Story from a former Italy/FAO APO
Office of Corporate Communications and External Relations
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Daniele Volpe is a former APO in FAO HQ (Italy) from October 2008. He is currently Liaison Officer at OCE Office.
When and where did you work as an APO?
It all started back in October 2008! I was assigned to the Research and Extension Division (NRR) with the responsibility for developing the Communication for Development component of an Italian funded programme Food Security through Commercialization of Agriculture in West Africa. I was stationed in HQ with frequent travels to the countries which were part of the Programme (at that time Senegal, Mali, Guinea Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone).
In 2009, after 10 months with NRR, I had the opportunity of moving to the Strategic Planning Unit of the Office of the Director-General (ODGS). In this new role, I took part in the Task Force Teams responsible for organizing the 2009 World Summit on Food Security and the three related Special Events: Meeting of Parliamentarians, Private Sector Forum, and NGOs / CSOs Forum.
How did the APO assignment help you in your career?
The APO represented a fundamental step in my professional growth as it translated into an upgrade in my functions and responsibilities.
During the assignment, I worked directly with Country Representations (in a technical division, NRR) and, after my transfer to ODGS, I had the opportunity to being involved and confronted with the institutional activities of FAO. This has led to an increasing understanding of FAO and of how I could, through my work, contribute to the activities of the Organization and to the overall mandate of FAO.
An important part of the APO experience has also been represented by the continuous interaction with other young professionals from different countries and cultures. This kind of interaction gives APOs the incredible opportunity of collaborating with colleagues having various backgrounds on many topics falling under the FAO mandate.
What has been your career path with FAO until now?
I started working with FAO as a consultant (in various divisions: Legal Office, Research and Extension Division, Rehabilitation and Humanitarian Policies Unit) in 2005 until winning the APO competition...after 3 attempts!
As mentioned, I was lucky enough to have worked in various parts of the Organization since joining FAO. Since 2009, I have been working on the collaboration between FAO and the private sector in the Civil Society and Private Sector Partnerships Unit.
I do expect to continue working on strengthening relationships with the private sector and promoting partnerships as this is a challenging area, with enormous potential for FAO activities to promote food security in the entire world.
What are the major lessons learned during your career with FAO in terms of professional growth, career planning and opportunities?
Personally, I believe that FAO provides a wealth of opportunities as it has a very broad and comprehensive mandate, and a pervasive presence worldwide. The experience that one gains in FAO, specifically as APO, is quite unique and the opportunities that arise from working with many technical divisions and the other Rome-based agencies (IFAD, WFP and Bioversity) are incredibly diversified.
As regards my experience, I have had the chance to interact with other UN entities, Civil Society and NGOs, the private sector, Government Institutions, Research and Academia at the international and national levels.
The bottom line is that all the possibilities offered by working within the UN system, being exposed the most diverse realities and various stakeholders in HQ and the field should be exploited. This will constitute a valuable experience for professional growth and personal life.
What is your career advice to APOs?
FAO has an important and ambitious overall goal: the eradication of hunger worldwide. Working towards this objective is challenging and sometimes difficult. So my first suggestion is to have a strong commitment to development!
Secondly, APOs should take advantage of the training opportunities during their assignment. The first year of work experience may serve to identify training needs, while training activities can be decided with the supervisor and the Human Resources Division during the second part of the APO assignment.
The third and final suggestion I would give is to remember that FAO, the UN, is made up of people: its staff can and must make the difference. As little as our contribution may appear to us in our day-to-day work, APOs, as all other staff, should always keep in mind that many in the world count on our commitment to make progress for a better world.