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

Meeting with
Group of Arab Ambassadors in Rome

Remarks by Dr. QU Dongyu, Director-General, FAO

18 February 2021


Distinguished Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am pleased to see all of you today in good health.

2. Over the course of the last 18 months, we introduced the most significant reform and reorganization of FAO since its creation.

3. Throughout the last year, we continued building a dynamic FAO for a better world, while remaining committed to its original aspirations, mandate and mission.

4. We proceeded with structural adjustments for a more relevant and effective FAO that is closer to its Members. 

5. A new modular and flexible headquarters structure ensures efficiency, effectiveness and cross-sectoral collaboration.

6. Breaking silos and strengthening the enabling environment makes us better positioned to respond rapidly to emerging needs and priorities.

7. In 2020 we launched the FAO Year of Efficiency.

8. We appointed the first Chief Scientist in FAO’s history – Ismahane Elouafi is from your region.

9. She is a member of the Core Leadership Group along with the Deputy Directors-General, the Chief Economist and the Director of my Cabinet.

10. This Core Leadership Group is a role model for the new FAO that is agile, transparent and accountable.

11. This year, we will continue to strive towards efficiency, building upon the lessons learned to embed greater effectiveness in our work.

12. Deepening the reform at headquarters will be accompanied by reaping the fruits of change in the field and our offices worldwide.


13. The key priority underlining all our work is transforming the world through food and agriculture by leading global effortsto make our agri-food systems more inclusive, resilient and sustainable.

14. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how fragile our agri-food systems are and how sensitive our food supply chains can be.

15. The socio-economic impacts revealed how thin the line is that separates many communities and families from extreme poverty and food insecurity.

16. Transforming our agri-food systems can reduce poverty, increase access to healthy and diverse diets, develop new digital-led jobs for young people and women, help to rebalance inequalities, and build sustainable and resilient livelihoods.

17. The new FAO is addressing all of this through a number of initiatives and activities.

18. We launched the Hand-in-Hand Initiative, which is evidence-based, country-led and country-owned, and aims to accelerate the agricultural transformation and sustainable rural development to eradicate poverty (SDG 1) and to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition (SDG 2).

19. State-of-the-art tools bolster this innovative approach: The Hand-in-Hand Geospatial Platform, the Data Lab for statistical innovation, and Earth Map.

20. Among the 34 countries that have joined the Hand-in-Hand Initiative, two are from your region: Syria and Yemen.

21. And I am pleased that the United Arab Emirates has offered to support the design and implementation of a national Hand-in-Hand Programme in Africa.

22. Our holistic COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme harnesses science, technology, data, human enterprise and creativity, not only to help countries for recovery but also to build back better and stronger. 

23. We introduced a modern FAO Strategy for Private Sector Engagement to enhance our strategic partnerships, scale up and steer all our efforts to jointly achieve the SDGs.

24. There is good potential for solid engagement with the private sector in your region, as a way of introducing innovative approaches, modern technologies and investment.

25. We launched the Food Coalition, a multi-stakeholder global alliance to respond to the pandemic.

26. We also launched the FAO Green Cities Initiative and its Action Programme.

27. The Initiative aims 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 a green way of lifestyle - including the integration of urban and peri-urban forestry, fisheries, horticulture and agriculture - and through sustainable agri-food systems.

28. We are kick-starting the “1 000 Digital Villages Initiative” to enable farmers to use digital technologies, information and communication tools, including social media, to promote local sustainable development.

29. Digital technologies can raise economic benefits and contribute to food security by increasing the productivity of agricultural sectors, enhancing market opportunities through E-commerce and access to market information, facilitating the inclusion of farmers in value chains.

30. The initiative will also have social and cultural benefits: increased income, communication and information will improve the living standards of rural villages.

31. We established the FAO Youth and Women Committees – a first in UN History.

32. These committees provide an excellent opportunity to bridge with national or regional institutions in your countries to increase collaboration.

33. The interest expressed for all these initiatives from your region is encouraging and we look forward to concrete cooperation and tangible results.


34. We developed a new Strategic Framework through an inclusive and transparent process involving extensive internal and external consultations, Governing Body meetings and informal consultations.

35. The narrative guiding the new Strategic Framework supports the achievement of the 2030 Agenda by Leaving No One Behind through transformed agri-food systems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life.

36. The Framework is guided by SDG 1 – No poverty, SDG 2 – No hunger, and SDG 10 – Reducing inequalities, grouped around the four betters.

37. FAO will be applying the four cross-cutting/cross-sectional “accelerators”: technology, innovation, data and complements (governance, human capital and institutions) in all programmatic interventions to maximize efforts and to facilitate the management of trade-offs, according to national priorities.

38. There are several key events in 2021 in which we must advocate and advance this agenda, including the G20 meetings, the UN Food Systems Summit and its Pre-Summit, the FAO’s Youth World Food Forum and of course our own FAO Conference at Ministerial level.

39. FAO stands ready to be at your side in all of these activities, providing technical advice and expertise.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

40. The challenges the world faces are too big for one country or organization to address on its own.

41. Broad partnerships and concrete joint efforts are required to bring all stakeholders together.

42. In that respect, I salute the League of Arab States as an important partner of FAO.

43. I look forward to even more collaboration with all of you for result-oriented action on the ground.

44. We need to act together, without delay to safeguard livelihoods, transform our agri-food systems to future-proof our planet and lock in sustainable outcomes.

45. This is the global commitment of solidarity, to eliminate hunger and malnutrition, from which we draw our determination.

46. Your support of the renewed FAO is highly appreciated and I look forward to our continued dialogue.

47. As you know, my door is always open!

Thank you.