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

Opening Statement


Dr. QU Dongyu

FAO Director-General

As prepared


Mr Khalid Mehboob, Independent Chair of the Council,

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


1. It is my pleasure to address you at the opening of the 164th Session of the FAO Council.

2. This is the first virtual Session in the Council’s long history.

3. The world has changed so much since our last session in December 2019.

4. I would like to express my deep condolences for the passing of Professor Ayazi, and remember his life-long dedication to FAO as staff and as active member of the governance from Afghanistan, and also sorrow for the lives lost to COVID-19, my empathy with all those infected and my deep appreciation for the tireless work of medical staff, helpers, volunteers, and keepers of daily life running all over the world.

5. Gratitude is also due to the authorities of all nations hosting FAO offices and employees to operation.

6. And I am very happy to see that all of you, distinguished delegates, are well and safe.
7. My intervention today will focus on four elements:

    A. Update on activities since the last Session of the Council, early December of 2019.
    B. Progress in Implementing Adjustments since the Council Session of last December
    C. Presentation of highlights on the Further Adjustments to the PWB.
    D. Outlook into the Transformation of FAO

A- Update on activities since the last Session of the Council:

8. Since the last Council, we continued to work on strengthening collaboration with Members and partners; and to increase FAO’s international engagement, visibility and reputation.

9. In the first months, with travel still possible, I visited a number of countries, attended several events and welcomed numerous high-level guests at FAO headquarters.

10. Attending the UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee Principals Meeting in Geneva, I exchanged ideas with fellow principals on global humanitarian work issues and the role I see for FAO in that context.

11. The personal involvement and participation of an FAO DG was recognized and highly appreciated.

12. In my intervention at the meeting, I noted the need to explore new business models aimed at making the UN humanitarian system stronger, more tangible and more deliverable by anticipatory actions.

13. I participated at a second IASC Principals meeting via zoom at the end of June.

14. It was a very intense time at COP25 in Spain, where I participated at more than 20 events organized by FAO and others. FAO was at the center of discussions on agriculture, food security and agri-ecosystems, and we re-affirmed our priority to support countries in the global climate action.

15. COP 25 was also an excellent occasion to promote FAO’s wealth of knowledge and expertise in providing solutions to help achieve the Paris Agreement and the SDGs.

16. On the sidelines of the climate summit, I exchanged with FAO’s Special Goodwill Ambassador for Nutrition the Queen of Spain on the importance of food and agriculture, briefed her on the role of the Youth and Women Committees and appreciated her ongoing support to FAO's work and mandate.

17. I also met Spain’s Prime Minister and was pleased to see how we agree on the important role of women and youth in agriculture and rural development and the great potential to improve smallholders’ livelihood by introducing Spanish experiences on labor intensive farming and digital technologies to the agricultural sectors.

18. The signature of a 20 million Euro program with UNDP and Germany to boost the role of agriculture in addressing climate change also took place in Madrid.

19. In Egypt, where I spoke to a panel on Food Security in Africa at the World Youth Forum, I stressed the need for the potential of the youth to achieve rural transformation through agri-food related activities, with Africa having the youngest population in the world.

20. At a meeting with the President of the Republic, who expressed strong support for FAO’s work, I presented my vision of how the agricultural sector and the food system have untapped potential to harness the creativity and energy of the youth and create more decent employment opportunities.

21. On the margins of the World Youth Forum, I signed an agreement on Deepening Collaboration in Support of the Rural Youth and Women of Egypt with the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

22. The agreement foresees rolling out programs to promote employment on and off farm and in different value chains, as well as providing training and capacity development for youth and women.

23. This visit was also an occasion to meet and interact with the FAO employees at the Regional Office in Cairo, listening to their expectations and concerns.

24. In an address to the European Council of Ministers for Agriculture and Fisheries of the European Union, in Brussels, I emphasized FAO's expertise in leading international coalitions with knowledge, innovation, networking and information and research support. I also expressed FAO’s interest and ability to support the sustainable forestry commitments that were approved on that day (December 16 of 2019).

25. Taking part at an event with the 28 Ministers for Agriculture and Fisheries (AGRIFISH) was also an occasion to exchange with three key European Commissioners who had just taken office, namely, the Commissioners for International Partnerships, for Agriculture and for trade.

26.  In Berlin, I attended the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA), where the agriculture ministers of 71 nations, welcomed FAO’s concept for the establishment of an International Platform for Digital Food and Agriculture and, pledged to make trade contribute to global food security and help smallholders access larger value chains.

27. Attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland was an occasion to advocate for transformative change in the world’s agriculture and food systems.

28. I intervened at a number of events dedicated to themes such as financing the Sustainable Development Goals, “catalytic philanthropy” in emerging economies and smallholder finance. 

29. As a new Member of the Food Systems Initiative Stewardship Board, I spoke at a Board meeting dedicated to the future of food.

30. The Forum was also an occasion to hold bilateral meetings and discussions with numerous high-level participants, including the Queen of Belgium, the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the Prince of Lichtenstein.

31. Furthering our outreach to the private sector, and presenting the Hand in Hand Initiative, I met with global business leaders such as the chief executives of PepsiCo, Syngenta, Temasek Holdings and senior managers in charge of MasterCard’s humanitarian and development initiatives.

32. The private sector expressed a strong interest in the Hand in Hand Initiative, in capacity building, technology transfers and other modes of collaboration.

33. At a visit to New York (Feb 10-12), I held fruitful discussions with the President of the General Assembly and participated in an interactive dialogue on South-South and Triangular cooperation for Transforming Agriculture that he had convened.

34. With the President of ECOSOC, we discussed ways to bolster agriculture and food security and agreed on the launch of FAO’s benchmark report, the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, at the UN’s High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. This launch will be held next Monday.

35. In New York, we organized together with Mark Lowcock, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, a resource mobilization meeting.

36. We pushed for greater and faster action to prevent a humanitarian crisis in East Africa as the Desert Locust upsurge was then affecting seven countries and threatening to spread even further.

37. In a visit to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, I met with the Prime Minister, and we agreed that strong leadership, investments and partnerships can pave the way to achieve middle income status. I confirmed FAO’s support in transforming the food systems along the entire value chain, promoting value-added crops and taking advantage of e-commerce and digitization. I also visited an Organic Vegetable Farm and a Rice Research Center.

38. In Pakistan, I was welcomed by the President of the Republic and we discussed ways to promote agricultural modernization and rural development with the aim of transforming the country’s agri-food systems and accelerating progress towards reaching the SDGs, visiting a number of field stations and upsurge spot of locust with first hand of investigation.

39. The visit was also the occasion to sign a 49 million Dollar project funded by the Green Climate Fund, which aims to transform the communities along the Indus Basin with Climate Resilient Agriculture and Water Management. During a field visit in the Punjab province, I saw how the excellent work of FAO is promoting climate resilient agricultural practices in rural communities to support livelihoods.

40. In that respect, I am pleased to note that the total value of FAO’s Green Climate Fund portfolio is now at 571.5 million US Dollars.

41. In Thailand, I had the pleasure of meeting the Prime Minister where we discussed the potential of the country as a regional hub for innovation and food systems transformation and strengthening cooperation with FAO. A visit to a precision agriculture site allowed for an insight to the country’s impressive innovative approaches to digital farming.

42. In visiting the Regional Office of Bangkok within my first 200 days in office, I have set another first in FAO history. A Town hall meeting allowed me to listen to comments and questions by our employees.

43. In Vatican (28 February), we initiated the Rome Declaration on Ethics in Artificial Intelligence together with the Pontifical Academy for Life and others.

44. This declaration that was endorsed by Pope Francis allowed us to stress the need to balance technological advancement with social progress to close the digital gap.

45. A follow-up event to scale up the positive impact of AI in Digital Agriculture is currently being planned with the strategic partners.

46. Another field where we are counting on the strength of modern technology and innovation is the combat of the Fall Armyworm.

47. Fully aware that the expansion of this pest could seriously affect the role of maize in the world’s food system, we designed a Global Action Plan to support and scale up ongoing efforts through a strong and innovative coordination mechanism.

48. Together with Pennsylvania State University, FAO developed a smartphone app known as FAMEWS (Fall Armyworm Monitoring and Early Warning System) as a key tool, available in 29 languages, that channels valuable real-time and field-level information about the pest's location and spread to a global data platform every two hours, while also giving smallholder farmers specific tips on how to cope with and contrast infestations.

49. And we established a Steering Committee that I chair, bringing together strategic leaders from governments, multilateral institutions, research institutes, civil society and the private sector, from five continents to help optimize the Global Action Plan ahead of a high-level conference to be held this year.

50. The implementation of the Global Action for Fall Armyworm Control was impacted by COVID-19 control measures taken by Governments. Therefore, FAO prepared a guidance document on "Addressing the impact of COVID-19 on the Global Action for Fall Armyworm Control".

51. During a visit of the President of Argentina to FAO, we discussed how FAO can support the country in its work to guarantee food security and healthy diets for all, including the most vulnerable, notably through the Hand-in-Hand Initiative, involving the private sector and boosting the agricultural sectors through innovation and digitalization in middle income countries

52. The visit by the President of Mali to FAO was an occasion to review the ongoing support on matters ranging from strengthening resilience to climate shocks, supporting youth and women in rural areas and future support through FAO’s Investment Centre and the Hand-in-Hand Initiative.

53. In a strong sign of putting the spirit of RBA collaboration into practice, we overcame a number of technical and logistical challenges to hold the 43rd Governing Council of IFAD at FAO Headquarters in early February.

54. Our strong belief in UN solidarity and collaboration was also reflected in hosting the CBD Second meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (late February). The meeting that was attended by more than 1,000 delegates, was also an occasion to highlight FAO’s interest and willingness to collaborate on environmental issues given their direct link to agriculture.

55. The Prime Minister of Moldova visited FAO and we discussed ongoing projects and the mutual interest for a closer collaboration. The Prime Minister took office recently and FAO was the first UN agency he visited, indicating its importance for a country with a substantial rural population and where agriculture plays large economic role.

56. At a visit by the USDA Secretary (28-29 January),  I presented the new business model for FAO that facilitates increased and targeted support to the most vulnerable and accelerates achievement of the SDGs. We agreed on the need for more innovation, investment and enabling policies as well as on the important role that the private sector, civil society and academia have played in supporting global efforts to enhance agriculture and food systems.



57. Our response to the COVID-19 pandemic was based on two principles: the health and wellbeing of our employees, and the continued delivery of our mandate.

58. Our successful Crisis Management used three instruments: Governance, Planning and Communication.

59. Right from the beginning in February, I put in place a Crisis Management Team to monitor, plan and manage FAO’s response to the crisis, which allowed us to be ahead of the curve. 

60. As Designated UN Official for Italy, we also coordinate the interaction of all 25 UN agencies with our host country of Italy.

61. I signed an agreement with the Italian Red Cross, on behalf of all UN agencies operating in Italy, on measures aimed at protecting the health of employees and visitors to the agencies' premises in the context of the pandemic.

62. We keep planning at a global level to stay ahead of the virus. This includes office closures, physical meetings, travel, and healthcare taking into account of WHO guidelines; Rules of the host countries; and the provisions of the UN Teams, for our country offices. 

63. Our Business Continuity Plans, the solid management and financial systems, our internal control, and the efficient teleworking by our dedicated Staff ensured that we maintain our productivity.

64. We have introduced maximum flexibility – by adapting our rules on administration, IT, travel, HR, procurement to the evolving situation around the world.

65. And we are communicating quickly and well to different audiences. First virtual celebration was on March 6 for international Women’s Day.

66. We use different platforms, such as internal emails, our web page, the intranet, the emergency notification system (EMS) to mobile phones; and the Member Gateway for permanent representatives.

67. We also use social media tools, such as Facebook, Twitter and TikTok.

68. Our internal response through, all these measures and actions ensured that FAO adapted swiftly to the crisis, focused on using new ICT tools and continued delivering without even a single day of interruption to its work.


69. Externally, we started from the early days of the outbreak to monitor the global situation in relation to the impacts of the pandemic on food security and food systems.

70. It soon became evident that the combined impacts of COVID-19, its suppression measures and subsequent global recession will increase the number of the hungry and poor, especially in low-income countries that rely on food imports.

71. And we made sure to raise our findings at the international stage:

72. I 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.

73. I participated at the US Congressional briefing on Preventing a Hunger Catastrophe that FAO (first DG presented) co-hosted with the Alliance to End Hunger and the bipartisan House and Senate Hunger Caucuses. An event that had more than 1,000 attendees via webinar.

74. As a historical first for an FAO DG, I spoke at the ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment 2020, highlighting the disease’s impact on humanitarian and hunger crises.

75. We have convened and participated in a number of other high-level meetings and events organized by the UN Secretary-General, ECOSOC and the World Economic Forum, raising awareness and encouraging Members to work in concert to overcome the challenges of the pandemic.

76. At the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) I expressed FAO’s commitment to transforming food and agricultural systems so that they are more climate-smart, resilient and biodiversity-friendly. 

77. I mentioned various FAO initiatives that help deepen understanding on biodiversity’s importance for our food, livelihoods and environment, and highlight agriculture’s role as a positive force for nature, including the first-ever comprehensive report on the state of the world’s biodiversity for food and agriculture from “Sufferer, buffer to contributor”.

78. This was also an occasion to present our thoughts on the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 that FAO will co-lead the with the UN Environment Program (UNEP).

79. We raised international awareness by publishing joint statements, such as the one with WHO and WTO 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.

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

81. As a historic first, and in collaboration with the African Union, we held a virtual meeting with 45 of Africa’s Agriculture Ministers, with the attendance of the EU Commissioner for Agriculture, and representatives of the Africa Development Bank and the World Bank.

82. The resulting ministerial declaration and the established task force, focus on 4 areas of work:

  • Disseminate widely the political declaration and its key recommendations;
  • Ensure that COVID-19 related interventions are aligned as much as possible with existing programs, such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP);
  • Assist countries in mobilizing resources to support implementation of the recommendations in the political declaration; and
  • Provide coordinated and systematic support to new food insecurity “hot spots”, resulting from COVID-19, with focus on countries facing multiple threats, such as Eastern Africa with the desert locust infestation.

83. A Tripartite Ministerial Meeting (Agriculture, Trade and Finance) is to be held at the end of this month.

84. 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.

85. Another example of concrete and swift support is the creation of ad-hoc COVID-19 task forces to improve FAO’s response capacity in support of Latin American Member countries, including seven SIDS Members. These task forces include former Ministers of Agriculture and retired Senior Officers of FAO. They help formulate tangible COVID-19 recovery proposals that can be submitted to financial institutions for possible investment support.

86. FAO and the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) prepared a joint report containing policy recommendations that address the increased hunger resulting from the pandemic in the Region.

87. I shared FAO’s views at the High-Level Event on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond that was organized by Canada, Jamaica and the United Nations. I called for the need for decisive action to ensure that all countries recover and build back better from this unprecedented crisis.

88. The Event also launched a collaborative effort to enable discussions on concrete proposals to be reported back at the margins of the High-Level Political Forum, the General Assembly in September, and at the end of the year.

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

90. We also use modern ICT tools to service our Members on a regional level.

91. For example in Latin America, where FAO launched a weekly Regional Covid-19 Electronic Newsletter.

92.The newsletter provides decision makers in governments, the private sector and civil society with useful information, tools, and resources to support the design and implementation of actions against the effects of the pandemic.

93. Likewise, regular webinar series were launched across the five regions to engage government authorities, the private sectors and civil society in matters related to Food Systems and COVID-19. Numerous Electronic consultations with Members are being held in the various regions.

94. The programmatic objectives of the Hand-in-Hand Initiative – to eradicate poverty (SDG1) and end hunger and all forms of malnutrition (SDG2) – overlap with the goals of FAO’s comprehensive strategy for combating the impacts of COVID-19 on food security and nutrition.

95. The underlying approach, including the analytical, technical and policy support and the working partnerships, can also play a central role in coordinating integrated and coherent responses to combat the country-specific impacts of COVID-19.

96. 18 countries have begun initial engagement in the Hand in Hand process (Burkina Faso, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Kiribati and Tuvalu, Lao PDR, Mali, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tajikistan, Yemen and Zimbabwe), and several others, including middle-income countries, have expressed strong interest in joining.

97. A multi-dimensional, organization-wide support framework has been put in place including task forces for each country.

98. Key public and private institutional partners have been engaged and possible areas of country-level engagement have been identified and initial activities in each country had started.

99. A robust, technology-aided monitoring and evaluation framework has been outlined and proposals for implementation are under review.

100. The outreach to countries is also generating proposals for South-South and inter-regional partnerships.

101. The Hand in Hand Geospatial platform has been fully implemented bringing together data assets on 18 topics and 9 distinct types of resources, including nearly 4,000 data sets and more than one million geospatial layers.

102. The geospatial platform has been repurposed and expanded to serve as underlying platform enabling integration and, where feasible, geospatial visualization of all FAO or associated third-party data.

103. All FAO member countries will benefit from access to the platform and from the ability to combine their own data with data contained on the data platform.

104. To date, FAO has signed formal data-sharing agreements with the World Bank Group, International Labor Organization, International Telecommunication Union, World Trade Organization, World Health Organization, WFP, IFAD and the Inter-American Development Bank.

105. In the past months, we have also dedicated considerable efforts to support COVID -19 related policy analyses.

106. 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, protection of the most vulnerable, statistical systems, as well as safe, resilient and sustainable food systems.

107. 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.

108. We are using media and twitter as early warning tools and to assess how problems have been resolved thereby reducing market uncertainty.

109. 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.

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

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

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

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

114. 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.

115. 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.

116. This analysis can guide rapid response to avert food crises and to better target policies.

117. Looking at the longer term, FAO has been strongly engaged in discussions on the socio-economic impact of the Covid-19, as part of the UN Sustainable Development Group. 

118. And we work with the UN Country Teams and other agencies on data collection and analysis, reprogramming and scaling-up assistance.



119. While international attention was focused on COVID-19, we continued to support our Members in the battle against another dangerous enemy: Desert Locust.

120. We did so with early warning and early action.

121. Since the beginning of the year, the desert locust upsurge continues to threaten food security in the Greater Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and parts of southwest Asia, with a risk of it further spreading to the Sahel region.

122. Since January 2020, FAO and government partners have scored notable successes in locust control campaigns and, Despite COVID-19 related challenges, the scale of infestations was reduced in many areas.

123. Initial estimates suggest that controls conducted in East Africa and Yemen have saved close to 1 million ton of cereal from locust damage

124. This is enough cereal to feed nearly 7 million people for one year.

125. Through damage averted to rangeland, 451 000 pastoral households have been spared from livelihood loss and distress.

126. In this respect, I would also like to highlight our strong partnership with the World Bank Group that recently launched a 500 million US Dollars program to help countries in Africa and the Middle East withstand the locust’s impacts.

127. What is really impressive about the Bank’s new Emergency Locust Response Program is that it focuses on livelihoods recovery in the medium term, while also providing funding for investment in surveillance and early warning systems, so that countries are better prepared in the future. This is a vision and an approach we share and complementary role we can play together.

128. We need to sustain ongoing operations; scale up to meet emerging needs, and prepare for new desert locust threats, so that the impacts of the pest – combined with COVID-19 impacts – do not have catastrophic consequences for livelihoods and food security.


129. And our activities covered many other areas.

130. I briefed the UN Security Council on measures needed to break the vicious cycle between conflict and hunger.

131. I made panel speech at the launching of the Alliance for Poverty Eradication that was organized by the President of the UNGA.

132. We intensified our dialogue with the European Union through bilateral meetings with the new EU Commissioners for Agriculture, Crisis Management, Health and Food Safety, Neighborhood, Partnership and Trade.

133. We strengthened our presence, contributions and interaction at events geared towards Humanitarian Action, such as UN Call for Yemen Humanitarian Crisis and the Ministerial Conference on supporting the future of Syria.

134. I strongly support Food Coalition Initiative for food supply chain and participated at an FAO-EU online event on the European Green Deal, highlighting the vital role of biodiversity in building sustainable food systems.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

135. In January, at a meeting with FAO’s Staff at the D1 level and above, I declared 2020 to be the Year of an efficient FAO.

136. I am proud to state that we did not let the lockdown stop us from working towards that goal.

137. On the contrary, not only did FAO continue to deliver, but we became more efficient and responsive under difficulty time!

138. The dedication and hard work of our employees all around the world is recommendable, really accountable and I am appreciative to them.

139. I from my side, will continue setting steps to further improve staff morale and work for the wellbeing of our employees.

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

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

142. Around 1,500 online meetings are held every day across FAO.

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

144. We modernized and revamped our Website, held virtual meetings with all FAO Representatives around the world and organized virtual global Town hall meetings with all FAO employees. The Town hall meeting had a record-breaking participation of 4,300 colleagues from outside Rome!

145. In another historic first, we brought together young employees and FAO retirees from around the world in a virtual meeting and are now preparing a sophisticated modern coaching and mentoring program in FAO.

B - Progress in Implementing Adjustments since the Council Session of last December

146. At the last Session of the Council, I proposed a number of initial structural, programmatic and operational adjustments.

147. 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).

148. Following approval by the Council, we implemented these adjustments:

  • We recruited the Ethics Officer.
  • The Ethics Office is now a separate distinct 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 have been seconded and one G Staff is onboard.
  • We recruited an Ombudsperson who is to take up duties next month and is administratively located in OSP. 
  • The further adjustments we are presenting today, include the proposal to establish a separate office for the Ombudsperson as requested.
  • Resources for FAO’s work on the International Plant Protection Convention and on the Joint FAO/WHO food safety scientific advice program/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.
  • The Youth and the Women’s Committees were established, they serve as conduits to drive women and youth solidarity and engagement within FAO and beyond.
  • The two committees have been very active and have contributed greatly to the emergence of a spirit of unity and solidarity among FAO employees, while translating our vision of a catalytic role that youth can play in FAO into concrete activities.
  • Lockdown virtual activities, such as yoga lessons, cooking classes, and random coffees, maintained connections between people – especially those on their own – during physical isolation.
  • Innovation Wednesday events are incubators using the power of youth to spark change and make FAO a better and more productive place to work.
  • Another excellent initiative is the InnoVentures Lab - a new event series around innovation and development that brings distinguished personalities from academia, business and media to inspire us with their thoughts on the important innovation-technology-young enterprise-sustainable development nexus for food and agriculture. 
  • The InnoVentures Lab are an incubator, receptor and disseminator of out-of-the box ideas and solutions.
  • 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.
  • Efforts are ongoing to reach the widest range of potential candidates for the post of Chief Scientist.

149. 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.
  • But we have also valued internal candidates with a strong record of delivery, for senior positions, the newly appointed ADG heading the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok is a good example for this.
  • The Office of the Inspector-General (OIG), 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 program, and I will make additional resources available from within the net appropriation resources in 2020-21, if necessary.
  • A new Inspector General has been appointed and will start his duties later this summer.
  • 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.

150. I am pleased to state that, despite the challenging last five months, we have implemented nearly all the proposals approved at the last Council Session.


C - Proposed Further Adjustments to the Program of Work and Budget 2020-2021

151. 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.

152. I would like to recall the extensive, detailed, open and transparent discussions that we have had on the proposed further adjustments to the PWB, in which I have been deeply involved and where we spared no effort to ensure full transparency and clarity.

153. In the past weeks we organized:

  • Two informal Seminars for Members that I attended;
  • Two sessions in the Joint Meeting;
  • Separate Sessions in the Program and the Finance Committee;
  • A number of briefings for Regional Groups.

154. Furthermore, we issued Six Information Notes that provide detailed information that answers all the questions raised by Members.

155. I deeply appreciated the frank, sometimes demanding discussions, advice and contributions provided by the Members. My team and I have approached these exchanges with openness and a strong willingness to interact and benefit from your comments. We firmly believe that that this dialogue is a crucial element in building mutual trust and strengthening the FAO governance.

156.We are also convinced that all of us here share the common goal of building a better FAO and therefore see all the exchanges and deliberations of the past 3 months in a very positive way. Thinking together for the benefit of our Organization.

157.In FAO’s history, no Council had such an intense preparation and vivid exchange of ideas. I want to thank the distinguished delegates and Members of the various committees for their strong involvement as well as all my colleagues who have been contributing to this joint open thinking process and doing their best to reply to all queries.

  1. 158.  Let me share with you the main highlights of the proposed further adjustments to the PWB 2020-2021.

Concerning internal management arrangements:

159. To improve the Organization’s efficiency and effectiveness while avoiding silos and establishing transparency and accountability at the optimal levels, we propose a number of structural and programmatic adjustments.

160. A more modular and flexible Organigramme is proposed, to allow for optimal cross-sectoral collaboration and to enable adjustments to managerial assignments and reporting lines to respond to emerging needs and priorities.

161. This is also a lesson we learned during the pandemic, as we were forced to adapt quickly and effectively. The results clearly show that it works.

162. This is the cornerstone for an agile FAO.

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

164. This core group exemplifies the new collaborative approach of FAO. No more silos, no more small kingdoms – One strong team that works in harmony and synergy.

165. The 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.

166. We strengthened the accountability of the Heads of Offices, Centres, and Divisions, in line with best practice given their role as experts in their respective areas. They will report to a DDG or one of the Chiefs as the A Role and to another member of Core leadership as the B Role at same time or directly to myself.

167. This change allows for the D2 level to play a relevant role as real experts and push for cross-cutting sharing of information as they must report to the Core leadership following the A and B lines at the same time. They will also Carbon Copy (cc) to relevant directors at D2 or D1 level.

168. This will build consensus, strengthen internal synergy and avoid the creation of silos. 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.

169. The specific reporting lines are established taking into consideration the background, skills, and knowledge of the individuals in the leadership team.  There is a primary role (“A”) and a secondary role (“B”) within the reporting line, with the “B” role playing a complementary function and with mutual regular support and update.

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


Regarding the Organizational structure:

171. Based on previous evaluations and recommendations, a new Office of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is proposed, which would coordinate the corporate engagement in the 2030 Agenda follow-up and review, working closely with concerned units across the Organization.

172. I will oversee the SDG office. I will put all comprehensive efforts to strengthen FAO decentralization at Country offices, Regional offices and others for the frontlines (talent, resources and services and responses from HQ).

173. This empowering of our offices will be accompanied with a clear push for more tangible deliverables and by a 360 degree evaluation. We will start evaluating selected offices by the end of the year. 

174. We are aware that the grass-roots level is not solid and lacks the ability to serve. We need to create a sense of access and satisfaction at that level.

175. Establishing this Office will ensure a stronger focus of FAO on the SDGs and end a situation where SDG related efforts were scattered across the Organization.

176. We propose the strengthening of three Centres, where FAO works in close collaboration with other UN agencies or with International Financial Institutions.

177. Following positive exchanges with the relevant entities, I was encouraged to design bigger and do more concrete.

178. We need to think and plan bigger in order to deliver more and better for our Members.

179. Working in partnerships is increasingly critical to address complex and multifaceted issues and by strengthening the Centres we proposed to make catalytic use of FAO’s limited net appropriation resources (Big, old and poor):

180. The Investment Centre (service center) 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 in supporting countries and enabling financing at scale;

181. In that respect, it is important to highlight the excellent collaboration and complementary role we have with the World Bank, our longstanding strategic partner.

182. Not only is there a strong interest from the World Bank Leadership to cooperate with us, we see concrete results in current activities, such as the desert locust response I had mentioned earlier. We want to scale up not only with the World Bank but also with other IFIs.

183. The Joint FAO/WHO Centre, which could also be considered a coordination platform, 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…). 

184. 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;

185. Clearly, we need to have a good discussion with WHO and also with OIE, to define our collaboration after the pandemic. But more urgently we have to prepare ourselves first. 

186. The Joint FAO/IAEA Centre, that is a physical center or laboratory, reflects the longstanding strategic partnership between FAO and IAEA in sustainable agriculture development and food security using nuclear science and technology, is proposed for strengthening by USD 1 million.

187. Here again, there is very strong interest to further strengthen the cooperation from the IAEA, starting with their Director-General, and solid funding from their side to our collaboration is the proof of that. They gave 4 million US Dollars extra in the last two months.

188. We propose a new division on Food Systems and Food Safety, which would provide strategic leadership in the development of more sustainable food systems.

189. The Division would integrate FAO’s scientific and economic analysis to provide improved policy guidance and targeted investment in food systems.

190. This is directly linked to one of FAO’s important future-oriented mandates: transforming the global agricultural food systems.

191. Here again, we are taking a concrete step to strengthen focus and abolish silos. Fragmented work is not an option anymore.

192. All proposals are made within the biennial net appropriation approved by Conference of USD 1 005.6 million.


D-Outlook into the Transformation of FAO

193. The 75th Anniversary of FAO comes at a time of big challenge and historical chance.

194. ‘Food for all’ is our aspiration. First of utmost we should have enough food with ending HUNGER first. Food for different regions and specific demands, balanced food that is adequate to address malnutrition and obesity.

195. Our thinking and acting needs to go beyond the mere production of food and include food consumption, food quality, food culture and other aspects.

196. We need to think what good food means. Food that fits requirements, biological needs, for the child, the sick the obese, for consumers at different ages. We need to look at the specific formula and pattern.

197. And our attention needs to go to scientific, evidence-based food consumption and how to produce food. Looking at the environmental impacts and make changes to production modes and methods, being contributors to sustainable development.

198. Looking at animal protein, we need to examine feed productivity and output per unit in terms of environment impacts.

199. Our attention is also geared towards the food chain, supply chain and cold chain and the related challenge of eliminating food loss and waste both on innovation and policy.

200. This is where digitalization and modern solutions such as e-commerce come into play as ways of transforming and rationalizing our food systems.

201. And we need to think about a feed codex, addressing pressing issues like AMR, Residues, Heavy metals and the use of additives and the environmental pollution that goes with it. 

202. Exploring new methods of using food residues, using more the recycled and the by-products to produce feed, thereby increasing the value of biomass and achieving environmentally friendly results.

203. Looking at fibers, we need to explore natural ways of developing new ones. This is a field, where innovation is needed.

204. Biofuel, Biogas and even bioreactors are another area of interest for the future. Agriculture needs to contribute to fuel production using grass or bush or non-edible parts of crops and other commodities.

205. Looking at forestry, we need to go beyond the limited view of it being about planting trees. It is also a source of feed and fiber. Bamboo and rattan come to mind, as examples.

206. And we need to highlight the cultural heritage of agriculture, transferring knowledge (IK, indigenous knowledge), tradition and habits from one generation to the next.

207. Then there is the touristic value and aspect of agriculture. An area that is well worth investing into, as a sophisticated complementary tool for decent labor-intensive jobs in the rural development.

208. The Agri-environments should be addressed as man-made environments, including:

  • Wetlands, like rice paddy fields and aquaculture ponds.
  • Reforesting for ecosystems, like bushes and grass.
  • Installations in the Semi-desert: using solar energy on green houses, animal shelters for cattle, and feed production sites. 

209. This leads us to the Eco-Economy, where economic value is paired with environmental sustainability. When combining rice farming, raising duck, fish and water vegetables in a rice paddy field for example. Farming diversity lead to numerous income generation. Standard large farming plays fundamental supply to food security. Sustainable Farming is keeping sustainable and friendly use of ecosystem in local environment with maximum values of their products and by-products.

210. That is agriculture at large with 5 Fs which are Food, Feed, Fiber, Fuel and Friends.

211. And we need to link biodiversity with food diversity, as food diversity is explored from biodiversity by science.

212. We also look at integrating agri-food systems into the environment, like we do in the urban and peri urban environment with our vision of green cities.

213. To make the expertise of FAO different and unique, we need real experts and strategic scientists. They will have to master knowledge of various areas and combine it. True multidisciplinary experts and talents working as a team and offering comprehensive service. This is what makes FAO’s world reputation.

214. Experts that go beyond their area of specialization to add other aspects of the issues at hand. For instance, aquaculture experts that work on Fish Wharf Tourism, thereby contributing to rural development at large.

215. To become the most prestigious UN Organization, we need support, investment and even stronger partnerships, with the UN System, the international financial institutes (World Bank and others), the Private Sector and many others.

216. We need multidisciplinary talents, more internal coordination with cohesion and less bureaucracy. 


Ladies and Gentlemen,

  1. 217.  With the proposed further adjustments I presented today, all the building modules for the new FAO are in place, if we work together and trust each other, working as a whole-system team, as we are in the same boat.

218. A demand and challenge driven, professional and innovation-based, results and impact-oriented FAO.

  • Demand: from farmers, decision makers, the industry, society;
  • Challenges: from environment, economy and nature disasters;
  • Professional: through dedicated, knowledgeable and experienced staff;
  • Innovation: by new agricultural inputs (seeds, fertilizers, chemicals, bio-products and others), new business models, digital tools and systems, block chains;
  • Results: delivered to farmers in vulnerable regions, to governments, consumers, the private sector and to society as a whole;
  • Impacts: on the agri-food systems, at the socio-economic level, culture, on the environment and on reaching the SDGs.

219.That is the new FAO!

220. And we see the following major activities and actions in the immediate future:

1. Reviewing FAO’s Strategy: This is an exercise that we intend to start in August with the aim of drawing up a new Strategic Framework by the end of the year. We need your (member’s) contribution and commitment to support long term of projects and initiatives.

2. Eliminating bureaucracy: This is a crucial element in the formula. We will start with an early harvest in the human resource management area: Internal recruitment, career design and promotions. We will strengthen our cooperation in that respect with the private sector and focus on the delivery in our country offices.

3. Improving accountability:

  • Our dual reporting system of Role A and Role B will be the basis of strong internal control. Frequent internal coordination among the D1 and D2 level will also strengthen accountability.
  • Senior managers need to lead by example: taking responsibility, working hard, sharing information and thinking holistically.
  • Accountability for each project: working hard and pragmatic for the farmers, for the beneficiaries, ensuring optimal results.
  • Accountability of Members: Increasing their contribution to the Organization, be it financially (short term and long term) or by strengthening their country’s involvement. Building links to decision makers in the Ministries of finance, innovation, health, environment, nature resources, infrastructure and others. Connecting FAO to the private sector and to the civil society in their countries.

4. Minimizing Risk: This will be based on a solid sharing of information and on respecting the rules. And we need more dialogue: between senior staff and professionals, with our Members and with the private sector. All this will be backed up by a solid understanding of the scientific methods to analyze risk and maximize benefit. This is the modern risk management approach that will be disseminated throughout the Organization. Strengthen the OIG and KPI assessment.

5. Holding FAO Regional Conferences: The pandemic forced us to postpone the Regional Conferences, but we are working to have them taking place soon. We need them to receive the regional perspectives for the strategic framework, to identify regional champions for the agri-food system transformation and we are counting on benefiting from them within the framework of preparing the UN Food Systems Summit.

6. Strengthening Country Offices: Our country offices are the backbone of FAO’s delivery. We will ensure that they receive adequate support and service on the ground, while regularly checking their tangible delivery through 360-degree evaluations.

  • They need to be empowered. We are linking them directly to the responsible DDG and core leadership. They also have direct access to the responsible FAO regional representatives and regional coordinators in ODG.
  • The Heads of Country Offices will have P5 as a minimum grade with competence. They deliver to our Members at the frontline and therefore they are at the center of our attention!

7. We will also put a strong emphasis in our work on transboundary diseases:

  • Fall Army Worm: The Global Action Steering Committee agreed to host a High-Level Conference, to be co-hosted with the African Development Bank, with key donors in order to mobilize resources for Fall Armyworm control.
  • The Conference was initially scheduled to take place in Abidjan this month, but due to the pandemic will now possibly be held virtually during September this year, at a date to be determined.
  • FAO will continue to monitor and analyze the impact of COVID-19 and related measures on Fall Armyworm control activities.
  • We will hold the next meeting of the Steering Committee next week.
  • Desert Locust: The fight against locusts is far from done.
  • In Kenya, we are beginning to see the light through the swarms, but much more needs to be done in Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen in the coming months if we are to get this upsurge under control.
  • In India, Iran and Pakistan, too, we are seeing massive progress thanks to the determination of governments and local authorities, but the locusts are not yet under control.
  • As we depend on both control efforts and weather conditions, we need to remain vigilant and have a no regret approach to prepare for a potential upsurge in the Sahel and West Africa
  • Our collective actions in the coming month will have enormous implications for the food security of millions of people in countries stretching from West Africa to Southwest Asia.

8.COVID-19:   FAO is at the forefront of addressing the new and emerging global challenges posed by Covid-19 from the food security, nutrition and resilient food systems perspective;

  • From the start of this pandemic, FAO has adopted a comprehensive and holistic approach to proactively address challenges by COVID-19 and to plan for recovery and building back better;
  • Our Comprehensive Response to COVID-19 brings together all the aspects of our work on the pandemic, ranging from the immediate requirements and humanitarian actions to the medium-longer term development interventions;
  • This comprehensive response is prepared through an inclusive process of consultation with the involvement of the country offices and headquarters based on precise needs and demands on the ground.
  • As a result of which 6 + 1 areas of work are identified as priority for FAO’s intervention (in the context of Covid-19):
  1. Trade including Intra-regional Trade and Food Safety Standards
  2. Poverty Reduction, Economic Inclusion and Social Protection
  3. Preventing Pandemics of Animal Origin through an Extended One Health Approach
  4. Boosting the Resilience of Smallholder for Covid-19 Recovery
  5. Data, Information and Analysis
  6. Food Systems Transformation


      7. FAO’s Humanitarian Response(as part of UN response) – Addressing the Impacts of COVID-19 in Food Crisis Contexts.

  • Only a corporate, holistic, proactive and unified approach will allow not only FAO but the entire United Nations to position itself among the main actors involved in the crisis response, mitigation and prevention.
  • A high-level event where this comprehensive response package will be presented is planned for ECOSOC in 14 July 2020.
  • The coming months also represent our best opportunity to avert predicted large increases in the number of people facing crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • That is why we are speeding up our roll out of primary data collection and monitoring on the ground so we can pinpoint emerging hotspots and take the most appropriate, cost-effective anticipatory action to avert rising hunger.
  • We will also continue planning ahead to adapt the Organization to COVID-19.

9.The Hand in Hand Initiative: The COVID-19 pandemic unveils and accentuates the existing weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the global and country food and agriculture systems.

  • This creates an urgent need to cope with the combined impacts of the pandemic, mitigation measures, and a major global economic recession.
  • The multi-dimensional nature of the crisis will require the coordinated efforts and actions of multiple stakeholders and partners to address the diverse economic, social, and environmental challenges.
  • For the purposes of integrated COVID-19 response for food and nutrition security, the Hand in Hand initiative offers a ready-made coordination structure linking a diverse array of central and provincial government offices, donors, IFIs, and private sector, NGO/CSO and research entities – all working under the central direction of the host government.
  • As we continue including new countries into the initiative, this coordination potential will be of added value and importance to the Members.

10.Strengthening Resilience: Conflict and climate extremes remain the main drivers of acute food insecurity.

  • We are committed to scaling up multi-risk early warning systems and their links to early actions so we actively reduce the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance.
  • We have the evidence – anticipatory action not only demonstrates value for money, but more importantly helps people retain their livelihood and dignity even during times of crisis.
    • At FAO, we believe that people and their communities are inherently resilient. And that resilience is the foundation of development. When people can withstand shocks and continue to provide for their families, their communities, they can reap the benefits of development efforts.

11.Supporting the UN Food Systems Summit (FSS): We understand that this is the SG’s event. But FAO as the major UN Agency focusing on the issue of food systems offers all the support we can provide, with our leading role as platform for Members to interact on all related matters. 2021 will be a big year for FAO.  We will make use of FSS as one of most important events to catalyze transformation of agri-food system and speed up integration of key players in the food system.


Distinguished Delegates,

221. Every generation has its historic responsibility.

222. FAO is entering a new era.

223. FAO is ready to make history, with your support, involvement and integration.

224. FAO Management, including myself, we will spearhead to contribute 100% of our engagement, dedication and input to make the new FAO a reality (one year has four seasons but I have no day and night).

225. We are prepared to change, we will change, just as so many asked us to do.

226. Let’s take more concrete action for an efficient, transparent, inclusive FAO that is more dynamic and more agile.

227. I thank you again, and appreciate your cooperation, your support and all your suggestions.

228.My door is always open. I am from the people, by the people and for the people.

229. Let us trust, respect and keep the commitment to each other, and make new history together.

Thank You!