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

Joint Meeting of the 133rd Session of the Programme Committee and the

191st Session of the Finance Committee 

Opening Statement


Dr QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General

As delivered 

16 May 2022



Dear Colleagues,

Good morning,


1.         The impacts of disasters and crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, other hotspots and the climate crisis, and the resulting economic slowdowns and downturns, continue to take a heavy toll on agriculture, food security and rural development.


2.         The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World confirms that hunger continues to rise, and we are not on track to end hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition by 2030.


3.         The Global Food Crises Report released on 4 May informs that approximately 193 million people in 53 countries or territories experienced acute hunger in 2021 - an increase of nearly 40 million people compared with 2020. 


4.         The ongoing war in Ukraine continues to impact further on consumers across the world, particularly the poorest, due to the resulting increases in the price of food, energy and fertilizers, putting the next global harvests and food security at risk.


5.         I reaffirm that FAO stands in solidarity with all those affected by this war, and other conflicts and humanitarian emergencies across the world.


6.         FAO is staying and delivering in Ukraine in line with our mandate, as well as in other regions.


7.         We have reinforced our team on the ground and taken every measure to ensure their safety.


8.         FAO’s Rapid Response Plan for Ukraine is assisting farmers in accessing crop and livestock inputs in the immediate and medium‑term, and will reach almost 1 million individuals – approximately 370 000 households.


9.         However, a large part of the USD 115 million needed for the Plan from May to December 2022 has not yet been received.


10.       As we know, both Ukraine and the Russian Federation are important players in global commodity markets, and the uncertainty surrounding the conflict led to further significant price increase in global markets, particularly those of wheat, maize and oilseeds.


11.       This increase came on top of already high prices driven by strong demand and high input costs as a result of COVID-19 recovery and response.


12.       In March 2022, the FAO Food Price Index reached its highest level (160 points), and has now averaged 158.2 points in April 2022, but remains historically high.


13.       Market transparency is crucial: the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) is a pillar of agricultural market transparency and an essential tool to foster trust in global agriculture markets.


14.       FAO calls for every effort to be made to strengthen and expand AMIS.


15.       The G7 agriculture ministers invited the FAO Director-General for the first time to participate in their meeting, during which they highly appreciated what FAO has done over the past months and years, and they indicated they would continue the support of FAO’s mandate to fit the purpose and help farmers across the world.


16.       Fertilizer prices have also increased significantly, and fertilizer affordability decreased.


17.       Key cereal and high value commodity exporting countries are import dependent on fertilizer from the Russian Federation, with levels that vary from 20 percent to more than 70 percent.


18.       We need to assure that key food exporting countries have access to the needed fertilizers to assure sufficient food availability for the next year.


19.       FAO encourages all countries to improve fertilizer use efficiency, including through the use of soil maps, and through improved fertilizer application.


20.       FAO stresses the need to support the continuity of farming operations within Ukraine, while supporting agrifood value chains.


21.       The crisis represents a challenge for food security for many countries, and especially for low-income food import dependent countries and vulnerable population groups.


22.       In response to the rising challenges posed to national budgets by rising food prices, FAO developed a proposal for a global Food Import Financing Facility presented to the G20 financial ministers and to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which aims to respond to rising food import and input costs.


23.       The mechanism is based on needs and limited to low and lower middle-income net food-importing countries and selected beneficiaries of the International Development Association.


24.       The FIFF could benefit almost 1.8 billion people in the 61 most vulnerable countries.


25.       I also made this proposal to the recent G7 agriculture ministers meeting.


Dear Colleagues,


26.       The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on health, economy and social systems are still evolving and likely to continue over the coming years, and I hope over the coming months, with uneven negative impact on the poor and the most vulnerable.


27.       The gender gap in food insecurity has grown even larger because of COVID-19, with the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity being 10 percent higher among women than men in 2020, compared with 6 percent in 2019.


28.       While the global agrifood systems remained resilient during this crisis, income losses and food price spikes have caused inequalities to rise.


29.       FAO’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme launched in July 2020 is still actively supporting countries in need.


30.       The Programme has received confirmed and pledged contributions totalling USD 466 million, which is almost 35 percent of the target.


31.       It focuses on the food security and nutrition dimensions of the crisis, aiming at mitigating the immediate impacts of the crisis, while strengthening the long-term resilience of agrifood systems and livelihoods.


32.       The return to office at FAO Headquarters and in the field is proceeding in line with UN guidelines and prevailing local measures to contain the spread of the pandemic.


33.       At headquarters in Rome, the preferred occupancy rate is currently set at 50 percent of capacity, on a rotational basis.


34.       The safety and health of all FAO employees continues to be a priority.


Dear Colleagues,


35.       Last week, the Regional Conference for Europe and Central Asia concluded its work, marking the conclusion of all Regional Conference sessions in 2022.


36.       We achieved that with extraordinary efforts from all Members and colleagues in all regions - it was not easy and I invite all of you to applaud all the efforts made.


37.       I would like to provide a number of key updates arising from these Regional Conferences:


38.       First, I am pleased to announce that Members appreciated FAO’s efforts in each region to ‘localize’ the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31, including proposals by each regional office to associate the 20 Programme Priority Areas (PPAs) to Regional Priorities and Regional Initiatives.


39.       Second, the Regional Conferences welcomed the development of the new thematic Strategy on Climate Change and FAO’s first-ever thematic Strategy on Science and Innovation, as key tools for the implementation of the Strategic Framework.


40.       Third, all Regions raised concerns regarding the persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic and its socio-economic consequences, the uneven economic recovery, and the substantial increase in poverty, hunger and food insecurity.


41.       Fourth, the Regional Conferences requested updates on the impact on global food security of the war in Ukraine and supported FAO’s policy recommendations to address the consequences of rising food, energy and input prices in fragile and import dependent countries.


42.       In this regard, the regional governing bodies stressed the fundamental role of agrifood systems in supporting economic recovery, generating employment in rural and in urban areas, managing natural resources sustainably, and in accelerating progress towards the achievement of the SDGs,


43.       And noted that the ongoing digital transformation of agrifood chains was critical for achieving the SDGs, and welcomed FAO’s efforts to support inclusive digitalization.


44.       Here I wish to recognize the efforts made by all colleagues to reach a fully Digital FAO.


45.       FAO’ Geospatial Platform received the World Excellence Award in Agriculture and Food Security at the Geospatial World Forum 2022 for the best collaborative platform towards data-driven agriculture.


46.       I wish to recognize and applaud all the FAO teams that contributed towards this excellent achievement, and I applaud their extraordinary efforts.


47.       Five: Concerns were raised about the threat of transboundary plant pests and animal diseases to food security, and recommended the adoption of a One Health approach.


48.       Six: Members stressed the need to integrate resilience building to shocks and crisis as a key pillar of national food security strategies and plans, and highlighted both the needs of conflict-affected countries and the extreme vulnerability of Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) to climate shocks.


49.       And seven: the Regional Conferences welcomed the partnerships with Civil Society, Academia, Research institutions and Regional Institutions,


50.       And highlighted the role of the private sector, investments in agriculture and the need to enhance access to on- and off-farm technologies for agrifood systems.


Dear Colleagues,


51.       FAO has engaged closely with Members in a shared Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) Strategic Exercise to re-imagine the programme and refine its approach and criteria for resource allocations to regions.


52.       The relevance of, and demand for, TCP assistance continues to be high, and plays an important role for Members with its catalytic funding.


53.       Efficient implementation in response to requests for assistance has ensured full delivery of TCP, despite the many limitations resulting from repeated lockdowns and a general slow-down of activities.


54.       Increased focus on effective use of TCP funds has led to an extraordinary mobilization of resources: in 2020-21, TCP supported the mobilization of USD 1.7 billion for Members.


55.       The Programme Implementation Report 2020-21 reports on a special biennium, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, which further worsened the already-increasing rates of poverty, hunger and malnutrition, pre-existing inequalities within and among countries, and rising prices for food and agricultural inputs.


56.       In 2020-21, the world also faced increasingly frequent extreme climatic events, transboundary plant and zoonotic diseases, high rates of food loss from production to retail,


57.       And small-scale food producers lagging in income and productivity compared to large-scale producers, especially among women,


58.       But it was also the biennium of promises for accelerated action to transform agrifood systems as the world convened at the UN Food Systems Summit.


59.       There are other reasons for being optimistic:


•          government spending on agriculture grew over the last decade compared to the

               share of agriculture in global GDP,

•          water use efficiency has been on the rise,

•          deforestation rates have slowed; and

•          access rights for small-scale fisheries have improved.


60.       As set out in the PIR Report, FAO was proactive and displayed leadership: we rolled out holistic and effective actions to address the pandemic and its aftermath, helping to prevent the health crisis from becoming a food crisis.


61.       FAO played a key role in the UN Food Systems Summit, hosting the pre-Summit, facilitating and contributing to national and regional dialogues.


62.       During the past biennium, we continued to leverage our convening power and technical expertise to help Members move towards more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable agrifood systems,


63.       Leveraging technological innovations, facilitating investments, engaging partners -including from the private sector - and working to ensure all perspectives were taken into consideration, especially those of women, youth and Indigenous Peoples, leaving no one behind.


64.       We rolled out sophisticated tools, including space technology, to provide evidence for policies on water productivity, food prices, crop production, water use, and early warnings.


65.       Through our flagship initiatives, we helped to disseminate and use this data, as well as to mobilize investments in support of value chains with strong potential, especially targeting small-scale producers.


66.       We actively engaged with UN sister agencies at country level, under the overall leadership of the Resident Coordinators.


67.       That is my routine arrangement when visiting countries; I try to meet with the Resident Coordinators and I encourage my colleagues to always coordinate with the Office of the Resident Coordinator.


68.       And I implemented a process of transformation of the Organization, to make it modern, efficient, effective and inclusive.


69.       For example, we have had eight informal consultations on the FAO thematic Strategy on Climate Change, and an additional four informal consultations were held to develop the thematic Strategy on Science and Innovation.


70.       These changes allowed us to be flexible, innovative and to adapt to a changing environment with agility.


71.       The world is changing fast - modernization and technology is the key to transform our agrifood systems, to achieve food security and for rural development.


72.       The structure is flatter and modular, led by a strong Core Leadership team with optimized coordination and cooperation among empowered FAO teams and clear accountability mechanisms.


73.       Risk management and internal control systems are stronger.


74.       Human resources strategies and policies drive a culture of integrity, innovation, collaboration and excellence,


75.       And the Women and Youth Committees provide a safe space for understanding and giving visibility to the contributions and issues faced by female and young employees, and especially young female employees.


76.       Despite the challenges, practically all the core budget was spent, extra-budgetary expenditures increased and a record-high level of resources was mobilized for an historic total of USD 2.7 billion.


77.       In my discussion with the G7 Agriculture Ministers, I emphasized their leading role in supporting the work and mandate of FAO.


78.       To maintain and increase this adaptability, it is important to raise the proportion of un-earmarked and lightly earmarked voluntary contributions, to direct resources where they are most needed.


79.       The new biennium will bring a new set of challenges, but we are ready to continue to work together with you in an efficient, effective and coherent manner in addressing them,


80.       Guided by the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31.


Dear Colleagues,


81.       The UN Food Systems Coordination Hub has become operational in the first months of 2022.


82.       Between January and March 2022 the Hub focused on the following activities:


•          Finalize the structure of the Hub and the hosting arrangements in FAO;

•          Put the Hub Team together with secondments and assignments from UN Agencies;

•          Conducted an assessment survey with Members to identify the needs for supporting Members, to continue the development and/or implementation of national pathways and coalitions of action, including through provision of technical assistance at country level, and science- and evidence-based support to policy making;

•          A webinar presenting the results of this assessment was held on 24 March 2022, with over 600 participants; and

•          Following the webinar, a series of “Food Systems Solutions Dialogues” have been scheduled for the period April to December 2022.


83.       In April, the Oversight Steering Group of the Hub was organized and approved the work plan of the Hub, and the Terms of Reference of the Stakeholder Engagement Group.


84.       The efficient and effective transfer from the UN Food Systems Summit (FSS) to the Hub was highly appreciated by the UN Deputy Secretary-General.


85.       FAO’s flagship initiatives continue to be a priority and key instruments for implementation of the Strategic Framework.


86.       Since 2021, seven additional countries have joined the Hand-in-Hand Initiative, with the total number of participating countries now standing at 52.


87.       These include countries facing conflicts where the Initiative supports stronger linkages between humanitarian and development processes.


88.       The countries are using the Initiative to strengthen existing programmes or develop new ones; to build national capabilities; and to take advantage of unexplored opportunities for investments.


89.       The Initiative boosts national ownership of sustainable development processes to transform agrifood systems.


90.       In Africa, 29 countries are making steady progress.


91.       For example, Mali is drawing on the Initiative to establish two pilot agricultural growth zones to boost rural population’s income and access to healthy diets.


92.       In Asia, 11 countries are working together with the Hand-in-Hand teams to develop concrete investment plans.


93.       In Nepal, the Government has resumed efforts to locally integrate a climate-smart agriculture investment plan in target provinces. 


94.       In Latin America and the Caribbean, intensive national-level work is taking place in eight countries.


95.       For example, Ecuador has used the Initiative’s typology maps to organize livestock, forestry, and agriculture projects, as part of their national agriculture plan.


96.       In addition, FAO is conducting an assessment to tackle food insecurity challenges in the Dry Corridors.


97.       I asked my colleagues DDG-Bechdol, ADG Regional Representative Julio Berdegue and the Chief Economist Maximo Torero, to look at the reasons for these Dry Corridors.


98.       In Europe, Tajikistan is generating opportunities in the dairy sector.


99.       Among the three active countries in the Near East, Yemen is working with the Hand-in-Hand team to mobilize resources and invest in the coffee and fisheries value chains, with the overall aim to improve food security.


100.     The development of a monitoring dashboard to improve delivery and impact has continued, with preliminary data from seven participating countries already available on the initial dashboard platform.


101.     The Geospatial Platform is the main technical tool of the Hand in Hand initiative, and was recently recognized as the best collaborative platform towards data-driven agriculture at the Geospatial World Forum 2022 in Amsterdam with the World Excellence Award in Agriculture and Food Security – which is what I previously mentioned.


Dear Colleagues,


102.     The 1000 Digital Villages Initiative is being rolled out globally.


103.     In Europe, we are developing a digital village readiness assessment to identify the villages that have the best potential to be transformed into digital villages.


104.     The tool will be piloted starting from June and will strengthen FAO’s e-agriculture strategy work as it will provide an assessment methodology for rural areas, going beyond the agriculture sector.


105.     Seven countries were selected in 2021 to be part of the Pilot Digital Villages Initiative in Africa.


106.     Awareness creation and stakeholder workshops were organized and scoping assessments on the best conditions for implementation of the Initiative were conducted.


107.     Thirty villages have been selected, and initial digital agriculture service delivery has been funded in some countries.


108.     A report on findings and recommendations for an effective implementation of the Initiative in Africa is being prepared, to be released by the end of the year.


109.     In the Latin America and the Caribbean region, the Initiative benefits 52 village oriented agro tourism sites located in 14 countries across the region.


110.     An online course for digital marketing, as well as a "virtual community" have been launched to increase digital skills and to create a space for members of rural tourism experiences to connect and share experiences.

111.     In Asia, pilot activities are underway in 10 countries, and a platform is being developed where over 100 digital villages will be designated for potential development and government support


112.     The International Platform for Digital Food and Agriculture operating mechanism, including the Intergovernmental Representatives’ Group, has been set up where regional groups are providing nominees to complete the composition of the Group that will be composed of 27 senior officers and technical experts of FAO Members.


113.     FAO also hosted meetings with other international organizations that would join the Advisory Committee and initiated discussions with stakeholder to support the Online Multi-stakeholder forum composition.


114.     As this is a member-driven initiative, I urge Members and Regional Groups to complete the nomination process for the Platform.


115.     Digital technologies offer unique opportunities, but FAO can only move forward with the support of Members and with dedicated resources.


116.     The One Country One Priority Product Initiative is gathering momentum since its launch on 7 September 2021.


117.     The Initiative is tailored to the demand and need of each Member, and directly links to the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31.


118.     Members across all five regions have expressed interest to be part of the Initiative, and regional launches have already been held in Africa and Asia-Pacific to highlight potential regional priority products and to select demonstration countries. 


119.     Promotion of resource mobilization efforts are also underway. 


120.     61 cities  have been supported by FAO Green Cities Initiative since September 2020, with 11 projects being implemented in nine cities across seven countries.


121.     Additional activities are being designed in other eight countries, and a Regional Action Programme for Africa is under development, involving 30 cities from 10 countries.


122.     A Flexible Multi-Partner Mechanism project of USD 1 million is under implementation, and an additional USD 1 million project was recently submitted.


123.     In terms of additional resource moblization, two programmes are under preparation: the Green Cities for Ecosystem Restoration along the Great Green Wall, and the Green Urban Oases programme.


124.     FAO is also working to integrate the Green Climate Initiative in the Global Environmental Facility-8 “Sustainable Cities” Programme area of work.


125.     As a follow-up of the UN Food System Summit, the Urban Food Systems Coalition has been established, led by FAO and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition.


Dear Colleagues, 


126.     FAO continues to advance both informal and formal engagements with the private sector, whose involvement and contributions to global challenges are critical.


127.     We are committed to achieving a balanced portfolio of private sector engagements in terms of geographical coverage, types of entities and areas of collaboration.


128.     Since my last address to you six months ago, we have increased the share of entities we work with in Africa and Central Asia, as well as the share of micro- and small and medium enterprises and associations in our overall portfolio.


129.     FAO emphasises engagement with industry associations, which give us the opportunity to influence corporate sustainability, business strategies and practices, as well as to leverage and facilitate additional investments and commitments for agrifood systems transformation.


130.     In the last few months alone, we have signed important agreements with the International Fertilizer Association, the Global Dairy Platform and the International Chamber of Commerce.


131.     These engagements provide economies of scale and allow us to engage their members on topics of mutual and collective interest.


132.     The first independent Joint Evaluation of RBA collaboration was conducted in 2021, and showed that current RBA collaboration has significant depth and breadth, especially at country level.


133.     It calls on us to continue to embed our collaboration within the context of the UN reform, to strengthen it where it is cost-effective, and to request Members to adequately resource it.


134.     Members have requested a feasibility study on the integration of administrative services between the RBAs, and a joint tender has been issued for the study to be carried out by the end of the year. 


135.     The 15th World Forestry Congress was hosted and co-organized by the Republic of Korea in collaboration with FAO under the theme “Building a green, healthy and resilient future with forests”.


136.     Outcomes of the Congress included the Seoul Forest Declaration, the Youth Call for Action, the Ministerial Call on Sustainable Wood, and a set of actionable recommendations.


137.     The Declaration recognized that forest-based solutions must include family farmers, smallholders, forest communities, Indigenous Peoples, women and youth, and must respect their rights and empower them to participate equitably in decision-making and sustainable forest value chains.


138.     The Congress recommended that these outcomes be transmitted to the Conferences of the Parties of the Rio Conventions and other important forest related fora, and called on all actors to take immediate action to help achieve a better future for all.


139.     This year under the Chair of the Republic of Indonesia, FAO will once again be providing technical support to the G20, to support countries towards improved cooperation and enhanced food security efforts.


140.     FAO will be providing support on the important topics of agricultural resilience, the use of digital technologies in food and agriculture, and food loss and waste.


141.     FAO recently participated in the COP15 of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification in Abidjan.


142.     FAO is supporting Members in the implementation of the Convention, working closely with the UNCCD, by promoting sustainable land management and restoration of degraded lands and impoverished soils, especially in drylands, and by advocating for a proactive action for drought preparedness.


143.     Achievements at the COP15 will present an important moment leading-up to the Biodiversity COP15 and Climate Change COP27 where water scarcity, land degradation and drought are high on the political agenda.


144.     FAO is actively engaged in preparations for COP27, as well as in initiatives led by the Egyptian Presidency related to agriculture and water.


145.     FAO has been proposed as a Lead for Climate-Resilient Agriculture, and nominated to participate in the initiatives on Waste and on Nutrition.


146.     FAO continues to be deeply involved in global processes related to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and genetic resources for food and agriculture, and to contribute to the development of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework to be adopted by the COP15 Biodiversity Conference later this year.


147.     I am pleased to note that policy and decision-makers increasingly recognize and acknowledge FAO’s technical capacity in mainstreaming biodiversity across agricultural sectors.


Dear Colleagues,


148.     I look forward to the Programme Committee, Finance Committee and the Joint Meeting’s deliberations and recommendations to the Council.


149.     We are at a critical moment in time, even more critical than when we last met.


150.     Now, more than ever we need to continue working together in an efficient, effective and coherent manner to transform our agrifood systems and achieve the Four Betters.


151.     Thank you.