Director-General QU Dongyu

8th Informal North America Regional Conference (INARC) Opening Remarks

by Dr QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General


Dear Colleagues,

I am grateful to the two important founding members of FAO - Canada and the United States of America - for your long-term commitments and support.

Thank you to Canada for hosting this Informal North America Regional Conference, which is a vital opportunity for us to have in-depth discussion and dialogue.

Without the vision of the Canadian and United States leaders during World War II and their recognition of the importance of agriculture and food security, FAO would not have been established timely 80 years ago. 

Next year I look forward to celebrating this important milestone of the establishment of FAO – 80th anniversary as part of the UN family - with all our Members!

This regional grouping is unique to FAO and further reflects the important role of this region for the Organization.

Since taking office in 2019, I have continuously focused on re-creating FAO as an agile, action-oriented fit-for-purpose Organization, capable of innovating and finding solutions to the ongoing global challenges, and most importantly implementing them efficiently, effectively, and coherently, in line with our mandate.

My first term was based on the “Four Es V1.0”: Efficiency, Effectiveness, Extraordinary and Excellency. Now, my second term is focused on building on our original aspirations to consolidate ONE FAO in line with the “Four Rs V1.0”: Recovery, Reform, Rebuild, and Renaissance.

But we need to work together to achieve these collective aspirations – our partnership is critical to our success. 

Dear Colleagues,

Over the past five years, we have listened to our Members and have been working hard to build partnerships that bring impact and to strengthen mutual trust.

This trust was made evident in Members’ agreement to support the first increase in 12 years to our regular programme budget. An increase that was overdue and much needed. Thank you for recognizing it and supporting it!

Canada and the United States are very important donors to FAO, through both your assessed and voluntary contributions. Considering the difficult economic conditions globally, it is worth noting that your support to FAO has been historically high over the past years.

To me, this shows that confidence in FAO is being restored, and is an undeniable recognition of our important contribution to global food security.

I believe that our partnership with you, both individually and as a group, is strong, but I am determined to strengthen this relationship even further because I am convinced that we can do even more and better, together.

Your constructive feedback, strategic insights and pragmatic priorities are important to me, and I look forward to your discussions over these two days.

As I look at the outcomes and agreements of the previous 7th INARC meeting, let me offer a few reflections on the progress FAO has made against many of the objectives that were set in 2022.

The challenges that we as a global community face pose challenges to human lives, livelihoods, and food security and nutrition, especially rural communities, and households, and in particular women and youth.

Persistently high food prices, economic slowdowns and the climate crisis disproportionally affect the most vulnerable.

Price surges of energy, agricultural inputs, services, and logistics along with geopolitical tensions have posed a direct threat to global supply chains and impact on food availability, food accessibility and food affordability.

Maintaining open trade is indispensable, and tools like the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) are critical. AMIS enhances transparency and provides a platform to coordinate policy action in times of market uncertainty and assist in preventing unexpected price hikes of major commodities.

The continuing war in Ukraine, conflicts and increasing humanitarian crises – such as in Gaza, Afghanistan, Haiti, the Sudan, and Yemen – are of great concern. I continue to stress that peace is a prerequisite for food security, and food is a basic human right.

Together with other partners, we are providing technical and agricultural support to bring relief, to rebuild and to restore agricultural production.

FAO is committed to pursuing new innovative pathways to transform global agrifood systems to be more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient, and more sustainable.

The Four Betters – better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life – are the pillars of the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31, which FAO Members endorsed. 

The Four Betters are the pathway for us to ensure that no one is left behind.

FAO’s work is focused on supporting Members to build resilience so that especially the most vulnerable can prevent, and cope with, crises and shocks, particularly women, youth, Indigenous Peoples, and marginalized communities – all areas where Canada and the United States have been supportive. 

This also includes our commitment to the One Health agenda, on which we work closely with you – to help, detect and respond to emerging disease threats globally.

A major focus over the last two years has also been on ensuring transparency in our governance arrangements. This has included strengthening the Oversight Advisory Committee (OAC), the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the Office of Evaluation (OED), the Legal Office (LEG), the Ethics Office (ETH) and the Ombudsman, and welcoming the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) Management and Administration Review (MAR), the Multilateral Organisation Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN) assessment, and other consultations.

We empower these internal risk managements and welcome the independent reviews and professional consultations from external channels as they assist us in validating our work and ensuring that FAO is fit for purpose as a big team, is accountable to its Members, and is fully aligned and committed to FAO’s mandate.

To scale up our results on the ground and ensure we leverage all opportunities, we rely on our colleagues in the FAO Regional, Subregional and Country Offices. 

That is why first time in the FAO history I convened a global working meeting of all FAO Representatives (FAORs) in December last year.

FAORs visited headquarters in Rome from the four corners of the world, interacting among themselves and colleagues from Headquarters, capturing a large range of insights into priorities and opportunities to improve our delivery on the ground. 

Our focus is now on working even more closely with our FAORs on concrete actions to respond and make things happen – we are walking the talk!

This was not a one-off, and I am already looking forward to and planning the next convening of all the FAORs later this year in Bangkok. 

Dear Colleagues,

As we think about how to further increase and strengthen our collaboration over the next biennium, let me mention three key areas which I consider need to be further progressed and for which we need your support:

  • One: Rural Transformation and Reduced Inequalities, especially Gender Equality;
  • Two: Science, Innovation and Technology; and
  • Three: Climate, Biodiversity and Environment.

Empowering youth and women is imperative for agrifood systems transformation and sustainable rural development. We need to continue supporting women and youth as agents of change and catalysts for the global transformation we need to ensure no one is left behind. 

FAO launched two stand-out reports dedicated to gender equality and inclusion – “The Status of Women in Agrifood Systems” and “The Unjust Climate” – which provide new data and evidence on the need to invest in gender equality.

I also established the FAO Office of Youth and Women to mainstream this important work.

Innovation, together with science and technology, are key accelerators to enhance effectiveness and impact, and are now front and center in all of FAO’s efforts. 

The appointment of a Director of the Office of Innovation will further harness the power of innovation to spur development.

Science and evidence-based data are also an integral part of our work, as the UN specialized, technical agency focusing on food and agriculture. 

This includes the important international standards setting work that helps keep our food safe, ensures safe and open trade and protects our health and that of our environment.

COP28 affirmed that agrifood systems transformation is a climate solution, which is why we launched the FAO Global Roadmap on Achieving SDG2 without breaching the 1.5C threshold during this important global meeting. This roadmap provides a strategy for countries to take policy decisions and innovative actions to address the issues of hunger and climate in a holistic manner.

In conclusion, let me leave you with what I see as important opportunities for continued and strengthened partnership between FAO and Canada and the United States, given your leadership in these areas:

  • One: climate action to build resilience in agrifood systems. We need your support to help put early warning systems in place, mitigate the climate crisis impacts on agrifood systems, and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
  • Two: FAO’s normative and standard setting work. The Codex Alimentarius and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) are critical to ensure food safety and protection from plant pests, while also safeguarding global food security and facilitating safe trade. We need your support to strengthen this work even further.
  • Three: building supply chain resilience. We must maintain trade and economic stability in the face of shocks and stresses – this is where you have many entry points to provide support.
  • And Four: resilience in crisis situations. We must continue to make sure that agricultural assistance is understood and supported as a cost-effective part of humanitarian action – saving lives by saving livelihoods is the most sustainable approach.

The context in which we are currently working requires that we be proactive, not only reactive.

We need investments for emergency and rehabilitation in the short, middle, and long term.

We must continue to work together, capitalizing on FAO’s technical expertise and knowledge and our comparative advantage in identifying innovative and sustainable solutions to global challenges, in line with our mandate.

We rely on the ongoing support from Canada and the United States to continue building these already strong and longstanding partnerships.

Together, as partners, we can realize the original vision of your leaders after World War II for establishing the Food and Agriculture Organization and for defining our mandate and mission for a world free from hunger and malnutrition.

Thank you.