25th Meeting of the System Board & Retreat – A Communique
The CGIAR System Board meeting and retreat, held on December 8-9, 2022, in Nairobi, was an opportunity to look back on the important achievements of this year, and to look ahead.
An Economist roundtable event organized on the sidelines of the meetings served as a sobering reminder of the challenges the world is facing. Hunger and the demand for more and more healthy food are rising rapidly, and while there is growing consensus that food, land, and water system transformation is key to tackling the multiple crises and challenges humanity faces, investment in the agri-foods sector is declining. To avert greater suffering and keep the Sustainable Development Goals within reach, these trends must be rapidly reversed; rhetoric must be matched by action and investment. CGIAR has a critical role to play in this.
In this context, CGIAR has never been more relevant, and our mission to transform food, land, and water systems in a climate crisis, never more urgent. That is why we have, in recent years, reimagined CGIAR’s strategy and structure. The challenges the world faces are so huge that we can only hope to solve them through purposeful and much deeper collaboration, cooperation, and partnership, both within and beyond CGIAR. This is the essence of ‘One CGIAR’.
We welcome the tremendous progress made this year to implement CGIAR’s mission and strategy:
- CGIAR’s portfolio of Initiatives, designed last year and launched progressively from the start of this year, are now well underway. Building on the new portfolio, CGIAR has articulated an integrated food crisis response.
- There has been significant and deliberate improvement in the way CGIAR engages partners and stakeholders, including through the work of the Regions and Partnership teams. The Abidjan II agreement with the African Development Bank, African Union and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, and a related Action Plan presented in Nairobi, is a welcome demonstration of this approach.
- We celebrate the positive progress on gender, diversity, and inclusion, as well as ethics and business conduct, and applaud the work to move forward with a strong underlying policy framework, supported by agile, practical tools that fit the operational context whilst reinforcing CGIAR’s commitment to the highest ethical standards.
We acknowledge that the One CGIAR integration has presented significant obstacles and challenges that demand adaptive management to resolve. Earlier this year, it became apparent that CGIAR did not yet have the alignment, support, and mutual trust needed to move forward to the next phase of integration.
In response, and in addition to stepping up engagement with partners, CGIAR’s Senior Leadership – including all CGIAR Directors General – recast CGIAR’s operational structure as an integrated matrix structure. This is now being brought to life by the appointment of a diverse cadre of Senior Directors and other leaders to CGIAR’s Global and Regional Groups.
One CGIAR Board Chairs have also undertaken an inclusive, transparent, and consultative process to set out an integration framework agreement (IFA), designed to consolidate what has been achieved and bring clarity on the way forward. We recognize and thank Julia Marton-Lefèvre and Claudia Sadoff for their skillful leadership of an IFA working group guiding this process.
Echoing the System Council’s recent call for the IFA to be signed by the end of the year, the System Board sees a signed agreement as essential to providing the clarity and certainty staff and partners are demanding, and to quickly progressing the reforms. We thank the Boards of the eight Centers who have approved the IFA to date and look forward to having an agreement signed by all One CGIAR Centers by year end.
Looking beyond the IFA to the coming year, the focus must shift to operationalizing the matrix structure and accelerating the move to integrated corporate services and systems. We advocate for deeper cooperation across the Senior Leadership team, and recognize constraints the current funding, budget and human resources architecture presents to fully realizing the potential of One CGIAR. We invite and call upon our Center Board colleagues to support the cooperation and integration approach that we have each agreed through performance indicators that incentivize alignment and acceleration of our collective work.
Another priority must be to engage existing funders and reach new ones, to significantly increase investment in food, land, and water system transformation across the global South, including in national agricultural research and extension systems and CGIAR.
We welcome the Senior Leadership Team’s undertaking to develop a core set of agreed internal rules that aim to provide greater clarity on roles and responsibilities in the integrated matrix structure and unlock the potential of the Global and Regional Groups, ensuring alignment of authority and responsibility.
Building on the progress made on strengthening partnership, and on CGIAR’s engagement framework, the System Board welcomes a preliminary report out from the high-level advisory panel (HLAP) on engagement. The Advisory Panel’s evolving recommendations seek to put engagement at the heart of all that CGIAR does to ensure co-creation and co-ownership with partners towards delivery and impact. The HLAP’s comprehensive report and final recommendations will be presented to the System Board by end-January 2023, to then be taken forward by CGIAR Senior Leadership.
System Board members thank Dr. Marco Ferroni for his more than five years of exemplary service as System Board Chair, and for his dedicated and inspired leadership as CGIAR undertook the most ambitious transformation in its history. The System Board warmly welcome Professor Lindiwe Majele Sibanda as its incoming Chair.
We are united and steadfast in our support for CGIAR’s 2030 Research and Innovation Strategy, CGIAR’s Executive Managing Director and the CGIAR Leadership Team, and the integration as envisaged by the SRG recommendations endorsed in Chengdu.
While there is much more to be done to fully realize CGIAR’s mission and deliver its strategy, we are unquestionably moving in the right direction. This is evident in the way our scientists are working across borders and beyond siloes, in the progress on partnership, funding, diversity and inclusion, and culture, as well as CGIAR’s growing profile at key international fora, which will be strengthened by the launch of the new brand.
Now, more than ever, the world needs a CGIAR able to convene partners across the multilateral system to deliver science for humanity’s greatest challenges. We are firmly on that path and will stay the course.
Marco Ferroni (Chair)
Alyssa Jade McDonald-Baertl
Lindiwe Majele Sibanda
Header photo by G. Smith/CIAT.