Indonesia’s bid to lead
FAO collapses, despite

Despite an all-out diplomatic effort, Indonesia’s candidate to lead the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) bowed out after collecting only 12 of 180 votes.

Indroyono Soesilo finished poorly after first round voting in Rome on Sunday that left Brazil’s Jose Graziano da Silva and Spain’s Miguel Angel Moratinos each with 77 and 72 votes respectively.

Later in the day, Graziano was elected as director-general of the FAO, the UN agency tasked with reducing world hunger at a time of near-record high food prices, AP reported.

Graziano, currently FAO’s regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, won on the second ballot against Moratinos in a 92-88 vote of the 180 member states voting.

The Brazilian will replace Jacques Diouf of Senegal, whose tenure, which dates to 1993, has sparked reforms to limiting the numbers of terms a director-general can serve.

Indonesia tried to stretch its diplomatic muscles by stumping for Indroyono with the 120 members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which is comprised of African and Asian countries, when it hosted the grouping’s meeting in Bali last month.

“Initially, we hoped we would get support from African countries, but I don’t know why they did not back us,” Safri Burhanuddin, the information and conferences chief for the Office of the Coordinating People’s Welfare Minister, said on Sunday.

Taking the view that the FAO’s secretary-general job would be a strategic post for Indonesia given the threat of food crises, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono instructed the Foreign Ministry to go all out in supporting Indroyono.

The instruction came too late as other countries, especially Brazil, had long been preparing for Diouf’s succession.

Safri said that Indonesia finished ahead of Austria, which garnered 10 votes; Iraq, which garnered 6 and Iran, which captured two.

Previous media reports said the vote would likely end in a showdown between Graziano and Moratinos.

AP reported that Moratinos, the Spanish diplomat seen as a front-runner, switched effortlessly between Spanish, English and French as he pointed out that he had traveled to 90 countries, including 35 in Africa, for his campaign.

Moratinos vowed to accelerate reforms, would not promote increasing the FAO’s budget and would promote public-private partnerships.

Moratinos was Spain’s foreign minister until 2010. According to his application, he doubled Spain’s foreign development aid between 2004 to 2010, a period in which Spain became the sixth largest donor to the UN’s development programs for poor countries.

His main rival, Graziano, served as food security minister under former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, when, he helped implement the “zero hunger” initiative that helped dramatically decrease malnutrition among Brazil’s 190 million people. More recently he served as an FAO official in Rome.

Graziano also promised to quickly deliver reform. He said the FAO should give priority to Africa and play a central role in water resource management.

Any new chief will have a tough challenge trying to curb world hunger at a time when food prices remain high, putting the lives of millions at further risk and raising fears of a repeat of the inflation driven social unrest of 2007-2008.

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