Brazilian economist new chief of UN food agency

June 27th, 2011 - 12:43 am ICT by IANS  

Rome, June 26 (IANS) Former Brazilian food security minister Jose Graziano da Silva was elected Sunday as the new director general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Xinhua reported.

His election marked the first time the Rome-based organization will be headed by a Latin American.

Graziano da Silva, currently the FAO’s regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, replaces Jacques Diouf of Senegal, whose 18-year tenure matched his predecessor, Lebanese diplomat Edouard Saouma.

Graziano da Silva, 61, was narrowly elected in the second round of voting after the withdrawal of four of the six candidates.

He beat Miguel Angel Moratinos of Spain, his main rival, with 92 votes out of 180 votes cast on a day marked by intense campaigning at the FAO headquarters.

Graziano da Silva, who currently lives in Santiago, will move to Rome shortly to start his new job. In his present FAO post, which he has held since 2006, he emerged as a leader within the UN process to eliminate world hunger, which is one of the FAO’s central missions.

In his remarks to the FAO plenary Saturday, Graziano da Silva outlined some of the changes he had in mind if he was elected to the director-general post.

He promised to incorporate the monitoring of fisheries and forestry sectors within the FAO’s food security strategy.

He also said that FAO should play a key role in helping provide micro-credit to farmers in poor countries.

“There are two main challenges ahead of us,” Graziano da Silva told the plenary. “Challenge one is eliminating or reducing world hunger and malnourishment. And the second is determining FAO’s role in that process.”

He highlighted diminishing food, water, and energy resources, climate change, rising sea levels, growing population, and food safety as key obstacles to eliminating hunger.

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