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

Online Global Dialogue


14 JULY 2020


“Moving beyond business as usual - 
 Food and Agriculture COVID-19 Response”


As prepared


The COVID-19 pandemic affects everyone in every country, rich and poor, and tackling it requires planning ahead to anticipate the problems it causes as well as robustinternational cooperation.

4.5 billion People depend on food systems for their jobs and livelihoods – that is, while they work to produce, collect, store, process, transport and distribute food to consumers, they also depend on that work to guarantee their own access to food.

Food systems directly employ over 1.5 billion people.

The pandemic could wipe out 35% of food system employment.

We must work very hard to limit COVID-19’s damaging effects on food security and nutrition.  

At the same time, we must transform our food systems, to make them more resilient, sustainable and equitable.

We can and we must do both things at the same time.

The pandemic is driving us to think differently – I wish to challenge us all today. We cannot employ a ‘business as usual’ approach anymore!

I highlight 3 areas that are directly relevant as we mobilize our joint food and agriculture response:

FIRST:  Stop working top down – make it bottom up

This is a well know phrase, but we still see too many actions that come from the top without listening to the people who are really leading action or are affected by it.  

Our best data and insights on food and agricultural need to come from your national institutions and FAO’s country and regional offices, to reflect the reality on the ground and to ensure evidence-based decisions

SECOND: Learn from the Past and Innovate!

The current crisis is a living proof that we need to re-imagine our lifestyle and we can build better if we innovate. This means that we need an agile and efficient organization that is ready to adapt to emerging challenges while seizing all opportunities to achieve results.

New investment, digital technology and infrastructure are essential to lift productivity and tackle issues such as reducing food loss and waste. 

FAO and partners are innovating on many counts, including through new digital technologies to address the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19.

We need innovation of the mindset, in establishing partnerships, in the way we work together, relate to each other, and support each other. Introducing new and faster mechanism for a strong engagement where it matters the most, starting with the most vulnerable.

This is where we need to look at the Private sector, who is at the forefront of new technology. Innovation is engrained for their survival, and so it should be, for ours.

THIRD Stop unhealthy competition and work towards synergies

The COVID-19 crisis calls for joint action, and improving collaboration among United Nations’ entities at country level, enhancing partnerships with the private sector and local actors.

Some of FAO’s most successful work is through strong collaborative partnerships - to name a few: 

  • OneHealth ( with OIE and WHO), 
  • the Rural Women’s Economic Empowerment Facility (with IFAD, ILO, WFP and UN WOMEN), and 
  • the Global Network and FIRST Programmes (together with the EU and other UN and development agencies).

And we have to work even more together for greater coherence, efficiency and effectiveness in support of our Members.

That is why I introduced the Hand in Hand Initiative, which aims to synergize data, policy support and leverage resources for country level action.


So we need to be: more country driveninnovative, and work closely hand in hand.

This is how FAO has built its COVID-19 comprehensive response and recovery programme, and today we are asking you to join us.

I welcome your suggestions as our partners for new business models and innovative approaches to quickly respond to demands and needs, and I look forward to your views during the discussion today.

I want to stress again: Valid and timely data is the most essential element, partnership is the core, and Innovation will make the difference.

With international cooperation and partnership, we can solve the problems we are facing together while anticipating actions for the near future.  We can end hunger while leaving no one behind. 

It is time to Build, Invest and Transform.

FAO is ready to work with you to make a difference now!