So, what kind of FAO DG do we want?
Nearly twenty or so years on from the start of Jacques Diouf's tenure in the early 1990s, the world has changed. The good news is that there is much more interest in hunger reduction now. The bad news is that hunger seems to be stuck at around 900 million; and the world food system seems more fragile and complex than ever before.
The following attributes would be on my person specification for the position:
1. A track record of leadership in hunger reduction. By leadership I mean dedicating themselves to the issue, not the organisation. By a track record I mean credible evidence that progress on hunger would have been delayed without this person's relentless and energy applied in strategic and tactical ways to reduce hunger in a given context.
2. An understanding that hunger cannot be tackled by agriculture and food alone, but that agriculture's prime focus should be hunger reduction. What is agriculture for? It is not to produce more food. It is to reduce hunger. There are two different tribes out there and the new DG has to be rooted in the latter, but able to form coalitions with the former.
3. A willingness and ability to form alliances and coalitions with familiar and unfamiliar partners. The Rome based UN agencies need to add up better on hunger, so this will be one challenge for the new DG. More importantly perhaps will be new strategic alliances with the citizen movements and the private sector--to harness the energy of the interaction of the two.
4. The boldness to set up systems to hold her/himself --and FAO--to account. We don't have good numbers on hunger. We don't have good ways of assessing commitments to hunger reduction and the fulfilment of those commitments. The new DG should make it a priority to lead the development of new measures of hunger that are accurate and responsive to rapid change and also new accountability measures and then support efforts to measure FAO's performance against them.
5. A willingness to speak out on hunger. The commitment to eradicate hunger has to be built. The world has become comfortable with 900 million people going hungry every day. The DG must speak out on hunger, make us uncomfortable, guide us on what to do, and do all of this from a strong evidence base.
May the best person win the FAO DG position. But given the political nature of the UN selection system, I'm not holding my breath.