Director General  QU Dongyu
Declaración del Director General de la FAO QU Dongyu

Informal Seminar on the UN Food Systems Summit

Rome, 10 February 2020



Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning. 

It is my pleasure to welcome Ms. Agnes Kalibata, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the 2021 Food Systems Summit.

I would like to reiterate the full support of FAO to the Special Envoy in her important task.

As you already recall, I had promised you that FAO will facilitate for Member Countries, as much as possible, transparency and involvement under the leadership of the Secretary General and the guidance of the Special Envoy. 

Our meeting of today is for you distinguished Members to have an open dialogue with the Special Envoy on the Food Summit and the related preparations.

The 2030 Agenda challenges countries to eliminate all forms of malnutrition by ensuring that sufficient quantities of safe, nutritious and affordable food are available to all. 

But it also requires countries to achieve this while creating the growth and employment opportunities needed to eradicate poverty, sustaining biodiversity and the natural resource environment, and adapting to the growing pressures of climate change.

We need our food systems to deliver food security and nutrition for all, to be economically sustainable, to be inclusive and to have a positive impact on climate and environment.

But we know that our contemporary food systems are NOT fulfilling this aspiration and that urgent action is required to remedy this situation by all the key players involved.

Many actions are already being taken to improve food systems. Industry is investing in sustainable sourcing, in the reformulation of products to improve nutrition, and in the reduction of waste.  Consumers – where they can – are seeking out healthier and more environmentally friendly foods. 

But these many independent initiatives lack a shared vision and coordination of the investments and changes in behaviour that are needed to make a real impact.

What is needed to change this situation?

Firstwe need to understand better how actions to address one objective affect others – how improving sustainability will affect productivity, or how measures to improve productivity will affect poverty and nutrition. A systematic approach and holistic design are urgently needed.

We need improved data analysis and decision making tools to help countries and their populations work out their way through the complex trade-offs 

Simple general rules don’t work because the interactions, interdependencies and trade-offs play out in different ways in countries with very different agroecological conditions and institutional capacities. 

These complexities are holding policy makers and food system actors back.  They lie at the heart of the UN Secretary-General’s decision to convene a Food Systems Summit in 2021.

The Food Systems Summit offers a timely process for helping policy makers and food system actors to understand better the impacts of alternative courses of action. 

To support this process, FAO is building a sophisticated open data-sharing platform for modelling and analysis as part of its Hand-in-Hand initiative.  

Second, we need to strengthen our partnerships, especially with the private sector, which is the most powerful engine of innovation and investment for food systems transformation, to guide their innovation and investment.  

Certain private sector entities have the power to drive change, through transfer of knowledge and finance. We need to guide and foster these actions. 

Other private sector entities such as small and medium enterprises including smallholder farmers and family farmers are responsible for the majority of food processing, distribution and retail in many regions, but they are constrained in their action by high levels of risk, low levels of skills and lack of access to key assets

FAO is supporting countries to mobilize responsible investment in partnership with the private sector and international finance institutions through its AgrInvest initiative.  It is also building the capacities of small enterprises through capacity development programs and  innovation incubators

We are working to strengthen the climate resilience of vulnerable small producers and processors, by transferring climate friendly technologies – such as solar powered cold chains, processing and storage facilities.

We are also working to promote to reduce the digital divide between countries and regions and between cities and rural areas, improving market access for smallholder farmers. That’s why last month – December, two months ago already -  we got the endorsement for the International Digital Council by the  GFFA in Berlin. 

Thirdwe must strengthen our capacity for collective action in order to develop the food systems we want, 

The UN Food Systems Summit offers a process through which you as our Member Countries can share your experience, expertise and guidance, 

This will be achieved both through the formal governing body channels of the UN System and through the many multistakeholder platforms and initiatives, which have formed to support the development of more sustainable food systems. 


Food system transformation is the core of this Organization’s work. It is the aspiration of FAO’s mandate. 

Our activities in that area are ongoing over the years, continuously gaining strength, impact and focus and will go on, well beyond the Summit. The Summit will be a new engine to recharge and push our efforts into a new stage.

We undertake all related activities in partnership with all key players: governments, the UN System, our sister agencies IFAD and WFP, the private sector, civil societies and academia. 

And the trust all these key actors put in the Organization comes from its unique strength:

FAO is the professional UN Organization specialized in food and agriculture.

FAO offers the largest neutral international platform for all key players to get together and FAO provides them with science-based advice needed to take action.

FAO represents the continuity and global vision that makes it the trustworthy partner for all key actors.

We are ready to work with all and we must capitalize on this moment for catalytic action or the opportunity will be lost!  We need to achieve results now.  

Thank you!