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

Informal Private Sector Advisory Group meeting

Welcome Remarks 


Dr QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General

31 January 2023


Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to the first meeting of the Informal Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG). This group was established to: first, be informal and to have an independent expert advisory function; second, share views and suggestions from a wide and diverse range of private sector actors; and third, support the implementation of FAOs Strategy for Private Sector Engagement, and ultimately the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31.

More importantly, it is a way to build a transparent FAO by listening to different sectors on how to improve FAO’s work, efficiency and effectiveness for our deliverable services to Members and to key partners, and of course to our farmers and consumers.

Our Strategy for Private Sector Engagement is a forward-looking vision and is strategic in design. It is a historic strategy for FAO that reflects an increased recognition of the contribution of the private sector towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As most of you know, later this year the UN Secretary-General will convene the SDG Summit, so it is time for us to work together and speed up implementation of the SDGs – we have limited time and many challenges to face to meet the goals we set for ourselves in 2015.

The private sector strategy reflects an increased openness by FAO to engage and partner with the private sector. It fosters wider-ranging engagement – from different sectors, diverse geographic locations, and at all scales.

The presence of my Core Leadership team in today’s meeting reflects the importance of this engagement across all the work of the Organization. As I’ve said many times, the participation of the private sector is key.

At FAO, we have an inclusive view of the private sector that includes: first, the farmers themselves – because all over the world farmers invest their own farms; second, the farmers’ organizations and trade associations; third, the micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as the large multinationals and private enterprises; and fourth, financial institutions and philanthropic foundations, and other NGOs who support agrifood systems.

All of these categories are covered widely by our Strategy for Private Sector Engagement, with one common goal across all these partnerships: to support the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. At the core of the 2030 Agenda is agrifood systems transformation, which means we need to transform how we grow, harvest, store, process, transport, consume and dispose of our food. A transformation that will ensure that our agrifood systems are more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable.

For this transformation, we need strong partnerships that bring tangible impact on the ground. Because in the same way that we grow our food and raise our animals, it all starts from our soil. Soil is our solid foundation for transformation of our agrifood systems, especially in the rural areas, as well as in the cities.

Dear Colleagues,

Private sector contributions are not only financial assistance, but can also include innovative practices, provision of expertise, and research at country level, as well as the co-sharing of responsibility because at every step in the production, processing and consumption of our food we have a social and environmental responsibility.

As we reach the midway point to achieve the SDGs, there is still a large financing gap to achieve these goals. This gap can only be closed by increasing SDG positive investments from the private sector, and also through your leadership in leading the change, together with development partners.

At FAO, we have concrete examples of transformational collaboration with the private sector. For example, the Hand-in-Hand Initiative can yield important results because it is a truly inclusive approach for all partners to work together, from private to pubic, from international to local, from civil society to academia.

We launched this initiative as a new business model for matchmaking investments with development opportunities in countries, who have developed national plans that cover different aspects of the value chain.

Again I want to point out the that Hand is not only for vulnerable countries, but we are also moving to middle income and OECD countries, as we are all affected by overlapping crises. We need to change the business model by working hand in hand with all stakeholders - each playing their own part.

The Hand in Hand initiative provides the support and data needed to enable governments, the private sector, multilateral development banks, financial institutions and academia to target agricultural investments more precisely: where it is needed most and where it will have the greatest impact. And we also need a clearly defined social, economic and environment impact.

The Hand-in-Hand Investment Forum, held in October 2022 in the context of the World Food Forum, provided an opportunity, for the first time, for countries to present their priorities for value chain investments.

So not only better production, but also better nutrition, a better environment and a better life should be part of a comprehensive investment plan that involves the whole supply chain. We need to start with production, but we also need a more holistic way of looking at agrifood systems.

As a result of the Hand in Hand Investment Forum, the Gates Foundation is leveraging a first investment in support of Hand-in-Hand innovation at the local level for rollout in Bangladesh. Another example of a transformative partnership that connects people is the Accelerator Mentorship Programme launched last year, in partnership with the International Agri-Food Network.

The programme pairs women entrepreneurs operating in the agrifood sector with successful women leaders in the sector. The mentors help participants become more business-minded, advance their professional development, and grow their business capacity.

Dear Colleagues,

You are strategic development partners, and together we can foster innovation; improve data sharing and dissemination; and scale-up collective, multi-stakeholder efforts.

The new FAO approach to private sector engagement strikes a balance between openness and risk awareness, and offers multiple ways to engage with the private sector that will bring about measurable and sustainable impact.

Today, I look forward to hearing your views on how FAO can:

• further expand and deepen strategic partnerships with the private sector;
• improve outreach, and
• engage even more with the private sector to support agrifood systems transformation and ensure the Four Betters: better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all – leaving no one behind.

Your input is critical. Let us find even more creative and bolder ways of working together in an efficient, effective and coherent manner, to get the world back on track towards the SDGs.

Thank you.