Rome – Pope Francis will address heads-of-state, government ministers, and policy and development leaders during the opening ceremony of the 42nd annual Governing Council meeting of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), 14-15 February 2019 in Rome.

The Pope joins other notable speakers, including Gilbert F. Houngbo, the President of IFAD, Danilo Medina Sánchez, the President of the Dominican Republic, Neven Mimica, European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Sigrid Kaag, the Netherlands Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation and José Graziano da Silva, the Director-General of the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Special events, panels and interactive sessions will also take place during IFAD's annual meeting. Notable personalities taking the stage include:

Midori, world-renowned violinist and UN Messenger of Peace
Sherrie Silver, actress, dancer and choreographer
Greta Thunberg, 15-year-old Swedish climate activist
Carlo Cracco, Italian celebrity chef

The theme of this year's Governing Council -- "Rural Innovation and Entrepreneurship" -- will explore how investing in technology, innovation and small enterprise development can address the challenges of poverty and hunger in rural areas of developing countries.