FAO Carla Mucavi: "In these times of crisis, we use the 2030 Agenda and the leave no one behind credo as our guides"

Experts' corner - 25.05.2020

25 May 2020, New York -Carla Mucavi, Director of FAO Liaison Office in New York. She explained that as the oldest UN agency, FAO proposed to include in its Constitution the fundamental right to be free from hunger back in 1965. Today, the Organization is rolling out ambitious projects like the Hand-in-Hand Initiative that will advance human rights around the world.

The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, launched the call to Action for Human Rights last February, remarking that human rights are the humanity’s highest aspiration. Do you think that FAO could make a meaningful contribution to this Call?

Carla Mucavi: Indeed, FAO has welcomed the Secretary-General’s recent call and “highest aspiration” to safeguard and advance human rights. As the oldest existing UN agency, FAO had already proposed including in the Constitution the fundamental right to be free from hunger back in 1965.

Today, our mandate is linked to fighting hunger, strengthening food security, and promoting sustainable agriculture and rural development. Furthermore, as human rights are interrelated and interdependent, we also foster indirectly the right to health, the right to work, the right to social security, and the right to education.

FAO has much more to contribute in the sphere of human rights. We have a close collaboration with the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, as well as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Using knowledge-sharing and new technologies, we are rolling out ambitious projects like the Hand-in-Hand initiative to operationalize effective action that will advance human rights around the world, and especially in vulnerable areas like the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), the Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs), and the Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

In addition, we are forging synergies with our partners from the Rome-based Agencies, the UN system, and the private sector to address the underlying causes of hunger, and provide decision-makers with evidence-based support to assess human rights standards and principles. In these times of crisis, we use the 2030 Agenda and the “leave no one behind” credo as our guides towards shaping sustainable, inclusive and resilient food systems for future generations.


The FAO Liaison Office with the United Nations in New York is located at the heart of the United Nations. How does FAOLON advocate for the right to food at intergovernmental meetings and in UN committees?

CM: We have been working closely with the different bodies of the United Nations, namely the General Assembly and its main committees, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and its mains segments, as well as with functional commissions and fora to accelerate efforts that will help us achieve Zero Hunger.

Throughout the year, our office organizes and participates in various special events, ministerial meetings, and observances for International Days, Years and Decades to advocate for the relevance of sustainable agriculture, food security and nutrition in the context of the 2030 Agenda. We also provide technical support during Member State negotiations over issues related to FAO’s mandate.

For instance, in 2019 our office provided substantive and technical secretariat services to the General Assembly Committees, supporting the adoption of a record seven resolutions. One of them was focused on Eradicating Rural Poverty to Implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by ensuring that the extremely poor have access to basic health and education resources, as well as that they are regarded as equals whether they are women or men. Another resolution aimed at incentivizing the public and private sectors to develop overarching projects that will integrate small-scale holders in the sustainable use and production of natural plant fibers. Finally, thanks to efforts made by FAO and partners, the 74th General Assembly announced that 2021 will be the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables, and declared the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, and the International Tea Day.

Promoting respect for human rights is a core purpose of the United Nations. However, still over 820 million people are currently suffering from chronic hunger. How is the United Nations system acting to ensure effective progress towards the achievement of the SDG2 and ensure that everyone has access at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement?

Despite coordinated efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, hunger has been on the rise globally for the past four years.

For FAO, the eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition is a top priority that lies at the core of our Strategic Framework. We have been working closely with the Office of the President of the General Assembly (PGA) and numerous actors from both the public and the private sectors to accelerate efforts that will help us achieve Zero Hunger. The PGA himself has been a great ally to FAO and a strong proponent of achieving Zero Hunger throughout his presidency. He recently reiterated his commitment to the cause in an exclusive op-ed that he penned for FAO. 

In February, FAO’s Director-General was invited by the PGA to be the keynote speaker in an interactive dialogue, which focused on exploring ways to combat the increasing hunger around the world. The event presented Member States with opportunities in the agriculture sector brought about by the South-South and Triangular Cooperation. In April, FAO’s Chief Economist addressed Member States in a high-level virtual meeting hosted by the Group of Friends of Food Security and Nutrition in New York. As an outcome, Member States committed to galvanizing multilateral action towards to ensure food availability amidst COVID-19 pandemic.

With these and similar initiatives, FAO urges policymakers to strengthen governance, support smallholder farmers, and empower women in agriculture through education and access to e-commerce platforms. Taking note of the challenges, we adapt and remain steadfast as ever in our efforts to achieve food security and nutrition for all.

                                              "We adapt and remain steadfast as ever in our efforts 
                                                    to achieve food security and nutrition for all."

Today's most pressing global challenges such as conflict or climate change are putting at high risk the sustainability of the world. How can a human rights-based approach to policy-making help to face these issues, in order to truly resonate with the root causes of hunger and malnutrition, and therefore achieve the 2030 agenda?

CM: Conflict, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic have all impacted negatively on the state of food security around the world. Hunger and poverty cannot end without creating resilient livelihoods. It is also clear that achieving food security, promoting sustainable agriculture, and taking climate action are all interconnected, and need to be addressed in a coordinated way.

In April, FAO Director-General addressed the UN Security Council on the topic of protecting civilians from conflict-induced hunger. Our organization is working on the ground in conflict-stricken areas to uphold food security and support community resilience. FAO experts and partners manage information for early action, support rehabilitation and reintegration, work on preventing pastoralist conflict, and promote the sustainable management of natural resources.

FAO has also adopted the One Health approach that simultaneously addresses the human rights to health, environmental protection, safe food and clean ecosystems. It also contributes to climate change mitigation and climate justice by introducing sustainable animal and plant production techniques.

During the past months, the COVID-19 has set in motion upheavals all around the word? Why is it important to guarantee the realization of the right to food for everyone, particularly for the most vulnerable, in times of crisis?

CM: The COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtably a historic event that is testing the resilience of societies and economies around the world. Global food supply chains are also under increasing pressure due to disruptions induced by lockdowns and restrictive measures that are necessary to protect our heath. Ultimately, those who end up being hit the hardest are the most vulnerable: people living in countries where there are already high levels of food insecurity, informal workers in the food sector, indigenous people, women, and children who have lost access to their school meals because of closures. In addition, trade barriers and the risk of a looming recession stand to take a heavy toll on the fragile economies of areas like the LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS. For these reasons, we need to make sure that food chains are kept alive by eliminating logistical bottlenecks and carrying out informed policy-making that will promote the use of new technologies to ensure food market access for everyone. FAO has quickly mobilized to establish multilateral cooperation on international level in an effort to keep trade open, eliminate food shortages, and protect the most vulnerable populations.


About Carla Mucavi

Carla Mucavi took office as Director of the FAO Liaison Office to the United Nations in New York in August 2015.

She is a national of Mozambique and a career diplomat. Carla has previously served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Mozambique under different functions, including as Chief of Cabinet of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mozambique to Italy, Greece and Malta. Carla was also Mozambique's Permanent Representative to FAO, the World Food Programme, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

She holds a Bachelor in International Relations (Mozambique Institute for Higher Studies in International Relations) and a Master in Cooperation and Development Planning (University La Sapienza).

About FAO Liaison Office in New York

Established in 1956 in the heart of the United Nations, the Office represents FAO at various intergovernmental meetings, notably at the UN General Assembly (UNGA), the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), as well as related committees, functional commissions, and subsidiary bodies. Its work covers key issues pertaining to international trade, humanitarian affairs and sustainable development.