Opening Intervention by Ambassador Ertharin Cousin, WFP Executive Board Annual Session

Thank you, Madame President. The United States thanks the Executive Director for her strong statement today, and the United States welcomes the presence of WFP Hunger Ambassador Peter Bakker.

Madame Executive Director,

Since the last meeting of the Executive Board in February, we have once again experienced great personal losses. The United States expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences for the tragic and senseless deaths of WFP colleagues, Farhan Hamsa and Santino Pigga Wani during recent attacks in Ethiopia and Sudan. We pray that their families will take comfort in knowing that they served as instruments of international goodwill and peace. We also pray for the safe return of colleagues and partners who remain missing today. The United States stands with WFP and the international community in condemning the heartless acts of cowardice, and we extend our heartfelt gratitude and respect for the unwavering commitment by WFP staff to deliver humanitarian assistance in the world’s most difficult environments.

WFP’s commitment to staff safety and security is laudable. Deploying new technologies, for example, satellite-based vehicle tracking systems in high-risk countries like Sudan, and improved field security reporting will help minimize the risks to staff in furtherance of WFP’s commitment toward the “how to stay” approach. In this regard, the United States is leading a stream of work on “Safety and Security in Humanitarian Action” under the Good Humanitarian Donorship Initiative. We, like you, aim to develop new, more effective ways to ensure predictable assistance to enable partners like WFP to operate through viable security measures.

With regard to accountability, we recognize that effective and efficient implementation of humanitarian programming occurs in tandem with good communications and transparency, especially when analyzing risk. Thus, we appreciate your efforts, Madame Executive Director, as presented today, to improve communications with the Board. We are especially pleased with the re-institution of quarterly operational briefings and the risk management focus they have taken, providing a comprehensive and transparent background on factors that facilitate the Board’s decision-making.

We look forward to the dialogue on the outcomes of the risk management workshops taking place this month in Nairobi. The United States asks that a facilitator’s summary be disseminated prior to the formal Board briefing in September.

We also underline our strong support for the efforts of WFP, OCHA and other Inter-Agency Standing Committee members to enhance humanitarian leadership and accountability and improve the effectiveness of humanitarian response across the system.

The combination of increased transparency and shared decision-making are essential elements that have led to a collective approach toward the worsening humanitarian conditions and ongoing instability particularly in Somalia. The United States is pleased to announce today a $14.5 million contribution to WFP to twin the transport of commodities donated by Brazil. This is the first time the United States has been able to donate resources for twinning. We are proud that this first twinning action is with Brazil. Together with Brazil and the other donors, including Spain and New Zealand, we are providing help to the vulnerable Somali people in need of food assistance. To further prepare for anticipated rising needs in the weeks and months ahead, the United States will also stage nearly 19,000 metric tons of food aid in key prepositioning sites in the region.

Madame Executive Director, the United States heartily echoes your statements on prioritizing resources and measuring the impact of our humanitarian activities. In times of fiscal austerity, we believe it is paramount that WFP and all UN agencies closely track not just resources but outcomes. The Third Prioritization Seminar last month aptly demonstrated WFP’s commitment toward ensuring greater discipline and consistency in operating within program categories. What we learned is that this process does not detract resources from development activities but rather appropriately aligns them to country-led, country-owned strategies under the UN Development Assistance Framework, garnering more resources in the end. Because of WFP’s progress, the U.S. is pleased to have rejoined the rank of a multilateral donor to WFP with a $5 million undirected contribution last month. We look forward to further updates on the prioritization process.

Prioritization is one element of smarter programming. As Secretary Clinton stated last month in Rome, “We must use a smart, strategic approach…and if we do not act now to increase the opportunity for food security, we may never catch up.” Like WFP, we also believe that, to best stave off the potentially detrimental effects of highly probable food security shocks on vulnerable populations, we must act now and continue investment in high impact solutions, changing the way we do business for greater impact. One such important activity is through an increased nutritional focus, as noted by Canada and others, on women and children – from pregnancy to the first 1,000 days of a child’s life – critical for cognitive and physical development. We are implementing recommendations from the recently completed USAID-sponsored Food Aid Quality Review conducted by Tufts University to better match the quality of U.S. food aid to the nutritional requirements of this population and dramatically enhance the nutritional impact of food aid rations in both emergencies and non-emergencies. We thank the entire WFP team for your exemplary work in this area since 2009… in steering a course toward more nutrition-sensitive programming. We encourage your continued collaborative work with UN partners FAO, UNICEF and WHO to ensure a combined food/nutrition/health-based approach to address undernutrition.

The United States is also striving for better integration of our programs and strategies – from USAID Title II to USDA Food for Progress to President Obama’s Feed the Future Initiative – to ensure they are implemented in a way that integrates both nutrition and agriculture for increased impact, e.g., in Mozambique, Ethiopia, and Guatemala. We continue to support WFP’s Purchase for Progress pilot in nine countries in Africa as P4P has demonstrated how markets can be created and strengthened by sharing upfront knowledge and training, and how the status of women can be elevated and how women can be empowered through income-generation and market development.

The United States also recognizes the important role the private sector must play toward achieving food security and ending hunger in the world. We thank Peter Bakker and TNT for their support of WFP programs.

We, too, are honing our early warning and response systems: we developed a new Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) resource, the Food Assistance Outlook Brief, which provides a six months’ warning of food assistance needs and are expanding our overseas prepositioning network to include six key sites in order to maintain a continuous flow of vital food aid in response to emergencies and reduce response times by months. Agility, flexibility and responsiveness to changing needs and high food insecurity probabilities…these are the essential elements of food assistance strategies that will ensure we move relentlessly ahead toward a more food and nutritionally secure world. Thank you very much, Madame President.