Chargé d’Affaires Duffy at the Opening of the World Food Program Executive Board

Remarks by Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Thomas Duffy at the Opening of the February Session of the World Food Program (WFP) Executive Board

February 20, 2017

Congratulations, Mr. President, on your election.  We would also like to express our appreciation for the outgoing president.  Also, thank you to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Grandi, for his sobering and challenging observations.

We also extend our congratulations to the Executive Director for her leadership of WFP in fulfilling its critical mission to “eradicate global hunger and poverty.”  Under your watch, the organization has responded to an unprecedented magnitude and duration of humanitarian crises, in such places as Iraq, Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, and Nigeria, while simultaneously stepping forward to assist in Nepal, the Philippines, Haiti, and the Ebola and El-Nino afflicted countries.  WFP has proven an invaluable partner, time and time again.

We understand this morning that the government of South Sudan will declare famine in Unity State and that 5.5 million people across the country- half the South Sudanese population- will face life threatening hunger this year.  The U.S. remains gravely concerned about the situation in that country and all countries facing near- famine conditions and welcome continued WFP focus on these responses and robust support from all donors.

As we enter the second year of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development we begin to move our focus towards achievement of the SDGs.  In this light, we are grateful for the Executive Director’s unflagging dedication and vision to integrating the 2030 Agenda into WFP’s mission and strategic framework.  The Integrated Roadmap is an important first step in this direction, and we congratulate you for your vision for bringing WFP squarely into the 21st century to be able to best meet changing needs and extraordinary challenges.  As you, Madam Executive Director, said at our last meeting in November – now the hard part begins.  We look forward to hearing how WFP will institutionalize these efforts in order to ensure results.

Madam Executive Director, WFP’s goal to achieve SDG 2 – Zero Hunger – and SDG 17 – strategic Partnerships  –  presents  an opportunity for WFP to continue to improve the cost effectiveness of its operations.   At a time when annual global humanitarian requirements are $22 billion, with donor funding meeting only about half of the requirements, WFP must continually strive to be more efficient and accountable to maximize its resources going to vulnerable beneficiaries.  The protracted nature of humanitarian crises today, with 17 years as the average stay in a refugee camp,  means that we must plan for tomorrow today,  striving to find more effective ways to use resources to meet the increasingly longer-term challenge of providing humanitarian assistance.  A heartbreaking example of this new reality is the response of a Somali mother in Dadaab Refugee Camp when asked when she was going home.  She replied, “This is home.  My three children were born here.”  So, let us ensure that WFP has the best systems and structure, strong synergies through partnerships, and complementarity between emergency and development programs, so that this mother in Dadaab Camp is supported to the best of WFP’s and its partners’ abilities.

Strong accountability and management systems are of utmost importance to making every dollar count.  We welcome WFP’s efforts to strengthen its fiscal and accountability platforms and update member states on anti-corruption and fraud policies.  We take careful note of the Executive Director’s announcement today of the creation of a team and an action plan to directly address accountability and risk management issues.  WFP’s continued actions to increase organizational efficiency, enhance accountability in transparent ways, determine how best to manage risk, reduce duplication and management costs, and increase joint and impartial needs assessments are critical parts of the roadmap for ensuring the best possible practices.

We commend WFP for its work in developing partnerships.  WFP is engaging with the private sector to harness new technologies to transform the way it does business.  Partnerships with logistics, credit card, telecom, and food fortification companies that increase WFP’s reach through state-of-the-art technologies must become even more robust to meet future challenges.   Partnerships with governments and communities are at the core of WFP’s new advocacy and empowerment role to promote country ownership of programs.  That relationship will be strengthened through coordination and by incorporating specialized sectoral expertise from the UN family of organizations and others in agriculture, food security, gender, nutrition and health, and other relevant sectors.

The U.S. urges WFP to continue to place primary emphasis on strengthening its emergency platform, by continually updating and expanding its arsenal of tools and methodologies.  It is important for WFP to lead the way in disaster prevention and mitigation activities and early intervention in crises, dramatically more efficient in terms of cost and saving lives than post-crisis action.   WFP should also lead through programs that build resilience, key to improving vulnerable peoples’ livelihoods in a way that sustains the gains.

Madame Executive Director, you have confronted crisis after crisis in the last five years with courage, determination, energy and innovation, and you have instilled in this organization the tools and assets to stay the course.

Its most important asset is the people who make up this organization.  In concluding, we recognize and commend WFP’s staff, who has demonstrated unflagging commitment to the millions of people facing hunger and hardship across the globe.  We express our continuing gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifices we know you make to fullfill this task, and we know you will continue to uphold WFP’s mission.

Thank you.