Chargé d’Affaires Jennifer Harhigh delivers the U.S. Opening Statement at the WFP Executive Board Annual Session

U.S. Opening Statement at the World Food Program Executive Board Annual Session

Rome, June 21, 2021

Thank you Mr. President and Executive Director for your thoughtful remarks and comprehensive presentations.

We are facing an increasingly dire humanitarian situation for 2021. Conflict, climate change, and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are compounding acute food insecurity in protracted crises and increasing the risk of famine across several countries, including Ethiopia, Yemen, South Sudan, and northeast Nigeria. The IPC report released in mid-June for Ethiopia confirms over 350,000 people now face famine conditions in Tigray – a devastating update in a rapidly deteriorating situation.

Our window to prevent widespread famine is shrinking at an alarming rate, and the United States calls on donors to respond with increased contributions at this critical time. It is absolutely imperative that the humanitarian community come together now to respond to these escalating needs and avoid further loss of life. It is also essential that all WFP members recommit to allow and facilitate the access of life-saving humanitarian assistance to their citizens to achieve a world free from hunger and extreme poverty.

The United States commends WFP’s continued commitment to agile and flexible programming in the face of an increasingly complicated global context. We applaud WFP’s tremendous leadership in protecting and advancing principled humanitarian action in complex conflict settings and commend the critical coordination role WFP plays in the food security, logistics and telecommunications clusters.
The United States is proud to be the largest donor to WFP and a partner in reaching the most vulnerable around the globe. We are pleased to share today that we are providing nearly $23 million through our General Contribution to support critical headquarters initiatives – including protection, impact evaluation, and risk management – as well as the Immediate Response Account. We hope that these targeted investments in critical WFP capacities will serve to strengthen the efficiency and effectiveness of WFP’s operations.

The U.S. appreciates the commitment the Executive Director made to List D to provide the Board with a draft of the Strategic Plan by July, in order to allow sufficient time for review. We will hold WFP to that commitment and look forward to seeing the draft in July.

We maintain that WFP has a unique and unparalleled emergency response role and expect WFP to continue to invest in the underlying capacities necessary to maintain its operational leadership. We ask WFP not only to consider its own organizational needs but also how it can more effectively lead and support other organizations within the humanitarian system.

Additionally, with global humanitarian needs continuing to outpace available resources, it is imperative that WFP clearly articulate how it will prioritize and focus its investments, keeping in mind its comparative advantages within the humanitarian system, and based on clear evidence of impact.

The U.S. commends WFP on its successful completion of the People Policy and looks forward to adopting that policy later in our session. We also note the significant progress made in implementing the Comprehensive Action Plan but are concerned that thirteen percent of respondents report experiencing harassment by colleagues in the last year, and that a significant portion of WFP employees do not believe promotions are based on merit. We look forward to hearing about your plans to address these serious issues.

We welcome the newly appointed Inspector General, Ms. Fabienne Lambert. We look forward to working with her to strengthen oversight and accountability within WFP and stress the need for continued transparency and clear communication.

With regard to oversight, the U.S. commends WFP on its efforts and progress in completing the Anti-Fraud, Anti-Corruption Policy, closure of outstanding audit recommendations, and additional controls exercises undertaken during the COVID response.

We remain concerned, however, regarding persistent weaknesses identified in a number of the oversight reports being presented to the Board, including WFP’s management of NGOs and beneficiary information, including the use of SCOPE (WFP’s beneficiary information and transfer management platform). These issues require WFP management attention, and we request an update from WFP on its plans to address these recurrent vulnerabilities.

The U.S. welcomes WFP’s update on the Protection and Accountability Policy and affirms our commitment to its principles, particularly in ensuring protection for vulnerable populations from sexual exploitation and abuse. We expect all UN agencies to share this commitment and to ensure adequate mechanisms are put in place to minimize the risk of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) in programming.

We welcome WFP’s role in the preparations for the UN Food Systems Summit (FSS), WFP’s work supports and complements the goals of the Summit and we appreciate the critical role it is playing in Action Track 5, especially by identifying sustainable solutions to build resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stresses.

The Food Systems Summit must focus on alleviating hunger, poverty and malnutrition first and foremost, or we will fail those people most in need, those people we represent here today.
In that context, I am very pleased today to announce that the United States will join the Global School Meals Coalition, which will officially launch at the Food Systems Summit in September.
The United States looks forward to participation in a coalition that has the potential to bolster global food security, build resilience to future shocks, and foster multilateral collaboration to support the nutritional, health, and educational needs of school children and adolescents worldwide.
With that, I turn the floor back over to you, Mr. Chair. We look forward to the discussions this week.
Thank you.