The FAO Council has approved a series of measures proposed by the Director-General QU Dongyu to modernize the UN agency and make it more efficient and effective. Composed of 49 member countries and executive organ of the FAO Conference, the Council met virtually for the first time in FAO’s history due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In its final report, the FAO Council “supported the Director-General’s vision for the Organization to be fit-for-purpose, modern, inclusive and agile, while preserving its technical capacity, in particular through a more modular and flexible structure aiming to ensure efficiency, effectiveness and cross-sectoral collaboration.”
Since taking office on 1 August 2019, Qu has strived to make FAO more agile, responsive and accountable, as well as more capable to support its Members in overcoming challenges related to food and agriculture.
The approval of the new measures “is a strong sign of trust in my efforts to translate our common vision of a new dynamic, inclusive result-focused FAO into reality,” the Director-General said.
A key point among the approved measures is the implementation of a more flexible organizational structure, aimed at ensuring agility, optimal cross-sectoral collaboration and better responses to emerging needs and priorities.
The new structure groups a core leadership team at the centre of the Organization. With this new arrangement, the Director-General will be directly supported by the three Deputy Directors-General, the Chief Economist, the Chief Scientist and the Director of Cabinet.
The directors of Divisions, Centres and Offices, as experts in their respective subjects, will report directly to the core leadership team, thereby strengthening internal consensus and synergy and minimizing bureaucracy.
“I hope that you will soon see the first results of our silo-busting, our increased teamwork and our strengthened collaboration with partner agencies,” the Director-General said, highlighting that “by improving the working methods and instilling transparency and accountability, the reformed FAO will increase and improve its delivery to the vulnerable, to our Members, the farmers and the consumers.”
Other important measures approved by the Council include the establishment of a new Office of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in order to further reinforce and better coordinate FAO’s work with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the strengthening of the FAO’s centres of cooperation with other international organizations and international financial institutions.
In his closing remarks to the Council, the Director-General stressed that FAO will continue being focused on supporting its Members in mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on food security and food systems.
“We need to go beyond that: Now that we learned how to live with the virus, we need to focus on the recovery phase,” said Qu.
On 14 July, during a High-Level Event, FAO will launch a new Response Programme to address COVID-19 based on seven areas of work identified as priorities. “Building back better is a challenge that FAO is prepared for,” he ensured.
Since the pandemic started, FAO has actively engaged governments, international organizations, the private sectors and civil society to coordinate and strength responses.
The Director-General participated at the G20 leaders meeting, the UN Security Council on food security, and the G20 Agricultural Ministers meeting, calling upon them to adopt measured to keep food supply chains functioning properly. Qu also took part in meetings convened by the UN Secretary-General, ECOSOC and the World Economic Forum.
FAO has also organized a number of virtual meetings with Ministers from different regions to ensure countries designate food and agriculture as essential services during lockdowns.
In addition, the Organization has published 41 policy briefs and 8 publications, presenting both quantitative and qualitative assessment of the pandemic’s impact on food supply chains, food trade and markets, smallholder producers, food insecurity, protection of the most vulnerable, statistical systems, as well as safe, resilient and sustainable food systems.
The Director-General also highlighted the benefit of the Hand-in-Hand Initiative to tackle the pandemic: “It offers a ready-made coordination structure for an integrated COVID-19 response for food and nutrition security.”
On 21 July, FAO will launch the Hand-in-Hand Geospatial Platform, which aims to provide advanced geo-spatial modeling and analytics. The main goal is to identify the biggest opportunities to raise the incomes and reduce the inequities and vulnerabilities of rural populations, who constitute the vast majority of the world’s poor.
“Saving livelihoods and strengthening resilience in the most affected areas remains crucial,” concluded the Director-General.