Who will be elected as the next FAO Director General?

What will be the path forward for our food systems? Elections for the new FAO Director General will be held this weekend at the FAO's Conference - 41st Session.

FAO Director General elections

The next Director General of the FAO will be elected by the organization's 194 Member States during its 41st Conference, which will start tomorrow June 22. FAO member countries will cast their vote via secret ballot on a one country / one vote basis. The vote requires a simple majority to be considered valid. The next Director-General (DG) of the FAO will be appointed for the period from August 1, 2019 to July 31, 2023.

At a time when hunger and malnutrition are on the rise, and climate change and environmental destruction are also increasing, the FAO DG position is key to navigating global challenges.

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During Graziano Da Silva’s term, which ends tomorrow, the FAO has shown more openness in dealing with issues critical to those most impacted by hunger and malnutrition. FAO also shown a commitment to supporting agroecology, family farming, and civil society participation. IFOAM – Organics International believes that the FAO can and should be a true leader in transforming our food systems to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

In today's edition of II Manifesto, Luca Colombo and Antonio Onorati, both international agricultural policy analysts, stated: “At stake is not just the appointment of a new DG, but also the political and operational direction of the most important United Nations agency specialized in agriculture and food. A space to continue to build the orientation of global policies, whose direction can take different paths depending on the balances that will be determined during and after these elections”.

Who is BEING considered?

Five candidates have been presented by FAO Member Countries for the agency’s top leadership post. After the withdrawal of two candidates from Cameroon and India, only three remain:

  1. Mr. Qu Dongyu (China),
  2. Ms. Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle (France), and
  3. Mr. Davit Kirvalidze (Georgia).

Qu Dongyu has served as the Vice-Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of China since 2015. He has also been engaged in international cooperation at the United Nations, G20, APEC and other fora.

Geslain-Lanéelle is both the former Director-General of the French Ministry of Agriculture and Food as well as the former Executive Director of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Davit Kirvalidze currently acts as advisor to the Prime Minister of Georgia on agriculture and rural development. He served two terms as Minister of Agriculture of Georgia (2000–2004 and 2012–2013, respectively).

Unless surprises arise, the competition, now underway for the past several weeks, will focus primarily on two figures: the French and the Chinese candidates.

Additional Conference activities

Following this weekend's elections, an agenda packed with negotiations await Conference delegates. The Conferene, scheduled to last the entire week, will include the approval of reports issued by all of the FAO bodies and regional conferences held over the last two years.

Of particular interest for IFOAM – Organics International in these reports is the discussion and possible approval of the FAO program on Agroecology, which includes the Scaling Up Agroecology Initiative. A global initiative intended to support the SDGs has set concrete targets in three work areas:

  1. Knowledge and innovation for sustainable food and agriculture systems;
  2. Policy processes for the transformation of food and agriculture systems; and
  3. Building connections for transformative change.

IFOAM – Organics International recently held a workshop with the FAO Agroecology Team to explore collaboration avenues for achieving the goals established in the 10-year implementation plan.

Another important Conference item is the Code of Conduct for the Use and Management of Fertilizers. The Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils identified ten major threats to soils, two of which involve fertilizer applications that can be excessive, insufficient, or polluting. IFOAM – Organics International has been closely following the process on formulating this Code of Conduct, advocating for strong regulatory measures on the use of fertilizers as well as a steady shift towards nature-based solutions in nutrient supply to soils and crops.

Organic agriculture and agroecology are gaining traction on all continents. This is visible within FAO institutions: both the FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean as well as the FAO Regional Conference for Europe and Central Asia requested support for these production methods.

Stay tuned as our colleague in Rome, Cristina Grandi, reports elections results and the decisions reached at the Conference.

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