14 December 2023, Rome: For the first time ever, all the Representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) across the world, including regional, subregional, country and liaison offices, gathered at FAO headquarters in Rome for a three-day conference to refresh, reboot and redirect work strategies that lead to more effective and concrete impacts on the ground, under the umbrella of One FAO.
The First Global Working Conference of FAO Representatives was convened by Director-General QU Dongyu, who opened the event with a reminder that FAO’s primary clients are the world’s farmers, consumers, women, youth, Indigenous Peoples and rural populations.
Qu told the FAO Representatives they were the organization’s “window for deliverables” on the ground, at the country level, and urged them to leverage horizontal networks thorough strong cross-continental cooperation and experience sharing to offer more efficient and effective service to Members.
About 100 Representatives are attending the event in person, while a few others are connecting virtually. The event is focused on key areas, including business management, human resources, digital FAO, governance, communications, multilingualism, as well as staff safety and wellbeing. The opening session featured opening remarks by Francesco Lollobrigida, Italy’s Minister of Agriculture, Food Sovereignty and Forests, who hailed FAO’s vision of a more systematic approach as invaluable at a time of geopolitical tensions, and a keynote address by Hanna Serwaa Tetteh, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa.
The conference will develop a concrete action plan to improve internal management, ensure a coherent network, increase systematic capacities, and refocus efforts to be even more results oriented. More tailored implementation plans will be discussed by Members at FAO’s 2024 Regional Ministerial Conferences.
It’s all about deliverables
The Director-General thanked the Representatives for their dedication, energy, motivation, and passion, often in extremely difficult situations. He also emphasized that the conference would contribute to strengthening the “ONE FAO” family, and to further fostering collaboration and breaking down silos between FAO’s regional, subregional, and national teams and units. This complements and dovetails into Qu’s earlier reforms introducing a modular and flexible organizational structure at headquarters, and the restructuring of Regional and Subregional Offices, with an eye to increasing efficiency and modernizing the business model.
FAO Representatives implement, lead and are accountable for the delivery of FAO’s programme of work in the respective countries where they serve. They develop, maintain, and enhance collaboration with the host government and other key partners to support them with the transformation of national agrifood systems and their national pathways.. Beyond FAO, they also collaborate with the UN Resident Coordinators on matters related to FAO’s mandate and in support to governments in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Qu noted that it is increasingly important for FAO to achieve strong visibility, credibility and engagement in the wider context of the UN Joint Country Programming arrangements, especially at a time when global and local challenges require holistic approaches. The 2022–31 FAO Strategic Framework is “a powerful roadmap and toolbox for country offices to draw upon to reposition themselves,” he said.
The establishment of the FAO Office of Youth and Women, agreed on last week at FAO Council, will provide important support for Representatives working on the ground, the Director-General noted. Women and youth are cross-cutting catalysts and “real game changers for the Four Betters,” he added.
“The FAO Renaissance will be realized only if we are determined to think together, work together, and contribute together to Recover, Rebuild and Reform,” Qu concluded.
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