FAO to boost EU ties, but absent from EDD

European Union Commission for Development Andris Piebalgs shakes hands with Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva during the latter's visit in Brussels, Belgium in October 2012. Da Silva is scheduled to meet Piebalgs and EuropeAid chief Fernando Frutuoso de Melo in an official visit to Brussels this week. Photo by: Etienne Ansotte / Shimera / EU

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization is looking to strengthen its collaboration with the European Union on food security, nutrition and rural development.

During an official visit to Brussels this week, FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva is scheduled to meet with EU Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs and EuropeAid chief Fernando Frutuoso de Melo. The European Union is expected to announce a very significant contribution to the U.N. agency’s voluntary guidelines for responsible land tenure.

However, FAO — as well the other Rome-based U.N. agencies World Food Program and International Fund for Agriculture Development — have been notably absent from the panels of the European Development Days, where food has been among the key topics.

“FAO should have been here”, an EDD participant told Devex — an opinion shared by other experts on food security and agriculture attending the gathering in Brussels.

In a note to Devex, WFP explained that Director-General Ertharin Cousin, WFP’s director general, was unable to attend and sent a video message on the post-2015 agenda. Some U.N. sources said FAO wasn’t invited, but another source close to the event suggested otherwise, indicating scheduling conflicts or the perception that EDD wasn’t a technical enough meeting.

More EU engagement

While the reason why the U.N. food agencies didn’t play a role in shaping the debate at EDD is not yet clear, different sources note that the growing engagement between FAO and the EU is by now a fact.

The European Union is the single largest voluntary contributor to FAO’s budget, and the portfolio of direct assistance continues to grow, Richard China, director of the FAO-EU liaison office, told Devex.

“[Our] relations with the EU are excellent,” added China, who said nutrition is the promising area of bilateral collaboration: “[The] EU shares the same vision that FAO has on that.”

The official explained that the U.N. agency and the European Union are already working on mainstreaming nutrition-sensitive agriculture, as well as raising awareness over the fact that there’s no direct link between increasing production and productivity, and improving nutrition.

During the initial negotiations on FAO’s budget, the European Union expressed its concerns over the deteriorating financial health of the organization, but after the organisation’s biannual conference in June, Laurence Argimon-Pistre, EU representative to all the U.N. agencies in Rome, told Devex that FAO was going in the right direction under Graziano da Silva’s reforms.

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About the author

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    Elena L. Pasquini

    Elena Pasquini covers the development work of the European Union as well as various U.N. food and agricultural agencies for Devex News. Based in Rome, she also reports on Italy's aid reforms and attends the European Development Days and other events across Europe. She has interviewed top international development officials, including European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs. Elena has contributed to Italian and international magazines, newspapers and news portals since 1995.