FAO Liaison Office in Brussels

Interview of the Month with Zitouni Ould-Dada, FAO Deputy-Director for Climate Change, Biodiversity and the Environment


This month FAO Brussels interviewed Zitouni Ould-Dada, FAO Deputy-Director for Climate Change, Biodiversity and the Environment, to hear all about the newly endorsed FAO Strategy on Climate Change and talk about the partnership with the European Union institutions and FAO's plans for the upcoming COP27.

FAO Brussels: You have just finished a short visit to Brussels. What opportunities and synergies did you see? What new avenues for collaboration lie ahead?

Zitouni Ould-Dada: The EU is an FAO Member and a big supporter of FAO’s work. During the meetings I had here in Brussels, many topics came up during the discussions related to food insecurity and poverty including climate change and SDGs, agrifood systems transformation, biodiversity loss, fisheries, deforestation, One Health, gender equality, innovation and digitalisation. This shows our shared common interests, vision and mutual commitments with the EU. This means that we have many opportunities to work together to merge our expertise and increase our support to countries. We need stronger collaboration and coherence in our actions to tackle the multiple challenges the world is facing today. It was clear from the discussions that both FAO and the EU are concerned about global food security and climate change and we see opportunities to collaborate more to accelerate the transformation of agrifood systems. We agreed to explore opportunities for collaboration and dialogue at COP27 including joint high-level events.

FAO Brussels: Let me now move to the newly endorsed FAO Strategy on Climate Change. We see that FAO is renewing and strengthening its efforts to meet the global climate emergency. How do you see this strategy aligning with FAO’s Strategic Framework, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in general?

Zitouni Ould-Dada: They are much aligned. Firstly, our new Strategy on Climate Change was born from an evaluation of FAO’s contribution to SDG13 (climate action). One key aspect of SDG13 is that it cuts across all the SDGs, which means that we cannot achieve the SDGs unless we fix the climate crisis. Secondly, the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs are placed at the centre of FAO’s Strategic Framework, which is supported by twenty Programme Priority Areas (PPAs) that drive FAO’s contribution towards achieving the SDGs. So FAO’s Strategic Framework has been designed to support the 2030 Agenda by transforming agri-food systems to make them MORE efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, leaving no one behind. So it is important that we ensure synergy and complementarity in the implementation of the new Strategy on Climate Change and the Strategic Framework and its PPAs. This means that all our strategies should be connected to avoid silos so we can maximise the delivery of results under the framework.

FAO Brussels: And how about the FAO Biodiversity Strategy? How does that link with the other two strategies?

Zitouni Ould-Dada: The world is currently living through two major crises: climate change and biodiversity loss, and they both affect global food security and livelihoods. Science and innovation are key at helping us develop and deploy solutions to tackle them together. This is what we need to demonstrate during the implementation of our strategies to maximise support and co-benefits to countries and farmers. We can also do this by linking the outcomes from both international conferences taking place this year: COP27 on climate change in November and COP15 on biodiversity in December. In fact, we need stronger connections between the three Rio conventions: the Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) and the Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

FAO Brussels: Since we are talking about these linkages between the strategies, I wanted to ask you what linkages you see between the European Green Deal and the new FAO Strategy on Climate Change?

Zitouni Ould-Dada: There are many linkages between the two. One of the goals of the EU Green Deal is to ensure food security in the face of climate change and biodiversity loss. The Farm to Fork Strategy, which is part of the EU Green Deal, aims to accelerate the transition to a sustainable food system by tackling climate change, reversing biodiversity loss, and ensuring food security and nutrition. It also recognises the importance of research and innovation as key instruments to overcome barriers and develop innovative solutions that we desperately need. So the multiple crises we face and the common agendas we share bring us closer to work and act together by combining our strengths and comparative advantages. We discussed carbon markets and carbon farming as common areas of interest where we could collaborate. We could develop Pilot projects/initiatives at local or regional level to gather experience and expand farmers’ knowledge and understanding of the potential benefits to them. Soil carbon and gender equality are two other areas that came up strongly during our discussion and where we could collaborate further.

FAO Brussels: You had the chance to interact with a number of United Nations Agencies here in Brussels. How do you see the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration in terms of opportunities for collaboration towards this one UN approach, and how do you see the other UN Agencies synergistically working with FAO?

Zitouni Ould-Dada: I really enjoyed the meeting of the UN Brussels Team Task Force, which is co-chaired by FAO Brussels Director and UNEP Director in Brussels. It was great to see the UN agencies getting together to promote coordination and synergy. The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, co-led by FAO and UNEP, is about protecting and reviving ecosystems all around the world for the benefit of people and nature. It was clear that many agencies have smoothing to bring to help achieve the decade. Only with healthy ecosystems can we tackle biodiversity loss, food insecurity and improve livelihoods and thus achieve the Four Betters and the SDGs. It gives us great opportunities to work more together and deliver more together. We need to translate commitments into action on the ground. We need to put our strengths together for a global ecosystem restoration movement and bring together diverse stakeholders including knowledge holders, decision-makers and investors into action. I believe that we succeeded in showing the new modern image of FAO to this UN group, and to the European Union, which will help us gain more respect and credibility. FAO is a key member of the UN family because we have so much knowledge, expertise and tools which enable us to offer a wide range of innovative solutions to achieve zero hunger.

FAO Brussels: So what are the plans for COP27?

Zitouni Ould-Dada: We are planning an extraordinary presence of FAO at COP27. This is an African COP, and the world is worried about food security. So we expect food security to be high on the agenda. We are planning to have the first ever FAO Food Pavilion to show the new image of modern and efficient FAO with an innovative business model. It will be fully digital to promote digital FAO and will have a café stand to serve low carbon and organic tea and coffee (and chocolate!). We plan to convene events and dialogues, promote our new Strategic Framework and the Four Betters, our two new Strategies on Climate Change and on Science and Innovation, showcase our support to countries and promote collaboration and innovation.

We are working with the Egyptian Presidency to launch initiatives on agriculture, on water and possibly on nutrition. We will be supporting the Presidency on Thematic Days including Agriculture Day and Water Day. There are other Thematic Days such as Science Day and Solutions Day, where we hope to be involved. We proposed to the Presidency to make low carbon and nutritious food available at COP27 (and no plastic!) and we’re following up with them on this. We will be leading the water pavilion with other partners. So COP27 is an immense opportunity for FAO to show its global leadership especially in this time of multiple crises. We want to promote agriculture as an important part of the solution to the crises of climate change and biodiversity loss and show that FAO has a lot to offer to deliver innovative solutions. We are in fact planning for both COP27 in Egypt this year and COP28 in UAE next year. FAO is also part of the UN COP27 Task Force established by the UN Secretary General to provide “One UN Support” to the Egyptian Presidency.

FAO Brussels: We are certainly going to continue supporting these efforts from Brussels and thank you for this interview. 

Zitouni Ould-Dada: Thank you.