Sign up today to join our online community, receive email alerts, and make a difference!

Remarks by Ertharin Cousin at the Award of Excellence: Working Together in the Field, IFAD

Excellencies, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to join you today at IFAD with Director-General Graziano da Silva and President Nwanze for the presentation of the first Rome-based UN agencies Award of Excellence: Working Together in the Field. 

Our purpose today is to honor the achievements of the country team that best exemplifies good partnership practices among the Rome-based agencies.  Through concerted action, this team has most effectively leveraged comparative advantages and knowledge to advance food security and sustainable agricultural development.

This special event fittingly coincides with the theme of the 36th Session of the IFAD Governing Council:  The power of partnerships: Forging alliances for sustainable smallholder agriculture.  Our gathering today is a testament that the Rome-based agencies collaboration in the field can and is making a difference for the people we serve. 

Each agency – WFP with our ability to purchase commodities from smallholders, FAO with its ability to distribute the right seeds and tools, and IFAD with support for access to credit and market information – is uniquely positioned to boost key activities along the value chain linking smallholder farmers with people in need.

As I relayed to the WFP Executive Board at our June 2012 annual meeting, the idea for this award generated from a conversation I had with Ambassador Gerda Verburg of the Netherlands on the naming and faming of country teams which work together.

It was then escalated to the meetings of the heads of the Rome-based UN agencies.  Together, the three of us agreed on a common objective:  to ensure both the spirit and the example of cooperation is observed not only at headquarters level through joint meetings, communication and advocacy, but that this visibility also, and most importantly, penetrates to the field level, where words translate to actions, and where our success in meeting the needs of the people we serve is best evidenced.

Once conceived, this award faced a second task, to determine exactly how to measure excellence in working together.  At a time when we are still learning how to improve cooperation at the tip of the organizational pyramids, by what criteria should we fairly and accurately judge excellence in working together at the base, the field operations that are the foundation for results?

For this year’s inaugural award – for which we had no history of award winners to stand in comparison – we defined three measures of excellence in working together:

1.    Extent of collaboration and number of projects;

2.    Demonstrated impact on beneficiaries; and

3.    Innovation.

On top of these three we applied a practical and well-established judicial standard: “We will know it when we see it.”

Working together will always involve a measure of risk taking.  Success becomes bound up in the effectiveness of actions not always under our direct command and control, and in a rapid assessment, credit does not always extend to where credit is due.  That is true especially now when our accountability to one another often remains experimental in nature – more tied to creativity and trust building among cross-agency peers at the field level than operational directives received from the top.

So, we didn’t rush it.  We aimed for a nomination process that was both comprehensive and thorough. 

And I am fully satisfied that through the careful diligence of everyone involved in this exercise, from the country teams who were called by regional bureau representatives to step forward, to the Deputy Executive Heads of the Rome-based UN agencies who evaluated each nomination, we have accomplished just that.

To the eleven geographically diverse country teams who proudly shared their stories with us, our thanks.  Your nominations, themselves evidence of teamwork and shared purpose, inspire us to reach higher. 

To the four country teams shortlisted for this award:  Bolivia, Kenya, Madagascar and Mozambique, we extend our congratulations for your outstanding achievements thus far and we celebrate your vision for the future.

We have chosen a single winner, but we encourage each country team nominated for this year’s award to keep striving for excellence in working together and return to this award process next year to share with us your continuing stories of exemplary collaboration.

I now pass the floor to Director-General José Graziano da Silva for the purpose of announcing the winner of this year’s award.

Director-General, the floor is yours.