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Ambassador Cindy McCain’s Remarks at the closing of the Informal North America Regional Conference at FAO
April 14, 2022

April 14, 2022

Director-General Qu, Washington and Ottawa colleagues, I’m delighted to join you at the close of our informal conference.

Dr. Qu, I could hear from your remarks that you appreciate the frank and open nature of the informal conference between the United States and Canada.  Fellow colleagues, I can say that our conversations here in Rome are just as candid.  And that’s important.

Our ability to speak plainly and directly with FAO is not just reflective of North American culture:  it is the hallmark of a strong and long-standing partnership.

That partnership is grounded in FAO and North America’s strong commitment to science, innovation, and the organization’s global role supporting normative and standard setting work for food and agriculture.

It is grounded by our embrace of creative partnerships.  We are proud of the work Canada and the United States did with FAO over the last biennium to modernize its approach to the private sector.  As we heard during sessions yesterday today, we are already seeing the results as FAO is influencing businesses to be Sustainable Development Goal-centered while promoting impactful investments on the ground.

Reflecting for a moment on where we have come since the last INARC:  the “state of FAO” in late 2020 could be summarized as consolidating internal reformslaunching a ten-year strategy, and coping with a global pandemic.

So it was natural that we thought we would come to this INARC to discuss:  deepening good governanceimplementation, and recovery.

And we have addressed those topics.

But what we didn’t expect was how crisis response would become the underpinning of every discussion this week, resulting from a single FAO member’s unprecedented attack on a neighbor and a world breadbasket, with devastating global effects that hit right at the heart of the FAO’s mandate.

So there are challenges on the horizon.  And DG Qu, you can count on me and my team to partner with you as you address them.

As you’ve heard this week, North America has confidence in FAO’s sound Strategic Framework.  We appreciate the focus on better production, because we believe sustainable productivity growth should be integrated in everything FAO does, from innovation to agroecology, and from biotechnology to something close to my heart – water resource management.

We are ready to work with you to achieve an ambitious climate change strategy that addresses mitigation and adaptation, and bolsters agricultural resilience while making food systems part of the solution.

We will support the science and innovation strategy as a critical tool.  And North America will continue to champion FAO’s contribution to standards and norms, food safety, and enhanced nutrition.

You can also count on us to push the organization beyond its comfort zone.

We will be vocal about increasing the roles of women, girls, youth, indigenous peoples, and other marginalized communities as co-developers of programming and food systems solutions, especially as FAO’s hub conducts follow-up at the country level from last year’s Food Systems Summit.

We will beat the drum of good governance – building consensus around a strong voting code of conduct, encouraging a prompt management and administration review, and increasing member oversight of activities funded by voluntary contributions.

And as Assistant Secretary Sison stated, we will look to this organization to use its voice, its data, its policy recommendations, and its leadership to implement the Council’s decision and address the far-reaching food security effects of Russia’s war in Ukraine. 

Thank you to our Canadian, U.S., and FAO colleagues for the thoughtful and high-quality discussions and conclusions of our informal North America conference.  It has been terrific to work with you all this week as we refocus ourselves for FAO’s next biennium.  Thank you.