Here is an email from Franz Fischler, the second candidate for the FAO DG who has kindly responded to my blog in early February.
Give us your verdict in the comments box at the end of this blog.
Personally I find that there is not much to argue with in his letter (as with Mohamad, Saeed Noori Naeini's letter below). Dr Fischler's letter, like Dr. Naeini's stresses the information, standards and forum functions of FAO as well as capacity development.
They both highlight the need for reform processes. Dr Naeini commits to only seeking one term. Neither is strong on a vision for FAO, or how FAO would be different after 6 years of their leadership. It would be good to hear more from them on this.
And it would be good to hear from the other 4!
From Dr. Fischler: "Dear Mr. Haddad, Thank you for drawing the attention to such an important issue on how the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) with its mandate, which is a matter of international concern, should act in the future and how it should select its top management.
I fully share your views that FAO provides essential global public goods, especially in the field of knowledge, information standard setting and being a neutral forum for all Members on an equal setting.
The future Director-General of FAO will need to make a point of attracting attention of the international community when it comes to one of the most acute problems, the fight against poverty, hunger and malnutrition, which furthermore, is increasingly threatening our economic and social stability.
Attracting attention and being aware of this complex problem certainly will not be enough - we need to act quickly so that we achieve measurable impacts. Therefore new competent leadership is needed dedicated to FAO´s mandate and equipped with political and international experience. The new management will need to focus on regaining the full trust of all its partners and stakeholders into this International Organization.
Since the time when FAO was created, both the political and the economic environment have changed; we are now facing a globalized world with complex challenges (price volatility, climate change, increasing limited availability of natural resources etc.).
In addition we are aware that more [are] playing in the field of FAO´s mandate and resources are getting more and more scarce. Therefore it is absolutely essential that FAO focuses on its strengths, on what it does best, on its "Unique Selling Proposition" (USP), its competitive edge and allocates its resources accordingly. Constructive partnerships and collaboration are essential, especially with the Rome based agencies! FAO should concentrate on its core sectors – Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Rural Policy and on its core tasks – Food security, combating climate change, standard setting, the sustainable use of natural resources and the rural economies. FAO needs to enable itself to transfer its excellent knowledge to the most in need by helping those countries to beef up their agricultural production capacity in a sustainable manner in order to achieve their own food security.
Knowledge has no longer to be seen in isolation but in combination with extension and transfer to the people in need. Collaboration with Universities, research institutions, civil society organisations, NGO’s and others has to be enhanced and the experts working in the field must become change managers functioning like a catalyst.
I truly believe that FAO needs dedicated leadership with technical, political and managerial experience, someone who has proven himself able to make a change, to strengthen the livelihood in rural areas and of course, someone who has a strong commitment to meet the needs of the developing countries."
You can contact his campaign via his PA, Anna Waldhoer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Recall that another candidate, Mohamad Saeed Noori Naeini, replied to my initiating blog in the Guardian's Poverty Matters blog (Feb 25, 2011)
From Dr. Naeini: "I am among the six candidates for Director-General of FAO, and I very much share your concern for the hungry and poor, the crises facing our planet and the weakest members of our society, such as climate change and extreme inequality.
I think you will find that this concern is also evident from my summary curriculum vitae and Platform for election, which are being posted on the internet. The Guardian posting has helped to place FAO and its important election a little closer to the public attention it warrants.
However, it also shows a lack of understanding of the role of FAO and its Director-General and exaggerates the direct power of an Organization which has a smaller budget than the agricultural department of all but the very smallest and the very least developed countries. FAO’s power lies in facilitating others to act. From my curriculum vitae and platform you will find my previous leading role in the reform of FAO and my commitment to driving forward that reform.
The strength of FAO lies in three main areas, all of which I am committed to reinvigorating. The first of these underpins the other two and it is the provision of neutral factual information to support debate. It is for example, FAO data which has tracked the volatility and absolute level of of food prices and food supplies. FAO also synthesises and draws on analysis performed, not only by itself, but by many others. Then: - FAO provides a forum to keep issues on the global public agenda and to work towards global and regional solutions to those problems. The Organization is probably unique among the UN agencies in the extent to which it has involved NGOs and civil society in such fora.
In my former capacity as Chair of FAO’s Council, I take some credit for this and am committed to further extending such inclusiveness. Populist personal visibility might be served by a Director-General who stood on a soap box, rather than one who facilitated debate and ensured the information, analysis and opinions were available to support dialogue; But the global and regional consensus needed to achieve solutions to the world’s problems would certainly not be aided by polemics; and - FAO supports the development of national capacity (society as a whole government and non-government) and of regional organizations to develop their own solutions to their problems. It does this itself, or by mobilizing others: quietly undertaking training; providing analysis of issues specific to the country or region including on such problems as people’s access to food, land tenure, water and fishing rights, pesticide safety, access to forests and climate change, etc., etc.; by facilitating inclusive and neutral fora for discussion at national level; and by assisting the move of important issues up national agendas.
It is in this that an FAO Director-General must lead, and if elected, I will lead, not afraid to give my view on the issues of the day or take controversial stands if this can contribute to solutions but also not as a populist playing to the gallery.
In order for FAO to be more effective in this way, I have strongly committed to a programme of internal reform.
You also pour scorn on FAO’s election process. No process is perfect but through the reform FAO’s has further been improved. Any country can propose a candidate. Candidates must submit to rounds of questioning in FAO’s governing bodies and the record is available to the public and representatives of NGOs and Civil Society are present during the questioning.
The ballot is one country one vote. Thus the poor countries are more than balanced against the rich. It is my sincere hope through this election, the best candidate to lead FAO will be selected. I have pledged at the outset to, if elected, serve only one term as Director-General. I will thus not be using the office to seek re-election but will be in a strong position to drive forward both FAO’s internal reform and, more importantly, its facilitation for the world, to address its problems in a way which keeps the needs of the poor and hungry always to fore."