In FAO 2021 musical chairs, USA eyes China DG
5 January 2021
Qu Dongyu, FAO Director General
ROME -- FAO Director General Qu Dongyu in a constellation of personnel changes for 2021 has banished a number of veteran senior executives to field posts away from headquarters, evidently to make room for new blood, much of it from his Chinese homeland and its voracious Communist party, FAO sources say.
"New people have been appointed at the Director level, but they are really not running the show, since the second in command is a Chinese national," a veteran FAO watcher said. "This is particularly the case with Human Resources, where they have brought in a Chinese national from the Shared Services Center in Budapest to serve as the Deputy Director of HR (and he is the one making all the decisions, according to the PRC playbook.)"
Carla Mucavi. former Mozambique Permanent Representative here in Rome, then Director of the FAO UN Office in New York, has been sent to Kenya as the new FAO Representative (with an offer she could not refuse), the sources said. The Deputy Chef de Cabinet at FAO (another Chinese national) is getting a quick promotion in order to replace her in New York.
Ms Mucavi is one of many former ambassadors to the FAO who use the diplomatic post as a springboard for procuring well-paid positions inside the UN agency, a prospect that means few are willing to criticise how money is spent or decisions made, diplomatic sources say.
In another development the respected French veteran Dominique Burgeon, who has been Director of the Emergencies division for the past eight years, shortly is to be transferred to a cushy sinecure in the Swiss city of Geneva (where former DG José Graziano da Silva sought to place Peruvian former first lady Nadine Heredia) as Director of the sleepy, expensive and largely superfluous liason office with the UN there. Another Chinese national, or political appointee will become the new Director of Emergencies at FAO HQ, the sources said.
France's candidate had been favourite to become the new DG until the USA split the Western vote by backing a Georgian outsider, so it comes as no surprise that Mr Qu is weeding Francophone executives out of headquarters and the high-profile New York office as well as members of the Portuguese speaking clique promoted by Graziano such as Ms Mucavi. In some ways Qu's personnel policy echoes that of the Togolese head of UN sister agency IFAD, who somewhat in the spirit of the Cambodian leader Pol Pot has ordered hundreds of staffers to go into the field or quit if they do not want to upset their families by leaving Rome.
Despite such ruthless maneuvering, Mr Qu will have to tread carefully when dealing with staff levels from the United States, still the largest donor to the FAO by far despite cuts made by the Trump administration in pique at the Georgian not being elected.
"In this connection, the House and Senate Foreign Relations Committees are keenly aware of the fact that the FAO DG is not enamoured with US Citizens, and uses flimsy excuses NOT to recruit Americans," an FAO insider said.
"This development shall be closely monitored before it makes payments of its Assessed Contributions to FAO's coffers. This will also hold true for the other three Specialized Agencies of the United Nations Systemheaded by other Chinese nationals."
"The Chinese Government had made a concerted effort to have a Chinese national elected to the position of the WIPO, but the State Department, despite its flimsy management under Trump, put a stop to this initiative. A candidate from Singapore was instead elected in mid 2020 as DG of WIPO."
Although President-Elect Biden does not want a "Cold War-type" of confrontation with China, China's moves will be monitored very closely, U.S. diplomatic sources say.
Against this background the award of a Nobel Peace prize to the World Food Programme means that it will be hard for the Biden administration to deny WFP Executive Director David Beasley a second term in Rome despite his links to the Trump administration as a former Republican governor of South Carolina. Keeping Mr Beasley in place also means avoiding having to horsetrade with China in return for Mr Qu's support for an eventual Democratic nominee to take over the helm at WFP, the sources add.
In theory the head of the WFP is appointed by the FAO DG and the UN Secretary General though in practice it has been seen as an American fiefdom in recent decades under the unwritten rules of the venal UN spoils system.
It remains to be seen when the Biden administration may replace U.S. Ambassador to the FAO Kip Tom, who arrived too late in Rome to have much impact on the FAO election. Critics charge that Mr Tom, a farmer with strong links to agribusiness, has spearheaded efforts to encourage Mr Qu to curry favour and make unsavoury compromises with international pesticides and agrobusiness lobbies, such as the unprecedented letter of intent the Chinese DG signed with CropLife International over considerable internal opposition from former amnd current senior FAO staffers.
Carla Mucavi, former Mozambique ambassador to FAO, now the new FAO Representative to Kenya