Address Global Hunger To Strengthen Security, FAO Director General Candidate Says

The world must address hunger to strengthen security worldwide, Franz Fischler, a former EU agriculture commissioner from Austria who is a candidate to lead the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

Pointing to the unrest in countries experiencing food shortages and noting the impact in neighboring nations, Fischler said “food security is becoming more and more also an issue of national security” (Abbott, 4/26). 

At a food policy conference sponsored by the Atlantic magazine, he “said the world would be better off if prices increased gradually over time. That would help farmers in developing countries make a living while doing little to harm people in rich countries who spend only about 10 percent of their incomes on food,” the Des Moines Register reports. Volatile food prices hurt the developing world, he said. It “creates a situation where especially the weaker are not able to adapt to this development. This is enormously harming the weakest parts of our societies,” he said (Brasher, 4/26).

“World leaders set a goal in 2000 of halving the portion of the world population that suffers from hunger, reducing it to 7 percent. Some 13 percent are now undernourished, based on latest FAO figures, compared to roughly 14 percent when the goal was set,” Reuters notes. “Fischler is considered in the leading tier of candidates to succeed FAO Director General Jacques Diouf, along with Jose Graziano da Silva, head of FAO in Latin America and the Caribbean, and Spain’s former Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos” (4/26).

Looking At FAO Director General Candidates’ Statements

In a piece on the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog,” Lawrence Haddad, director of the Institute of Development Studies, examines the statements from the six FAO director general candidates.

“It is hard to assess a candidate exclusively on written materials,” Haddad cautions. “We would like to see the presentations (why no YouTube videos?) and we would want to have a chance to interact with them and to hear from their colleagues about their values, how they work, and what they are like to work with. These soft skills are vital to effectiveness,” he writes before moving on to his analysis of the statements.

“First, none of them really describe what they want the FAO to look like or how they want it to be perceived at the end of their tenure. They are playing to multiple audiences, and this leads to caution, but none of the statements contain big ideas,” according to Haddad, who writes that Fischler’s statement, which calls for the FAO to be a more “‘crucial player’ in political decision-making processes around hunger and food security,” the “boldest” one. “The most organised is from Brazilian Jose Graziano da Silva,” Haddad adds. He also notes: “only three of the five candidates actually say why they think they are well qualified for the position. … all the candidates talk about results-based management, but none of them actually say what they understand by this – what are the results that really matter and what will they actually do about it? The candidates need to be pushed harder on this.”

“Overall, I did not find the statements particularly inspiring. Certainly, it is difficult to write a statement that offends as few people as possible but also moves us to believe we can end hunger. But I think we should expect the next FAO director general to be able to manage it,” he concludes (4/26).

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