FAO Council opens by highlighting the Organization’s comparative advantage in facing today’s global challenges

“FAO works for the vulnerable people,” Director-General QU Dongyu said in his opening remarks

FAO Council in session.

©FAO/Alessandra Benedetti

Rome –  The 174th Session of the Council of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) opened Monday with FAO Director-General QU Dongyu emphasizing that the Organization is well placed to drive much-needed progress on the main challenges facing the world today.

“FAO works for the vulnerable people,” the Director-General said in his opening remarks, adding that the Organization “has a comparative advantage” in areas ranging from its core mandates, such as food and nutrition security and catalyzing agricultural productivity, to increasingly complex ones, such as fostering environmental sustainability, mitigating and adapting to climate change and building resilience among vulnerable people rocked by conflicts.

Qu opened this week’s Council Session right after leading FAO delegation during the first high-level segment of the UN Climate Conference COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He noted that agrifood systems increasingly occupy center stage at international climate summits and stressed that “global agrifood systems are the climate solution” due to the multiple benefits that their effective and sustainable transformation can bring.

The Director-General also emphasized that it is critical to support “enabling policies to close the investment gap to ensure that climate finance is increased and reaches those who need it most, especially smallholder farmers.”

“An enormous catastrophe is unfolding and the poor are hit the hardest,” said Hans Hoogeveen, Independent Chairperson of the Council. “FAO is uniquely placed to help,” he added, urging all Council participants to “overcome our differences.” The Council observed a minute of silence for all victims of conflicts and violence.

The week-long Council, a cornerstone of FAO governance, is tasked with detailing budgetary priorities through 2025 and will discuss the situation in Gaza and impact of the war in Ukraine, along with other protracted conflicts around the world, on global food security, review progress with the flagship Hand-in-Hand Initiative as well as with voluntary contributions to FAO’s work, which are expected to amount to $1.8 billion this year, the second-highest since FAO’s founding in 1945.
Harnessing the power of youth

Director-General Qu also highlighted the potential of FAO internal reforms and managerial strategies regarding the empowerment of youth and women, which is “not a choice but a must” for agrifood systems transformation and sustainable rural development.

“Youth are the future, and we need to listen to them, not just teach,” he said. “They make you optimistic,” he added.

FAO aims to establish a new Office of Youth and Women in the near future, a first in the UN system, which Qu said would be “revolutionary” in helping FAO serve Members by participating more systematically in cross-cutting global priorities and initiatives, much as the recent creation of the Office for Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries and Landlocked Developing Countries has done for those priority areas of interest.

The Director-General also renewed his call for revitalizing FAO’s decentralized offices network, a key channel through which to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals through the Four Betters.

Unlike some technology standards, agriculture needs to be regionalized to actor in local conditions, Qu said.

New Deputy Director-General

The Director-General also announced the appointment of Italian national Maurizio Martina as Deputy Director-General, replacing Deputy Director-General Laurent Thomas, who retired after more than thirty years of service with FAO.

Martina, a former Minister for Agriculture of Italy, has been working as Assistant Director-General/Senior Advisor to the Director-General, and Qu described him as a committed professional who “does more and says less.”

Bruno Archi, Italy’s Ambassador to FAO and the Rome-based UN agencies, applauded the choice and reiterated his country’s commitment to global food security. “Multilateralism is the only way forward,” Archi said. “Italy is a true partner.”

Maria Helena Semedo, from Cabo Verde, and Beth Bechdol, from the United States of America, are the other two FAO Deputy-Directors-General.

The full statement of the Director-General to FAO Council is available here.

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Full statement


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