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




Wednesday, 4 November 2020

As delivered



Dear Minister Khodjaev,

Honorable Ministers,

Distinguished Delegates, 

1. On behalf of FAO and all the participants in the Regional Conference, I express my gratitude to the Government of Uzbekistan for hosting the 32nd Session of the FAO Regional Conference for Europe. You have done marvelous work for this Conference by chairing the discussions of our Members States.

2. I am pleased to note that the conference, which is coming to its conclusion recorded historic numbers of participation: 51 countries; 15 ministers and 16 vice ministers, 200 delegates, 90 observers. 

3. More than 1500 people were daily watching the webcast of the Conference. The meeting attracted over 15 000 impressions on Twitter.

4. Indeed record numbers. This first virtual FAO Regional Conference in this region has been a great success also through the engagement with non-state actors; partner organizations, civil society and – for the first time - the private sector. I said it for many times, “Walk the talk!” I heard a lot of requests from your region, asking FAO to have more close engagement with private sector. Now, we have turned your request into a reality by engaging private sector through this regional conference.

5. I have to say I greatly appreciate this. You got all the key players on board and really built solidarity for the whole region. This is a historic achievement. I would like to express my sincere thanks to Uzbekistan government, FAO regional and country offices. I know you have mobilized great efforts to make this conference a success. You face a big challenge, as other FAO regional conferences were all historically successful, starting from Asia and the Pacific, to North Africa and Near East, Latin America and Caribbean, and then Africa. Europe is a developed and advanced region and FAO is located in Europe, you have to maintain your reputation to make this conference successful. Sometimes, we need pressure and driving forces from the external, not always being driven by dynamics coming from the internal.

6. It is a sign of support for the new FAO. 

7. The pandemic compelled us to meet remotely. However, the new modality has also helped us to move away from formalities and focus on substance. 

8. When I took office a little over one year ago, I instructed the Regional Representatives to make these Conferences more dynamic, less formal and more open for dialogue with Members and above all more member-centric. It should be transparent to Members, farmers, key players and society to listen to their opinions and suggestions. That is a solid base to get a whole picture of how to further improve our services to Members. It should be a business-driving conference. It should not be meetings for meetings. We should not be on the way from one meeting to the next meeting. No! We should change our business model to make our services more deliverable and more tangible.

9. But more importantly, to ensure that these conferences be part of a process that continues through consultations and engagement with all Members and partners. 

10. And this approach, as our discussions in the last three days showed, added significant value to the event. 

11. I have listened carefully to your discussions and have taken note of your views and recommendations. As we are preparing for the Joint PC/FC Meeting next week and Council Meeting in December, we have already organized several rounds of informal consultations with Permanent Representatives, different regional and sub-regional groups. However, the Regional Conference is a formal process of consultation. Although we couldn’t accept all your suggestions, we are taking full note of all your priorities. In line with priorities identified from other regions, we can then reach a global consensus.

12. Although this is one of the most diverse regions in the world, I am pleased to note that you reached consensus on a number of important issues. I feel that your region is even more diverse than Latin America and Asia Pacific regions. It is not an easy job to reach the consensus if all the clever people come together with their own ideas.

13. In particular, I noted the focus on Sustainable Food Systems and Healthy Diets in Europe and Central Asia, a topic of great importance for the future. Different regions have different agri-food systems and various preferences to healthy diets. We should respect diversity of foods, diversity of cultures and diversity of agricultural and farming practices from different regions.

14. The potential of this region to help feed the world, and to do so in more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive ways, is enormous. On the other hand sustainable healthy diets are key to overcome the increasing burden of obesity and I was pleased to hear so many of you share their national experiences in reducing food loss and waste.

15. You made valuable contributions to our work on the UN Sustainable Food Systems Summit and I am happy that UN Special Envoy Dr Kalibata participated and was able to listen to your views in full. I would like to reiterate here again that Sustainable Food Systems Summit is a UN Summit, not a FAO Summit. UN Special Envoy is taking the lead to organize this Summit and make it a people’s Summit, more action oriented and a new impetus for global agri-food systems transformation. FAO will fully cooperate with UN Special Envoy and other partners.

16. I am also pleased to see that the work of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) is being incorporated into this Regional Conference.

17. And I appreciate the emphasis on the issue of Youth, Employment and Developing Rural Areas in the context of the UN Decade of Family Farming. You agreed to further empower youth not only at the national level, but across the international fora. 

18. FAO is also doing this “in house” – through the FAO Youth Committee that I established – and is committed to working with all of you on this important matter.

19. I am pleased that the Hand-in-Hand Initiative is welcomed by the region and in the region, as well as the new approach of FAO to innovation and digital technologies. It was a surprise that innovation and digital technologies were not originally put in the agenda of this regional conference. Finally, they were included in the sideline events. It’s OK! It’s up to you. It’s your regional conference. However, I strongly suggest that your region should catch up with innovation, digital food and agriculture.

20. I am motivated by your discussions and recommendations on how to improve FAO. We share a common vision for an agile, efficient and inclusive FAO that supports its Members for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, and is accountable to its members. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

21.  I am thankful to the Regional Office – under the leadership of Vladimir – for the efforts to make this conference productive and well-organized.

22. And of course, I acknowledge the work of all our employees in this region.

23. They are truly committed to promote FAO as professional, dynamic and inclusive, organization, which works hard for the benefit of all farmers, fisher folk, herders and consumers in the region of Europe and Central Asia.

Dear colleagues,

24.  I conclude by once again thanking the Government of Uzbekistan for hosting this Regional Conference under these extraordinary circumstances, from your wise President, one of my old friends. Please convey my best regards and appreciation to the President. 

25. I am grateful that you have guided this 32nd Session of the ERC to a successful conclusion, and, Minister Khojayev, I shall be relying on your leadership as the Chair of the Regional Conference for Europe in the coming two years until the new session.

26. I want to also thank First Vice Chair Ambassador Hans HOOGEVEEN for stepping in and skillfully chairing parts of the discussion.

27. I look forward to the time in the not too distant future, when we can all meet in person and hopefully visit the marvelous city of Tashkent.

28. Thank you all for your participation and important contributions.