FAO Liaison Office with the United Nations in New York

World Food Day 2021: Our actions are our future

Hybrid Event, 15/10/2021

Friday 15 October 2021 | 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. (EST)

Under the World Food Day 2021 theme “Our actions are our future”, the New York-based virtual event will showcase innovative solutions and calls to action to ensure that our agri-food systems deliver enough affordable, nutritious and safe food for all. World Food Day stands to raise awareness of the need to support the transformation to MORE efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, leaving no one behind.

This day also recognizes that behind our food, there is always someone who produced, planted, harvested, fished, transported it or made sure it reached those in need– our Food Heroes, who continue to help grow, nourish and sustain the world. Working alongside our Food Heroes is a key ingredient in these efforts. Together we can help create an enabling environment for agri-food systems transformation, one where we share applicable knowledge and actionable solutions.

Concept note and Agenda | Learn more and get involved! | View the recording | Read the web story

Speakers' bios

Setting the scene

Ismahane Elouafi, FAO Chief Scientist

Ms. Ismahane Elouafi holds the position of Chief Scientist at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, a new position created within FAO’s core leadership structure. Her appointment was announced by FAO Director-General QU Dongyu at the 35th FAO Regional Conference for the Near East in September 2020.

From 2012 until her appointment, Ms. Elouafi was Director General at the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture based in the United Arab Emirates. In this role, she spearheaded the development and implementation of the center’s long-term strategy and expanded its mandate to marginal environments, an agroecosystem concept which she helped to mainstream in the global research and development discourse.

Ms. Elouafi had previously held senior scientific and leadership positions, including Senior Adviser to the Assistant Deputy Minister, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Research Branch in Ottawa, Canada (2006-2007); the National Manager of Plant Research Section (2007-2010); and Director of Research Management and Partnerships Division at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (2010-2012).

She had also worked as a scientist with several international research organizations, including the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences, and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center.

Ms. Elouafi has been a member of various strategy expert panels and advisory groups, including with the Global Commission on Adaptation and HarvestPlus.

She sits on the boards of the International Food Policy Research Institute, the USA; the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International, the UK; and the Professional Development Institute, Canada.

She is also a member of the Scientific Group for the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit and of the CGIAR System Management Board.

Ms. Elouafi is a strong advocate for diversifying into neglected and underutilized crops and rethinking food systems as a whole. She is also internationally known for her work on promoting use of non-fresh water in agriculture and empowerment of women in science.

Her contributions to science and policy have been recognized with a number of prestigious awards and accolades, including the National Reward Medal by His Majesty Mohamed VI, the King of Morocco (2014), and the Excellence in Science Award from the Global Thinkers Forum (2014).

Ms. Elouafi holds a B.Sc. in Agricultural Sciences (1993) and an M.Sc. in Genetics and Plant Breeding (1995) from the Hassan II Institute of Agronomy and Veterinary Medicine, Morocco, and a Ph.D. in Genetics (2001) from the University of Cordoba, Spain.


H.E. Mr Abdulla Shahid, President of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

On 7 June 2021, the United Nations General Assembly elected Abdulla Shahid of Maldives as President of its seventy-sixth session, which runs from September 2021 until September 2022.

Mr. Shahid is widely recognized as an exceptional politician and a seasoned diplomat, with a long and distinguished career serving in both the Government and legislature of Maldives.

Since his appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs in 2018, for the second time, he has worked to reposition Maldives as a responsible and respected member of the international community, by renewing previously strained relationships and building new ones, both in the bilateral and the multilateral domains. 

As a strong advocate for gender equality, Mr. Shahid is credited with achieving gender parity among the country’s diplomatic Heads of Mission for the first time, as well as in the foreign service.

Amid the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Mr. Shahid has been one of the leading international voices highlighting the devastation caused by the global health crisis on the economies and societies of small island developing States.  He has continuously drawn attention to the inherent economic vulnerabilities of small island States to external shocks and their limited ability to bounce back from disasters.

Mr. Shahid began his professional career as a foreign service officer in 1983 and rose rapidly through the ranks.  In 1993, he was promoted to the post of Director, International Affairs, with the responsibility of leading the Multilateral Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He was also a negotiator at the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and he actively participated in the World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna in 1993.

As Head of the Foreign Ministry’s International Organizations Department, Mr. Shahid represented Maldives at several meetings of the Commonwealth, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, among others. He also led the Maldives delegation to the twentieth Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Uganda and the sixth session of the Islamic Summit Conference in Senegal.

In 1995, Mr. Shahid was appointed Executive Secretary (Chief of Staff) in the Office of the President.  He held that post for over 10 years, serving with a high degree of distinction and diligence and displaying strong administrative and organizational capabilities. In 2005, Mr. Shahid was appointed Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, and in 2007, Minister for Foreign Affairs for the first time.

As minister, Mr. Shahid advocated for a rights-based approach to climate change by making a submission to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, under Human Rights Council resolution 7/23, on human rights and climate change. He drew attention to the direct and indirect effects of climate change on the enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, which reinvigorated the discourse on climate change and brought to light the multidimensional impacts of climate change. He also successfully steered the ministry through a period of sweeping political change in Maldives, skilfully displaying a willingness to engage more widely with the international community and international human rights mechanisms.

Mr. Shahid’s parliamentary career spanned 25 years, during which time he participated in, and oversaw, major legislative progress and reform. He was a Member of Parliament for five consecutive terms, from 1994 to 2018.

During his tenure as Speaker, Mr. Shahid served as President of the conference of the Association of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Speakers and Parliamentarians, from 2013 to 2014, and on the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, from 2012 to 2015.  He also actively engaged with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

Mr. Shahid holds a master’s degree in international relations from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and completed his undergraduate degree in political science and government at the University of Canberra.

H.E. Mr. Collen Vixen Kelapile, President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and Permanent Representative of Botswana to the United Nations in New York

His Excellency Collen Vixen Kelapile was elected the seventy-seventh President of the Economic and Social Council on 23 July 2021. Ambassador Vixen Kelapile is currently the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Botswana to the United Nations in New York.

His Excellency Collen Vixen Kelapile has an accumulated career of 26 years in multilateral diplomacy, both as a government representative, intergovernmental expert and is also a former United Nations (UN) Secretariat staff member.

Before his appointment in 2018 as Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, he was the Chief of Staff to the Executive-Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 2014 to 2018.

From 2013 to 2014, he served as the Deputy Director in the Department of Africa and the Middle East at the Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation of Botswana overseeing Central, East, North and West Africa as well as the Middle East.

He was elected by the UN General Assembly as a member of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) from 2004 to 2012, where he served for three consecutive 3-year terms amounting to 9 years. During his tenure in the Committee, he served as Vice-Chair of the ACABQ for 3 years from 2008 to 2010 and subsequently as its Chair for 2 years from 2011 to 2012.

Ambassador Kelapile was posted at the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Botswana in New York from 1998 to 2003, where he rose through diplomatic ranks from Second Secretary to level of Counsellor prior to his successful election to ACABQ in 2003. 

As a member of the diplomatic staff of the Mission of Botswana in New York he was the delegate to the Administrative and Budgetary (or Fifth) Committee of the UN General Assembly for 6 years from 1998 to 2003. He was also delegate to other related bodies such as the Committee for Programmes and Coordination (CPC), which is a dual subsidiary Committee reporting to both the UN General Assembly and ECOSOC.

During his tenure at the Mission of Botswana in New York Ambassador Kelapile also simultaneously served as focal point on the Legal (or Sixth) Committee of the UN General Assembly, coinciding also with the time of the elaboration of the Rome Statute on the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

He served in the Bureau of the Fifth Committee as the Vice-Chair at the 55th Session of the General Assembly in 2000/2001, and subsequently as the Vice-Chair of the CPC at its 42nd Session in 2002. He was the Coordinator of the African Group of experts in the Fifth Committee from 2001 to 2003.

In conjunction with his present position as Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, he is also concurrently Botswana’s Ambassador to Cuba and the High Commissioner to Jamaica, on a non-resident basis.

Among his other most recent engagements and roles in the UN’s intergovernmental processes in New York include serving as:

  • Vice-President of UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board, 2019 Session.
  • Chair of 59th Session of the Committee for Programme and Coordination, 2019.
  • Co-Facilitator of the Alignment Process of the agendas of the UN General Assembly and ECOSOC during 74th Session of the Assembly, 2019/2020.
  • Chair of Special Political and Decolonization (or Fourth) Committee during 75th Session of the UN General Assembly, 2020/2021.
  • Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), 2021 Session.
  • Co-Chair of the Group of Friends on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) at the UN, 2021-2023.
  • Co-Chair of the Joint Steering Committee of the African Group-CARRICOM Caucus (AfCAR) Collaboration Initiative at the UN, of which he is a co-founder together with the Permanent Representative of Grenada, 2020 – Present.  

Ambassador Kelapile joined the Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation in 1995 as Desk Officer for the UN, soon after graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree (Political Science and Public Administration) from the University of Botswana in the same year.

Among other diplomatic career capacity-building and leadership development, Ambassador Kelapile also received professional diplomatic training at the Foreign Service Institute in New Delhi, India, in 1996.

Ambassador Kelapile was Born in Maitengwe, Botswana, on 10 July, 1968. He is married with one son.

H.E. Ms. María del Carmen Squeff, Permanent Representative of Argentina to the United Nations in New York

Master’s Degree in International Politics (Faculté des Sciences Sociales, Politiques et Economiques. Université Libre de Bruxelles, 2000). Bachelor´s Degree in Political Science (School in Political Science and International Relations. National University of Rosario, 1989). Career member of the Foreign Service since 1993, when she graduated from the Foreign Service Institute of Argentina. After her graduation as a diplomat, she worked  at the Undersecretary of Economic Integration, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

She has served in the Commercial Section of the Argentine Embassy to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium (1995 - 2000) and has coordinated the EU-MERCOSUR Negotiation Group (2001). She has served as Chief of Staff of the Undersecretary for Economic Integration and MERCOSUR (2003 - 2005), as Director of the Executive Board and Audit Committee Member of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) (2006 - 2011), as Member of the FAO Programme Committee (2008 - 2009), as Chairperson of the Committee on World Food Security, where she led the reform process of the Committee (2009), as Member and Vice Chair of the FAO Programme Committee (2010 - 2011), as Chargé d'affaires a.i. to FAO, IFAD and WFP (2008 - 2011), as Deputy Permanent Representative of Argentina to FAO, IFAD and WFP (2005 - 2011). She has worked at the National Department of Multilateral Economics, where she was in charge of FAO, IFAD and WFP (2011).  

She was Undersecretary for Foreign Policy (2011 - 2013), Ambassador of Argentina in France (2013 - 2016), Secondment to the Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia from the Organization of American States (MAPP/OAS) (2016 - 2017), Ambassador of Argentina in the Federal Republic of Nigeria (2018 - 2019) and Undersecretary for MERCOSUR and International Economic Negotiations (December 2019 to July 2020). 

She is currently the Permanent Representative of Argentina to the United Nations. 

H.E. Mr. Craig John Hawke, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations in New York

Mr. Hawke was appointed Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations in New York in August 2017. Prior to this, he was Principal Adviser, Small Island Developing States (SIDS), at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in New York.

Mr. Hawke has held several senior Government positions in Wellington, including Acting Chief Executive Officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) from November 2014 to February 2015; Deputy Secretary for International Development and Head of the New Zealand Aid Programme (2013-2014); Chief Operating Officer of MFAT’s International Development Group (2012-2013); and Director of Multilateral, Humanitarian and Partnerships Division (2009 to 2012).

Between 2003 and 2008, he was Director of the Pacific Group of the New Zealand Agency for International Development (NZAID), and Deputy Director of the Asia, Africa and Latin America Section (2001-2003). He has served as New Zealand’s representative on the Tokelau International Trust Fund.

Mr. Hawke’s diplomatic career includes assignments in Australia, Republic of Korea, Samoa and New York. He worked in New Zealand’s Parliament as Private Secretary to the Minister for International Trade (1996-1998);

He is the holder of a bachelor’s degree in social sciences and a master’s in social sciences in economics from Waikato University, New Zealand.

H.E. Ms Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations

Ms. Amina J. Mohammed is the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group.

Prior to her appointment, Ms. Mohammed served as Minister of Environment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria where she steered the country’s efforts on climate action and efforts to protect the natural environment.

Ms. Mohammed first joined the United Nations in 2012 as Special Adviser to former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with the responsibility for post-2015 development planning. She led the process that resulted in global agreement around the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  

She began her career working on the design of schools and clinics in Nigeria. She served as an advocate focused on increasing access to education and other social services, before moving into the public sector, where she rose to the position of adviser to four successive Presidents on poverty, public sector reform, and sustainable development.

Ms. Mohammed has been conferred several honorary doctorates and has served as an adjunct professor, lecturing on international development. The recipient of various global awards, Ms. Mohammed has served on numerous international advisory boards and panels.


Patricia Gomes, Imaflora, Deputy Executive Secretary, co-winner of the 2019 International Innovation Award for Sustainable Food and Agriculture and 2021 World Food Day Food Hero

Patrícia Cota Gomes is a Forestry engineer and holds a Masters in tropical forest management. Deputy Executive Secretary at Imaflora (Brazilian NGO), she was the coordinator and now manages Origens Brasil®, a network awarded by the UN, which aims to promote new business models in the Amazon within protected areas, promoting transparency and valorisation products from traditional populations and indigenous peoples.

Alexandra Spieldoch, Bountifield International, CEO, co-winner of the youth category, International Innovation Award for Sustainable Food Systems

Ms. Spieldoch brings over 25 years of experience in global food and agricultural policy. In her role as CEO of Bountifield International, she oversees strategic direction, partnerships, and postharvest technology programs across sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to Bountifield, she was the director of the International Gender and Trade Network (IGTN) and the trade and global governance program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). She led the Network of Women Ministers and Leaders in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (NWMLA). She has spearheaded regional and global initiatives on international human rights, food systems and trade. She is an expert on women’s economic empowerment and has contributed to numerous articles and books related to global governance, food security, land rights, inclusive growth, gender, and sustainable development. Alexandra received her M.A. in International Policy from the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Her B.A. is from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.   

Mustapha Diyaol–Haqq, Okuafo Foundation, Co-founder and Artificial Intelligence Lead

Mustapha Diyaol-Haqq is the co-founder of Okuafo Foundation, a social enterprise that is providing farmers across West Africa with low-cost precision agriculture services. Okuafo Foundation works on delivering real-time AI-powered early pest detection through its smartphone app, Okuafo AI. Using the app, farmers can monitor their crops for pests and take sustainable actions that not only ensures the protection of the food, but also protects the environment from harmful chemicals through wrong pesticide use. With Okuafo Foundation’s shared device program, a farmer is selected as a lead and given a smartphone with the Okuafo AI app installed and he or she serves a community, reaching about 50 farmers in a community. 

Victoria Slivkoff, Extreme Tech Challenge, Executive Managing Director

Victoria Slivkoff is a global executive with a multidisciplinary background in tech investment, corporate development, strategy and operations. She is currently the Executive Managing Director of Extreme Tech Challenge (XTC), the world’s largest global platform showcasing the most innovative, purpose-driven startup addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The mission of XTC is to find and accelerate disruptive startups that can reach massive scale while having a meaningful impact on our planet. Victoria is experienced in forming public-private partnerships to drive investment and the scaling of innovative technologies in the U.S., Middle East, Latin America, Asia, and Europe.



Paul Skoczylas, Deputy Director, Division for the UN System and Multilateral Engagement, WFP New York

Paul Skoczylas is the Deputy Director of the World Food Program’s UN System and Multilateral Engagement Division in New York. Paul spent more than seven years in the field with WFP, leading large scale humanitarian and development projects in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. He was also an advisor to the WFP Executive Director in Rome.

Prior to joining the United Nations, Paul was a special assistant to the Under Secretary of State in Washington, where he shaped U.S. policy and public diplomacy during the economic, energy and food crises. For nearly four years he was a staff member in the White House Office of Policy Development, launching a number of innovative economic development and anti-poverty initiatives.

Throughout his career, Paul has been involved in G8 and G20 summits, the World Economic Forum, and the UN General Assembly meetings. He is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, was a Fulbright Scholar to Turkey. He has B.A. and M.S. degrees from Georgetown University.