FAO Conference Concludes with Budget Boost, Urges Action on Water Resources

After re-electing QU Dongyu of China for a second term as Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the 43rd Session of the FAO Conference ended successfully on Friday with decisions to increase the regular budget of the Organization for the next biennium (2024-25) and to strengthen FAO actions and initiatives in integrated water resources management.

The decisions of the Conference offer a "strong political signal to the world," Qu Dongyu at the closing ceremony of the governing body's biannual meeting. "We will continue to work hard to deliver more and better results that you expect. I will play my role as head of the Organization neutrally, professionally and honestly."

While the global situation is complex due to a combination of economic, political and climate crises, FAO's 194 Members overcame some of their individual concerns in favor of consensus, ably piloted by Chairperson Marie-Claude Bibeau, Canada's Minister for Agriculture and Agri-food.

The clearest example of that shared goal was the approval of a 5.6 percent increase in FAO's assessed contributions to cover estimated cost increases, the first budget expansion after 12 years during which the budget remained flat in nominal terms.

"You have shown it is not only a matter of money, but more important you have shown your solidarity, humanity and passion to the people whom this Organization serves," Qu said.

Conference delegates also endorsed the Medium term Plan 2022-25 and the Programme of Work and Budget 2024-25, the operational levels of the FAO Strategic Framework and its strategic narrative of supporting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. That task passes through "the transformation of agrifood systems to be more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable," the Director-General said.


The main substantive theme of the 43rd Session of the FAO Conference was integrated water management. It was discussed how to tackle challenges in a world where more than 3 billion people live in agricultural areas with high levels of water shortages or scarcity, and where more than half the people on Earth are expected to suffer from related problems at least one month each year by 2050.

Innovative ways to conserve and price water was the subject of the Conference's opening event, the McDougall Lecture, delivered by Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore's Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies.

Three high-profile roundtables devoted to associated topics - including flood risks and infrastructure - were held with the Director-General personally participating in each one.

The final report of the Conference recognized that water related issues challenges are already major challenges in many countries, and that agriculture is both the world's largest user and a crucial part of viable solutions. As a result, Members emphasized that water management needs to be integrated at all levels, inclusive of all stakeholders, and coherent across dimensions ranging from forestry and soil to energy and One Health, and stressed the need for improved water governance to ensure efficient, sustainable and equitable allocation and usage.

They emphasized the need for international support for taking "bold and innovative initiatives" regarding surface and groundwater management in agrifood systems to support all countries. Specifically they requested that FAO further develop programmatic initiatives on flood and disaster risk management and the utilization of flooding water, and to mobilize resources to implement programmatic actions in those areas, tapping international finance institutions, resources partners, and voluntary contributions from FAO Members.

In one of the roundtables on water related issues, the FAO Director-General noted that while there may not be simple solutions to complex problems, there are "smart choices" to be made. He emphasized the need to think holistically and to work with natural processes rather than against them, while also emphasizing the importance of reliable water supply infrastructure, as that is what allows smallholder farmers to diversity their practices and crop varieties and increase resilience.

New term, new energy

Qu Dongyu said he has started his new term with new spirit, new energy and a renewed working style, driven by the goal of serving the world's farmers at all levels, particularly on the ground. He held 56 bilateral meetings with Ministers and high-level representatives during the weeklong Conference.

A vocal advocate for the Four Betters: Better production, Better nutrition, Better environment, and a Better Life, leaving no one behind, Qu referred to his vision for FAO in terms of what he called the "Four Rs": "We need recovery from the pandemic and conflicts, we need to reform our system to fit the purpose, we need to rebuild FAO's network and capacity, and we need a renaissance of FAO for a better future," he said.

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