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

25 Year Medal Ceremony



Dr QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General 

2 February 2023


Dear colleagues, both here at headquarters and around the world, in person and online,

Happy New Year to all of you! And Happy Lunar New Year! May 2023 bring health, peace and prosperity to all of you and your loved ones.

Today we are here to honour our colleagues who have reached 25 years of continuous service at FAO. Recognizing this commitment to the Organization is a long-standing tradition.

I know that there are also many other long-serving colleagues who have worked with dedication for a very long time for this Organization. Today, I thank all of you for your commitment and passion towards FAO’s mandate and the people we serve.

This ceremony is a tradition that goes far back in FAO’s history, and today we are meeting in hybrid mode - celebrating together as ONE FAO in our new Digital FAO.

I am reminded when in early 2020, I presented the medal to Mr Adrian Kazazi, a staff member from Albania who had served the Organization for 25 years. Mr Kazazi passed away shortly thereafter due to the pandemic. I still remember Adrian. He was an engineer responsible for controlling the air conditioning installation for all of us here at headquarters. Whenever I feel hot or cold, I always think of him and of the last time I met him.

He is the only staff member from Headquarters to pass away due to the COVID-19. Let us hold a moment of silence to remember our dear colleague.

Fortunately, due to our collective actions, working together with colleagues, we managed to prevent further deaths. Let us always remember that life is the most important gift we have. Today, as we celebrate our colleagues in this new Plenary Hall.

Today we celebrate 33 colleagues, from 24 countries located in 20 duty stations worldwide – a true reflection of our diversity. A diversity that is our strength. As I have said so many times, we have to understand, respect and honour the people from all over the world who come to work in FAO, not only in Headquarters, but all over the world – many of them working under challenging circumstances, even when faced with the danger of loss of life.

These colleagues have made a lifetime contribution to FAO. At different levels, in different areas of expertise, in different locations. Every single employee in this Organization matters, and has an important role in contributing towards fulfilling FAO’s mandate. 

I have said that 2023 will be the Year of Excellence. 

We should always be aware that what each of us does is important. It does not matter the position, the location, or how many years you have been working in this Organization.

We need the young, we need the young at the heart, we need the General Service Staff, we need the Professional Staff, we need the Directors, and we need everyone to play their role in a proper way, in the best way possible, for our common vision and our common passion.

We should strive for excellence everywhere and in everything we are going to do.

During the past 3 and half years, we have shown the world that FAO can and will adapt to whatever the situation is, and we continue to deliver on our mandate in spite of the challenges before us.

We have built a new FAO together.  A more flexible, more transparent, more fit-for-purpose Organization, to better serve our Members, our people, our consumers and, of course, our farmers across the world.

At the end of 2022, I met with you in a town hall in celebration, to recognize colleagues and teams for their contributions to the Organization, to show our appreciation for each other and for our work. 

I welcome all opportunities for us to get together!

Remember: we must work together, think together, learn together and grow together.

Maybe, some Senior Staff do not want to grow in age. But, we all have to grow in age! We have to change our ways and minds as we grow in age, this will lead to a long life – and you may even grow to celebrate 100 or 120 years! Everything is possible, but it should be in healthy conditions.

So, strive to change in a positive way, and to change positively together with your family and your loved ones.

Today, we meet again in celebration, an annual celebration that recognizes 25 years of dedicated service to the Organization. 25 years is quite a long time for me! But it is also a short time, because 25 years ago I had never thought I would come here to talk with you as Director-General of FAO.

It has been a long time, a long journey, but 25 years is so short. After working for the research institute, now I have the special honour to work with you, to serve the Members. It is a lifetime! A quarter of a century!

In English, if we say “25 years”, we are saying a normal number. But if we say “a quarter of century”, we are saying a long, long time. That is what Einstein told us in his theory of relativity - everything is relative: when you face the fire in the wintertime, you enjoy it as it is short. When you face the fire in the hot temperature of summer, even only one minute feels very long.

We need to build the foundation for the future.

A life-long time of insights and learning that now you need to share with the younger colleagues – we need a continuous inter-generational dialogue. That is why, at the last World Food Day, I changed the business model. I invited senior colleagues - of course everyone recommended that I invite Mr Khalid Mehboob first – to lead a dialogue with the younger generation, to create an inter-generational dialogue to share with young people.

We need to build the foundations and harmonize the culture for the future.

This is real sustainable development for FAO as an organization. If we do not have a sustainable culture of the organization, then we do not have a sustainable organization at all in my opinion.

The Organization has evolved greatly over the past 25 years, and I am sure you have seen many changes during this time, in particular in the past few years. It has been a time of rapid evolution, an evolution never seen before in the history of the Organization!   

The pandemic presented us with many obstacles, but we also managed to overcome them together.

As I said three and a half years ago, when I talked about a “digital” FAO, 90 percent of the staff, especially senior staff, thought that it was impossible because you were all used to printing beautiful speeches, papers or books in A4 or A5 paper, with colourful designs. However, now, we have all gotten used to the “digital” way of working.

You do not realize how much you have evolved, developed and improved! I am using this just as a small example to show that you can also overcome other challenges. Also, we now know how to peacefully co-exist with the virus following the pandemic.

Two years ago, we held the UN Food Systems Pre-Summit here in Rome. It was the first big meeting in presence. I was the number one person concerned and worried – together with Laurent Thomas, Maurizio Martina, Máximo Torero and other colleagues – because we were the front people taking a risk at that time. But we knew, we trusted science, we trusted Management, our colleagues and our host country, and we were all acting in full respect of our participants. Therefore, collectively, we can manage to overcome any challenges and any risks that are put in front of us. 

We have worked hard together to improve our delivery and our working conditions.

Our extraordinary efforts in 2022 led to extraordinary results!

Let us continue to work together in an efficient, effective and coherent manner in support of our Strategic Framework, the Four Betters, and all the relevant strategies. To support Members in transforming their agrifood systems to achieve the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

We have a lot of big meetings ahead of us in the coming months, and an important one will be the SDG Summit, which will be held in September in New York. In the lead up to the Summit, FAO is willing to offer adequate support to Members, relevant agencies and the UN Secretariat in New York.

With the support from the Italian Government and other UN colleagues, we will host the 2021Food Systems Summit Follow-Up Stocktacking Meeting here at FAO headquarters in Rome in late July. This is part of the leading role that FAO should play for the transformation of agrifood systems, and in support of rural development.

Dear Colleagues,

Congratulations on 25 years of outstanding service to FAO!

You are history. It is not only your own history, of your family or your friends, it is part of the history of FAO. For that, I really appreciate all your time and contribution to this noble Organization. We share that history together.

Thank you.