Guest speakers from FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia
This was one of the major points in the presentations that three representatives of the FAO Budapest Regional Office gave in Professor Krisztina Vida’s International Organisations and Multilateral Diplomacy module for third year diplomacy students. It was not only a good opportunity to learn more about an important international organization including its history, operation and main global goals but it also inspired students to give more thoughts about their future and career options, and last but not least, to get in contact with individuals who work for goals that affect the globe.
Ms. Erzsébet Illés, Programme and Monitoring Associate, talked about the foundation and the history of the organization. “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must change too” - she addressed climate change as a factor to fight against hunger. She also highlighted main areas of activities of FAO, including supporting countries in preventing and mitigating risks and threats related to agriculture, food and nutrition. The students were actively involved and had some sharp and intriguing questions. One such question touched how realistic these goals were, considering the economic crisis, governmental unwillingness to actively contribute and raise budgets for these purposes. We received an optimistic answer from Ms. Illés.
Mr. Raimund Jehle, agricultural economist and senior manager, -Regional Strategic Programmes Coordinator for Europe and Central Asia -, has served FAO in progressively responsible positions since joining the headquarters in Rome in 1999 as a policy officer. In his lively talk, he touched upon his personal career story and how he actually got affected by “the FAO virus, i.e. enjoying working for the organization”. He warned that in the fight against hunger and poverty we cannot use the “business as usual” attitude as this could lead to an increase of poor people by 122 million by 2030 on the global level and not decrease, which is one of the objectives. Responding to a question from a student, he explained that the locations of the FAO Regional Offices were based on a competition for offers among UN member countries. The FAO Office in Hungary was first established in 1995 as a Subregional Office for Central and Eastern Europe and was upgraded to a Regional Office in 2007 based on an attractive offer made by the government of Hungary as host country. Mr. Jehle also explained the budget of FAO and the modalities the member countries contribute to the FAO budget. In addition, he emphasized the concern of growing obesity in the region and its implications as well as the connection between climate change and food security.
The third speaker, Ms. Darya Alekseeva, Regional Partnership Development Officer of FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, talked about the partnership programmes and its aims. Global aims cannot be carried out without global cooperation and partnerships. The programme involves both regional and global cooperation and it aims to reach new audience - especially vulnerable and disadvantaged groups - to distribute knowledge, information, human and financial resources, and increase capacity of direct beneficiaries and sustainability of FAO-led activities.
Sustainability and zero hunger were common issues in all three presentations. The three lecturers gave insight into the work of an international organization, introduced themselves in a way that was personal as well as professional, and showed their engaged interest in their work. Instead of abstract ideas they could highlight their individual commitments, and how it feels when your work can make a change on a global level.