Message by FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu on World Food Day
16 October 2020
Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues and friends,
The World Food Day find its origin in the birthday of FAO UN, on 16 October 1945. This year is a very special one for FAO and for the global fight against hunger and malnutrition.
75 years ago today, out of the debris of the World War II, millions lost their lives in the conflict; millions more died of starvation. Farming was devastated. The world needed to rebuild agriculture, and to meet the most basic of the human needs. Nations came together. FAO UN was established first. And we delivered. FAO harnessed everything at our disposal: expertise, research, statistics, diplomacy, to help the world produce more to feed more.
In the first 25 years of FAO’s existence, farm output increased by 70 percent. But feeding the world was not just about more hectares and more tractors.
In the second-quarter century of the FAO’s existence, we worked to make the Green Revolutionary greener. And bluer too we became, drawing the world’s attention to safeguarding the oceans and the seas. We promoted aquaculture. And we tackled – and defeated – entrenched animal diseases.
The third quarter-century saw a great push for sustainability. We worked to empower smallholder farmers. We promoted a package of solutions for global food security. We underscored that there were no such things as an end to hunger without application of innovation, responsible investment, accessible trade of commodities, and empowering women and youth.
Over the 75 years that FAO has been in existence, we have grown, nourished and sustained the gifts of our soils, the livelihoods of our people, the legacy of our planet.
Today begins the next-quarter century of FAO’s story, a time to look back at our successes, but also to measure the distance left to travel, and more importantly, to look forward to the new era.
Clearly, our work is not done yet. After diminishing steadily, undernourishment is increasing again. Too many children are still wasted or stunted. Billions of people cannot afford a healthy diet as civilization moves on.
Crucially, the next phase in our history starts amid the wreckage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has laid bare the fragility of our agri-food systems, the precariousness of the agricultural labor force, the thin line that the separates many families from destitution.
Dear colleagues and friends, now it’s the time to show ourselves worth of the FAO’s founders, who rose to the occasion 75 years ago. We have made a good start, with our comprehensive COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme. It focusses on data collection, poverty-reduction programmes, trade and food safety standards, and preparedness against the next zoonotic pandemic.
But in the longer term, nothing less than a radical transformation of agri-food systems will be needed to bring us closer to a hunger-free world. This, for FAO, presupposes a flatter, more agile and modular structure; a relentless push for the digitalisation; joining hands across governments, academia, civil society and the private sector; and a constant pursuit of innovation and scientific excellence.
The world is looking to us to put our actions where our words are to be think-tank and action-tank rolled into one. Alongside our partners, we must be knowledge-generators and facilitators all at once, together in the quest for the ultimate public good: a world free of poverty, hunger and malnutrition.
Tomorrow begins today. So on this World Food Day, allow me to thank and congratulate you, my colleagues and friends. Allow me also to spur you on to even greater efforts, until a World Food Day comes when we can look back and say: mission accomplished!
I thank you!