Maria Helena Semedo

Maria Helena Semedo

Deputy Director General, FAO

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Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General, is an economist and politician from Cape Verde. A leading expert in global development issues, she has worked in public service for over thirty years.

Over the last decade, FAO has helped shape a new global narrative where agriculture is prominently recognized as a solution in addressing increasingly complex emerging issues – from climate change and biodiversity loss to ecosystem degradation to overfishing. Leading to deliver with impact, Semedo promotes an integrated approach, resulting in greater cross-sectoral engagement and stronger strategic partnerships, better positioning FAO in its role to promote the transformation to more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agrifood systems. A key player on the FAO Core Leadership Team, Semedo heads flagship initiatives such as the FAO Green Cities Action Programme, the corporate Climate Change Strategy and strengthening the global One Health approach. She fosters high-level multi-stakeholder dialogues that optimize the Organization’s 75+ years of technical expertise and experience, its global reach and innovative advances, all contributing to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Semedo is a firm advocate for women's empowerment and is well-known for her work promoting gender equity and social parity. Since October 2019 she has chaired the FAO Women's Committee and helped spearhead the Organization's Mentorship Programme, looking to build a more equitable and transparent workplace.

Before taking up her current duties in 2013, Ms Semedo gained valuable experience and insight in Africa, first as FAO Representative in Niger (2003-2008), then as Deputy Regional Representative for Africa and Sub-regional Coordinator for West Africa (2008-2009) and Regional Representative for Africa (2009-2013). Prior to her international career, she worked as an economist for the Cabo Verde Ministry of Planning and Cooperation before becoming Secretary of State for Fisheries, then in 1993 Minister for Fisheries, Agriculture and Rural Affairs – the first-ever woman Minister in her country. After serving as Minister for Tourism, Transportation and Marine Affairs from 1995-1998, she became Member of Parliament, a position she held until 2003.

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