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

High-Level event at 75th Session of the UN General Assembly

Green Cities to Build Back Better for SDGs – A New Powerful Venture

Friday, 18 September 2020 

Speech by the FAO Director-General, Dr QU Dongyu

As prepared



Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening,

1. Welcome to this virtual launch of the FAO Green Cities Initiative and its Action Plan.

2. Green Cities play a central role in our global efforts to transform agri-food systems, end hunger and improve nutrition.

3. Cities and local governments have also been very active in reducing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health and food security of their citizens. 

4. And by contributing to climate change mitigation and promoting sustainable resource management, cities are very essential in “building back better”.

5. The numbers speak a very clear language:

  • By 2050, 68 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities, with 90 percent of the increase occurring in Africa and Asia, which will lead to greater opportunities and challenges. 
  • About 70 percent of our food supply is consumed by urban dwellers - a number that is steadily on the rise.
  • Many urban and peri-urban communities are exposed to food and nutrition insecurity combined with diet-related non-communicable diseases as well as increasing rates of overweight and obesity.
  • Today cities consume almost 80 percent of the total energy produced in the world and are responsible for 70 percent of global waste.
  • Cities also account for about 70 percent of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.

6. You can see that there is much to be done and that we need to act now!

7. That is why FAO is launching the Green Cities Initiative and Action Plan.

8. Through this initiative, we will enhance our work with local and national authorities, city councils, mayors, the private sector, academic institutions and international organizations.

9. We will use innovative solutions and jointly turn urbanization into an opportunity for cities to become more sustainable, more resilient, provide access to healthy foods and ensure a better life for everyone. 

10. We want to fully engage with urban communities – especially with women and young people.

Ladies and gentlemen,

11. We are proposing concrete actions to bring about large-scale transformative changes to improve food security, nutrition and the well-being of people in and around cities.

12. We aim to kick-start a “Green Cities Network”, where cities – from big to small - exchange experiences on best practices, on successes and lessons, and can also build city-to-city cooperation opportunities.

13. Starting with 100 cities around the world, we hope to have 1000 cities join this initiative by 2030.

14. We need the active support of all partners who recognize the role of cities in realising our common vision and the urgency of innovative, comprehensive and coordinated actions.

15. The Green Cities Initiative aims to galvanize local governments. Not just for sustainably produced healthy food, but also to contribute to the ecological management of water resources, land sustainable use and the expansion of green spaces, including urban forestry, in considering economic, social and ecological gains comprehensively.

16. In my previous role as a provincial leader in my country, I experienced first-hand; how good urban holistic development increases people’s well-being and happiness.

Ladies and gentlemen,

17. For cities to become much greener, more resilient and regenerative, we need to rethink the way of urban and peri-urban areas how to be designed and managed.

18. With only ten years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we need a fundamental change of mindset and remodelling our business approaches.

19. A new way of thinking that leads to integrated and coordinated actions by all stakeholders both vertically - from national to local - and horizontally - across institutions and sectors.

20. The initiative we are launching today is a product of this new way of thinking.

21. I hope that you are inspired to join us and support it by your innovative way of implementation!

22. Michelangelo, whose art resonates in many cities around the world, once said:

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

23. I encourage you to jump for picking apples rather than sitting on the ground for it. Let us aim high and do concrete! Together!

Thank you!