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FAO announces six candidates for next director general

Former European Union Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler is the most notable of six candidates for the job of director general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome.

Fischler, an Austrian, was nominated by the European Union. Also nominated by their countries are José Graziano da Silva of Brazil, Indroyono Soesilo of Indonesia, Mohammad Saeid Noori Naeini of Iran, Abdul Latif Rashid of Iraq and Miguel Ángel Moratinos Cuyaubé of Spain.

Fischler made history when he transformed the European Union Common Agricultural Policy from a countercyclical program to one that largely makes single payments to farmers and leaves more decision making up to them. The single payment scheme is popular in trade circles, but developing countries say that the European Union still spends too much money on subsidies and restricts imports.

While it would unusual for someone as prominent as Fischler to run without an expectation of winning, his prospects are uncertain because of the controversy that surrounds him and because there are two candidates from Europe, which is likely to split the European vote.

There has been speculation in Rome that it is time to elect a Latin American. Brazil has an anti-hunger program that has won plaudits throughout the world, and has also hosted African agriculture ministers to teach them about Brazil’s program. Grazisno da Silva is a former Brazilian minister for food security and FAO assistant director general for Latin America, a position based in Santiago, Chile.

But Naeini, the Iranian candidate, is a former chairman of the World Food Program board and is highly regarded.

The FAO’s 191 member nations will elect a new chief this June with a secret ballot at the organization’s conference in Rome. Under new rules, the next director-general will serve from Jan. 1, 2012 to July 31, 2015, and then only be eligible to serve another four years, for a possible total term of seven years, seven months. The terms of re-election were changed with a vote at last year’s conference. Each country will have one vote, and the new chief will be elected by the majority of votes cast.

Since the establishment of FAO in 1945, there have been seven directors general, whose terms have ranged from three to 18 years:
  • Sir John Boyd Orr, United Kingdom, 1945-1948
  • Norris E. Dodd, United States, 1948-1954
  • Philip Vincent Cardon, United States, 1954-1956
  • Binay Ranjan Sen, India, 1956-1967
  • Addeke Hendrik Boerma, Netherlands, 1968-1975
  • Edouard Saouma, Lebanon, 1976-1993
  • Jacques Diouf, Senegal, 1994-current