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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

FAO: Priority is to Intensify the Fight against Hunger

Exclusive interview with new FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva

Brazilian José Graziano da Silva says he intends to contribute to the eradication of hunger and the improvement of nutrition levels in the world as the new director-general of a rejuvenated and open FAO, capable of mobilizing international cooperation.

To face this challenge, he has prepared a five-point agenda, he told The Havana Reporter in an exclusive interview.

Graziano Da Silva, 61, was elected in June and in January 2012 takes over the leadership of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, replacing Jacques Diouf of Senegal, who completed his third term, for a total of 18 years.

Since 2006, Graziano Da Silva has been the FAO's regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean. Previous to that, from 20001 he had played an outstanding role in his country, leading the Zero Hunger program as Extraordinary Minister for Food Security and the Struggle against Hunger.

Known as an advocate of South-South cooperation, Graziano Dal Silva has authored 25 books on agriculture, rural issues and other topics. He was nominated for FAO director-general by former Brazilian President President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and by President Dilma Rousseff.

What will be the prioritized programs of the FAO?

The priority will be to strengthen the fight against hunger, working at the national and international levels. The FAO is willing to make a concentrated effort in countries that have high food insecurity and are willing to make the struggle against hunger a priority on their political agendas. This effort must be complemented at the international level with the implementation of a more efficient governance system for food security.

My brief mandate as director-general ends in 2015, (the same year as the deadline for) the Millennium Development Goals. I believe that during this period we can reverse the recent rise in the total number of malnourished people in the world. I believe this because the multiple crises we have faced since 2008 have put the struggle against hunger and poverty at the center of the international agenda. I think this struggle can unite governments, civil society and private initiative, and deliver the necessary coherence to confront the diverse crises we face today: climate, energy, financial/economic and food.

What are your immediate challenges?

I was elected with a proposal for a five-point action plan: eradication of hunger; sustainable food production and consumption; greater equilibrium in the management of food systems; concluding the FAO reform; and broadening South-South alliances and cooperation. I am committed to carrying out this proposal, and I have the support of a qualified technical team, the commitment of the international community and the manifest will of many countries to expand their cooperation with the FAO by sharing financial resources and, more importantly, technical resources, know-how and experience.

What is the global vision of the FAO?

A renewed FAO, one prepared to make a decisive contribution to the eradication of hunger and the improvement of nutrition levels in the world, developing sustainable production and consumer patterns to ensure our food while preserving our natural resources. For that, the FAO should be open not only to governments, but also to all sectors, including the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, social movements and producer cooperatives.

Based on your experience in Latin America and the Caribbean, how do you evaluate regional food security?

In 2006, all governments in the region adhered to the 2025 Latin America and Caribbean Without Hunger Initiative. This made it the first region in the world to set the goal of eradicating hunger. That political commitment is fundamental, because it gives governments the necessary priority to move forward in that direction.

At the same time, we know this challenge is too great for just one country or government, and it must be taken on by all of society. In the last few years, Latin American and Caribbean countries have reinforced or initiated policies and programs that contribute to this objective. Specifically, we can single out income transfer programs which are benefiting more than 110 million people in our region, as well as supporting family agriculture and strengthening local markets. Both strategies have had good results in the face of the recent world crises and when carried out in a coordinated way, their benefits are greater.