Election of new Director General must signal new era for FAO

Published: 24th June 2011

The election of a Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) must kick start a new era for the organization if it is to play a leading role in the fight against high and volatile food prices and growing hunger, said Oxfam today. The FAO’s 37th biennial conference takes place in Rome from 25 June – 2 July.

Ministers and high level representatives from 191 member states will elect a new Director General on Sunday to replace Jacques Diouf, who is standing down at the end of 2011 after 18 years at the helm. Candidates include Franz Fischler from Austria, José Graziano da Silva from Brazil, Indroyono Soesilo from Indonesia, Mohammad Saeid Noori Naeini from Iran, Abdul Latif Rashid from Iraq and Miguel Ángel Moratinos Cuyaubé from Spain.

The conference will also discuss the role of women in agriculture, the ongoing reform of the FAO and the budget for 2012-13.  The FAO will also announce the eradication of the cattle disease, Rinderpest.  

The FAO is currently undergoing a major reform process. Years of underinvestment and marginalisation by the international community and disagreements between member states have weakened its role and reduced its capacity to fulfil its distinctive mandate. The FAO provides information, knowledge and advice to governments and the international community on tackling food insecurity, supporting agriculture and managing natural resources. 

Luca Chinotti, policy advisor for Oxfam’s GROW campaign, which is calling for action to end hunger today and tomorrow, said: “This conference must signal a fresh start for the FAO. The new Director General must build consensus amongst member states around a vision for a new agriculture future which puts small scale producers in developing countries – who offer the greatest potential to increase yields and tackle hunger – at its heart. He must be an effective administrator who will complete much needed reforms at the FAO and he must be a strong leader who will champion action on hunger and malnutrition internationally". 

“Member states must turn the page on the last few years of infighting and underinvestment and ensure the FAO has the resources and the political support it needs to fulfil its mandate to eradicate hunger.” 

The meeting is being held amidst growing concern over high and volatile food prices, growing hunger, flat-lining agricultural yields and the prospect that dwindling natural resources and increasingly severe climate change impacts will make feeding the world harder still in the years to come.

“The FAO has a crucial role to play in fixing our broken food system and ensuring everybody has enough to eat today and tomorrow.  With close to 1 billion hungry people today and millions more set to join their ranks as natural resources dwindle and climate change takes effect the knowledge and expertise which the organisation provides is needed more than ever”, said Chinotti.

Oxfam and WOCAN (Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management) are also calling on the new Director General to champion the needs of women producers who produce much of the world’s food but face a daily struggle against discrimination. If women producers had the same rights to land, resources and opportunities as men, it is estimated that they could feed themselves, their families, and up to 150 million additional people. Jeannette Gurung, Executive Director of WOCAN said: “We are hopeful that the new Director General will position the FAO as a frontrunner with regard to women in agriculture. Women farmers and entrepreneurs are key to achieving sustainable development and food security. The FAO can help to realize their potential by strengthening their leadership and capacity. This will certainly contribute to a positive direction for agriculture that is long-lasting.”

For more information on Oxfam’s GROW campaign see: www.oxfam.org/grow

The new Director General must be a strong leader who will champion action on hunger and malnutrition internationally.
Luca Chinotti
Policy advisor for Oxfam’s GROW campaign

Notes to editors

Oxfam experts are available for briefings and interviews in a range of languages in Rome and around the globe.

Oxfam is an international confederation of 15 organisations working together in 98 countries and with partners and allies around the world to find lasting solutions to poverty and injustice.

WOCAN is a women-led global network of professional women and men engaged in agriculture and natural resource management who are committed to organisational change for gender equality and environmentally sustainable development.

Contact information

Gabriele Carchella (Italy): +39 320 4777 895 / +39 06 96 04 87 94
Anna Mitchell (UK): +44 1865 339157 / +44 7796 993 288