Director-General  QU Dongyu

Director-General updates the Joint Meeting of Programme and Finance Committees on the new Strategic Framework, partnerships, initiatives and results


9 November 2020, Rome – The FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu, today addressed the Joint Meeting of the 129th Session of the Programme Committee and the 183rd Session of the Finance Committee, two of FAO’s governing bodies that report to the FAO Council, which will meet from 30 November to 4 December.

The Programme and Finance Committees will discuss the outline of FAO’s new Strategic Framework 2022 – 2031, which has been developed through a consultative and interactive process. 

Formal deliberations already took place at the last session of FAO Council in July and the Regional Conferences that were organized between September and early November 2020. The Technical Committees, taking place between September 2020 and early 2021, are providing input on Technical priorities.

In October, FAO Management organized the first informal consultation with the Membership. The Director-General stated that both formal and informal consultations will continue to be used in the development of the new Strategic Framework.

“Our aim is to have a document that is embraced by all Members and that allows FAO to provide maximum support in achieving the SDGs at country level,” he said.

Qu noted that the proposed new Strategic Framework not only builds on the momentum and transformations already taking place in the Organization, but also puts food systems transformation and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at its center, around the four betters: better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life.

“By continuing to increase efficiency, break silos, and strengthen the enabling environment, FAO is better positioned to respond rapidly to emerging needs and priorities,” he said, adding that, in the coming months, discussions about the Strategic Framework will be focused on the Programme Priority Areas.  

New Strategy for Private Sector Engagement 

The Director-General also noted that a closer and improved engagement with the Private Sector is one of his top priorities, and that the proposed new Strategy for Private Sector Engagement foresees expanded areas of engagement, such as technology and innovation, data, investment and innovative financing, and that the new strategy will be aligned with the SDGs. 

The Strategy will be evaluated by the Programme and Finance Commitees this week and later by the FAO Council in early December. The Director-General urged Members to focus on concrete suggestions to the text of the Strategy.

“We are fully aware that increasing our engagement with the private sector will involve risks. But risks must be effectively managed, rather than completely avoided, if we want to dialogue and build trust with the private sector,” he said. 

Results, new initiatives and new partnerships

The Director-General presented a comprehensive update on the most important developments in FAO’s work since the last session of the FAO Council in July, focusing on results, new initiatives and new partnerships. 

Internally, Qu noted that the Organization has already implemented the measures approved by Members to establish the new organizational structure at headquarters. This includes the creation of the Core Leadership Group (the three Deputy Directors-General, the Chief Economist, the Chief Scientist and the Director of the Cabinet) and the establishment of Offices (cross-cutting function), Centres (collaboration function with other UN agencies or with International Financing Institutions) and Divisions (operational/logistics support function and specific expertise).

In this context Qu highlighted, for instance, the new Office of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to coordinate the corporate engagement in the 2030 Agenda, as well as the new division on Food Systems and Food Safety to provide strategic leadership in the development of more sustainable agri-food systems.

He noted some important developments in the area of human resource management, particularly the continued improvement of relations between Management and the Staff Representative Bodies, and stressed that FAO is strongly committed to combat all forms of harassment, sexual harassment, discrimination, sexual exploitation and abuse of authority. QU also mentioned that the FAO Youth Committee and Women’s Committee both celebrated their first birthdays, highlighting the important role they are playing by organizing important events and gatherings for all colleagues. 

Externally, the Director-General reported that 450 activities were organized in 150 countries to celebrate FAO’s 75th anniversary on World Food Day 2020 (16 October), including the first-ever virtual World Food Day celebration in Rome with the participation of Pope Francis; Italy's President Sergio Mattarella; Lesotho's King Letsie III; Spain's Queen Letizia Ortiz and UN's Secretary General Antonio Guterres. FAO’s 75th anniversary was also marked through an innovative video mapping and light projection show on the FAO headquarters building and the Colosseum.

In his address, Qu also alluded to some important events he participated at, in order to raise awareness of food and agriculture issues and provide updates on global food security, especially his second briefing of the United Nations Security Council this year, in September.

He also referred to his keynote address at the Italian Chamber of Deputies on the impacts of COVID-19 on global food security and on the recently launched Food Coalition, as well as to his participation in the Virtual Ministerial Conference on the Great Green Wall, the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, the African Green Revolution Forum and the G20's meeting of Ministers of Agriculture and Water.

Regarding strengthened and new partnerships, Qu mentioned new voluntary contributions from China, Italy, Spain, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom as well as the approval by the Green Climate Fund (GCF) of a $11.8 million project to support zero-deforestation cocoa production in Côte d’Ivoire.

He also welcomed newly established partnerships with academic institutions like the United Arab Emirates University, the University of Florence and Duke University, underscoring the importance for FAO to strengthen synergies with science and research. He also noted the newly established partnerships with the Asian Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Asia (AsiaDHRRA), the Eastern African Farmers Federation (EAFF) and the Norwegian Refugee Council and alluded to the letters of intent signed with the Islamic Development Bank and CropLife International. 

The Director-General updated the meeting on the latest developments in the Hand-in-Hand Initiative, the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme as well as the International Platform for Digital Food and Agriculture. He then shared his vision for FAO’s Green Cities Initiative, the 1 000 Digital Villages Initiative and the recently launched Food Coalition.

FAO Regional Conferences

Qu expressed his satisfaction with the results of the five virtual Regional Conferences held in 2020 (Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Near East as well as Latin America and the Caribbean ) and the informal Regional Conference of North America. He noted that one of his priorities, as Director-General was to transform the Regional Conferences from largely formal, stand-alone events, into dynamic and efficient platforms for policy setting and capturing feedback from all those involved. 

“In the past, Regional Conferences had barely 100 participants. This virtual modality gave not only the possibility to thousands of delegates from government officials, observers, donor organizations, civil society and the private sector to participate, but also hundreds of thousands of people were able to engage through social media from all over the world. You all helped to make these events more open, inclusive and effective,” Qu said.

He thanked the host countries and all Members for agreeing to adopt a virtual format in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In these challenging times, the virtual modality of these meetings reminded us that we are in a new era, where modern technology can transform our lives and bring us closer together even though we are physically further apart,” he said.

Programme and Finance Committees

The Joint Meeting was chaired by the Permanent Representative of the Netherlands, Ambassador Hans Hoogeveen, Chair of the Programme Commitee. The Independent Chairperson of the FAO Council, Khalid Mehboob as well as the Alternate Permanent Representative of Uruguay, Imelda Smolcic, Chair of the Finance Committee also participated in the Joint Meeting. 

The Programme and Finance Committees will meet separately until 13 November. The Members of the Programme Committee are: Argentina, Canada, Chile, China, France, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Jordan, Malaysia, Mali, New Zealand, United Kingdom and Zambia. The Finance Committee is composed of: Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, Ethiopia, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Niger, Russian Federation, Sudan and the United States of America. 

The speech of the Director-General can be accessed here