Direttore Generale  QU Dongyu

Developing a new strategy to engage with the private sector towards achieving the SDGs


9 October 2020, Rome – FAO Director-General QU Dongyu and high-level senior officers today held a virtual informal consultation with Members on the draft New Strategy for Private Sector Engagement, which is expected to be submitted for the approval of the FAO Council in December 2020.

In his opening remarks, the Director-General highlighted that partnerships are fundamental to implement the 2030 Agenda and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs are “not only about Governments, but also about the private sector as a driving force to boost markets, consumers and farmers,” he said, adding that an enhanced engagement of the private sector can provide capacity development, investments and a new professional market-oriented business model.

Qu noted that FAO was lagging behind in the absence of an adequate strategy to collaborate with private companies and cited his home country China as an example of how the private sector can contribute to development and growth. “We need to change the way of thinking and embrace all of the private sector” he said.

The Director-General emphasized the partners that comprise the private sector, including financial institutions, particularly regional development banks, and small, medium and big enterprises, including farmers. “Family farmers invest by themselves and take all the risks.  Family farmers are the real private sector,” he stressed.

He stated that partnerships with civil society organizations are also extremely important in terms of investments, services, agricultural inputs and technologies, as well as those with academia, to help ensure that investments and policies are implemented in a more effective way and are fit for purpose.

To conclude his remarks, the Director-General stressed that FAO’s New Strategy for Private Sector Engagement will be important for all countries that need to promote innovation, mobilize new investments and boost competition and new markets. “It is a new start, let’s do better,” he said.

The meeting was chaired by Ambassador Hans Hoogeveen, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to FAO and Chairperson of FAO’s Programme Committee, who noted that a new strategy will reenergize FAO to work with the private sector. He then alluded to the importance of acting with due diligence and taking care of risks, and highlighted that the private sector is not only about investments but also technical capacity, technologies and innovation.

FAO Members stressed the importance of having the private sector included in the global efforts to achieve the SDGs and reacted positively to the draft strategy. Several Members mentioned that public goods delivered by the Committee of World Food Security, such as the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems, must be taken into account. Members also highlighted the importance of promoting transparency in all steps of the Organization’s engagement with private sector entities.

FAO’s New Strategy for Private Sector Engagement

Deputy Director-General Beth Bechdol presented the principles and objectives of the new strategy, which have been elaborated based on a highly consultative process, including not only discussions with Members but also with private sector entities, taking into consideration lessons learned from other UN agencies and FAO’s own experience with its previous strategy elaborated in 2013.

With the new strategy, FAO aims to partner with the private sector to support and scale up innovation, promote investments, mobilize scientific expertise, generate data for SDG monitoring - among other aspects - based on shared resources, networks, knowledge and technologies.

The strategy defines as potential partners financial institutions; large national and multinational companies; micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs); farmers and farmers’ organizations; industry and trade associations; philanthropic foundations; and producer-organizations and cooperatives.

The new strategy has been designed bearing in mind FAO’s neutrality, impartiality, integrity, independence, credibility and reputation. It seeks to streamline due diligence review processes based on the UNSDG Common Approach to Prospect Research and Due Diligence for Business Sector Partnerships, as well as to ensure accountability with risk management mechanisms.

It also foresees setting up an internet portal and establishing an informal advisory group composed of representatives of key sectors along agricultural value chains to serve as a sounding board for implementation input and perspective.

In addition, the strategy aims to systematically measure impacts through a transparent approach, using key performance indicators and benefit assessments.

The new strategy  will be aligned with FAO’s new Strategic Framework and the Hand-in-Hand Initiative.