It is a long way from the rice fields of Hunan, where I was born, to the fields of
the Circus Maximus in Rome, where FAO is headquartered. No day passes that I
don’t feel honoured and humbled to be leading this Organization – still, after all
these years, the foremost global authority on two fundamental aspects of human
civilization: food and agriculture.
These pages chronicle FAO’s record to date – and celebrate it too, though the
perspective is never less than lucid. They offer a succinct overview of the ideals
and principles which have inspired our work. But they also measure the road still
In the year or so I have been at the helm of the Organization, much has changed
in our everyday lives. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, I liked to say that problems
could be a source of progress – that adversity can catalyse a pragmatic creativity
that eludes us in less testing times.
The current pandemic is possibly the greatest social cataclysm many of us have
seen. Still, we must recognize that it has also accelerated a societal reset –
including in the way we operate as international organizations. An institution like
FAO, with its venerable culture of expertise-sharing and institutional procedure,
has proved capable, at short notice, of embracing an innovative attitude
and largely shifting online. But if innovation means going digital – and this
publication contains examples of our aggressive push in that direction – it also
means transforming a whole business model, starting with mindsets.
We are already streamlining FAO’s management structure, moving from silos
to team leadership. Transparency repays itself: open up to the world, and the
world will open up to you. Cutting bureaucracy and expanding autonomous
decision-making are not only more likely to unleash talent: they are
prerequisites for turning FAO into a beacon of excellence.
We must be dreamers and doers, think-tank and action-tank rolled into
one. Our value lies, after all, in the solutions we provide for our Members to
achieve food security and better livelihoods for all. This is why we are now
in a position, for example, to advise governments on precisely which policies
would dramatically shrink the cost of healthy diets, improving the lives of
three billion people and offsetting trillions of dollars a year in health and
environmental costs; or to pinpoint – through our Hand-in-Hand initiative
– which two of any countries could pair up to deliver palpable food security
outcomes, aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals.
We have much more in store; the full range of our re-invention will become
apparent in the years to come. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading
this historical excursion: it helps explain how we got here and where we
With my full gratitude for your commitment to a world free of poverty
This post will expire on Saturday December 12th, 2020 7:33pm