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

Science Days – Preparing for the UN Food Systems Summit 2021

Remarks by
Dr QU, Dongyu, FAO Director-General

 As prepared

8 July 2021

Dear Fellow Scientists,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1.            Welcome to the much-anticipated Science Days, facilitated and hosted by FAO, in preparation for the UN Food Systems Summit and its Pre-Summit. 

2.            This event is led by the Summit’s Scientific Group, which is ensuring the robustness, breadth and independence of the science that underpins the Summit and its outcomes.

3.            In these two days, we will be highlighting the centrality of science and innovation for

agri-food systems transformation.

4.            We will build on the momentum gained in the past three days where more than 40 side-events were held.

5.            FAO has led and co-organized 12 of these side-events: A strong sign of our political commitment and professional engagement.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

6.            We are at a critical moment in time.

7.            Already before the pandemic:

•             The global undernourished was increasing, and reached 690 million in 2019;

•             Nearly one in ten people in the world was exposed to severe levels of food insecurity;

•             Overweight and obesity continue to increase in rich and poor countries alike; 

•             3 billion people did not have access to the minimum cost healthy diets, and

•             All this in a world, where we need to achieve land degradation neutrality, increase the efficiency of water use in agriculture, and reach the Paris Agreement targets.

8.            More than a year into the pandemic, we are witnessing the scale of its long-term effects on the

agri-food systems.

9.            We see how it has worsened the food security and nutrition situation around the world.

10.          Another 132 million became chronically hungry by the end of 2020.

11.          And 155 million people in 55 countries manifested crisis-level acute food insecurity.

12.          The Sustainable Development Goals is at critical new phase released by UN on 6 July!

13.          We need to adopt a holistic, coordinated approach to transform our agri-food systems.

14.          Harnessing science, technology and innovation is one of keys for this transformation.

15.          We need science to identify synergies and trade-offs, and to advance evidence-based policymaking.

16.          Strengthening the science-policy interface is critical.

17.          This is why these Science Days and the preceding side-events are an important component of the preparatory process for the UN Food Systems Summit 2021.

18.          The goal of the Summit is to help stakeholders better understand and manage the complex choices that affect the future of agri-food systems, and to accelerate progress towards the SDGs.

19.          To achieve the ambitious transformative changes required, we need to change policies, mindsets, approaches and business models.

20.          At FAO, we have implemented a series of fundamental transformative actions to drive this change.

21.          FAO’s new Strategic Framework for the next decade was endorsed last month by the FAO Conference.

22.          It focuses on the transformation to MORE efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems;

23.          for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life, leaving no one behind.

24.          These ‘Four Betters’ represent a guiding principle and an innovative business model for how FAO is supporting the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.

25.          To accelerate progress and to realize our aspirations - FAO applies four cross-cutting “accelerators” in all programmatic interventions: technology, innovation, data and complements (governance, human capacity and institutions).

26.          We are translating this into concrete action in our activities and initiatives.

27.          FAO’s flagship Hand-in-Hand Initiative aims to accelerate agricultural transformation and sustainable rural development to eradicate poverty (SDG 1) and end hunger and all forms of malnutrition (SDG2).

28.          The initiative prioritizes Member countries where national capacities and international support are the most limited or where operational challenges, including natural- or man-made crises, are the greatest.

29.          It is supported by the Hand-in-Hand Geospatial Platform and the Data Lab for Statistical Innovation, which combines big data and Artificial Intelligence for decision-making.

30.          Innovation, science and Data are also supporting other FAO activities, like the Green Cities Initiative, the 1 000 Digital Villages Initiative, as well as the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme.

31.          These are all opportunities for innovation and transformation of agri-food systems, and for achieving a green recovery.

32.          Last year, I appointed the first Chief Scientist in FAO’s history to ensure that the Organization has a strong science-based voice.

33.          The newly established Office of Innovation is embedding and upscaling innovation across all of FAO’s work.

34.          A number of other new offices SIDS/LLDCs, OCB, OSDG and centres have been established.  We must think of innovation in a holistic way.

35.          It is not just about new technologies; it also includes social, institutional, policy and financial innovation.

36.          And it is about new ways of thinking and collaborating.

37.          To reach impact at scale, we must develop new and transformative partnerships, including with the private sector and civil society.

38.          FAO’s new Strategy for Private Sector Engagement 2021-2025 enables us to enhance our strategic partnerships, scale up and steer all efforts to jointly achieve the SDGs.

39.          Enabling science-based policies is needed, for the production of nutritious, safe, affordable and accessible foods.


Dear Fellow Scientists,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

40.          For the UN Food Systems Summit, FAO is the UN Anchor Organization of Action Track 1 “Ensure Safe and Nutritious Food for All”.

41.          We are committed to offering our extensive technical knowledge in support of developing game-changing solutions under all Action Areas and within the Innovation Lever of Change.

42.          In the UN Food Systems Summit Dialogues, FAO is providing support to Members through the UN Country Teams.

43.          We have co-convened a number of regional dialogues and organized or participated in many independent ones. 

44.          Collectively we can, and we must, do more to place science firmly at the centre of our decisions and actions.

45.          FAO will continue providing its full support to the Food Systems Summit preparatory process;

46.          and we will support our Members in implementing the Summit’s recommendations and follow-up actions.

47.          I look forward to productive Science Days and beyond.

Thank you.