Director-General  QU Dongyu
A statement by FAO Director-General QU Dongyu


Hundred and Twenty-eighth Session of the Programme Committee and

Hundred and Eightieth Session of the Finance Committee

Rome, 8 June 2020

Statement by Dr QU Dongyu

FAO Director-General


Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am happy to see that you are all well and safe in this Joint Meeting of the Programme and Finance Committees.

But we are meeting under very different circumstances than last November.

The world around us changed unprecedentedly, and we have to adapt the changes with your collaboration.

My intervention today  will focus on three aspects:

the progress in implementing Adjustments to the PWB 2020/2021 since the Council Session last December;

the proposed further adjustments to the PWB 2020/2021; and

our preliminary assessment of the Pandemic’s impact on food security, nutrition and food systems as well as FAO’s response to this global threat.

Progress in Implementing Adjustments since the Council Session of last December

At the last Joint Meeting, I proposed a number of initial structural, programmatic and operational adjustments.

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 (FAO).

Following approval by the December Council, 2019, we implemented these adjustments:

We recruited the Ethics Officer.

The Ethics Office is now set up as a separate distinct office (no longer part of the Legal Office) with a direct reporting line to the Director-General.

We appointed the Director of the new Office for SIDS, LDCs and LLDCs. Two Professional staff (P2 and P3) have been seconded and one G Staff is onboard.

The Ombudsperson is under recruitment and is administratively located in OSP. 

And in the further adjustments we are presenting today, a separate office for the Ombudsperson is proposed as requested.

Resources for FAO’s work on the International Plant Protection Convention and on the Joint FAO/WHO food safety scientific advice programme/CODEX Alimentarius were increased by USD 1 million each.

A new Biodiversity Cluster was established in the Department (CBD), with USD 0.8 million in non-staff resources and a new P-5 Senior Biodiversity Officer.

 Two Committees were established, on youth and on women, to act as conduits to drive women and youth solidarity and engagement within FAO and beyond.

Their activities in the past months especially during pandemic were remarkable and contributed greatly to the emergence of a spirit of solidarity, promotion of innovative business models and sharing among FAO employees.

A new Office for Innovation was established to consolidate and strengthen FAO’s innovative spirit, including innovation in science and technology, innovation of approach and cooperation models, and capacity building.

The selection of a Chief Scientist is in progress.

A number of adjustment actions have been made to ensure that efficient and effective oversight functions are in place, as well as strong financial control and human resource management: 

The Office for Human Resources (OHR) was moved in the structure closer to the other HR management and servicing functions to ensure better integrated services under one accountability and quality control, at the right level of management.

These services include communication with Staff Representative Bodies and FAO’s participation in the United Nations Chief Executive’s Board’s High-Level Committee on Management (HLCM).

A new HR Director was selected through a competitive process.

The Office of the Inspector-General, received an additional 400 thousand USD to strengthen the investigations function. It was the first time it benefitted from an increase after years.  I am committed to ensuring that OIG is provided with the necessary resources to implement its work programme, and I will make additional resources available from within the net appropriation resources in 2020-21, if necessary.

We are finalizing the process of recruiting a new Inspector General.

The Audit Committee has endorsed the appointment and it's been submitted to Finance Committee for consultation purpose.

Furthermore, the four auditor posts previously located in the Regional Offices were re-located to headquarters, allowing for synergies and a better distribution of work by having a pool of auditors in one location where assignments can be given based on the profile (language skills, experience) instead of the location of the auditor.

A new position (D-1) was added in the Finance Division, to strengthen managerial oversight, ensuring the Division maintains the integrity of its function.

As you can see, we have implemented nearly all the proposals that you approved at the last Council Session of December 2019.

Please join me in giving a big applause to FAO employees and my management team as a bonus. Thank you, all Members!

Proposed further Adjustments to the Programme of Work and Budget 2020/2021

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.


First, I want to thank the distinguished delegates for the open dialogue and frank exchange we had at the informal seminar of last week on the proposed further adjustments.

As promised at the end of that exchange, we have prepared a document containing Management’s replies and clarifications to the questions raised.

This document together with the transcript of my intervention at the meeting were made available electronically through the FAO Members Gateway.

Let me share with you main highlights of the proposed further adjustments to the PWB 2020/2021 (Later, Beth Crawford, together with my Executive management will provide you with more detailed explanations).


Concerning internal management arrangements:

The proposed structural and programmatic adjustments are to improve the Organization’s efficiency and effectiveness while avoiding silos and establishing transparency and accountability at the optimal levels.

The proposed Structure 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.

The same approach will be taken for reporting lines.

I know that the matter of reporting lines was raised during the informal seminar.

I will establish the specific reporting lines taking into consideration the background, skills, and knowledge of the individuals in the leadership team and after internal consultations. 

There will be a primary (“A”) and a secondary (“B”) reporting line, with the “B” reporting line to play a complementary role and mutual regular support.

These reporting lines will be made public to Members and Staff, once established. 

The core leadership team consists of the three Deputy Directors-General, the Chief Economist, the Chief Scientist and Director of Cabinet, and supports me in all areas of the Organization’s mandate.

The Assistant Directors-Generals (ADGs) will focus on specific assignments given by me in task force areas of the Organization’s mandate.

ADGs in Headquarters will be involved in pre-coordination of big projects and visible external activities of key importance and less in internal daily management issues.

The accountability of the Heads of Offices, Centers, and Divisions has been strengthened in line with best practices given their role as experts in their respective areas. They will report to a DDG, or one of the two Chiefs or directly to myself.

This flat and cohesive structure will be established for a more efficient and accountable FAO by minimizing exchange costs and less bureaucracy.


Regarding the Organizational structure:

I am proposing the establishment of a new Office of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The office would coordinate the corporate engagement in the 2030 Agenda follow-up and review, working closely with concerned units across the Organization, streamlining from DG to responsible staff who are coordinating custodians and goalkeepers of SDGs within and outside of the Organization.

We put a special focus on FAO’s close collaboration with other UN agencies and International Financial Institutions, private sectors and other partners in line with the Hand in Hand Initiative.

Working in partnerships is increasingly critical to address complex and multifaceted issues and an essential requirement to achieve the SDGs.

Three Centers (designing bigger to be more inclusive and cohesive with other international units) are proposed or strengthened to make a more catalytic use of FAO’s limited net appropriation resources:

The Investment Centre established in 1965 in a model partnership with the World Bank, supports public and private investment in Member countries to help them achieve the SDGs.  An increase of USD 8 million is proposed to harness its catalytic role and outreach in supporting countries and enabling financing at scale with major inputs from the World Bank, EBRD, IFC, IFAD and other International Financial Institutions; with whom we are working hard to establish similar partnership agreements;

The Joint FAO/WHO Centre would house two important joint efforts: The Codex Alimentarius Commission as well as all of FAO’s work on zoonotic diseases and others (One Health, AMR, food safety…).  Expertise on zoonotic diseases is brought together to ensure this work continues in a focused and coordinated manner within FAO and in close consultation and collaboration with WHO, OIE and other global partners;

The Joint FAO/IAEA Centre, which reflects the longstanding strategic partnership between FAO and IAEA in sustainable agriculture development and food security using nuclear science and technology, is proposed to be strengthened by USD 1 million. A new state of the art laboratory building with twice the space was inaugurated last Friday, June 5, in Austria. It will house three of the five laboratories supported and run jointly by FAO and the IAEA.

Another proposal is to establish a new Food Systems and Food Safety Division. This Division would provide cohesive and strategic leadership across all FAO in the development of more sustainable agri-food systems.

It would integrate FAO’s scientific and economic analysis to provide improved policy guidance and targeted investment in agri-food systems, further empowering our food safety activities.

I am pleased to note that all proposals are made within the biennial net appropriation approved by Conference of USD 1 005.6 million.


COVID-19 and its impact on food security, nutrition, and Agri-food systems: FAO’s Response

Let me turn now to the point, COVID-19 and its impact on food security, nutrition, and agri-food systems.  

We have been monitoring the global situation in relation to the impacts of the pandemic on food security and food systems from the early days of the outbreak.

It became evident early on that the combined impacts of COVID-19, its suppression measures and subsequent global recession will make hunger and malnutrition worse, increasing the number of people who are hungry and poor, especially in low-income countries that rely on food imports.

We really consider it now as likely, that a decade of progress in poverty reduction will be erased.

FAO has been working on assessing the threat of COVID-19 to food security and nutrition and providing evidence-based policy to member countries.

To date, FAO has published 41 policy briefs, and 8 publications, presenting both quantitative and qualitative assessment of the pandemic’s impact on food supply chains, food trade and markets, smallholder producers, food insecurity, protecting the most vulnerable, statistical systems, and safe, resilient and sustainable food systems.

We are also using big data to monitor trade and collect information on logistical issues, such as real-time vessel movements, daily price information for 14 main food products in all countries. We are using media and twitter as early warning tools and to assess how problems have been resolved thereby reducing market uncertainty.

Through the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), a G20 initiative, that we host, we provide more transparency and information on market conditions — from production and consumption to stocks and prices — to countries and investors.

We also use the Food and Agriculture Policy Decision Analysis (FAPDA) to help ensure global markets function smoothly.

Unlike during the 2007-2008 food crisis, today's challenge is not food availability but food access.

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 specially in the most vulnerable countries, SIDS, LLDCs, LDCs.

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.

The extent of the pandemic’s impact on food demand depends on the depth and length of the economic shock, and access to credit and social safety net programs.

This is why economic stimulus measures in all countries should be geared towards meeting the food needs of the most vulnerable people.

In the past months, we have dedicated considerable efforts to assess the impact of COVID-19 on food and agriculture across the globe and to support policy analyses.

We raised international awareness by publishing joint statements, such as the one with WHO and WTO on 31 March on mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on food trade and markets and the joint statement issued just before the G20 Agriculture Ministers’ meeting together with the World Bank, WFP and IFAD.

I have participated at the G20 leaders meeting, the UN Security Council on food security, both historic firsts, and the G20 Agricultural Ministers meeting, calling upon them to produce more and better based on agriculture calendars.

We have convened and participated in a number of other high-level meetings and events (WEF, SG and ECOSOC etc.) raising awareness and encouraging Members to work in concert to overcome the challenges of the pandemic.

We convened a number of meetings with Ministers to ensure countries designate food and agriculture as essential services during lockdowns.

On 16 April we held a virtual meeting with the Agriculture Ministers of the African Union members, to discuss food security and nutrition implications of the COVID-19. The resulting ministerial declaration and the established task force which includes representatives of the EU, IFIs and partners lead to putting together concrete measures to protect Africa’s most vulnerable population.

And also in April, FAO assisted the Agriculture Ministers of 25 Latin American and Caribbean countries sign an agreement to join forces to protect food supply for the region’s 620 million people.

The concentrated efforts of the past months have also strengthened the cooperation of FAO within the UN System from UNHQ to the frontlines.

We are part of the Global Humanitarian Response Plan and collaborate closely with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to finalize the revised appeal.

We are engaged in several UN humanitarian communication initiatives and collective advocacy.

We work with the UN Country Teams and other agencies on data collection and analysis, reprogramming and scaling up assistance.

We are active in the Global Food Security Cluster’s Technical Working Group on COVID-19, providing technical advice to maintain livelihoods assistance during the COVID-related restrictions and to meet emerging needs.

We are collaborating with WFP on data collection and analysis, which will provide real-time update on the situation on the ground concerning acute food insecurity as a result of COVID-19-related restrictions and we are working to implement our Food Insecurity Experience Scale through phone surveys to all vulnerable countries. This analysis can guide rapid response to avert food crises and to better target policies.

And while international attention was focused on COVID-19, we continued to support the battle against another enemy: Desert Locust with early warning and early action.

With OCHA we conducted member briefings in New York, Rome, Geneva and Nairobi on the UN’s efforts to mitigate the desert locust outbreak.

We helped governments save 720,000 tons of cereal through desert locust response, which could feed almost 5 million people for one year.

Damage to rangeland and livestock tropical units was prevented, helping an additional 350,000 pastoral households not lose their livelihoods.

We are revising our locust appeal, as a new generation of locusts is expected in East Africa, the Near East and South West Asia, while the risk to West Africa is being monitored.

We have also been instrumental in the new 500 million USD initiative of the WB to fight locust in Africa where most of the funds will be used to improve livelihoods.

I invite you to join me in expressing very deep appreciation to partners, donors and field operators, for their strong and timely action in the past months.

The new FAO

All of the above was made possible by the impressive adaptation of FAO to the new reality.

FAO’s response to COVID-19 is based on two priorities: the health and wellbeing of our staff and employees, and the delivery of our mandate.

Thanks to the early establishment of internal structures to monitor, plan and manage FAO’s response to the crisis, we remained ahead of the curve. 

And within a very short time, the Organization adapted its way of working.

FAO is now more digital than ever before!

The Organization made a tremendous leap into the digital age in the last months.

As a premiere within the UN System, we organized the Virtual Meeting for Africa’s Ministers in all official languages.

FAO’s Committee on Constitutional and Legal Matters (CCLM) successfully held its first virtual session two weeks ago. That was historical record for FAO governance.

Our daily use of digital tools multiplied by a factor of 5 since we started teleworking.

About 1500 online meetings are held every day across FAO.

As observer of international days established by UN resolutions, FAO has celebrated so many International Days virtually with large participation!

About half a million e-mails are sent every day from our offices around the world!

The new FAO is transparent and inclusive!

At the handover ceremony last August, I had promised that we will be transparent and share with you as much information as we can.

In that spirit, we completely renewed the FAO Website since 1 December 2019. Further improvements will follow soon.

We held a number of virtual informal Seminars in the past months.

We updated you on FAO’s work in reaction to the pandemic, on our support to combating desert locust, on our Nutrition Strategy, and just last week on the further adjustments to the PWB 2020/2021.

We also organized numerous informal virtual dialogues for the governing bodies.

And we used the same transparency with FAO employees.

An exemplary communication effort ensured that all employees are kept well informed of the situation as well as the decisions and measures taken.

And we expanded that effort to Permanent Representatives, to keep the updated.

We held a town hall meeting for personnel at the headquarters (more than 2000) and one with FAO employees around the world with a record-breaking 4300 colleagues!

Both Virtual Town Hall Meetings were very inclusive and open. It is a first in the UN history.

FAO increased its visibility and productivity!

At the beginning of this year, I declared 2020 as FAO’s Year of Efficiency.

And we did not let COVID-19 stop us!

We took full advantage of all modern digital tools to ensure that teleworking and physical distance did not affect our collaboration and delivery.

I am proud that the new Digital FAO even increased its presence, activities and output!

And our concentrated effort to raise awareness on the importance of protecting food supply chains was disseminated across media outlets globally.

FAO is growing together despite the challenging times.

FAO employees meet every day in Digital Workspaces, Training Sessions, Webinars, and many other online activities!

The newly established Women and Youth Committees have generated a tremendous positive momentum and rallied so many colleagues through the various virtual activities they have organized!

This is the new spirit of FAO! The New FAO should be demand and challenge driven, professional and innovation based, and result and impact oriented.

Empty talk spoils business and hard work brings success.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, I highlighted the logical link between the two sets of adjustments and how they both fit into the bigger vision of a modern, agile and efficient FAO after 10 months in the office.

We will continue keeping you, distinguished Members, well informed of our work as I count on you and respect your contribution.

And my door remains open for you!

Because the challenges ahead of us are big.

In these difficult times, FAO is needed even more, we need to work hard to avoid this health crisis to become into a food crisis by solid efforts in the members.

And to ensure food system transformation for sustainable development and food security. And ultimately, to fulfill Agenda 2030. When we climb to the top of the Mountain, we can only reach the goal together.

Today, I invite you to join us in thinking together, working together, learning together and contributing together! We are in the same boat!

Thank you for your attention