Director-General QU Dongyu

175th Session of the FAO Council Opening Statement by Dr QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General



Dear Independent Chair of the Council,

Members of the Council,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning from Rome.

I have just returned from Ireland where I had the honour of awarding the FAO Agricola Medal to the President of Ireland, Michael Higgins. 

The prestigious FAO award was bestowed upon him in recognition of his leadership and long commitment in the fight against hunger and poverty, 

For our shared conviction that the right to food is a basic human right, and that peace is a prerequisite for food security. 

The award was also a recognition of his political will and action to ensuring that food security is high on the global agenda, highlighting the link between hunger and current global crises.

And to the urgent transformation of global agrifood systems, to ensure we do not allow history to repeat itself through famines and destruction of livelihoods. 

These are the same principles that guide all of us in this Plenary Hall today, and that will be the basis of all discussions during the next days, and beyond. 

I am very proud that during last month’s 10th World Water Forum in Bali, FAO was awarded with the prestigious King Hassan II of Morocco Great World Water Prize in recognition of FAO’s contribution to global efforts towards water security and food security. 

This honour further underlines the importance of FAO’s biennial theme on integrated water resources management and distinguishes Members’ actions to promote the protection and preservation of water resources and improve their management for foods and SDGs.

This year FAO also received the Google Geo for Good Impact Award recognizing our Google Earth Map APP as an effective and powerful instrument providing key data, to inform policies, guide investments and drive actions. 

These are truly remarkable achievements! I convey my appreciation to you and all FAO Employees!

Dear Colleagues,

The first six months of 2024 have been very busy and effective!

I have travelled to 20 countries, including to attend all the FAO Regional Ministerial Conferences. 

During these visits, I undertook over 40 field visits to witness first hand the work of our farmers, of the implementation of science and technology to improve production, to see cutting-edge innovation from academic institutions, and to see the resilience of women, the inspiration of the youth and the perseverance of rural farmers in action.

Both here at headquarters and during my duty travels, I held over 160 bilateral meetings with Heads of State and Government, Ministers, Vice Ministers, High-Level government representatives, heads of international organizations, financial institutions and civil society, as well as representatives of the private sector, during which I consistently emphasized the need to strengthen and increase collaboration for our collective goal of transforming agrifood systems.

During this first semester, I also participated in 32 Summits and High-Level Conferences, during which I delivered keynote addresses and had the opportunity to interact with policy makers and decision takers from across the spectrum of partners.

In total I delivered more than 80 speeches and provided over 30 video messages for the events I could not attend in person. 

In addition, I have reached out globally through Op-eds, written statements and forewords to key publications and reports, among others, with more than 15 contributions.

I continue to also be very active on social media and posted more than 170 tweets alone since the start of 2024, as part of my outreach and advocacy for our overarching goal of the Four Betters – Better Production, Better Nutrition, a Better Environment and a Better Life – leaving no one behind.

The driving force behind all these activities is my unwavering passion to works towards the transformation of global agrifood systems to be more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable.

New global estimates of hunger and food insecurity will become available in July 2024 with the launch of the 2024 edition of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report.

As the UN specialized and professional agency mandated with food and agriculture, FAO reached around 56 million people with agriculture and resilience assistance in 2023.

In 2024, our aim is to reach 80 million people.

FAO continues to closely monitor the situation in Gaza, where famine is no longer a threat, but has become a hard reality.

Gaza is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, with almost all the population facing hunger and starvation due to the breakdown of agrifood systems and water supplies, along with blockades on humanitarian aid.

Even before the escalation of the conflict, close to 60 percent of households in Gaza were food insecure or vulnerable to food insecurity, and 80 percent of the population already relied on humanitarian assistance.

At the same time, since the start of the war in Ukraine in February 2022, FAO has been monitoring the impacts on agrifood systems, collecting data and evidence, providing timely information and analysis, as well as projections to plan accordingly and take anticipatory actions.

The war in Ukraine has severely damaged the agricultural sector, impacting production infrastructure, the labour force and the country’s export capacity and resulting in a significant drop in Ukraine's agricultural production and exports, affecting global food security. 

Dear Colleagues,

The Programme Implementation Report (PIR) 2022-23 is before the Council for consideration.

It looks back at the first biennium of implementation under the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31 and provides an overview of what we have jointly achieved in a biennium marked by multiple shocks. 

During the past biennium, the international community’s commitment to transform agrifood systems was placed firmly on the global agenda and public spending on agriculture reached an all-time high.

But more needs to be done. The financing gap for meeting the SDGs is estimated at over USD 4 trillion per year, 600 billion of which for food, agriculture and biodiversity.

As you can see in the report, FAO stepped up to the challenge as a respected leader and provider of knowledge and expertise. We worked with our partners to support you in progressing towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda by transforming agrifood systems for the Four Betters.

The Strategic Framework provided a guiding light, and the Thematic Strategies, Value Added Impact Areas, and Country Programme Frameworks ensured we focused our efforts in a coordinated, coherent manner, choosing our priorities in line with your national and regional priorities and in areas of work where we knew accelerated impact was possible.

We put our expertise to your service, providing data and information to enhance market transparency, foster investments and propose policy options.

Through the Hand-in-Hand Initiative and the One Country One Priority Product (OCOP), we followed your lead to support you in leveraging investments and strengthening value chains in your countries. 

We stepped up our humanitarian and resilience programme, reaching 55 million people in 2023 by distributing two million tonnes of seeds and 170 000 tonnes of fertilizer. 

A strong Core Leadership team supports me, and the renewed Organizational structure I put in place in my first biennium as Director-General is demonstrating its value. Our decentralized offices are stronger, and we are now in the process of further strengthening our country office network.

We walked the talk!

Our financial delivery increased by over 30 percent compared to the previous biennium.

And our work was appreciated – our partners want to continue working with us and resource mobilization has risen to an historic high of USD 4.2 billion.

We still have a lot to do to bring about the promise of the 2030 Agenda. I stand ready to continue to work with you as we take FAO into a period of Recovery, Reform, Rebuilding, and Renaissance - together.

I very much appreciate the Joint Inspection Unit’s (JIU) Management and Administration Review of FAO.  The JIU has delivered a highly informative report, which is also very timely as I embark on my second term in office.  

Overall, the report presents a positive picture of the state of management and administration in FAO, and it provides helpful proposals for consideration aimed at continued improvement.

We have provided our responses to the four recommendations addressed to Management and, for the other six, have provided some reflections to assist the Council’s consideration. 

The review of the country office network aims to ensure a modern and efficient FAO presence on the ground that can deliver successfully under the FAO Strategic Framework; is able to position itself strategically within the UN country-level discussions; and operates with full accountability, internal control and good management, in line with the FAO Basic Texts.

The process of review started with discussions at each of the regional ministerial conferences. We have put forward five overarching principles guiding the proposed adjustments, as well as four country models to meet the challenges of delivering our work in a rapidly evolving environment.

We look forward to taking this important review forward through a progressive, open, and transparent process.

I am very pleased to report that it has been a very fruitful cycle of regional ministerial conferences, and I was able to attend each of them and to witness first-hand the consolidation of regional priorities to guide the work of the Organization going forward.

Each conference was distinct, reflecting the distinct characteristics of each region. And it is this very distinction that will ensure tailor-made objectives, action plans and implementation modalities for the most impactful solutions on the ground.

I was particularly pleased that each regional ministerial conference organized a session dedicated to SIDS, LDCs and/or LLDCs, focused on regional priorities toward agrifood systems transformation, as identified by these groupings of countries. 

Members emphasized the need for additional support from FAO, including through technical assistance, resource mobilization, and to facilitate the scaling up of investments, to build resilience to food insecurity, to the impacts of the climate crisis, and to enable access healthy diets, among others.

FAO is actively participating in the lead up to the 4th International Conference on Small Island Developing States, and the 3rd UN Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries

I am convinced more than ever that the key to achieving the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs is through the transformation of our agrifood systems. For this reason, my message at COP28 was clear: transforming agrifood systems will provide solutions to many of the major challenges facing people and the planet - climate change, biodiversity loss, hunger and poverty.

COP28 played a significant role in acknowledging the importance of agrifood solutions that underpin FAO’s Strategic Framework and shape our priority areas of work.

The Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action, endorsed now by 159 countries, emphasized the crucial role that agrifood systems play in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement, both in terms of mitigation and adaptation.

Several decisions made during COP28, including the First Global Stocktake, recognized the vulnerability of agrifood systems to climate change, as well as their potential. 

The newly established Loss and Damage Fund also presents challenges and opportunities, highlighting the complexity of the issues we face, and the potential solutions offered by agrifood systems.

Looking ahead, COP29 provides us with an opportunity to build upon the progress we have made. 

To deliver solutions we need global collaboration to set policies, scale up innovation, boost investment and improve our reach to smallholder farmers and producers.

Without increased investment, we run the risk of falling short of the targets set by the Paris Agreement and compromising our food security objectives.

We have also made some good progress. 2023 was a year of excellence for FAO’s engagement with the Global Environment Facility (GEF). 

FAO is now one of the “big three” GEF agencies globally. We are helping 141 countries, including LDCs and SIDS, to access GEF financing to transform their agrifood systems. Through this partnership we have supported countries access USD 1.76 billion in grants and USD 12.8 billion in co-financing.   

FAO has competed successfully to become the new implementing agency for the GEF’s Small Grants Programme. This provides a new robust pathway of support for local action by civil society organizations, Indigenous Peoples, and local communities.

Furthermore, the GEF Council in February this year approved 48 projects led by FAO worth USD 294 million in grants and leveraging USD 2.6 billion in co-financing. These benefit more than 4 million people in 46 countries and includes three global and regional integrated programs.

By mobilizing GEF financial support, we are also helping countries to implement the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, of which more than half of its 23 targets for 2030 are directly related to agrifood systems. Agriculture is essential to its achievement. 

Through the GEF Global Biodiversity Framework Fund, FAO is assisting Members to improve the sustainable use of biodiversity in agrifood systems, in line with the FAO Strategy on Mainstreaming Biodiversity across Agricultural Sectors and its Action Plan 2024-2027.

FAO has once again been approved as the Green Climate Fund (GCF) Accredited Entity for the next 5-year cycle.

In the past five years of partnership with the GCF, FAO has raised over USD 1.2 billion for transformative projects; 20 approved funding proposals are now operational with the latest effective in January this year.

Furthermore, the FAO/GCF Readiness Portfolio has grown from 81 to 94 projects since October 2023, including 16 National Adaptation Plans.

FAO has also made significant advances this past year in its commitment to do no harm.

FAO’s Framework for Environmental and Social Management, which safeguards people and the environment from unintended negative impacts of FAO projects, has been operational since June 2023.

Dear Colleagues,

On Saturday, 8 June, we launched the 2024 edition of the State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA), with the theme “Blue Transformation in Action”.

SOFIA 2024 highlights the role of technology and innovation in boosting the efficiency and inclusivity of aquatic food systems and emphasizes the role of science and data in shaping policies that prioritize both people and planet.

The importance of aquatic foods for food security, nutrition and poverty alleviation is increasingly recognized worldwide, and FAO’s Blue Transformation has been identified in the Regional Ministerial Conferences as key to increase the contribution of fisheries and aquaculture to provide a more significant proportion of nutritious food and resilient livelihoods, while sustainably and effectively managing aquatic food systems.

During 2024, all three Rio Convention COPs will take place, and FAO is working with all relevant UN bodies, COPs Presidencies, and all partners, to ensure that agrifood systems transformation is at the heart of the agendas of the COPs.

The Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation Partnership meeting held at FAO headquarters in April this year led to the development of a detailed workplan to assist Members in accessing climate finance. The priority activities identified will be presented at COP29. 

Two weeks ago, the First International Forum on Sustainable Beekeeping and Pollination was held in Slovenia, where the possible establishment of a Global Beekeeping and Pollination Partnership was discussed. 

We expect to take the International Forum to other regions to increase the impact on sustainable beekeeping and pollination for economic and rural development at local and national levels.  

Following the alarming global spread of avian influenza in poultry and wildlife, at the end of May FAO launched the Global Strategy for the prevention and control of high pathogenic avian influenza 2024-33 in collaboration with the World Organisation for Animal Health, to support Members develop national and regional action plans for prevention, control and protection, and for the transformation of the poultry sector.

Nuclear science offers innovative tools to grow stronger, healthier, safer crops and to protect food sources to sustain our lives. 

Building on the strategic partnership with the IAEA – which this year celebrates its 60th anniversary – we jointly launched the Atoms4Food Initiative in October 2023. 

The initiative seeks to provide Members with ground-breaking solutions tailored to their specific needs and circumstances by harnessing the advantages of nuclear techniques and other advanced technologies to enhance production, natural resources management, reduce food losses, ensure food safety, improve nutrition, and adapt to the challenges of the climate crisis. 

The Roadmap for Atoms4Food will be published shortly and will provide the needed guidance to better support Members.

At the end of May, FAO and the IAEA jointly organized the first ever International Symposium on Food Safety and Control under the theme “Safe Food for a Better Life”, which brought together nearly 500 participants from 112 countries. The results of the symposium will help increase the uptake of nuclear and related techniques to tackle key issues affecting food safety and quality.

Integrated land, soil and water resources management continues to be a priority, embedded in the FAO Strategic Framework as a PPA, especially in view of the increasing challenges we are facing, including devastating floods and droughts due to climate change.

I thank Members for the support provided through the voluntary contributions to support scaling up of programmes and impact on the ground.

In preparation for Rome Water Dialogue (the High-Level Dialogue on the Global Framework on Water Scarcity in Agriculture), to take place during the World Food Forum in October this year, a technical preparatory meeting was held at the end of April to discuss the new business model and operating modalities.

In April this year, FAO also launched the initiative to Reduce the Need for Antimicrobials on Farms for Sustainable Agrifood Systems Transformation. 

This 10-year initiative aims to support countries in reducing the need for antimicrobials in livestock, aquaculture, and crop production through a holistic One Health approach that includes policy support, technical assistance, capacity building, and knowledge sharing. 

FAO has been actively working with the Quadripartite partners to develop the implementation guide for the One Health Joint Plan of Action, and we are currently supporting One Health implementation at country level by helping Members in developing proposals for the Second Call of the USD 500 million Pandemic Fund.

The second call closed at the end of April, and FAO submitted 83 proposals for which we look forward to a high rate of approval in the last trimester of 2024. 

As part of One Health, FAO is also strengthening the capacity of animal health systems in more than 50 countries in key technical areas to effectively prevent, prepare for and respond to future pandemics caused by transboundary animal diseases, zoonoses, and antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The first-ever Global Conference on Animal Health Innovation, Reference Centres and Vaccines will be held in September here in Rome and will discuss how to improve animal health for the sustainable transformation of livestock agrifood systems at the country level.

Emphasis will be placed on strengthening pathways for sustainable dairy, beef, poultry and feed subsectors, in line with the Sustainable Livestock Transformation Initiative. Through the Sustainable Livestock Transformation Framework FAO is working towards accelerating the contribution of livestock to the Four Betters. 

Dear Colleagues,

FAO continues to see steady progress in mobilizing voluntary contributions, and the first quarter of 2024 saw a continuation of this strong trend.

Despite a general tightening of funding across UN organizations last year, FAO reached over USD 2 billion in voluntary contributions.  This was the second highest level in the history of the Organization, and just slightly below the record breaking 2022.

Contributions are increasingly diverse, coming from FAO Members, vertical funds and multilateral development banks, and this sustained increase is a continued expression of confidence in FAO.

During the recent Joint Meeting, and during the Finance Committee, the topic of voluntary contributions was discussed, and I wish to reiterate that FAO is a Member-owned and strategies-driven Organization.

The work we do and the resources we mobilize are connected to country-identified priorities, to your Country Programming Frameworks, and to our Strategic Framework and the SDGs based on FAO mandates.  

The new Global Report on Food Crises, released in April, was a wake-up call.

In 2023, more than 282 million people in 59 countries and territories faced Crisis, Emergency and Catastrophe levels of acute food insecurity (IPC/CH Phase 3-5), an increase of 22 million from 2022.  

The main drivers are conflicts, climate crises and economic shocks.

In these crises, more than two-thirds of affected people rely on some form of agri-foodsystems for their livelihoods. 

Emergency agriculture is lifesaving, and I continue to stress that it is time to invest in agriculture.

The new Hunger Hotspots report published last week was another wake-up call – revealing an increase in magnitude and severity in acute food insecurity in 17 countries and one regional cluster of four countries (drought-affected Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe).

The risk of famine is real in the Sudan, but we have a small window of opportunity to prevent it now.

Almost 18 million people – or half the population – are experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity; five million are in especially dire conditions and near famine (IPC Phase 4).

We must get farmers enough seeds and fertilizer before the main planting season ends in just a few weeks – crop planting needs to happen now, and we need more funding to do this. If we miss this window, people will go hungry and will be forced to move. 

And in Haiti, over four million people are experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity. We are stepping up support for the agricultural campaign that started this month and will continue into July, to prevent the disruption of the main crop season.

We are also seeing increasing needs due to the impacts of El Niño. With governments and partners, we have launched anticipatory actions in 19 countries at risk.

This means repairing or building irrigation systems; vaccinating animals to prevent disease outbreaks; and providing cash transfers ahead of floods so families can protect assets and meet immediate needs. 

FAO has made great progress through South-South and Triangular Cooperation in developing innovative partnerships with Members, universities, and other non-state actors, such as: 

  • working on rice value chain development between Sierra Leone and Viet Nam;
  • creating the world’s largest university network on agrifood systems transformation, that connects over 500 universities from 100 countries; and
  • establishing a new Research Network and Food Safety Innovation Hub to address challenges in agrifood systems in North Africa, the Near East, and beyond.

Countries are seeing the value of the One Country One Priority Product (OCOP) initiative that is tailored to their specific needs. Through this initiative we have mobilized almost USD 18 million from various sources to support the advancement of 54 Special Agricultural Products in 60 countries.

I have dedicated more resources to Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization and to its integration in the Farmers Field Schools portfolio.

We are already providing technical support to more than 20 countries from Africa, Asia, Central Asia and Latin America on sustainable agricultural mechanization and digitalization, but we need to scale up to achieve better production.

We are expanding digitalization efforts through the International Plant Protection Convention e-Phyto system to facilitate the safe and efficient flow of international trade, with 88 countries currently using the system and an additional 44 in testing mode.

We are also strengthening phytosanitary capacity in Africa for pest prevention through the Africa Phytosanitary Programme, which is empowering plant health officials and partners in Africa to proactively monitor, detect, respond and recover from plant pests and diseases.

Implementation of programme is underway in 11 pilot countries, with an action plan to expand it to all 54 African countries in the next 5 years.

We have set the Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) on a new course. 

We are implementing the new within-region common criteria to resource allocation following the review and Members’ endorsement of the updated Regional TCP shares. 

Over the last 5 years, resources mobilized through TCP amounted to USD 4.5 billion, which is more than twice the total amount allocated to TCP since its creation in 1976.

Dear Colleagues,

October 16 is World Food Day – FAO’s Birthday! World Food Day 2024 will mark the start of the one-year countdown to FAO's 80th anniversary.

In 2025, FAO will commemorate its 80th anniversary, eight days before that of the United Nations.

This celebration will highlight FAO's global impact on food security over the decades and highlight the ongoing significance of its mandate. It is a moment to recognize and honour FAO's past achievements, while highlighting the Organization's continued growth and commitment to helping create a better future.

To mark this special occasion, a series of events will be organized starting from October this year leading up to the 80th anniversary, which will see the launch of the Global Food and Agriculture Museum and Network (GFAMN).

Preparations are going full-steam ahead for this year’s edition of the World Food Forum in October at FAO headquarters, together with its three pillars: the Hand-in-Hand Investment Forum, the Science and Innovation Forum, and the Global Youth Forum.

The third edition of the Hand-in-Hand Investment Forum will once again provide an important global platform for governments to present their investment opportunities - developed using FAO’s Hand-in-Hand methodology and tools - to multilateral, regional and national development banks; impact investors; foundations; the private sector; donors, and other development partners.

Using its innovative bilateral match-making meeting application, the Investment Forum also facilitates a unique opportunity for Hand-in-Hand member countries to engage directly with interested investors in one-to-one dialogues to advance sustainable agrifood investment opportunities.

This year’s Investment Forum will see presentations of agrifood investment opportunities from 29 countries: 13 from the Africa region; seven from Latin America and the Caribbean; seven from Asia and the Pacific; and two from the Near East and North Africa.  

The Forum will also showcase investment opportunities in five regional and sub-regional initiatives in Sahel and Southern Africa; Dry Corridor; Amazonia; and the Caribbean.

The theme of the 2024 Science and Innovation Forum is “Inclusive Science and Innovation for Agrifood Systems Transformation, Leaving No One Behind”, which is aligned with the World Food Forum 2024 overall theme of “Good Food for All, for Today and Tomorrow”.

The implementation of the first-ever FAO Science and Innovation Strategy is on-going, synergistically with the Strategy on Climate Change, and we look forward to discussing with you further the first monitoring reports of these two Strategies which are included in the PIR.

In line with the Action Plan of the FAO Science and Innovation Strategy, FAO is developing guidance on strengthening science-policy interfaces at the national level.

The guidance development process is currently undergoing wide e-consultation and is expected to be finalized soon.

FAO is also developing a Science, Technology and Innovation portal which will act as a comprehensive repository, housing a vast array of scientific research, technological innovations, and best practices from diverse fields. By providing a centralized platform for accessing up-to-date information, it empowers stakeholders to make informed decisions and drive impactful actions.

Through the portal, we are also facilitating a Collaborative Innovation Ecosystem, where researchers, policymakers, and all users, can converge to access, share, exchange ideas, co-create solutions, and address complex global challenges.

All year-long activities by the global youth will culminate in October with the Global Youth Forum, under the umbrella of the World Food Forum. The Youth Forum harnesses intergenerational collaboration and creativity highlighting the importance of collaboration between the current and next generation, and their combined ingenuity in science, technology and innovation – and investments in key areas of food and agriculture. 

This year’s Global Youth Forum is taking place on the cusp of the establishment of the new Office of Youth and Women – the first in the UN System.

The Office will ensure effective mainstreaming across the Organization and will take forward and further institutionalize the work of the FAO Youth Committee and the FAO Women’s Committee.

I am pleased to announce that DDG Beth Bechdol has taken over the Chair of the FAO Women’s Committee, in view of the eminent retirement of DDG-Semedo.

Dear Colleagues,

The Digital FAO continues to be at the forefront of digital transformation, internally as a FAO corporate engine of efficiencies enabled by the Digital Workplace; and externally by providing Digital Capabilities for Impact through FAO's Agro-Informatics platform, as well as direct assistance to farmers through FAO's Digital Services Portfolio.

As a digital organization, FAO's focus has been on championing the 'Open, Free and Safe Digital Future for All' as part of the Global Digital Compact under the UN system.

The Digital Workplace is advancing with a strong focus on a Digital Mindset, new tools and ways of working, and directly aligned with the FAO Corporate Environment Responsibility Strategy.

FAO's Shared Services Centre (SSC) has embraced the Digital Workplace and in 2023 it completed the roll out of its Customer Service management tool ‘ServiceNow’, a multilingual tool which has improved capabilities to track the quality of response and response time, which are key performance indicators for the effective management of core services. 

I am pleased to note that, despite a significant increase in the SSC’s workload due to a growing FAO, these indicators continue to meet or exceed the targets.

The SSC continues to take an active role in automating and digitalizing its financial processes, led by the Finance Division. This is a great example of collaborative efforts as One FAO.

FAO is also expanding the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and enhancing the internal capacity for adoption and deployment of various AI solutions.

FAO strongly recognizes the potential of AI to address global food security challenges and promote sustainability and inclusivity, aiming at optimizing agrifood systems through AI, while prioritizing innovation, data-driven decision making, and equitable access to technology.

The envisioned AI-ready strategy will aim to prioritize and mainstream AI adoptions and applications impactful delivery of FAO’s mandate.

Significant milestones were achieved in implementation of the Corporate Environmental Responsibility Strategy 2020-2030, contributing to reducing FAO’s environmental footprint across the organization.

This includes making buildings more energy efficient in headquarters, as well as in Regional and Country Offices, through the introduction of additional solar systems and by greening the compounds. 

Meeting rooms in headquarters are being upgraded thanks to contributions from many Members, for which I am grateful. 

Our host country Italy is providing a generous contribution for the greening of headquarters premises and the creation of the Global Food and Agriculture Museum and Network (GFAMN). 

Special efforts have also been made in starting a pilot project on measuring food waste in catering areas at headquarters.

Dear Colleagues,

FAO continues efforts to reinforce collaboration among the Rome-based agencies and the wider UN system, with particular emphasis on avoiding overlaps and increasing joint programming.

We acknowledge the challenges posed by resource constraints and the need for more flexible funding and strategic resource mobilization to support collaborative efforts.

The Joint SDG Fund and its new Food Systems Transformation Window represent a viable tool for our collective support to boost national agrifood systems transformations in the follow-up to their commitments to the UN Food Systems Summit. 

FAO has taken the lead, together with WFP and IFAD, on a coalition of UN partners driving agrifood systems transformation. We have reinforced our relationships with UNESCO, WTO and UN Habitat,

Last month I travelled to Geneva to meet with UN entities based there, and during which I signed a number of MoUs to further strengthen and consolidate collaboration.

It is vital to ensure linkages between FAO’s global expertise and UN Resident Coordinators and Country Teams across the UN’s Six Transitions. 

FAO looks forward to contributing to the Summit of the Future and the outcome document Pact of the Future, with concrete actions in sustainable development and financing for development, and contributing to strategic foresight, innovations and technologies and the new Digital Compact.

In March 2024, FAO and the UN-DESA convened at FAO headquarters an Expert Group Meeting to prepare the 2024 HLPF review of SDG 2 (zero hunger), and its role in advancing sustainable development across the 2030 Agenda.

The policy messages and recommendations arising from the discussions will feed into the 2024 HLPF deliberations.

FAO is also committed to further developing digital solutions for better partnership management that enhances transparency and accountability in the development and monitoring of all types of partnerships.

FAO’s ongoing update of the Formal Status accreditation process will bring clarity and transparency to its relations with international non-governmental organizations, in line with the FAO Basic Texts.

FAO continues to foster the effective engagement of Civil Society Organization in key FAO projects and programmes, and through the decentralized offices we continue efforts to increase engagement with non-state actors, ensuring balanced and inclusive representation of civil society views and voices.

FAO has scaled up its engagements with private sector entities to strengthen knowledge and resources. Together, we can leverage our comparative advantages to deliver more substantial impact.

Academia remains a key partner for FAO. Last month, I visited Cornell University in New York, where I met with senior leadership and dozens of professors to see their work on a wide range of topics such as plant breeding and genetics, plant pathology, reducing methane emissions in livestock, food science and food technologies, robotics and integrated pest management.

I also met with smart, impressive and enthusiastic students on campus who are the future of global agrifood system transformation – we need to prioritize our support to them.

Yesterday, I returned from Ireland where I had the opportunity to visit the University of Galway where we signed a Letter of Intent for further collaboration. 

The University is a leading academic institution for sustainable development, and I saw firsthand the exciting research being carried out in agrifood systems, and it reaffirmed the critical role of research, science and agriculture innovation to help unlock solutions for the agrifood systems transformation.

I intend to continue to strengthen these ties with global academia to promote scientific solutions and the Four Betters to end hunger and leave no one behind.

Dear Colleagues, 

In September and October this year, FAO will be celebrating 60 years of investment support through the FAO Investment Centre, having signed its first cooperation agreement with the World Bank in 1964. 

Since the launch of the Hand-in-Hand Initiative in 2019, the Investment Centre has participated in Hand-in-Hand dialogues in 66 countries and supported 31 countries to prepare their priority investment plans for the Investment Forum.

Under the Transparent Markets and Trade PPA in the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31, FAO has intensified its market intelligence and early warning activities, placing the Organization as a leading global reference point for timely, reliable and objective market data and information and assessments. 

In this context, the G20 Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), hosted in FAO, has been strengthened to cover vegetable oil and fertilizer markets and the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) has been expanded to cover more countries.

The 25th Session of the Intergovernmental Group on Tea was successfully held in India in February 2024, covering several aspects related to tea markets and trade.

FAO in its effort to promote sustainable production and trade through multistakeholder partnerships, the 4th Global Conference of the World Banana Forum was held in March 2024, addressing issues related to the sustainability of the banana industry. 

FAO Office of Evaluation has completed 23 evaluations in the past six months.

To build capacity and promote the use of findings in decision-making, we have, among others:  increased the evaluation function in decentralized offices; are developing learning agendas that will guide the identification of future evaluation work in close alignment with FAO learning needs; and have increased focus on measuring the impact of FAO’s work.

The Organization continues to place great emphasis on serving our beneficiaries and Members with the highest level of integrity, as this is critical to building trust in our operations.

Efforts undertaken this year by the Ethics Office included dedicated training on active bystander intervention and a wide range of awareness-raising activities and tools, such as briefings on FAO’s standards of conduct, to further enforce an ethical work environment.

FAO recently launched its updated and strengthened Policy on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, with a clear message: FAO has zero tolerance to sexual exploitation and abuse.

As a knowledge organization, each and every employee is integral to FAO’s mandate. To maximize our capacity as One FAO, my focus is to ensure excellence in recruitment, fostering professional growth, and creating an enabling and inclusive working environment where employees feel engaged and empowered.

We continue to focus on recruitment, and over the past months, we have seen a reduction in the number of vacant FAO Representative and senior management positions, ensuring key organizational positions were filled.

On the back of the successful First Global Working Conference of FAO Representatives at the end of last year, a new Integrated Talent Management Model for FAO Country Offices and FAOR Leadership Academy are being developed to further support colleagues in the decentralized offices in carrying out their roles effectively.

A new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Action Plan was recently launched with the aim to promote all forms of diversity in FAO, including equitable geographical distribution and gender balance, and others.

I am proud to announce that in 2023, FAO met the UN gender parity targets for the first time, for staff in the Professional 1-5 level categories globally.  

At the same time, our pipeline of young talent continues to grow through our Young Talent programmes and global outreach activities and events for young talent to allow for the regeneration of the workforce.

To provide employees with opportunities to be listened to and recognized, the annual practice of the FAO Employee Town Halls, with the most recent edition held in February 2024, which provides a collective platform for all FAO employees across the Organization to come together and discuss issues that affect them, directly with me and my leadership team.

Before concluding, I wish to acknowledge Ms Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General, who reached mandatory retirement at the end of May after 21 years of service to the Organization.

I decided to extend her until 31 July in view of this Council session, as well as the upcoming sessions of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) and the Committee on Forestry (COFO) in July, to ensure they continue to benefit from her leadership and experience, and to ensure business effective continuity.

This will be DDG-Semedo’s last Council session, but I am sure that she will continue to support the Organization in different ways well beyond her retirement.

In particular, I wish to recognize her historic role as the first Chair of the FAO Women’s Committee I established four years ago!

Dear Colleagues,

I wish you fruitful discussions this week as we continue going on our collective path towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Let us always remember our shared responsibility to build a dynamic FAO for a better future for all, leaving no one behind.

Thank you.