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


Joint Meeting

130th Session of the Programme Committee
 and 185th Session of the Finance Committee

22 March 2021


Distinguished Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives,

Dear colleagues and friends, 


1.       For the third time, we are gathering in a virtual manner at this Joint Meeting of the Program and Finance Committees.

2.       I am pleased to see that you are all well.

3.       My intervention of today will provide you with highlights of the Organization’s achievements and activities since the last Council Session.

4.       This update shows how well FAO has adapted to the new normal, while increasing its global impact and multiplying delivery on the ground.

5.       During the COVID-19 pandemic, our first and foremost concern continues to be ensuring the safety and health of FAO employees and their families, while delivering on our mandate in favor of the most vulnerable and supporting our Members.

6.       Well-observed safety measures and a cautious attitude enabled keeping a relatively low level of infection among our employees.  

7.       As of 9 March 2021, a total of 344 COVID-19 cases were registered among FAO employees worldwide, of which 297 have fully recovered, 31 are under home careunfortunately, 7 passed away.

8.       This is out of 13 802 employees worldwide.

9.       In my capacity as Designated Official for the 26 UN entities in Italy, coordination and active dialogue were maintained and timely information shared through a dedicated Emergency Notification System.

10.       We are negotiating with the Host Government to ensure access to vaccines for all UN employees and dependents in Italy.

11.       As a first result, 180 UN frontline “first responders” workers dealing with the flow of migrants and refugees in Italy (mainly from IOM, UNHCR and UNICEF) were vaccinated in FAO.

12.       We are also talking to the representative organization of retirees in Italy to help, should some fall outside of the national vaccination plan.

13.       The drive-through rapid antigenic testing initially established in FAO headquarters premises for FAO employees and dependents was extended to UN partners and retirees.

14.       The service continued until testing became easily accessible in Rome. Two agreements were signed with lead governmental hospital facilities in Rome to fast track PCR testing. 

15.       To ensure adequate vaccine coverage of employees globally, FAO closely coordinates with the UN System-Wide Vaccination Deployment Group.

16.       Vaccine distribution is ongoing for a group of 50 priority-countries, where UN employees and their dependents are not covered by national plans.

17.       In other countries, agreements are being pursued to include UN personnel and dependents in national vaccination plans.

18.       FAO employees have already been vaccinated by local authorities in some countries. We are very grateful for this and hope others may follow.

19.       I decided to recognize the Crisis Management Team (CMT) in this year’s Employee Recognition Awards for their professionalism and commitment.


Distinguished Delegates,

20.       Last Year, in January I declared 2020 the FAO Year of Efficiency. 

21.       FAO took big steps in this direction, by breaking down silos, removing administrative layers and innovating work processes.

22.       2021 is the year of continued efficiency and increased effectiveness.

23.       Transparency and accountability remain the cornerstones of our work.

24.       To ensure that FAO delivers impactful results as One FAO, we will also focus on establishing regional and sub-regional structures that are more coherent and on strengthening Country Office capacities.

25.       I met with all FAORs and Regional Representatives and participated at management meetings of each Regional Office.

26.       I stressed that it is high time to ‘break down silos’ between regional, subregional and national teams.

27.       Each Region will build a dedicated thematic FAO Knowledge Platform, based on regional experience, as a powerful cross-continental sharing mechanism.

28.       Our Regional Representatives have also initiated Country Office reviews, to make recommendations for a transformed business model.

29.       We want to achieve greater empowerment, engagement and accountability, streamlined processes and improved human resources management.

30.       We are establishing “Task force teams” composed of internal and external experts, to respond to specific country-level needs.

31.       The new FAO field network will set international standards of accountability with stronger fraud prevention and strict implementation of FAO policies to prevent sexual exploitation, abuse and all forms of harassment.

32.       The improved business processes will help us focus our limited resources on delivering critical functions, to optimize FAO’s presence at national level.

33.       These efforts will strengthen our strategic position within the UN system in responding to Members’ aspirations of achieving the SDGs.

34.       We will also reinforce the role of Liaison Offices, integrating them better with headquarters’ units for access to knowledge on global themes and with Regional Offices for partnership opportunities.


Distinguished Delegates,

35.       Enabling a positive work environment for our employees continues to be a priority.

36.       A new HR Annual Report has been submitted to the Finance Committee, containing statistics about FAO’s workforce and providing a baseline for future trend-analysis.

37.       We launched a large recruitment campaign focused on senior-level recruitment and FAORs, to provide strategic support for the Organization and to strengthen capacity.

38.       Our new medical insurance plan ensures that FAO now has some of the lowest premiums in the entire UN system.

39.       We have also significantly improved medical coverage for all employees, which is particularly important during this pandemic.

40.       Coverage for the affiliate workforce, representing 75 percent of FAO’s employees, has been substantially enhanced, including coverage during maternity leave and optional coverage during service breaks.

41.       A survey to collect employees’ experiences with remote working received almost 6 000 responses.

42.       Over 85 percent of respondents were satisfied with the information provided by FAO, and over 75 percent with the overall management of the working environment during the COVID-19 crisis.

43.       These findings will feed into the revision of FAO’s policy on Flexible Work Arrangements.

44.       About 3 000 employees expressed their views during listening and action planning sessions that were organized following the Employee Satisfaction Survey.

45.       We established a Workplace Integrity Task Force, chaired by DDG Thomas to enhance ethical conduct, including protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.

Ladies and Gentlemen,


46.       The Digital and Virtual FAO is now a well-established reality, with complete global teleworking andworldwide secure access, keeping the FAO family connected and informed.

47.       FAO’s Digital Public Goods continue evolving.

48.       The Hand-in-Hand Geospatial Platform is used by over 38 000 people from about 190 Members.

49.       The FAO Digital Portfolio now contains FAO’s 290+ digital products that support the delivery of FAO’s work in the field. 

50.       The Digital Service Portfolio now has 84 000 registered farmers who receive information, advisory messages and services through this cloud-based platform.

51.       The E-Agriculture Community of Practice, which offers capacity development and collects best practices in digital agriculture, now has about 18 000 Members.

52.       Hand-in-Hand Programs are being actively developed in 36 Member countries.

53.       These range from the Pacific Islands and the archipelagoes surrounding Africa to Haiti and the Dry Corridor of Central America.

54.       Participating Members span across nearly the entire Sahel region and are spreading through Eastern and Central Africa to the Continent’s southern tier.

55.       Hand-in-Hand Programs are also being developed in crisis countries like Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen, land-locked developing states in Asia (Lao PDR and Tajikistan), and food crisis countries in South America.

56.       Each HIH engagement reflects national priorities and needs; every HIH program is therefore a national program.

57.       HIH programs work with multiple stakeholders, each of whom makes a separate and recognized contribution and reports through a shared dashboard.

58.       All stakeholders, including FAO, are accountable to the host government.

59.       In all countries, we have been rapidly building the databases necessary to support evidence-based decision-making and to strengthen national capacities.

60.       We have been mapping and consulting with donors and international financial institutions to improve effectiveness, scale and efficiency.

61.       In most countries, the work on nationally defined programs is well advanced and at the point of decision.

62.       In a few remarkable cases (such as Ethiopia, Lao PDR, Tajikistan and Yemen) we have crossed the first milestone with an agreed program focus, identified financing partners, and made significant progress toward finalizing the program investment plan.

63.       By mid-summer, we anticipate that as many as half will have crossed this threshold – an impressive achievement despite the challenges of the last 12 months.

64.       We are working on engaging the private sector as conglomerates to increase the participation      of the local and international private sector in the Hand-in-Hand country activities.

65.       Our objective is to bring all current Hand-in-Hand country programs to implementation during the first three quarters of 2021.

66.       FAO’s comprehensive COVID-19 Response and Recovery Program continues to work on immediate and medium to longer-term actions to prevent the health crisis from becoming a food crisis.

67.       The Programme has enabled partners to leverage FAO’s convening power, real-time data, early warning systems and technical expertise to direct support where and when needed.

68.       Launched in July 2020, with a corporate target of USD 1.32 billion, the Programme has received confirmed and pledged contributions of about USD 238 million, as of mid-February 2021. That is more than 18 percent of the overall target.

69.       Voluntary contributions – which are channelled to both development and emergency-oriented projects – amount to USD 207 million.

70.       FAO’s resources currently invested in the programme amount to USD 31 million, with an additional USD 1.85 million from FAO's Multidisciplinary Fund specifically allocated to the elaboration of COVID-19 data and statistics.

71.       The Program provided livelihoods support, including cash transfers, agricultural inputs and technical assistance to 2.7 million households, with 44 percent of the beneficiaries being female

72.       Information campaigns to reduce COVID-19 transmission along the value chain reached more than 5 million rural people.

73.       The Food Coalition was launched to support FAO’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Program, by raising awareness, mobilizing financial resources and technical expertise. 

74.       Under the Italian Presidency of the G20, Food Security will be a central theme.

75.       We welcome the Italian Government’s suggestion of a special session on Food Security and Food Coalition to be included at the June Meetings, where FAO will present the Coalition and a call for support of the most vulnerable countries.

76.       I wish to thank Members who have joined for their commitment and hope that the Food Coalition will continue growing.

77.       FAO is receiving formal expressions of interest to join the Green Cities Initiative from around the world.

78.       A dedicated Regional Program for Africa started piloting actions in 12 cities.

79.       We developed a Green Cities thematic webpage in all official languages.

80.       This will be integrated with an Interactive Platform for the engaged cities to share updates and experiences.

81.       The 1000 Digital Villages Initiative is developing well across the world.

82.       In Latin America and the Caribbean, 58 villages in 14 countries have been selected.

83.       In Asia and the Pacific several Members including Cambodia, India and Pakistan have already started integrating the Digital Villages Initiative into their national programs of work.

84.       In Bangladesh, FAO is developing an agriculture transformation plan that integrates agri-processing, climate smart agriculture and digital villages.

85.       China provided five cases for the Digital Village Initiative, including e-commerce, drones, big data, cloud platforms, and e-governance, which will be leveraged and shared.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

86.       FAO has started work on a Cross Cutting Data Policy to ensure data governance, data integrity and privacy, as well as intellectual property rights.

87.       International standards and protocols are to be applied to all Digital Initiatives of FAO.

88.       As requested by the last Council session, we have reviewed the Terms of Reference of the International Platform for Digital Food and Agriculture.

89.       Improved and enriched by the deliberations at the Committees on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the revised Terms of Reference are submitted for your consideration.

90.       Since the endorsement of the FAO Strategy for Private Sector Engagement last December, we have been hard at work on its implementation.

91.       We developed the CONNECT portal, a one-stop gateway for all information, processes and tools related to engaging with the private sector. 

92.       The Beta version will be presented to you in this Session.

93.       Our Due Diligence mechanisms and rules are being designed under a new Framework for Risk Assessment and Management for Engagements with Non-state Actors, the so-called “FRAME”.

94.       And we are launching an outreach campaign to engage currently under-represented private sector actors, such as Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises and southern entities.

95.       FAO continues to provide full support to the preparatory process for the UN Food Systems Summit

96.       As the UN Anchor Organization for Action Track 1 on “Ensuring access to safe and nutritious food”, FAO supports the engagement of other UN Agencies, ensuring that the working groups benefit from existing knowledge and experience.

97.       FAO has also appointed focal points for each of the other Action Tracks offering expertise and contributions as emerging solutions are operationalized.

98.       The FAO Chief Scientist and Chief Economist are part of the Scientific Committee.

99.       The UN Food Systems Summit 2021 Science Days will be facilitated and hosted by FAO on 8 and 9 July.

100.    FAO’s Chief Economist is leading a consortium of modelling platforms to assist in the assessment of proposed actions and interventions. 

101.    Members that are convening national level dialogues are increasingly requesting FAO’s technical support.

102.    Our Regional Offices are facilitating FAO’s support to the National Conveners through the UN Resident Coordinator and the UN Country teams. 

103.    FAO, with funding from the EU, is undertaking rapid food systems assessments in 60 countries, which will inform the development and implementation of the national food systems road maps.

104.    I have tasked Torero, Martina and Lubetkin to coordinate our involvement.

105.    The World Food Forum - initiated by FAO’s Youth Committee - is gaining momentum as a global youth-led movement for agri-food systems transformation. A movement for youth and by youth generations to come.

106.    I invite you to visit the newly launched website of the World Food Forum.

107.    We continue to bring FAO back to the big UN Family.

108.    FAO has contributed to 95 percent of UN Socio-economic response plans in 117 countries.

109.    With 119 Joint Programs, we are the fourth largest UN agency in terms of UN joint programming.

110.    On UN efficiency, FAO is currently engaged in the UN joint Business Operations Strategies in 114 countries

111.    We are working with IFAD and WFP across all relevant action tracks of the UN Food Systems Summit.

112.    We continue to promote an open FAO with strong partnerships.

113.    With theInternational Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), we elevated our joint division to a Joint Centre for Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture.

114.    A new MoU with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) promotes sustainable bioenergy and the use of renewable energy in agri-food systems.

115.    We coordinate a Global-Hub on Indigenous Peoples’ Food Systems to provide evidence on its resilience and sustainability for the UN Food Systems Summit.

116.    In a special address at the celebration of Consumers International’s 60th anniversary, I stressed that consumers can be the “catalyst” to drive the transformation of agri-food systems. 

117.    At the World Economic Forum's Davos event, held virtually this year, I called for joint responses and global action to transform the world's agri-food systems.

118.    The Lectio Magistralis that I delivered at the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in Rome on "Transformation of Agri-food Systems: from Strategy to Action” was broadcast live on Italian National TV.

119.    We work with 45 Parliamentary Alliances to develop better legal frameworks in food security and nutrition related issues. 

120.    In December, I launched the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables at a virtual event attended by over 1200 participants.

121.    FAO continues to provide substantial support for resilience and emergency preparedness, combining humanitarian assistance and development actions.

122.    Resource partners stepped up fast and generously in response to FAO’s Desert Locust appeals and to date, over USD 210 million have been raised. 

123.    In the Greater Horn of Africa and Yemen, FAO undertakes critical livelihood-safeguarding activities related to Desert Locust, with nearly 2 million hectares treated since January 2020.

124.    About 4 million tons of cereal and close to 800 million liters of milk have been protected, with a commercial value of USD 1.53 billion.

125.    This is enough to feed 34 million people for a year and protect more than 1.7 million pastoral households from livelihood loss and distress.

126.    At this point, I would like to honor the memory of Patrick Bouzon, a French pilot from a company contracted by FAO, who lost his life in a plane crash in Ethiopia during a Desert Locust control operation.

127.    The Global Action for Fall Armyworm Control Steering Committee endorsed the Guidelines to develop a Regional Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Strategy.

128.    National task forces in the demonstration countries held workshops to develop regional IPM strategies.

129.    Training webinars to share lessons learned across the geographic zones have started and workshops on monitoring and surveillance took place in all demonstration countries.

130.    Levels of acute food insecurity increased, last year.

131.    Recognizing the urgency of the situation, the Secretary-General announced the creation of a High-Level Task Force led by USG/ OCHA, together with FAO and WFP.

132.    For the next 12 months, FAO is chairing the One Health Tripartite of FAO, WHO and OIE.

133.    We continue to collaborate in monitoring the evolution of COVID-19 and published guidelines to raise awareness amongst livestock professionals.

134.    The ‘Preventing Next Pandemic’ program, prepared action sheets for all 5 regions.

135.    The FAO AMR Action Plan 2021-2025 was updated following comments received from FAO technical committees and informal consultations; and will be presented to the Program Committee.

136.    We are developing Terms of Reference properly for the One Health High Level Expert Panel.

137.    We published a Tripartite Risk Assessment of the introduction and spread of COVID-19 within fur farming systems.

138.    A Joint Risk Assessment Operational Tool was published in December 2020 as the first Tripartite Zoonoses Guide.

139.    Joint Concept Notes on One Health are being developed for the G7 and G20.

140.    You will be reviewing a paper on the Technical Cooperation Program (TCP) at this Meeting, which proposesa roadmap to refine resource allocation criteria.

141.    We are committed to making the TCP more agile, strategic and catalytic in addressing the priority needs of Members and in delivering the new Strategic Framework.

142.    The Committee on Fisheries (COFI) endorsed the COFI Declaration for Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture.

143.    We launched the "My fish food experience" initiative, exploring the critical connection between aquatic food, communities and culture.

144.    The Committee on Commodity Problems (CCP) had two sessions since the beginning of the year.

145.    At the Extraordinary Session, the Committee reviewed the Nutrition Strategy, which is presented to the Program Committee.


Distinguished Delegates,

146.    We are presenting you with the Strategic Framework 2022-31, the Medium-Term Plan
-25 and the Program of Work and Budget 2022-23.

147.    We have been discussing the outline of the new Strategic Framework since June 2020. 

148.    We aim to have a document that is embraced by all Members, for which we have been following both formal and informal consultations. 

149.    All three documents build on and complement the organizational structure and management changes already put in place to make FAO a more modular, flexible and responsive organization.

150.    In developing the Strategic Framework, we have used a top-down and bottom-up approach to ensure that FAO's global mandates and normative strengths are well embedded.

151.    Special attention was also given to incorporating the needs coming from Members to allow FAO to provide maximum support in achieving the SDGs at country level.

152.    The Strategic Framework seeks to support the 2030 Agenda through the transformation to MORE efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems for better production, better nutrition, better environment, and a better life, leaving no one behind. 

153.    The four betters represent an organizing principle for how FAO intends to contribute directly to the Agenda 2030, with the guiding lens of SDG 1 (No poverty), SDG 2 (Zero hunger), and SDG 10 (Reduced inequalities).

154.    The betters reflect the interconnected economic, social and environmental dimensions of agri-food systems. As such, they also encourage a strategic and systems-oriented approach within all of FAO’s interventions.

155.    To accelerate progress, we will be applying the four cross-cutting/cross-sectional “accelerators”: technology, innovation, data and complements (governance, human capital, and institutions) in all our programmatic interventions to maximize efforts and to facilitate the management of trade-offs, according to national priorities.

156.    Working with a team of experienced FAO headquarters and decentralized employees, we have identified a set of 20 Program Priority Areas that contribute to specific SDG targets, as further described in the Medium-Term Plan. 

157.    These Program Priority Areas embed and communicate themes where FAO has a comparative advantage, track record and ability to act.  They are framed around the four betters of our new strategic narrative.

158.    Strengthening partnerships is a key aspect of the new Strategic Framework.

159.    Innovative funding and financing are also crucial to bridge the substantial gap for SDG achievement. 

160.    The Program of Work and Budget 2022-23 translates the strategic narrative presented in the Strategic Framework and MTP into the biennial program of work. 

161.    It has been developed around these core principles:

  • it maintains a flat nominal budget (USD 1 005.6 million);
  • it covers all increased costs without negatively impacting the technical work; and
  • it maintains the organizational structure currently in place.

162.    Within the flat nominal budget, resources are reallocated to high priority areas including the new Program Priority Areas, the Office of the Inspector-General, and multilingualism.

163.    The new modular and flexible headquarters organizational structure is one of the main initiatives that I have introduced and remains in place as a key component for implementing the Strategic Framework.

164.    We are now looking towards an efficient and modern decentralized network and are reviewing regional structures and transforming the business model for country offices.

165.    This is done to mirror the changes introduced at headquarters and to increase quality, opportunity, and effectiveness of regional work and support to FAO Representations.

166.    We will foster collaboration and break down silos between regional, sub-regional and national teams.

167.    Strong cross-continental cooperation and experience sharing by the FAORs will result in increased benefit for our Members.

168.    To ensure a more efficient and modern FAO over the next ten years, several additional areas will also receive careful attention.

169.    Specific strategies have been developed for these areas, which include business management, human resources, digital FAO, governance, communications, multilingualism, as well as safety, security and health services.

170.    The total budget proposal presented in the PWB 2022-23 is USD 3.26 billion of which USD 2.25 billion (69%) relies on extra-budgetary resources

171.    We urge Members to support the Strategic Framework and the implementation of the program of work by continuing to provide strong extra-budgetary support.

172.    I look forward to a constructive exchange on the strategic direction and budget with you over the coming months. 

173.    We want to ensure that how we work in the coming years represents a change for the better – for the four betters – to scale up our programs on the ground, and harness the power of science, innovation and digital technology to leave no one behind.


Distinguished Delegates,

174.    My intervention this morning only touched the surface of the wide range of FAO activities and deliveries of the past months.

175.    But it demonstrated very clearly how FAO is transforming and how its dedicated employees are adapting to the new normal, while continuing to improve delivery and impact.

176.    We do so thanks to your trust and support.

177.    And we are determined to keep on working for a world that is free of hunger and poverty.

Thank you