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New Leadership for the CGIAR Fund Office

January 26, 2011
by

Jonathan Wadsworth

Jonathan Wadsworth, a senior adviser to the UK government, will take up operational leadership of the CGIAR Fund. This major new initiative aims to harmonize donor support for international agricultural research as it confronts some of the twent-first century’s most daunting challenges for humanity and the environment. 

The appointment of Wadsworth as Executive Secretary of the Fund Council and Head of the Fund Office comes as the latest in a series of steps – including the launch of new research programs and the selection of other new leaders – designed to help the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) further strengthen a solid record of achievement. With relatively modest investments, the organization has demonstrated how high-quality science can lead to innovations that deliver high payoffs in terms of development impact. 

“Donor countries have already begun channeling significant resources into the Fund,” said Inger Andersen, Chair of the CGIAR Fund Council and Vice President for Sustainable Development at the World Bank. “Under Jonathan’s capable leadership, we expect the Fund to flourish as one of the international community’s most reliable and effective investments for harmonizing efforts to address the multiple threats that poor people face today.” 

The Fund’s purpose, under the guidance of its representative Council, is to muster and focus significant donor support on major new agricultural research initiatives designed to deal more comprehensively and collaboratively than ever before with highly complex problems. Some of the Fund’s top priorities include deteriorating global food security, worsening water scarcity, rapid deforestation and the emerging negative impacts of climate change on agriculture and natural resources. 

This approach represents a sharp departure from the patterns of support that prevailed in recent years. Since the early 1990s, CGIAR funding has leveled out in real terms and become increasingly fragmented, with around two-thirds now provided by numerous short-term projects of diverse size and character. 

To pre-empt potentially negative effects on research impact, the CGIAR embarked on a major reform effort several years ago that included establishment of the Fund. The reforms also gave rise to the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers, which is responsible for developing new strategic research initiatives aimed at delivering key outputs in collaboration with diverse partners, leading to significant development outcomes. 

”I feel honored and privileged to have the opportunity to serve as Executive Secretary, a post that carries responsibility for a crucial part of the CGIAR reforms,” said Wadsworth. “The Fund’s success depends on our partners and stakeholders working together for a common cause; I look forward both to strengthening our current alliances and to building new ones” (see related interview). 

As a senior executive with the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), Wadsworth strongly championed CGIAR reforms, serving on various teams tasked with planning and implementing the changes. He brings to his new position a solid background in leading organizational change to enhance research performance. 

This includes the design and implementation of a new strategy for research on sustainable agriculture at DFID. In addition, as Chair of the European Initiative for International Agricultural Research for Development (EIARD), Wadsworth vigorously promoted a more harmonized European approach to research for development. His experience in agriculture for development spans numerous areas of interest, from practical farming and rural extension to research and executive leadership. 

In his new role, Wadsworth’s top four priorities will be to: (1) help the Fund Council provide good governance and management of donor funds; (2) offer the Fund Council Chair sound advice and analysis for consensus decision making; (3) represent the Fund to CGIAR stakeholders; and (4) manage the Fund Office – the Fund Council’s operational arm, particularly for resource mobilization – coordinating its activities with those of the Consortium, donors, and others. 

“Through nearly a decade of constructive donor engagement with the CGIAR, Jonathan has demonstrated his genuine passion for enhancing the role of agricultural research,” said Andersen. “I trust his will prove to be a contagious passion that inspires a large part of the donor community.”

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