21 July 2021, Rome – The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), QU Dongyu, joined by the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Luigi di Maio, and the Italian Minister for Sustainable Infrastructures and Mobility, Enrico Giovannini, inaugurated today the revamped main entrance of FAO Headquarters in Rome, which has been refurbished and modernized along with some other areas of the building, as part of the periodic, regular maintenance of the historic compound.
The Italian Special Commissioner for the COVID-19 emergency, Gen. Francesco Paolo Figliuoloalso attended the ceremony, along with representatives of FAO’s 195 Members.
This was the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown that senior Italian figures and FAO Member representatives gathered together at the compound. It marks a first step towards the gradual reopening of the Organization to in-person inter-governmental activities, in line with the Italian health measures in place and World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines. Next week, FAO will hold in-person and virtually world leaders attending the UN Pre-System Summit on Food Systems (26-28 July), which is hosted by the Italian Government.
“The outstanding cooperation with Italy has never been more evident than over the past 18 months, as we worked closely to face the COVID-19 pandemic” said Qu Dongyu. “We are here to celebrate a fresh start, for a new normal with a renewed sense of responsibility. A responsibility towards each other, to ensure our collective safety,and a responsibility to make this Organization even more efficient, effective and modern to better serve its Members. As we return physically to the office, we can take the lessons that we have learned during the pandemic and use them to foster new work approaches.”
“Today, we pay tribute to resilience, perseverance, and our re-energized spirit. We are here to celebrate a fresh start, for a new normal with a renewed sense of responsibility towards each other to ensure our collective safety, and a responsibility to make this Organization even more efficient, effective and modern to better serve its Members,” said Qu Dongyu.
Minister Di Maio highlighted that, besides the Pre-Food Systems Summit next week, other importance events will take place in the coming months (notably the Food Systems Summit itself, the CoP26 on climate change, the Summit Finance in Common and the G20 Leaders’ Summit), providing an unique opportunity for the international community to advance the food security and nutrition agenda.
“Making this first step together in the renewed FAO building gives us fresh energy to pursue this path, in the spirit of a more resilient and sustainable recovery for all,” he said.
Minister Enrico Giovannini, by his turn, stated that “the close synergy developed over the years between the Ministry and FAO serves not only the important purpose of safeguarding such a significant architectural complex, whilst, at the same time, assuring the best functionality to one of the UN most important agencies; but it also constitutes an additional, concrete example of Italy’s support to the Organization and its mission.”
Renovation works at FAO
The compound on Viale Aventino in Rome’s historic centre, whose construction started in 1938, has been hosting FAO since 1951, when the Organization was transferred from Washington, DC, USA. The renovation works aim to adapt FAO to current times to become a modern, renewed Organization, with innovation, digital applications and sustainability at the core. The main entrance saw the replacement of the old electricity grid to reduce consumption, the installation of a wheelchair ramp and modern communication screens, as well as a more harmonious colour scheme of the United Nations blue.
Another key element is the restoration of the Plenary Hall’s beautiful ceiling, painted in 1952 by Italian artist Mirko Basaldella. The restoration was financed by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and carried out by a cooperative of women who meticulously cleaned and repaired the plaster slabs for over a year. The result of their magnificent work will be open to the public again, once COVID-19 related rules permit.
Furthermore, FAO’s terrace will see an organic rooftop module featuring bioversity, agroecology and fragile ecosystem installed in September.
The renovation work will continue with the modernization of various meeting rooms to allow the Organization to adapt to the new technological challenges of the post-pandemic era.
FAO – Italy
The renovation FAO’s Headquarters also marks another step in the strong collaboration between the Organization and its host country, which has only strengthened over the past two years.
In his remarks, Qu, in his capacity of UN Designated Official for Italy, thanked the Italian authorities for the support to vaccinating UN agencies in Italy.
FAO-Italy collaboration has reached a new height under the current Italian Presidency of the G20.
Food security and the need to transform global agri-food systems have been placed at the heart of the G20 agenda. Earlier in June, in Matera, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the G20 endorsed the Food Coalition. Proposed by the Government of Italy and led by FAO, the Food Coalition is a multi-stakeholder, multi-sectoral mechanism that aims to mobilize political, financial and technical assistance in support of countries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the beginning of June, FAO with the Italian Foreign Affairs Ministry and other partners, inaugurated the “G20 Green Garden“, Rome’s first green area dedicated to the concept of sustainable development, evocatively sited in the Parco dell’Appia Antica.