for Neighborhood and Enlargement, for Health and Food Safety, and for Agriculture. Preparations for the next EU FAO Strategic dialogue that will take place in January 2021 are under way.
  147. On my 100th day in office I was deeply honored by an invitation by Pope Francis to the Vatican, where we had a very private inspiring conversation, looking eye to eye on so many issues that touch humanity as a whole.
  148. I had the pleasure of being invited again to a private audience by Pope Francis on 20 November 2020.
  149. I was deeply touched by the strong human connection with the Pope and his unwavering support to the noble mission of FAO.
  150. In May, I participated at the US Congressional briefing on Preventing a Hunger Catastrophe that FAO co-hosted with the Alliance to End Hunger and the bipartisan House and Senate Hunger Caucuses. An event that had more than 1,000 attendees via webinar. This was the first time an FAO DG attended.
  151. In a keynote speech at the Global Bioeconomy Summit 2020 on 20 November, I shared FAO’s vision on bioeconomy, and the central role bio-innovations need to play in a post-pandemic recovery to build back better.
  152. At the Sustainable Innovation Forum on Digital Agriculture by Singapore, I provided a keynote address around the topic of Accelerating the Fourth Agricultural Revolution.
  153. First in the history, the FAO DG was invited to speak at the G20 Leaders' Summit hosted virtually by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on 22 November, I called on G20 members to address inclusive, resilient and sustainable development and the impacts of COVID-19 on agri-food systems by boosting farmers productivity, scaling up social protection mechanisms and investing in digital innovation, among other measures.
  154. I also underscored the need for the G20 to keep working on preventing this health crisis from becoming a global food crisis.
  155. This is a message I had already stressed in my speech at the G20 Extraordinary Virtual Leaders' Summit on COVID-19 in March.
  156. At the G20's Agriculture and Water Ministers meeting in September, I presented several priority areas in which FAO can support G20 countries and the international community to strengthen agri-food systems and recover from the impacts of COVID-19.
  157. Another very substantive collaboration we have built in the past 15 months is with the World Economic Forum (WEF).
  158. Attending the World Economic Forum in Davos at the beginning of the year was an occasion to advocate for transformative change in the world’s agriculture and food systems.
  159. Since then, FAO and WEF have joined the efforts to shape the discussion around the agri-food systems transformation with a broad number of stakeholders and towards the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit.
  160. Together we are designing a significant number of flagship initiatives at country level in the context of agri-food systems transformation while building strong and political support for a wider action agenda across different sectors.
  161. I co-lead, with the CEO of PepsiCo (Ramon Laguarta), the WEF Board of Stewards for Food Systems, which includes Ministers, UN agencies, CEOs, NGOs, Farmer’s Organizations, etc.
  162. This joint leadership aims to motivate the Board members towards an ambitious agenda while increasing the political commitment for food systems.
  163. Through this leadership the board has committed to 100 concrete examples of transforming food systems, running by the time of the Summit, especially to start the agri-food system transformation needed so urgently today.
  164. The board has also committed to launching action plans in support of 100 million smallholder farmers on soil carbon sequestration to combat climate change.
  165. Other focus areas include innovative digital technologies, data and financing in the context of COVID-19, as well as regional and country food innovation hubs to address needs and suggest solutions on the ground.
  166. This strong cooperation is yet another demonstration of the wide recognition at highest international level that the new FAO has achieved.
  167. And we continue our advocacy for agri-food systems transformation to achieve healthy diets for all.
  168. Just last week, for example, we organized a Special Seminar on Food and Nutrition.
  169. Speakers, who highlighted the various perspectives of this transformation included Queen Máxima of the Netherlands and United Nations Secretary-General's Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development; the Queen of the Belgians and SDG Advocate; Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand; the First Ladies of Chile and Colombia and Josefa Sacko the African Union Commissioner.
  170. We also continue working for result-oriented collaboration and have added prestigious entities to our partners from Academia, Private Sector, Civil Society and others.
  171. In a historic first, I welcomed Bill Gates to FAO’s Liaison Office in New York, where we agreed to deliver on concrete targeted work that benefits people in the world’s most vulnerable regions.
  172. FAO is preparing projects for next year to use a donation of CNY 100 million received from the Ningxia Yanbao Charity Foundation.
  173. In May, we received a USD 10 million contribution from MasterCard that aims at desert locust response to mitigate impacts on food security and livelihoods.
  174. We have also created a strong bond with the scientific community. Eminent Professors like Joachim von Braun, Jeffrey Sachs, Klaus Schwab, Louise Fresco, Masa Iwanaga, Tang Huajun and many others, are accompanying our transformative efforts with their good advice and knowledge. We are very grateful to them.
  175. With IBM, Microsoft and the Pontifical Academy of Life, FAO was engaged and among the first signatories in February of an ethical resolution on Artificial Intelligence (AI) endorsed by Pope Francis, stressing the importance of minimizing this new technology's risks while exploiting its potential benefits. 

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

  176. The successful positioning of FAO as a trusted partner and source of technical expertise is also reflected in the extra-budgetary funding we receive, and for which we are very grateful.
  177. In autumn of 2019, the United States of America provided a contribution of USD 45 million to improve and sustain food security in rural Somalia.
  178. In November, we welcomed the contribution from the Netherlands of USD 28 million to the building of food system resilience in protracted crises.
  179. In the same month, we started implementation of two projects from the European Commission: USD 19 million to FAO complementary support to the Cambodia Program for sustainable and inclusive growth in the Fisheries sector; and USD 11 million to enhancing resilient livelihoods and food security of host communities and Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon through the promotion of sustainable agricultural development.
  180. In December, Germany contributed with USD 18 million to strengthen socio-economic resilience of smallholder farmers and vulnerable populations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  181. In December, we welcomed four new contributions from the European Commission: USD 54 million as support to rural entrepreneurship, investment and trade in Papua New Guinea; USD 44 million to sustainable development of fisheries and aquaculture value chains in ACP countries; USD 12 million for the control of Foot and Mouth Disease and USD 11 million for building resilience of Syrians under temporary protection and host communities in Turkey through supporting socio-economic integration and creating livelihood opportunities.
  182. In February of 2020, the European Commission contributed USD 17 million to step up the engagement of the Global Network Against Food Crisis.
  183. In the same month, the United States of America approved USD 22 million of voluntary contributions to support desert locust response to mitigate impacts on food security and livelihoods.
  184. In April, we welcomed a USD 23 million contribution from Germany that provided emergency livelihoods assistance to vulnerable farmers, agro-pastoralists and pastoralists affected by desert locust in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda.
  185. In the same month, the United States of America provided additional funding in the amount of USD 22 million to improve and sustain food security in rural Somalia.
  186. In July, we welcomed support and contribution from the World Bank in the amount of USD 25 million to our emergency desert locust response project.
  187. In the same month, Sweden approved USD 8 million of contribution to increase territorial transformation, resilience and sustainability in Colombia.
  188. In August, the European Commission provided contribution in the amount of USD 16 million to resilient Fisheries and Livestock Value Chain for Inclusive and Sustainable growth in Somalia.
  189. In July we welcomed a £ 17 million contribution from the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) to support efforts to combat the desert locust surge. The funds are in addition to £ 8 million donated earlier this year for the desert locust appeal.
  190. In the same month, FAO and the Russian Federation signed a USD 10 million Contribution Agreement aimed at boosting efforts to control and eliminate Desert Locusts.
  191. In August, the Board of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) approved an USD 11.8 million project to support zero-deforestation cocoa production in Côte d’Ivoire, to be implemented by FAO in collaboration with the national authorities. The project is the first REDD+ proposal in Africa and globally to be approved under the GCF’s Simplified Approval Process Pilot Scheme (SAP). It is also the first GCF funding proposal approved for FAO in Africa.
  192. In September, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged an additional USD 50 million in funding to support FAO's South-South Cooperation (SSC) efforts. The funding of Phase III comes after a total contribution of USD 80 million for the first two phases.
  193. In November, Italy deployed USD 1.2 million for the Food Coalition with pledges currently amounting to around USD 2.2 million.
  194. On 13 November 2020, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) Board approved three new FAO-designed projects in Argentina, Guatemala and Sudan for a total amount of USD 158.6 million aimed at mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening resilience to climate change, and combating deforestation.
  195. FAO’s growing Green Climate Fund portfolio is now composed of 13 projects amounting to USD 793 million in funding that help countries tackle the climate crisis, paving the way for a greener and cleaner future.
  196. The FAO-GEF portfolio is now valued at USD 1.1 billion in grant funds with another USD 75 million worth of projects in line to be approved by the GEF Council next week.
  197. Our work with the Global Environment Facility continues to grow robustly and deliver real benefits for countries.
  198. FAO is now one of the top three GEF implementing agencies.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

  199. We continue to build on our mandate and vision for new activities and actions.
  200. We launched the FAO Green Cities Initiative and its Action Program on the margins of the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly.
  201. The aim of the Initiative is to improve people’s wellbeing through increased availability of and access to green products and services provided by green spaces, green industries, green economy and green way of lifestyle - including integration of urban and peri-urban forestry, fisheries, horticulture and agriculture - and through sustainable agri-food systems.
  202. It is holistic in its vision, bringing together the goals of the urban food agenda with the socioeconomic-environmental-spiritual nexus.
  203. The Action Program focuses on creating an Enabling Environment with actions supporting inclusive policies and governance frameworks as well as specific actions for metropolitan, intermediary and small cities.
  204. In the first three years, the program will include 100 cities in 15 countries - (15 metropolitan, 40 intermediary and 45 small cities) and will grow to engage with 1,000 cities by 2030.
  205. The Initiative builds on existing programs, projects and partnerships across the Organization and will harness the numerous expressions of interest already received since the launch.
  206. At a meeting with the Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund, we discussed potential collaboration in the Green Cities Initiative, given its focus on addressing environmental concerns.
  207. Work has already begun to pilot the Program in 10 cities in Africa by end of the year, in close collaboration with UN-Habitat.
  208. Together we will also establish indicators to define and monitor ‘Green Cities as future cities’.
  209. The 1000 Digital Villages Initiative aims to enable farmers to use digital technologies, information and communication tools including social media, to promote local sustainable development.
  210. Digital technologies can raise economic benefits and contribute to food security by increasing productivity of agricultural sectors, enhancing market opportunities through E-commerce and access to market information, facilitating inclusion of famers in value chains.
  211. It can also promote harmonization of agriculture with the environment through optimized resource uses as well as enhanced adaptation to climate change.
  212. The initiative will also have social and cultural benefits. The living standards of rural villages could be improved by increased income as well as communication and information.
  213. Through the 1000 Digital Villages Initiative, a tailor-made menu for assistance in the area of digital innovation can be made according to the requests and situations of the sites, including Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) sites.
  214. This effort will be implemented in collaboration with Microsoft, IBM, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other partners.
  215. Our Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific is now starting a process of proposing the first round of pilot villages.
  216. In that context, we agreed with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), to strengthen concrete collaboration to provide greater access for rural communities to renewable energy and support the development of the renewable energy sector in rural areas.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

  217. From the onset of my mandate, I emphasized my core belief that staff are the most important asset of FAO.
  218. As you know I started my first days as FAO DG by walking to every office in the FAO building, talking with colleagues and shaking the hand of each employee
  219. And only a few weeks after taking office I held a first-of-its-kind interactive session with more than 60 senior-level colleagues in Rome, with colleagues in 35 regional and country offices attending virtually.
  220. With that, I set a new tone at FAO: town hall meetings, open exchanges and frank dialogue.
  221. In April we organized a virtual meeting that for the first time in FAO’s history gathered all the organization’s Country Representatives (FAORs) around the world.
  222. This was followed by a virtual town hall meeting with more than 2 000 FAO employees based at headquarters and in June we held a virtual town hall meeting with a record-breaking 4 300 FAO employees that work around the world.
  223. FAO is putting strong emphasis on the catalytic role of women and youth in FAO and around the world.
  224. Iestablished the FAO Women Committee and the FAO Youth Committee last year as engines for solidarity and inclusiveness.
  225. The role both committees have played in the past months in strengthening solidarity and team spirit among the employees is exemplary.
  226. The FAO Women Committee, which was established on the International Day of Rural Women, 15 October 2019, provides an inclusive, safe space that reflects the diverse and energetic nature of FAO’s female workforce.
  227. The youth face immense challenges, reason why it is imperative to scale up youth-focused initiatives and harness their potential. This was also my message at the World Youth Forum in Egypt in December 2019.
  228. In another first in FAO’s history, we brought together young employees to learn from our retirees, who shared their experiences at an online event that was attended by more than 400 current employees.
  229. The FAO Youth Committee, which was launched on 18 September 2019, has achieved many notable outcomes and started new and innovative ways to engage young and youthful colleagues throughout the Organization.
  230. In 2021, one key area of work for the Youth Committee will be preparing the FAO Youth World Food Forum (WFF)
  231. This event will coincide with the United Nations Food Systems Summit and will serve as a platform to harness the passion of youth, sparking a global movement to transform our food systems through the Four Betters
  232. As a global event dedicated to the future of our food systems, the WFF aims to bring together major youth groups, top influencers, companies, startups, academic institutions, civil society organizations, governments, media, the general public and others to drive awareness, engagement, advocacy and resources around food systems issues. ​

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

  233. FAO’s 75th anniversary was no ordinary World Food Day, we used the power of modern communication, stepped out of the castle and made it a historic day for all people.
  234. Governments, private sector partners, Civil Society Organizations and others, showed their support to FAO through over 450 activities in 150 countries.
  235. 2020 marked the first-ever virtual World Food Day celebration in Rome.
  236. The virtual ceremony included messages from Pope Francis; Italy's President; Lesotho's King and Spain's Queen, FAO Special Goodwill Ambassadors for Nutrition; UN's Secretary General; and the heads of FAO, IFAD and WFP.
  237. For the innovative video mapping and light projection shows on the FAO headquarters building and iconic Colosseum we were joined by Italy’s Minister for Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies, the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation; the Mayor of Rome and our honorable Independent Chair of the Council, Chairpersons of PC,FC and CCLM.
  238. By opening the ceremony to the outside, we had 76 000 participants, who joined via Zoom, webcast, or live streaming on social media.
  239. A live feed was shared with hundreds of TV broadcasters worldwide bringing the events to millions more.
  240. Over 860 000 users viewed World Food Day content on FAO web pages and the FAO messages reached over 1.5 billion accounts on social media
  241. But beyond the numbers and impressive results, the commemoration of FAO’s anniversary this year was a strong demonstration of the Organization’s new spirit and approach:
  242. We open our doors, share our knowledge and we step outside our offices and meeting halls and include the citizens, farmers, consumers and the youth across the globe!
  243. My appreciation goes to all who made this year’s commemoration a historic one!

    Distinguished Delegates,

  244. Let me now share with you progress made on implementing the decisions of the last Council Session.
  245. As you know, this progress builds on the structural adjustments we already implemented in late 2019 and throughout 2020, so far and incorporates the vision that I presented to you during my campaign, of building a dynamic FAO for a better world, while remaining committed to its original aspirations, mandate and mission.
  246. We introduced the new organizational structure at headquarters with:
    • Offices, that are playing a cross-cutting function;
    • Centres with a strong collaboration function with other UN agencies or with International Financing Institutions (IFIs); and
    • Divisions that house the specific expertise of FAO or provide operational/logistics support.
  247. We removed the layer of Departments and have ADGs at headquarters now focus on specific assignments.
  248. We established the Core Leadership Group: the three Deputy Directors-General, the Chief Economist, the Chief Scientist and the Directeur-de-Cabinet.
  249. With the recent joining of the Chief Scientist, the Core Leadership Group is now complete and already fully engaged.
  250. We implemented the reporting lines A and B to the Core Leadership for each Office, Centre, and Division.
  251. The Strategic Program teams were disbanded with smooth repositioning of staff.
  252. The Ombudsman Office was added as a stand-alone office.
  253. The Office of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was established, to coordinate the corporate engagement in the 2030 Agenda follow-up and review, working closely with concerned units across the Organization. Staffing of the office is in process.
  254. We strengthened the FAO Investment Centre by USD 8 million given its catalytic role in supporting countries and enabling financing at scale.
  255. The Joint FAO/WHO Centre, housing two important joint efforts: Codex Alimentarius and zoonotic diseases, was established.
  256. We moved our cooperation with the IAEA from a division in the former AG department to becoming the stand-alone Joint FAO/IAEA Centre (Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture) and strengthened it by an additional USD 1 million.
  257. Given the importance of partnerships within the renewed FAO, we realigned the partnerships and outreach stream by:
    • Creating a division that combines Partnerships and UN collaboration;
    • Moving private sector partnerships with resource mobilization; and
    • Creating a new Project Support Division.
  258. We created a new division on Food Systems and Food Safetyto provide strategic leadership in the development of more sustainable food systems. In addition to new posts, the division now includes all posts previously located in the Office of Food Safety, and a limited number of posts transferred from other divisions.
  259. A new division for Logistics Services was created, which includes shared services, procurement, health services, infrastructure logistics, travel, and security.
  260. The Multidisciplinary Fund was budgeted at USD 8.5 million for:
    • seed funds for innovation proposals which have a strong likelihood of upscaling
    • catalytic funds to facilitate private sector involvement and investment; and
    • support for country needs especially for unforeseen requirements arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Distinguished Delegates,

  261. One of my key priorities continues to be making FAO more efficient, dynamic and inclusive. For this we need to empower our employees and aim at creating a happier and more positive workplace.
  262. We have put special effort in implementing all the decisions of the last Council Session and can share the very good progress made. 
  263. After the Council’s approval of the new organizational structure, we have worked hard to implement it swiftly.
  264. I am pleased to inform you that, through an intense consultative process, positions have been identified for all employees, who were affected by the restructuring
  265. The structural adjustment is an important milestone in bringing change to FAO’s organizational culture, breaking silos and encouraging teamwork across organizational boundaries. 
  266. In its last two sessions, the Council emphasized the need to enhance the Organization’s Human Resources functions. 
  267. The new Human Resources Strategic Action Plan prioritizes urgent actions and recommendations made by Members, internal and external audits, oversight mechanisms and stakeholders, including the Staff Representative Bodies.
  268. It received appreciation and endorsement at the last Finance Committee session. 
  269. The Council had also urged us to continue concentrating our work in combatting all forms of Harassment, Sexual Harassment, Discrimination, Sexual exploitation and Abuse of Authority
  270. I, and the entire leadership team, are committed to ensuring such behavior will be subject to zero-tolerance in FAO, not only within the walls of our Organization but also when delivering our mandate in the field. 
  271. To that end, we have established an internal Task Force on Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PSH) and Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) that is chaired by Laurent Thomas, Deputy Director-General, assisted by the Director of Human Resources, the Ethics Officer, the Ombudsman and the Inspector General as the custodians of the policies and processes
  272. Turning to the Employee Satisfaction Survey, action planning sessions are now being held throughout the organization on the results of the survey, within the leadership group, the Regional Offices and in the different HQ streams led by the Employee Satisfaction Survey Champion, Deputy Director-General Beth Bechdol.
  273. I am happy to confirm that relations continue to improve between management and the staff representatives, based on mutual trust, understanding and common aspiration
  274. The Staff-Management Consultative Committee meets regularly in the spirit of cooperation and dialogue, and while we may not always agree, my commitment is that all parties will continue to be heard, and their points of view considered.
  275. I also have set up a taskforce that is looking at cutting bureaucracy, streamlining administrative decisions and decentralizing authority. 
  276. Let me now turn to the new Strategic Framework 2022 – 2031.
  277. Two fundamental points I wish to highlight here: The inclusive manner in which we are developing the framework and the solid basis it is built on.
  278. The formal consultation process is progressing as planned:
    • This document was reviewed by the Joint Meeting and by the Program Committee earlier this month, who welcomed the inclusive and transparent consultation process to date in the development of the new Strategic Framework.
    • Prior to the current document, the Provisional Outline of the Strategic Framework was reviewed by the June Program Committee and the July Council.
    • The Regional Conferences, which took place between September and early November 2020, provided input on Regional priorities.
    • The Technical Committees, taking place between September 2020 and early 2021, are providing input on Technical priorities.
  279. Informal consultations and meetings are also taking place. 
    • In October, discussions were first held with all Regional Groups; and
    • An Informal Consultation with all Members was held.
  280. We will continue to use both formal and informal consultations for the development of the Strategic Framework.
  281. Our aim is to have a document that is embraced by all Members and that allows FAO to provide maximum support in achieving the SDGs at country level.
  282. The new Strategic Framework builds on the momentum and transformations already taking place in the Organization.
  283. The new modular and flexible headquarters structure, for example, with its aim to ensure efficiency, effectiveness and cross-sectoral collaboration is well aligned to support the new direction.
  284. By continuing to increase efficiency, break silos, and strengthen the enabling environment, FAO is also better positioned to respond rapidly to emerging needs and priorities.
  285. Strengthening partnerships is a key aspect of the new Strategic Framework.
  286. Strengthened partnerships with our Members, but also with UN agencies, financial institutions, the private sector, producer organizations, academic and research institutions, and the civil society.
  287. With innovation, technology and data driving our work to support countries in achieving the SDGs, we can help ensure that trade-offs are minimized.
  288. And, new initiatives like the Hand-in-Hand Initiative with its state-of-the-art tools and technologies (the Geospatial Data Platform and the Data Lab for Statistical Innovation) offers a ready-made coordination structure including for an integrated COVID-19 response.
  289. The new Strategic Framework puts at its center the strategic narrative of Leaving No One Behind through sustainable, inclusive and resilient food systems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life.
  290. The Framework is anchored in the 2030 Agenda and guided by SDG 1 No poverty, SDG 2 No hunger, and SDG 10 Reducing inequalities around the Four betters
  291. The Framework also highlights the importance of all SDGs in achieving FAO’s overall vision.
  292. The Joint Meeting appreciated the overarching aspirations of the “Four Betters”, the guiding lens of SDGs 1 and 2, the renewed commitment with SDG10, and the emphasis on the importance and interconnectedness of all SDGs in FAO’s work.
  293. Similarly, the Program Committee appreciated that the 2030 Agenda was at the center of the new Strategic Framework and welcomed the focus on a food systems approach and the accompanying strategic narrative.
  294. Members also welcomed the application of four cross-cutting/cross-sectoral accelerators in program interventions, i.e. technology, innovation, data, and complements (governance, human capital and institutions), to maximize efforts in meeting the SDGs and to facilitate the management of trade-offs, according to national priorities.
  295. The centrality of food systems transformation in the new Strategic Framework will enable FAO to provide substantive support to Members in their implementation efforts following the outcomes of the UN Food Systems Summit in 2021.
  296. Over the coming months we will discuss and develop further, in consultation with you, the Program Priority Areas
  297. The Program Priority Areas are inter-disciplinary, thematic delivery mechanisms, representing FAO’s strategic contribution to drive the changes that will ultimately contribute to the achievement of the selected SDG targets.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

  298. Let me turn now to the proposed FAO Strategy for Private Sector Engagement 2021-2025.
  299. A closer and improved engagement with the Private Sector is one of my top priorities, and this Strategy is very important for the way forward.
  300. First and foremost, let me stress that, it is to improve and strengthen our support to our Members.
  301. We need an innovative, country-owned and country-led approach for engagement with the private sector. 
  302. Second, the key goal of the new Strategy is to enhance our strategic partnerships, scale up and steer all our efforts to jointly achieve the SDGs.
  303. Transformational change is urgently needed now in the way we protect biodiversity and the environment, and how we produce and consume our foods. 
  304. We have no time to waste and need to act together more decisively now.
  305. Third, we need to stress the importance of risk management.  
  306. Increasing engagement with the private sector will involve risks, and this we are fully aware of,
  307. But risks must be effectively managed, rather than completely avoided, if we want to start a dialogue and build trust with the private sector.
  308. Forth, we need to stress the importance of engagement.
  309. A failure to engage, even if sometimes we disagree, with key actors in our sectors would be a failure of our mandate as a neutral convener.
  310. This is the reason why the Strategy is called intentionally the Strategy for Engagement and not ‘for partnership’.
  311. Lastly, with the new Strategy, I am committed to strengthening FAO’s engagement with the private sector and all partners in a fully transparent manner, particularly with you Members.
  312. The Information Note 2 provided in advance presents a summary of our commitment and promised deliverables with a clear timeframe, should the Strategy be endorsed by the Council.
  313. As you know an efficient, transparent and inclusive FAO is my highest priority, and this also applies to the way we approach the private sector as well as any other non-governmental institutions that we work with.
  314. I am confident that with this new Strategy we will see even more solid results of our partnerships at the country, regional and global levels in the future.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

  315. We are coming to the end of 2020, that I had declared FAO’s Year of Efficiency.
  316. We can proudly look back at an unprecedented transformative process internally and a widely recognized leading role externally.
  317. Many of you asked us to change during past years. And we have managed to achieve so.
  318. Let me express my gratitude for your strong support to me personally and to the Organization over the last 15 months.
  319. Our achievements would not have been possible without your engagement, going along with you.

    Distinguished Delegates,

  320. At the end of my speech I want to circle back to the words I stressed in the beginning:
  321. Promises kept, Results delivered and a clear vision for the future.
  322. Looking back, we are grateful, but also feel a sense of profound responsibility.
  323. Looking ahead we are aware of the unresolved and urgent challenges that await us.
  324. But we have confidence and care, partners and people, soul and solidarity.
  325. With a renewed, dynamic and inclusive FAO.
  326. With a committed and motivated team of employees.
  327. With an agile approach and reporting lines that fulfill the specific goals.
  328. With globally respected technical expertise.
  329. With leadership recognized at the highest levels of international policy setting.
  330. With increased trust of our Members and partners.
  331. Full of determination and dedication, we will continue working hand in hand, for the day when hunger is only a footnote in the history books!

Thank you.

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