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FAO expects Russia’s expertise in solving global challenges

June 23, 2015, 16:55 UTC+3

Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Jose Graziano da Silva is in the Russian Federation with an official visit. Before departure he gave an interview to TASS in Rome.

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Food and Agriculture Organization director Jose Graziano da Silva

Food and Agriculture Organization director Jose Graziano da Silva

© AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
The work of FAO is very dynamic and has brought positive results, as many countries met the Millennium Development Goal on hunger. What should the Organization’s priority be now, and in what field do you feel it has not done enough?
A majority – 72 out of 129 – of the countries monitored by FAO have achieved the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the prevalence of undernourishment between 1990 and 2015, with developing regions as a whole missing the target by only a small margin. In addition, 29 countries have met the more ambitious goal laid out at the World Food Summit in 1996, when governments committed to halving the absolute number of undernourished people between 1990 and 2015.
The near-achievement of the MDG hunger targets shows us that we can indeed eliminate the scourge of hunger in our lifetime. We must be the Zero Hunger generation. That goal should be mainstreamed into all policy interventions and lie at the heart of the new sustainable development agenda to be established this year.
FAO is an important part of this effort and we are taking the steps to maximize the contribution that we can give to countries. We continue to strengthen decentralization. We will build on our current efforts, extending the range of our action through subregional offices. They will be reinforced to improve our support in regions such as West Africa, Central Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Caribbean.
We will also continue with our efforts to support South-South Cooperation, especially by middle-income countries. Our proposal is to open liaison and partnership offices to strengthen this function. Opening up a liaison and partnership office in Moscow is part of this effort.
We have already done this recently in Argentina, Azerbaijan, Equatorial Guinea, and Kazakhstan. We are currently in negotiations with Cameroon, Indonesia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Nigeria, South Africa, and the Republic of Korea.
This autumn the United Nations are going to establish a set of new Sustainable Development Goals. Which of these goals are proposed by FAO?
Rather than advocating for specific goals, FAO’s focus in the post-2015 development agenda process has been to provide technical advice to member states of the United Nations on the Organization’s areas of expertise.
FAO provided technical advice on 14 themes based around the Organization’s strategic objectives: food security, nutrition, sustainable agriculture, food systems and the sustainable management of natural resources. The twin pillars of the Sustainable Development Goals are ending poverty and hunger, and promoting sustainable development. FAO’s work is linked strongly to both.
To achieve zero hunger by 2030, FAO believes it will be necessary to commit substantial investments towards agriculture and rural people – smallholder family farmers, foresters, fisher folk and rural women.
EXPO 2015 is taking place in Italy right now. This year's theme links strongly to the problems which FAO tries to solve. What is the role of this Expo and what answers to global challenges can be expected from this event?
The theme of Expo Milano 2015 “Feeding the plant, Energy for life” links strongly with the UN’s mission to fight global hunger, malnutrition and poverty. As such, Expo Milano 2015 offers to the UN an excellent opportunity to showcase its work related to addressing these critical issues and foster a public dialogue.
By raising public awareness of these key issues we can mobilize the political will that is necessary to influence governments to take decisions that ensure everyone has access to nutritious and healthy diets.
Besides that, Expo Milano 2015 provides an international platform to discuss the new Sustainable Development Goals and ensure that food and agriculture feature high on this new, global agenda.
You are making an official visit to Russia; what is the agenda of your visit? What do you expect from your meetings in Moscow?
We will have meetings with key individuals in a position to ensure that Russia plays the greatest possible role in resolving the world’s challenges in the areas of food security, nutrition, and natural resource management. Our agenda includes, for example, meetings with key people in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and with the Ministry for Agriculture. Last but not least, we will conclude and sign an important partnership agreement between TASS and FAO.
What is the role and contribution of Russia to the work of FAO?
In the Europe and Central Asia region, we are focusing on improving food security and nutrition for vulnerable populations, sustainable management of natural resources, food safety, social protection, and fostering regional integration in the trade of food and agricultural products, in line with WTO and other international standards. 
In the area of food safety, Russia will be hosting and providing support for an international Codex Alimentarius workshop in September in St. Petersburg, aimed at helping build capacities in the area of microbiological food safety in CIS and neighbouring countries. Russia has become especially active in Codex meetings in recent years since joining WTO, and in 2013 co-hosted the 7th session of the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods.  The Russian Federation is also active in the Global and Eurasian Soil Partnerships, and on fisheries and forests management.  We have quite a productive relationship with Timiryazev Academy in Moscow, and growing cooperation with the Eurasian Economic Union.
In what fields can the collaboration be improved?
We can build on our existing cooperation and achieve significant results.  I would like to see the Russian Federation become even more involved in global issues such as food security and nutrition.  Russia has enormous expertise in many of the FAO technical areas, and it would be important for Russia’s technical expertise to be channelled into solving today’s global challenges. 
Knowledge sharing and technical assistance in different aspects of agriculture – such as land, animal health, plant protection and agricultural machinery – are also important. Finally, we would very much like to see Russia engaged more in supporting our programmes in this region, particularly but not exclusively in Central Asia.
What is the role of the Liaison Office of FAO in Moscow? Why was the Russian capital chosen to host this Office?
FAO liaison offices have been established at locations where many UN system organizations and other international organizations are working – such as Brussels, Geneva and New York. In addition, FAO maintains liaison offices in Tokyo and in Washington DC. These offices monitor developments affecting nutrition, food and agriculture, and represent the Organization at meetings on matters that fall within the mandate of FAO. Given the indisputable importance of the Russian Federation on the world stage, and as a key partner in addressing the global issues that concern us all, we have decided to open a liaison office in Moscow.
You are going to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with TASS. FAO has already signed similar agreements with some large media agencies. Why is it important for the Organization to expand the channels of communication, and why it has chosen TASS?
FAO attaches great importance to boosting its information outreach and spreading knowledge of the necessary actions needed to eliminate hunger and malnutrition. In order to achieve zero hunger, we must join forces with governments, non-governmental organizations, civil society, private sector, academia, and, of course, with the media community. We are teaming up with the biggest and most reliable media outlets from all over the world to reach out with FAO key messages to as many people as possible. 
TASS is one of the Russia’s major news agencies with more than 100 years of history and an extensive network of correspondents By signing this partnership agreement with TASS today, we have made one more important step towards meeting our global target. We share the vision that providing access to reliable information is a powerful tool to promote food and nutrition security and sustainable development. I look forward to a long-term and fruitful collaboration between TASS and FAO.
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