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FAO’s significant results fuel its future actions

An interview with Mario Lubetkin gives an update on the outcomes of last week's governing body sessions


What were the outcomes of the FAO Programme Committee and Finance Committee meetings from last week?

The results of the meetings of the FAO Governance Committees are very clear signals of their support for the activities of the Organization. A consensus was quickly reached to submit the 2018/2019 budget to the Council in April and then to the Conference in July. This is a very important signal of the countries' support for the Director-General’s strategic direction. We are all aware that the international situation is very complex and that these decisions give FAO a strong impetus to strengthen the 5 Strategic Objectives.

In addition, the approval of a resolution that positively evaluates the first quantitative report on the technical capacity of our organization, confirms that despite the economic limitations placed on the Organization all these years, technical capacity has been reinforced throughout this period. FAO’s technical capacity has adapted to the new challenges that it faces, such as climate change, nutrition or migration, while maintaining its historical role as a policy institution of excellence. These quantitative reports are very useful and will continue to help us refine our work.

We think it was symbolic that, in parallel to the meetings of the Programme Committee and the Finance Committee, a very important event, attended by numerous delegations from the Arab countries, was held to stop the propagation of the red palm weevil, a pest which is causing millions of dollars in losses to countries around the world. This shows that while we pay close attention to administrative management and dialogue with member countries, we maintain our role of helping affected countries to solve situations as serious as this plague.

Nor can we forget that last week our colleagues in Madagascar received the United Nations Rome-based agencies award for their intense and successful work against hunger and drought. The Director General paid tribute to his WFP and IFAD counterparts, with whom he worked together intensively to fight hunger and food insecurity, and who are now finishing their terms.

Last week, the UN Secretary-General and the FAO Director-General also publicly announced the appointment of the new Executive Director of WFP, who will take up his mandate in the coming days.

In addition to the Council in April, what else is coming up for FAO?

There are so many serious world issues on the international scene, especially related to food security. This week we had a delegation from the Russian Government announcing an important economic contribution to antimicrobial resistance. In addition to this meeting with the Director General, the delegation spent a day working intensively with our specialized technicians.

Today, the Director General of the International Organization of Migration (IOM), William L. Swing, will come to FAO to discuss common approaches to migration issues. We are all aware that conflict and hunger are major factors in the massive migration phenomenon, and many countries have called on FAO to help tackle this difficult situation with realistic and innovative solutions that can invert this trend.

Definitely an intense week...

This is just the beginning of the week. Charles, the Prince of Wales, will then be visiting us on Wednesday. He has expressed interest in our work in Somalia, which we will be presenting with WFP and IFAD, and then our senior managers will give him an overview of our action plans and project results.

In recent months, many prominent presidents, ministers, civil society leaders and businessmen have visited FAO and are increasingly following our activities and strengthening their commitment to our work.

For example, the President of Fiji came to FAO to meet with the leaders of some of the world's leading climate change institutions. During his visit he exchanged views with our managers and experts, as well as with our Member States, and agreed to increase common actions to address the effects of climate change on food security. The President of Fiji will also chair the 23rd UN Conference on Climate Change (COP 23) in Bonn this year.

While our strategic focus is on helping countries to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 2 (eliminating hunger by 2030), we know that partnerships are essential at this stage to multiply the capacity and impact of the Organization.

At the same time we are aware that it is not enough to just have goodwill or a few positive results or trends. As the United Nations Secretary-General pointed out a few weeks ago, we have to pay attention to the development of situations such as the famine that is affecting significant areas of Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen and Nigeria.

Additionally, together with several important partners, we launched a report in March in Brussels, which warns about the alarming number of people in the world (108 million) in a serious situation of food insecurity. This is in addition to the approximately 800 million hungry people and the more than 600 million people with obesity. This data emphasizes, in particular to Member States and international partners, the major challenges FAO faces, especially in the field of nutrition.

For this same reason, the Director-General decided to travel to Chad and Nigeria this week to verify the situation in person and to take new emergency measures. He will work with specialized teams to find solutions to this dramatic situation and find concrete paths for development.

With so many initiatives and outcomes in just a few weeks, will you be able to prepare adequately for upcoming events, such as the April Council and the July Conference?

It would take a long time to recount all our plans in these coming months and the important visits the Director-General will make to different parts of the world, but everything that FAO is doing now will prepare the way for the Council and the Conference. There are already many Ministers and other dignitaries who have confirmed their presence for the Council, and especially for the Conference. The Italian Prime Minister and current President of the G7, Paolo Gentiloni, has already announced his presence to open the meetings, and Pope Francis confirmed that he will receive all the delegates of the Conference. These are very strong indications that FAO’s role is increasingly recognized internationally because the Organization produces concrete results.