WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2009—Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan will lead the U.S. delegation to the 36th Session of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations Ministerial Conference in Rome, Italy, Nov. 18-23. This will be the first time that a woman has chaired the FAO conference. The U.S. delegation will also include U.S. Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs Nerissa J. Cook, among others.
"FAO is the United Nations’ organization whose mandate is to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living, improve agricultural productivity, promote rural development and, ultimately, provide all people at all times with access to the food they need for an active and healthy life," said Merrigan. "This is the first time in 20 years that the United States will chair this ministerial conference and it comes at a critical time following the World Summit on Food Security. President Obama has committed the United States to a whole-of-government approach to tackle the problem of global food security and the United States will work with more than 130 countries as we move forward with this important effort."
While in Rome, Merrigan will attend all functions related to her duties as chair and meet with agriculture ministers from around the world and high-level international organization and FAO officials as time allows. Among her duties as chair, Merrigan will oversee discussions on the ongoing FAO reform effort and will officiate as heads of delegations present their country’s view of the state of food and agriculture at the conference’s plenary session, which is open to the media.
The Conference is the supreme governing body of FAO and meets in regular session every two years. Its main functions are to determine the policies of the organization, approve the program of work and budget, and make recommendations to members and international organizations. In addition to being attended by all members and associate members of the organization, it is also attended by observers from non-member nations, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations. Members include 191 nations, one member organization, the European Community, and one associate member, the Faroe Islands.
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