Indian rivals square off for FAO contest

Manoj Juneja visiting a slum area in Dhaka, Bangladesh

 ROME – Rival would-be candidates from India to head the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation are jockeying for position as the end of the troubled reign of Brazilian Director General José Graziano da Silva next year approaches, FAO sources say.

 Manoj Juneja, now an Assistant Executive Director at the World Food Programme, last year ran unsuccessfully to head the FAO’s other sister food agency, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, but reputedly undeterred he is considering trying to shoot for the FAO top job, for which candidates have to apply by Dec. 31, 2018, the sources say. Asian candidates are likely to be favoured after a Latin American, who followed long reigns by African and Lebanese DGs.

  Also expected to throw his hat in the ring is Rakesh Muthoo, the fun-loving Indian deputy chef de cabinet at the FAO.

  Mr Juneja evidently was handicapped in his bid to become IFAD president by not having official Indian support for his candidature. 

 One veteran FAO watcher noted that “the FAO Washington Office had an Indian Director, Ajay, who was unceremoniously ousted (he has now presented a legal case against FAO).  His replacement was the Indian Representative to FAO, who is still in charge.”

  “The deal was that the appointment of the Indian Perm. Rep to FAO to go to Washington was contingent upon the Indian Government not giving its support to the Juneja candidacy for IFAD's Presidency.”

 Whatever the case, both would be candidates may seek support from the American  ambassador to the United Nations in New York, originally a Sikh Indian.

 Ms Halley, for her part, is likely to seek advice from her appointee at the head of WFP in Rome, David Beasley, who like her is a former governor of South Carolina.

 While Graziano was required to rubberstamp the Trump administration’s appointment of Mr Beasley, the new WFP chief could be the ultimate kingmaker to determine who next takes the helm at the FAO.


Raqesh Muthoo, second left, at a US Embassy party