Director-General  QU Dongyu

Director-General addresses the Joint Meeting of the FAO Programme and Finance Committees and cites grounds for concrete actions amid crises

16/05/2022

Rome - Amid highly challenging global food security conditions, there are reasons for concrete actions about positive transformations of agrifood systems, QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), said Monday.

Qu addressed the Joint Meeting of the 133rd Session of the Programme Committee and the 191st Session of the Finance Committee, two key actors in the governance framework through which Members make recommendation to the FAO Council on identified and allocated funding for FAO’s programme of work.

In his presentation, the Director-General pointed to a growing pace of public investment in agriculture sectors, increasing water use efficiency, slowing deforestation rates and improving access rights for small-scale fisheries, highlighting how over the past two years FAO has been proactive, displayed leadership and leveraged its convening power and technical expertise “to help Members move towards more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable agrifood systems.”

Qu emphasized that since he took office in 2019, FAO has accelerated its focus on technological innovation - the Hand-in-Hand Geospatial Platform just won important recognition  - and increased its engagement with the private sector, all while working to ensure that the perspectives of women, youth and Indigenous Peoples were taken into consideration, leaving no one behind.

Despite progress in making FAO a more efficient and effective UN agency, factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, war and other conflicts, the climate crisis, food insecurity “hotspots” and associated economic slowdowns, continue to take a heavy toll on agriculture, food security and rural development.

The Director-General pointed to FAO analyses that showed the number of undernourished in the world continues to rise, that the number of people experiencing acute hunger rose sharply in 2021, that the ongoing war in Ukraine is pushing up prices for food, energy and fertilizers, putting the next global harvests and food security at risk.

“FAO stands in solidarity with all those affected by this war, and other conflicts and humanitarian emergencies across the world,” Qu said.

He also pointed out that a large share of the $115 million needed for FAO’s Rapid Response Plan for Ukraine, which will help some 370 000 households access crop and livestock inputs, has yet to be received.

Moreover, while FAO managed to mobilize a record $2.7 billion to fund programs and projects on a voluntary basis from donors, assessment contributions from Members to the Organization have not been increased in decades. The Director-General emphasized that he had told G-7 agriculture ministers again over the weekend that they have a leading role in supporting the work and mandate of  FAO.

“We are at a critical moment in time, even more critical than when we last met,” the Director-General told the Committee delegates.

What FAO is doing

The Director-General gave an ample review of what FAO has done in the past biennium and is doing now.

He mentioned FAO’s proposed global Food Import Financing Facility at G20 and G7 ministerial forums, as well as to the International Monetary Fund. This Facility could benefit almost 1.8 billion people in the 61 countries most vulnerable to surging food and agricultural import costs.

Last week FAO completed a round of Regional Conferences at which Members appreciated management’s efforts to “localize” the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-2031, the development of the new thematic Strategy on Climate Change and FAO’s first-ever thematic Strategy on Science and Innovation as key tools to implement the overall Strategic Framework, and FAO’s strong emphasis on accelerating inclusive digitalization. 

Members across all regions also flagged concerns regarding the persistence and socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular the uneven economic recovery and the substantial increase in poverty, hunger and food insecurity. The pandemic widened the gender gap, with the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity 10 percent higher among women than men in 2020, compared with 6 percent in 2019, Qu noted.

Members also agreed in emphasizing the fundamental role that agrifood systems must play in supporting economic recovery, generating employment in rural and in urban areas, managing natural resources sustainably and accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Qu noted that FAO’s flagship initiatives are a priority and key instruments for implementation of the Strategic Framework. These include the Hand-in-Hand Initiative, which now has 52 participating countries, the Green Cities Initiative, which has supported 61 cities, as well as the 1000 Digital Villages Initiative and the One Country One Priority Product Initiative, which are being rolled out across regions quickly amid significant interest.

FAO has also been assigned a leading role in supporting implementation of national pathways linked to the UN Food Systems Summit, as it hosts the Coordination Hub on behalf of the UN system to keep national, regional and global transformation pledges and dialogues moving forward.

Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, France, India, Iraq, Mali, New Zealand, Norway, Sudan and Zambia are Members of the FAO Programme Committee.

Australia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Japan, Mexico, Niger, Panama, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Thailand and the United States of America are Members of the FAO Finance Committee.

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