A blog by SI President Mariet Verhoef-Cohen
Saturday 22 June 2019 of the FAO Conference 41st Session 22-29 June 2019, Rome
Full list of documents available at: FAO
“Over one hundred ministers and vice-ministers were present at the 41st Session meeting, as part of the 191 voting heads of delegations. The new Chairperson of the Conference was elected from Uruguay. He mentioned the challenges we still face in eradicating hunger; migration, agriculture, rural development, and the important role of women in this sector. Water, soils and air are issues that keep challenging our human abilities.
Following the elections of the Chairperson and Vice-Chairpersons, the Appointment of the General Committee and Credentials Committee, the Adoption of the Agenda and Arrangements for the Session and Admission of Observers, we were presented with an interesting opening keynote by Graça Machel.
Inviting, enthusing, realistic, delivering the McDougall Memorial Lecture on food security, Machel – an international advocate for children’s and women’s rights – condemned “the shameful failure of global governance to address issues of food security, forced migration and equitable economic development” as well as the failure of governance at country level to allocate sufficient resources to address the root causes of poverty”. She shared detail such as 85% of migrants come from developing countries; 70% of African migrants stay on the continent, and 24% travel to the west – Europe/USA etc. Girls and women are overlooked when looking at rural development and training of skills (vocational training) is the start of their freedom, saying that women and girls are “central players in the food chain and key to agricultural output globally”. In 2015 we promised to end hunger when accepting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). What will we say, when our grandchildren ask us why we failed to end hunger? Why did we not act? Hard work isn’t enough – How do we close the gap between what we promise and the results we are supposed to obtain? We have another ten years to achieve the SDGs, so we all have to scale up! We all need to help in getting there. Bridget McKenzie, the Australian Minister for Rural Health responded to the presentation of Graça Machel.
In the afternoon we listened to the address of French candidate Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle, who was followed by the second candidate Mr Davit Kirvalidze (Georgia) and the third candidate was Mr Qu Dongyu (China). A very well prepared and professional speech with a good programme for the future of the FAO was given by Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle. Mrs Geslain explained her proposed emphasis for the role of Director General of FAO and what she had learned during her campaign trail.
Mr Qu Dongyu (China) portrayed an emphasis on professionalism and the involvement and participation of young people, additionally viewing women as the pillars of the agricultural sector. He spoke of bringing the FAO closer to the farmer, and suggested FAO’s use of funding should be better organised. I will not deny that I hoped Catherine Geslain would be chosen, however, Mr Qu Dongyu is elected, following the vote on Sunday 23 June, securing 108 votes; the first Chinese national to hold the FAO Director-General’s chair. Qu Dongyu will take over from Director-General José Graziano da Silva and lead until 2023.
The African-European meeting, which was held a day earlier on 21 June in Rome, was discussed at the conference. Many obstacles were tackled during this meeting and the two parties made recommendations to help solve the challenges. This meeting will improve our cooperation, and approved and delivered a common vision for a better future for our world. The European Union thanked the Egypt Minister who is the chair of the African ministers. Together they signed and adopted a declaration for a joined and rural development in agriculture. This will bring more sustainability to Africa and will create a continental free-trade area and bring Europe and Africa together.
During the FAO conference in Rome, SI FAO representative Liliana Mosca and I met with the European minister Phil Hogan who will send us the African-European declaration, as well as Eduardo Mansur, Director Land and water Division – Climate, Biodiversity, Land and Water Department. Mansur, has been working for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as the Director for the Forest Assessment, Management and Conservation Division (FOM) since March 2012. We had a meeting on the gender aspect and water scarcity in agriculture (WASAG) followed by a friendly meeting with Olcay Unver, Vice-Chair UN Water”.