Upcoming elections for next FAO Director General

In June, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will hold an election to select its next Director-General (DG). As a key leader and actor in mobilising action for SDG2, the position of Director General is of great importance for those working in food, agriculture and nutrition. 

What is the Food and Agriculture Organisation?

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger. Its goal is to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. With over 194 member states, FAO works in more than 130 countries worldwide.

What is the FAO’s election process?

Following the nominations, the next step in the FAO’s election procedure allows the nominated candidates to address the 8-12 April 2019 session of the FAO Council for 90 minutes and respond to questions from Council members. This address will take place on Thursday April 11.

A similar procedure follows at the FAO Conference, from 22-29 June 2019, after which the new Director-General will be elected by a majority vote, with a procedure involving elimination of the candidate with the least votes in successive ballots until a majority vote for one candidate is obtained.

Who are the candidates?

Four candidates have been nominated for the role of Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization. Find below a short biography on each of the candidates, listed in alphabetical order by country.



Qu Dongyu  

Dr Qu Dongyu, Vice-Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, is an able and energetic expert on agriculture and rural areas. He has worked in this area for more than 30 years, building up a wealth of experience covering policy planning, administrative management, reform and innovation, and international cooperation. Before joining the Ministry, he worked at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, where he made notable achievements in conducting research and innovation, raising rural income, reducing poverty through science and technology, and building a quality assessment system for agro-produce. From 2008-2015 he worked in the government of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, where he introduced policies on developing local specialty industries, applying new approaches to agricultural publications and rural tourism, and providing startup microlending to young and/or female farmers.

Since being appointed Vice-Minister in 2015, he has spearheaded a number of measures that have proven instrumental in taking China’s agricultural development top a new level. These include efforts to develop important agricultural policies and reforms for rural areas, advancing the market-oriented development of agriculture supported by information technologies, instituting exchange mechanisms on urban agriculture in large and medium-sized cities, and promoting brand building and specialty industries.

Dr Qu has also been deeply engaged in international cooperation at the United Nations, G20, APEC and other fora. He has been in charge of China’s agri-business cooperation with Asian, African and Latin American countries and China’s main trading partners of agri-produce. He has championed the implementation of flagship projects and a long-term mechanism for China-FAO South-South multilateral cooperation, thereby playing a constructive role in regional and global agricultural development.


Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle

Ms Geslain-Lanéelle is an engineer in agronomy, former Director-General of the French Ministry of Agriculture and Food and former Executive Director of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). She is the European Union’s sole candidate, following the decision adopted on 15 October 2018 by the Council of the European Union.

Ms Geslain-Lanéelle has recognized leadership skills and has proven her ability to manage complex and large-scale organizations operating in a multicultural environment, as well as high-level professional experience in the fields of food systems, rural development and food security, both in France and in Europe.

She has held high-ranking positions at the French Ministry of Agriculture and Food, going from head of international exchanges (food aid and international cooperation), to Director-General for Food and finally Director-General for the economic and environmental performance of businesses.

At European level, having worked at the European Commission as an expert on food safety for consumers, she then led the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for over seven years.

Throughout her career, Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle has used her strong scientific and technical expertise of agriculture, fisheries, forestry, rural development, food systems and nutrition to design and implement public agricultural and food policies at national, European and international levels. For almost 20 years, she has therefore shaped France’s policies and led major international initiatives such as the creation of the “4 per 1000: Soils for food security and climate” initiative. Ms Geslain-Lanéelle has also sat on numerous European and international committees including the Codex Committee on General Principles.


Davit Kirvalidze

Currently serving as advisor to the Prime Minister of Georgia on agriculture and rural development, Dr Davit Kirvalidze brings 28 years of leadership and management experience in agriculture, specifically focused on development policy, value-added agriculture and private sector development. Dr Kirvalidze served two terms as Minister of Agriculture of Georgia (2000–2004 and 2012–2013 respectively). As Minister, he led efforts in institutional reforms to increase productivity and competitiveness, expand access to finance, stimulate export growth and attract investments into Georgian agriculture sector and food industry. Prior to serving as Georgia’s Minister of Agriculture, he was elected as a Member of Parliament and served from 1999–2000, where he chaired the Agrarian Issues Committee.

Dr Kirvalidze specializes in issues related to rural/agricultural development, agricultural supply/value chains, small and medium enterprises (SME), and service providers. His wide-ranging experience encompasses all aspects of agriculture and agribusiness, including practical experience as a farmer. As Minister of Agriculture, or through private consulting, he has worked with the following International Organizations and Programs: FAO, IFAD, WFP, UNDP, WB, IFC, GEF, IMF, EBRD, USAID, MCC, GIZ, KFW, SIDA, TICA, FSP, TACIS, SDC, DANIDA, MASHAV, PSO, PSOM. Dr Kirvalidze represented the Government of Georgia to FAO and IFAD.

From 2006–2012, as a Senior Advisor to the President of Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), an international development organization, Dr Kirvalidze provided strategic planning expertise leading to award of 15 projects in a number of countries with funding of over $100 million. Since 2014, he has continued to guide this leading agricultural development organization as a member of its Board of Directors.

Dr Kirvalidze holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Agricultural Sciences as well as a degree in Soil Science and Agro-chemistry. He was a Fulbright Scholar in 2005–2006 at the University of Maryland and undertook significant work on strategies for sustainable agricultural and rural development in transition economies. He is fluent in Georgian, English and Russian.


Ramesh Chand    

Dr Ramesh Chand is a renowned Indian agricultural economist and policy maker. Since 2015, he has been Member, National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog in the rank of Union Minister of State, Government of India. NITI Aayog, formerly Planning Commission of India, is a policy think tank chaired by the Prime Minister of India. In this position, Dr Chand is directly steering India's development agenda in agriculture and food security. He is also providing policy inputs to Central ministries and state governments in water resources, SDGs, poverty alleviation, forest and environment, sustainable livelihood, smallholder development, food processing and agri-technology.

Dr Chand has served in eminent academic positions including: National Professor at Indian Council of Agricultural Research for five years, Principal Scientist at National Institute of Agricultural Economics and Policy Research, New Delhi for ten years, Professor at Institute of Economic Growth, University of Delhi, and Professor at Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, India; Visiting Professor at University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia, and Visiting Fellow at Institute of Developing Economies, Chiba Shi Japan. He also headed the National Institute of Agricultural Economics and Policy Research, New Delhi as its Director for six years.

He has impacted global agricultural policies and research through various roles, including Member of Board of Trustee of International Wheat and Maize Improvement Centre, Mexico, 2016; Member, Policy Advisory Committee of Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, 2016; Member, Food Security Committee of Global Food Security Council of World Economic Forum, Geneva, 2016-2017. He has served as India's nodal officer on agriculture and rural development for SAARC and UNESCAP for 6 years and was responsible for preparing SAARC Agriculture Vision. In addition, he has advised Government of India on G20 matters as a senior expert and participated in multiple G20 meetings during the Presidency of France, Mexico and Russia. Dr Chand has been instrumental in deliberations and preparation of policy recommendations at multiple international events across 20+ countries on topics such as food and nutrition security, poverty, trade and WTO, food and price policy, and agriculture growth and development.

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