Ambassador Cindy McCain delivers the U.S. opening remarks at the 168th FAO Council

Rome, November 29, 2021     

Thank you, Chair.  

Director General Qu, distinguished delegates, it is an honor for me to speak to you today.  I was delighted to be sworn in on November 5 as the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Agencies in Rome.  I look forward to meeting you in person and working with you all in confronting our shared goal of ending hunger and improving food security and nutrition throughout the world. 

It is clear that our work to help the world overcome and recover from the grave impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over.  Alongside it, we face unparalleled challenges, from extreme weather and climate change impacts and water scarcity, to intense conflicts and emergencies, all contributing to rising food insecurity.  

The United States is ready to work with other FAO members to address these urgent challenges.  I am also confident this organization has put itself on solid footing to confront these challenges with agility, renewed emphasis on innovation, elevated attention to climate change, and energized public-private partnerships through its Strategic Framework adopted earlier this year. 

I am also pleased to announce today that the United States is finalizing plans for additional voluntary funding to support FAO’s Covid-19 Response and Recovery Program.  That funding, to be announced in the coming weeks, will support increasing interoperability among One Health surveillance, early warning, and risk assessment tools with other health information systems.  It will also fund One Health Tripartite risk assessments at national levels to help inform the future direction of work in zoonotic disease prevention and control in program countries.  I look forward to sharing more information related to this new support soon. 

 At the UN Food Systems Summit in September, the United States committed $10 billion to support the transition to more sustainable food systems, both domestically and internationally.  Half of that is dedicated to assisting other countries through Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global food security and nutrition initiative.  We are already incorporating the “systems approach” to food security into our national security documents and strategies.   

I also want to thank the FAO for assistance in the run-up and participation in the Summit, and we look forward to a strong cooperative effort by the FAO and the Rome-based agencies to jointly assist in the implementation of Summit follow-on work.   

As highlighted by our leaders who met recently in Glasgow, the climate crisis threatens to disrupt food systems, exacerbate food insecurity, and destroy livelihoods.  All food systems stakeholders need to be at the table to develop solutions that reduce emissions, sequester carbon, and help food systems adapt to a changing climate.  Together, we can do more.   Agriculture must be part of the solution.  And that is why we encourage FAO to be ambitious with its climate change strategy.  We have no time to lose.  

Investments in climate-smart agriculture and food systems innovation and technologies can enhance existing approaches and deliver new ways to sustainably increase agricultural productivity, improve livelihoods, conserve water and biodiversity, and adapt and build resilience to climate change. 

That’s why, the United States and the United Arab Emirates officially launched the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate, at COP26, alongside 38 countries and more than 48 non-state partners, including the FAO.   

We encourage FAO to be equally ambitious with its new Science and Innovation Strategy.  The innovative approaches we champion must be as dynamic as the shifting challenges that farmers face.    

I would like to highlight the Program Committee’s discussion of the important work that FAO is doing in implementing its new private sector engagement strategy.   The private sector is a crucial link in the global food supply chain to develop and scale solutions for meaningful and lasting benefits.  The United States urges FAO to continue pursuing a portfolio of strong, transformative, and diverse partnerships and welcomes plans to improve geographical representation. 

Again, I am honored to represent the United States in Rome and look forward to arriving soon and working with you all.