ROME, ITALY — Qu Dongyu began his first day in office as director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) by establishing some of his priorities, including stepping up global efforts to achieve zero hunger and spearheading initiatives that focus on making agriculture more sustainable.

“Let’s work together, learn together and contribute together for the benefit of our (FAO’s) member countries,” he told FAO staff.

Qu, a former vice-minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of China, in June won elections to lead the Rome-based agency. He has stressed the role that the FAO, which has 194 member states, can play in addressing global challenges. These include: increasing rates of hunger and malnutrition; climate change-related risks to agriculture; ongoing natural resource depletion and environmental pollution; and, the growing spread of trans-boundary animal and plant pests and diseases.

In particular, Qu  called for urgent actions to end zero hunger and targeted poverty, while driving agricultural and rural sustainable development through innovation, including digital. He has urged for a special focus on strengthening agriculture in tropical and dryland areas, which are home to some of the most vulnerable populations in the world.

The new director-general also pointed to the importance for the FAO to scale up new partnerships and cooperative mechanisms, including with other UN agencies, governments, business, and academia and research institutes.

Qu emphasized the need for the FAO to encourage developed countries to match their strengths in terms of funds, technology and management with those of developing countries, such as land and workforce resources.

Noting that “hand-in-hand” development cooperation between countries of the global South should be expanded, Qu said that the FAO’s South-South Cooperation (SSC) portals could further facilitate and promote the sharing of agriculture development concepts, policy measures, practical technologies and farmers’ innovations.

He also has underscored the FAO’s contribution to SSC by bringing together different partners, including the public sector, financial institutions, and non-governmental organizations to forge consensus for more extensive cooperation.

The director-general said the FAO should foster its strength in global normative work and reinforce its position as a global response center for food and agricultural crises in collaboration with other international organizations, while taking on a more full-fledged role in the capacity building of its Member Countries.

To achieve these objectives, Qu pledged to forge the FAO into an international organization with world-class internal governance. This means placing special attention to the youth working at the UN agency, but at the same time recognizing the value and the experience of senior staff.