Urgent action is needed to save the lives of people facing famine in northeastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, José Graziano da Silva, Director General, United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said at the opening of the UN agency’s Council in Rome.
“If nothing is done, some 20 million people could starve to death in the next six months,” the Director-General said in his opening address. “Famine does not just kill people, it contributes to social instability and also perpetuates a cycle of poverty and aid dependency that endures for decades.” These countries are facing severe challenges in providing food security to their citizens.
Council members will be briefed on the extent of the hunger crises, and the steps required to prevent catastrophe, during the week-long session.
Council will also consider for approval FAO‘s Programme of Work and Budget 2018-2019. The budget prioritises areas where FAO can deliver the greatest impact to member countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including climate change mitigation and adaptation, sustainable agriculture production, water scarcity management, and building the resilience of poor family farmers.
Food and agriculture are central to the sustainable development agenda, and FAO’s work is projected to contribute to the achievement of 40 targets across 15 of the 17 goals.
Council will also discuss a new scale of assessed contributions, which are the annual payments made by member countries to FAO. Under the proposal, most countries that are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) will be required to pay less and other countries to pay more. The Director-General urged OECD countries to continue to contribute at the same level by making additional voluntary contributions.
“Voluntary contributions are of vital importance to FAO, now more than ever,” he said. “I will be always committed to finding more savings and promoting more efficiency, as I have done over the last five years. But, I have already cut to the bone. There is no more fat left.”
Made of up 49 elected countries, the FAO Council convenes between sessions of the main Conference to provide advice and oversight related to programmatic and budgetary matters.
This will be the last Council session chaired by Wilfred Ngwira, of Tanzania, who has been guiding the proceedings of the governing body since his election to the office of Independent Chairperson at the 2013 Conference.