Direttore Generale  QU Dongyu

Making FAO more efficient and inclusive for better production, nutrition, environment and life


8 June 2020, Rome – The FAO Director-General QU Dongyu today addressed the Joint Meeting of the UN agency’s Programme and Finance Committees, which took place virtually for the first time in FAO’s history. 

From the offset, Qu highlighted his vision of a new FAO, that is more transparent, inclusive and now more digital than ever before. His intervention focused on three aspects: the progress in implementing Adjustments to the Programme of Work and Budget (PWB) 2020-2021; the proposed further adjustments to the PWB 2020-2021; and the preliminary assessment of COVID-19’s impact on food security, nutrition and food systems as well as FAO’s response to this global threat. 

Adjustments to PWB 2020-2021  

The Director-General gave an update on progress in implementing the adjustments to FAO’s 2020-2021 PWB approved at the last Council Session, in December 2019.

These include: the recruitment of the Ethics Officer; the appointment of the Director of the new Office for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs); the selection of a new Human Resources Director; the recruitment being underway for the Ombudsperson, the Chief Scientist, and the Inspector General; as well as  the establishment of a new Biodiversity Cluster, an Office for Innovation, and of two committees – on youth and women. 

“These adjustments incorporated the vision that I presented to you during my campaign, of building a dynamic FAO for a better world, while remaining committed to the original aspirations, mandate and mission of the Organization,” said Qu, adding that nearly all the proposals approved at the last Council Session have already been implemented.  

In relation to the proposed further adjustments to the PWB, a key point is the creation of a management structure that groups a core leadership team at the centre of the Organization. The team will consist of three Deputy Directors-General, the Chief Economist, the Chief Scientist and the Director of Cabinet, who will support the Director-General in all areas of FAO’s mandate. The heads of Offices, Centres and Divisions will report directly to the core leadership as experts in their respective areas. 

Qu stressed that “the adjustments are to improve the Organization’s efficiency and effectiveness while avoiding silos and establishing transparency and accountability at the optimal levels. It is a modular management with some flexibility. It allows for optimal cross-sectoral collaboration and enables adjustments to managerial assignments to respond to emerging needs and priorities in coming months.”

Other key proposals are: the creation of a new Office of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); a new Division of Food Systems and Food Safety; and the strengthening of the Organizations’ three centres of cooperation – the Investment Centre, the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre and the Joint FAO/WHO Centre.

The Director-General highlighted the logical link between the two sets of adjustments.

“The world around us changed unprecedentedly, and we have to adapt the changes with collaboration. The further adjustments that I am presenting today are a logical continuation of the changes approved in December 2019 and are guided by the same vision: creating an inclusive and agile FAO that serves its Members to achieve the four betters: better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life by further transparent, open, innovative, responsible and effective reform. ”

Update on FAO’s response to COVID-19 

Furthermore, Qu highlighted FAO’s crucial work in assessing the threat of COVID-19 to food security and nutrition, providing data on food market conditions, food price, food logistics-related issue and evidence-based policy advice so that countries can take timely and informed decisions to lessen the pandemic’s impacts on food security and systems.

FAO plays a key role in raising awareness, including with other UN and regional-based organizations, on the importance of international cooperation and the need to keep trade open and food supply chains alive to avoid the health crisis becoming a food crisis. 

While the food supply chains are holding together, countries are beginning to experience recession, and this is a serious threat because economic downturn makes hunger worse especially in the most vulnerable countries, such as SIDS, LDCs and LLDCs.  

“We really consider it now as likely that a decade of progress in poverty reduction will be erased. According to FAO estimates, as much as 80.3 million people could become hungry in net food importing countries due to the reduction in economic growth,” said Qu. 

“This is why economic stimulus measures in all countries should be geared towards meeting the food needs of the most vulnerable people,” urged the Director-General.

Qu also remarked that whilst the international attention was focused on COVID-19, FAO continued to support the battle against another enemy: the Desert Locust outbreak in East Africa and beyond with early warning and early action.

With all the challenges ahead of us, “FAO is needed even more, we need to work hard to avoid this health crisis to become into a food crisis,” he said highlighting the need for a new FAO that is demand and challenge driven, professional, innovative as well as result and impact oriented.

The new FAO 

The Director-General also stressed that FAO is now more digital, transparent and inclusive. 

He added that the Organization made a tremendous leap into the digital age in the last months, citing the organization of a virtual meeting for Africa’s Ministers of Agriculture in all official languages as an example. 

The daily use of digital tools has multiplied by a factor of 5 since staff started teleworking. As a result, about 1500 online meetings are held every day across FAO, including the celebration of many International Days virtually with large participation!

The Director-General also pointed out that communication efforts ensured that all employees are kept well informed of the COVID-19 situation as well as the decisions and measures taken. This included the organization of two town hall meetings – one for personnel at the headquarters, with more than 2000 participants, and another for FAO employees around the world with a record-breaking 4300 participants. Qu expressed his gratitude to donors, partners for the excellent cooperation and to the staff for the hard work. 

He cited an ancient Chinese proverb to end his remarks, which says that “Empty talk spoils business and hard work brings success.”

The Joint Meeting of the 128th Session of the Programme Committee and of the 180th Session of the Finance Committee was Chaired by H.E Imelda Smolcic, the Alternate Permanent Representative of Uruguay, Chairperson of the Finance Committee. 

For FAO Director-General's speech at the meeting, please go here.