Mario Arvelo (Santo Domingo, 1970) is a Career Diplomat from the Dominican Republic. He is the Ambassador to the Rome-based United Nations agencies fighting hunger and malnutrition, and is a candidate for Chair of Council of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in the election to be held on Thursday 17 June 2021, during the 42nd General Conference.
Arvelo is a lawyer (Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra of Santo Domingo, 1991) and a political scientist (Northeastern University of Boston, 1996), where he studied as a Fulbright Scholar. In his free time he writes, gives lectures, and takes photographs. The following sections provide details on his diplomatic achievements; his participation in international panels of experts; his management of the Dominican pavilion at Expo Milano 2015; his work in civil society, the private sector, and academia; his publications and conferences; his studies; and the recognitions received for his academic and professional performance.
Arvelo has been elected Chairperson of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), the UN Committee on Agriculture (COAG), the Global Soils Partnership (GSP), the FAO Commission on Finance, Budget and Reform, and the Group of 77 (G77), among other global leadership positions. During his tenure, the Dominican Republic has joined the governing bodies of the three Rome-based United Nations agencies, none of which the country had ever belonged to: the FAO Council, the IFAD Executive Board (at the International Fund for Agricultural Development), and the WFP Executive Board (at the World Food Programme). Arvelo is the Deputy Chair of the Appeals Committee (with jurisdiction for FAO and WFP) and seats on the CFS Executive Bureau, as well as on three international steering committees: for the UN Decade of Action on Family Farming, the Mountain Partnership, and the World Banana Forum, in addition to being a founding member of the multidisciplinary platform ‘Observatory on the costs of sustainable production and the distribution of value in the export banana industry’.
FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION (FAO)
In his institutional involvement with FAO, Arvelo maintains close contact with Director-General Qu Dongyu and follows up on multilateral governance tasks that, in addition to those already mentioned, have included serving as Acting Chair and Vice-Chair of the Programme Committee (which oversees impact evaluations of technical cooperation projects for development); multiple leadership positions at the FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean (twice a Vice-Chair, Acting Chair, and currently as Rapporteur for 2020-22); Acting Chair of the High Level Conference ‘Food security: the challenges of climate change and bioenergy’; Co-Chair of the High Level Meeting FAO/Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ‘Investing in food security in a global economy ‘; Chair of the negotiations of the International Codes of Conduct for Pesticide Management, and for Food Losses and Waste; Chair of the Group of Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC) and of the Central American Integration System (SICA) in Rome, and of the International Technical Consultation ‘Agricultural Information and Knowledge Management’. He is a member of the committees on Constitutional and Legal Matters, Finance, Forestry, Fisheries (including the Aquaculture and Fish Trade subcommittees), and Commodity Problems, as well as the expert groups on Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture, Biological Diversity, and Global Agricultural Statistics, and the Group of Friends of the Right to Food. In addition, Arvelo has conducted numerous inspection visits of the field work FAO and other United Nations agencies conduct, including in conflict zones.
INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT (IFAD)
Regarding his involvement with IFAD, Arvelo cultivates a close working relationship with its President Gilbert Houngbo, contributing to the international financial institution as a member of its Executive Board (2015-20, member-elect for 2022-23) and its Governing Council. Arvelo has been Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean in the Group of Experts on the results-based resource allocation system, and follows up the Evaluation and Audit committees, as well as the working groups on Adaptation of the Small-Scale Agriculture, Private Sector Financing, Implementation of Investments in Targeted Capacity, and Rural Resilience.
WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME (WFP)
Arvelo has also built strong links with WFP —the foremost humanitarian agency of the United Nations— where he serves as the Rapporteur of the Executive Board, as well as with its Executive Director David Beasley. Besides being Deputy Chair of the Appeals Committee of WFP and FAO, Arvelo follows the working groups on Private Sector Partnerships and Resource Mobilization; Local Food Purchases; Communication and Knowledge Management; Operational Ethics; Integrated Roadmap; Harassment, Sexual Harassment, Abuse of Power, and Discrimination; Institutional Results Framework; New Trends in Food Safety; Strategic Planning; Personnel Policy; Prevention of Gender Violence; Accountability; and Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic, as well as the Group of Friends of Nutrition.
COMMITTEE ON WORLD FOOD SECURITY (CFS)
In addition to having chaired the CFS and being part of its Executive Bureau, Arvelo has performed leadership tasks in the High Level Group of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) and is recognized as the greatest advocate of inclusion, transparency, and democratic legitimacy, having promoted and ultimately achieved the adoption of a package of global governance reforms for fighting hunger and malnutrition. Based on his involvement with the committee, he has organized and participated in numerous conclaves on specific topics (see the section ‘Expert panels’).
OTHER MULTILATERAL ENGAGEMENTS
Arvelo has amassed experience in other spaces of the international architecture: at the United Nations in New York, meeting the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General of the organization, and participating in meetings of the Security Council, the General Assembly, and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), as well as working with the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. Arvelo began his career in foreign service as First Secretary in the Permanent Mission of the Dominican Republic to the Organization of American States (OAS).
After bilateral experiences as Counsellor and Chargé d’Affaires (Acting Chief of Mission) of the Dominican Embassy in Japan, and as Minister Counsellor and Deputy Chief of Mission at the Dominican Embassy in Chile, Arvelo returned to the multilateral sphere as Ambassador to the Rome-based United Nations agencies.
Due to his training and experience, his communication skills as a lecturer and writer, and his mastery of current affairs and topics of global interest, Arvelo participates as main speaker, facilitator/moderator, panelist, or rapporteur in conclaves of international experts; his vision on issues of technical and political complexity (the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, family farming, climate change, healthy diets and adequate nutrition, design of policies and legal frameworks at both regional and global level, inclusive participation —with an emphasis on gender equality and youth involvement—, innovation, food losses and waste, forestry issues, and other current and general interest areas) is valued in instances where complex concepts are debated, possible solutions to common problems are proposed, and strategies are agreed to face some of the most important threats to humanity.
EXPO MILANO 2015
Arvelo was the Commissioner-General of the Dominican Republic for Expo Milano 2015, which took place in Milan, Italy from 1 May to 31 October of that year; managing to complete the pavilion —which registered more than a million visitors and was one of the most photographed of the universal exhibition— before the deadline and under budget. In concluding this task, Arvelo returned to the public coffers close to 300,000 US dollars (about 20 million Dominican pesos at prices adjusted to 2021), an unprecedented action in his country’s history.
In 1996, thanks to his knowledge of Criminal Law —a specialty that he addressed in his graduate thesis— he was appointed General Coordinator of the Public Defenders Project of the Fundación Institucionalidad y Justicia (FINJUS), a joint initiative of FINJUS and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Since his role as lead negotiator for the G77 in the institutional reform process of the Committee on World Food Security (2008-09), Arvelo has been recognized internationally as the best friend of civil society. He is a member of the Dominican Bar Association, the Dominican Public Notaries Association, and the Association of Judicial Interpreters.
Arvelo had three work experiences in the private sector, all in the legal area in Santo Domingo: Corporate Lawyer at the Dominican Telephone Company (1993-94) and at Banco Popular Dominicano (1991-93), and Legal Assistant at the law firm Pellerano & Herrera (1989-90).
As a teacher, Arvelo has been Professor of International Relations (1996-97), Assistant Professor of Labor Law (1996), and Teaching Assistant (1986-87) at the Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM), and Teaching Assistant in the Department of Political Science at Northeastern University (1994-96). In addition to lecturing at his almæ matres, he has offered master classes at the universities of Bologna —the world’s oldest—, Bucharest, London (London School of Economics and Political Science), and Sofia, as well as at the Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali Guido Carli and Università degli Studi Roma-Tre (both in Rome), Universidad San Pablo CEU (Madrid), and Pontificia Universidad Católica (Santiago de Chile), in addition to the Roman extensions of the universities of Arizona and California.
Arvelo has undertaken essays («La primera tierra» [The First Earth] and «Todas las luces» [All the Lights]), short fiction («Un relato casual» [An Offhand Story]), poetry («Una gaviota perdida» [A Lost Seagull]), translation (from English to Spanish with On Liberty by John Stuart Mill and vice versa with «There is a country in the world» by Pedro Mir), technical issues related to the fight against hunger (including contributions to Law 589-16 on Food and Nutrition Sovereignty and Security in the Dominican Republic and its Plan of Action, and on agri-food development policies, the volatility of food markets, and adequate nutrition), critical analysis (on the poetry of Mir and José Mármol, or the photographs of Pedro Genaro Rodríguez), sociocultural anthropology («Las teologías del hambre» [The Theologies of Hunger]) and in conferences inspired by that research), or sports (the football column «Tarjeta roja» [Red Card] with Arturo Peñaló and Héctor Molina). Arvelo has also been an editorial assistant to historian José Chez Checo. Starting in 1989 and for almost two decades he covered historical, current legal and political issues, and matters of social interest, as well as literary, film and theater criticism for the Dominican newspaper Hoy, helping to create public opinion on national and international issues from an influential position of intellectual, analytical, and discursive authority in a time before the invention of internet-based social media.
INTERVIEWS AND PROFILES (these external links will open in new tabs in their original languages)
Interviews where Arvelo speaks on issues of multilateral governance of agri-food systems include those conducted by John Beddington for The Economist on the link between water, energy, and food, and by Fariha Ahmed for Agriculture Today on the challenges that family farmers must face; in response to a Global Cause questionnaire, Arvelo advocates for multi-stakeholder partnerships to fight hunger and malnutrition. A profile by Gustavo Volmar in his «Global y variable» column in Diario Libre puts his election as CFS Chair in perspective; quotes from him appear in reports by Food Ingredients First, and in articles on environmental balance by Antonio Hernández-Rodicio and the financing of agri-food production by Carlos Laorden, both from El País.
Arvelo gives lectures and master classes on social anthropology (he has presented «Una crónica sobre alimento y hambre» [A Chronicle of Food and Hunger] in Bangkok, Brussels, Bucharest, Buenos Aires, Ho Chi Minh City, La Paz, London, Madrid, Milan, New York, Rome —including at FAO and WFP—, Santiago de Chile, Santo Domingo, and Sofía, among other cities), the dichotomy presence/absence of food in cultural traditions («Alimento y hambre en la Biblia» [Food and Hunger in the Bible], «No desperdiciarás los alimentos» [Thou Shall Not Waste Food]), history («Espejos discursivos de la guerra civil dominicana de 1965» [Discursive Mirrors of the Dominican Civil War of 1965]), geography («ChileNorteSur» [ChileNorthSouth]), urban planning («Brasilia KCNC»), and multilateral governance issues, such as the conservation of water resources («Somos agua» [We are water]) and soils («El origen de la vida» [The origin of life]), the importance of nutrition policies («Seguridad alimentaria y nutrición en un mundo globalizado» [Food Security and Nutrition in a Globalized World]), or his ‘theoretical-practical manual’ «Cómo construir un mundo mejor» [How to Build a Better World], offered to the European Parliament. From a technical exhibition to launch the process that concluded with the approval of the United Nations Year of Kínwa —the misnamed ‘quinoa’— emerged «El mejor alimento del mundo» [The World’s Best Food]. He has also analyzed poetry («Testimonios del Ozama» [Testimonies from the Ozama River]) and exegesis («Judas redimido» [Judas redeemed]).
Arvelo has a Master of Arts degree in Political Science with concentrations in International Relations, Comparative Governments and Politics, and Political Theory (Northeastern University, 1996), a degree he earned as an International Fulbright Scholar awarded for his academic performance, and for his potential in the social sciences and humanities. He has a law degree (PUCMM, 1991). He completed a diploma program in Diplomacy (Instituto de Educación Superior en Formación Diplomática y Consular, 2020) and courses on Global Economic Trends (Georgetown University, 1997), Institutions of the European Union (APEC University, 1994), International Trade (APEC, 1993), International Negotiations (Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo, 1993), and Comparative Labor Law (PUCMM, 1989). He completed high school at Colegio Loyola (1986, where he was founder and first Chair of the Film Club, and Chair of the Max Henríquez Ureña Academy of Literature and Oratory); and elementary school at Colegio De La Salle (1980), both in Santo Domingo.
In 1996 Arvelo was chosen as a member of Phi Beta Delta, the Honor Society of outstanding foreign scholars in the United States. In 2012 he received the highest institutional recognition reserved for a Dominican diplomat: full membership in the Diplomatic Career. In 2015, he was given the Award for Excellence in Diplomacy on the only occasion that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has bestowed such prize. In 2019 the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic recognized his contributions to academia from his public service experience; in that same year the International Federation of Human Rights Museums awarded him a prize as a photographer. In 2020, the Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra recognized him as an Outstanding Alumnus on the first occasion in which the university presented this award.