Former head of Forestry Department named new FAO Deputy Director-General

David A. Harcharik (left), FAO's new Deputy Director-General, with Italian forestry officials at Circeo National Park

David A. Harcharik, FAO's new Deputy Director-General, is a forester with a Ph.D. in forest genetics and some 30 years experience of international work. Born in Illinois, United States, Harcharik, 54, had a two-year Peace Corps assignment in Peru early in his career when he served as a visiting professor with the Agrarian University in Lima. He later joined FAO and worked from 1972 to 1978 as Forestry Officer in the Forest Resources Division. He joined the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service in 1981 and held increasingly responsible positions, becoming the Director of International Forestry in 1984 and Associate Deputy Chief of the Service in 1992. He returned to FAO in 1995 as Assistant Director-General of the Forestry Department. Harcharik took up his new post as number two in the Organization 1 January 1998.

David A. Harcharik took over what he called "one of the toughest jobs in the organization" on 1 January, that of Deputy Director-General.

"It's a challenging position for at least two reasons. First, it is primarily through the Deputy Director-General (DDG) that the Director-General ensures that his decisions are implemented. In a large, complex organization like FAO, this is a considerable responsibility. It requires broad knowledge of the technical subjects addressed by FAO, as well as considerable skill at administration and working with people. I have much to learn on most of this. The second reason is that the Organization is still going through considerable change. Decentralization, redeployment and downsizing are still under way. There are ongoing changes in the publication programme, increased use of electronic media, adjustment in administration, finance and budgeting, and new initiatives of the Special Programme and TeleFood, etc. Yet our budget has been cut."

Harcharik said he will probably fine-tune how the Office of the DDG is run, but that he has brought no special substantive agenda to the post. "A DDG is different to a Director-General or an Assistant Director-General in that he does not have a programme and a staff. In a sense, it is more process than product."

The lifetime forester admits to mixed emotions as he leaves his profession for the broader role of Deputy Director-General. "It is always difficult for an individual to move away from his chosen career. It made me think long and hard about accepting the job. It didn't come quickly to me. The head of FAO Forestry is perhaps the most exciting and best job in international forestry."

Harcharik said he is proud of his time as Assistant Director-General of Forestry, a post he took over in February 1995. "I think morale in the department is better now and we and our products are more credible in the minds of our users and partners. I don't take personal credit for this. We have a very strong Forestry Department that produces a high quality product. All of that is thanks to the work of the most qualified and dedicated professional and general service staff that I have ever worked with."

Harcharik replaces Howard Hjort, who retired at the end of 1997.

20 January 1998

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