15 FEBRUARY 2012


Two days after taking over on 1 January, 2012, FAO's new Director-General José Graziano da Silva told his inaugural press conference that the total elimination of hunger and undernourishment from the world will be his top priority.

Graziano da Silva told journalists that with a term in office of only three and a half years there was no time to lose. FAO would begin by scaling up its support to a number of low-income, food deficit countries, especially those facing prolonged crises.

"Ending hunger requires the commitment of everyone: neither FAO nor any other agency or government will win this war alone", said Graziano da Silva, adding that he wanted to work "in the most transparent and democratic way" with member countries, United Nations agencies the private sector, civil society and other stakeholders.

Hunger eradication was the first of five strategic priorities he intended to pursue at FAO, Graziano da Silva said. The others were: move towards more sustainable systems of food production and consumption; achieve greater fairness in the global management of food; complete FAO's reform and decentralization; and expand South-South cooperation and other partnerships.

Rebuilding trust

"We need to rebuild trust between the Secretariat and Member States to move forward, and I plan to do so by promoting a transparent and constructive relationship with Member States and FAO Governing Bodies", he said.

The Director-General also emphasized that he would strive to make FAO more effective and responsive by administrative cost-cutting and efficiency gains. He stressed that efficiency savings would not cut into FAO's technical work and he would try to use them to strengthen the Organization's direct assistance to countries.

"I am convinced that the Organization can make a significant and growing contribution to food security and sustainable food production and consumption in the world," he concluded.

José Graziano da Silva has worked on issues of food security, rural development and agriculture for over 30 years.

In 2001 he led the team that designed Brazil’s "Zero Hunger" (Fome Zero) programme. In 2003, he was charged with its implementation by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva who named him Special Minister of Food Security and the Fight against Hunger.

Between 2003 and 2010, the "Zero Hunger" programme helped lift 28 million people out of extreme poverty. It also inspired a new set of public policies aimed at promoting economic and social development in Brazil.

Prior to his election in June 2011 as FAO’s eighth Director-General, Graziano da Silva headed the Organization’s regional office for Latin America and the Caribbean between 2006 and 2011. In that role, he actively supported the "Hunger-Free Latin America and the Caribbean Initiative", which made the region the first in the world to commit to totally eradicating hunger by 2025, emphasizing the importance of family farming, rural development and the strengthening of rural institutions to guarantee food security.

In addition, Graziano da Silva has encouraged joint initiatives with other United Nations agencies, supported South-South cooperation, and opened up the Regional Office to civil society. He actively participated in FAO’s internal reform process, with a special emphasis on decentralization.

An academic by training, Graziano da Silva started teaching at Brazil’s State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in 1978. He also chaired the Master’s and Doctoral Programme in Economic Development and Environment of UNICAMP’s Institute of Economics and supervised 26 doctoral theses and 13 Master dissertations.

He has written and edited 26 books on rural development, food security, and agrarian economics.

Graziano da Silva holds a Bachelor's Degree in Agronomy and a Master's Degree in Rural Economics and Sociology from the University of São Paulo (USP) and a Ph.D. in Economic Sciences from the State University of Campinas. In addition, he has two post-Doctorate degrees in Latin American Studies (University College London) and Environmental Studies (University of California - Santa Cruz).

Brazilian and Italian by nationality, Graziano da Silva speaks English, Portuguese and Spanish. He was born on November 17, 1949.