Opening Intervention by Ambassador Ertharin Cousin WFP Executive Board First Regular Session

Congratulations to you, my friend, Agnes and to all the other newly elected members of the Executive Board Bureau. I and the other members of the U.S. team look forward to working closely with you as we work to collectively advance our efforts to achieve global food and nutrition security. Thank you Executive Director for your comprehensive presentation.

One year ago when we were gathered around this table it was then just about one month after the occurrence of the first unprecedented humanitarian crisis of 2010 – the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Unfortunately, following the earthquake, the world faced a second crisis of historic proportions – the floods in Pakistan. The United States recognizes the epic performance of WFP in these and the other crises of 2010. The United States expresses its utmost appreciation and gratitude to the entire WFP family: thank you to all in this building and to those listening in from around the globe for your tireless commitment to provide relief to millions around the world. We acknowledge the risks you take, sometimes on a daily basis. We also must acknowledge the sacrifices your families make. We thank you!

As we embark on a new Executive Board year, we must reflect on the events of 2010, and the lessons we can draw from them, with an eye toward strengthening our collective ability to meet the challenges of responding to emergencies. From these lessons we must ensure that WFP continues to provide the essential, life-saving relief to affected populations in a manner that ensures dignity and that enables the partner nation’s capacity to successfully and sustainably rebuild.

Madame Executive Director, we concur with your belief that WFP is better prepared to meet both mega and ongoing crises and commend you for your forward leaning leadership during a challenging year. However, as a “Learning Organization,” there is always room for: improvement, increased self-reflection, honing of skills, expanding of tools, and refining procedures, such as those dealing with risk management.

We note with pleasure the Executive Director’s announcement of new quarterly information briefs to review country programs which face challenging operational environments. The U.S. will eagerly participate in these risk discussion meetings.

We are pleased with this announcement because although tomorrow we will discuss the External Auditor report on operations in Somalia, upon review of this report it becomes clearer to us that part of WFP’s problems in Somalia stems from a seeming long-standing hesitancy to be forthcoming with the Executive Board on the operational challenges you face in situations like Somalia. Admittedly over the course of 2010 we have witnessed marked improvement in communications. However, you will hear a common message peppered throughout several of USG interventions this week. We will stress the need for WFP to strive for the highest level of transparency and communication across every aspect of this organization. But, I must not hesitate to add, we are asking the same of all our UN organization partners, not just WFP.

This call for improving the day-to-day communication, accountability and transparency represents a UN engagement priority for the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress. We will work with each of our UN partners to seek achievable results, progress and measurable impact of UN programming in order to reinforce the UN’s effectiveness and efficiency. Although WFP has made strides in this area, the organization must achieve more. Particularly when our government must be more prudent with and validate the need for all the resources we invest during these financially difficult times.

With regard to striving for measurable results, one year after announcing the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative – Feed the Future – we continue to move forward with this comprehensive approach to addressing global hunger and undernutrition. One way this has been achieved is by harnessing the strengths of all stakeholders and partners. With our partners we have begun to make the substantial progress creating sustainable change in this fight against hunger. We are pleased that WFP is one of these partners.

As we know, women are critical actors in creating a food secure world. Women are central to our approach. To paraphrase Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, we are focusing on women as mothers, farmers, health workers and community leaders because their insights and efforts make the difference between a successful program and one that falls short. We commend WFP for its enhanced focus on women and incorporating a stronger gender lens in all of its programming, and for its work to build a stronger partnership with the Rome-based agencies in promoting gender and a joint action plan. With the latest addition to the UN family – UN Women – there is a further opportunity to collaborate more wholly within the UN system to empower women globally. We encourage you to go further by ensuring as you set up new tools, as you work with host nation counterparts, that women participate not only as beneficiaries but as the program implementers, and that your message to your counterparts whether partner governments or implementing partners is that we must identify women leaders with whom we can work.

We also commend WFP for seeking and implementing innovative solutions and programming that build country capacity, a key element of Feed the Future. In the area of cash transfers and vouchers, while we are pleased to be a strong supporter of WFP’s cash transfers and vouchers programs, having provided nearly $200 million in Fiscal Year 2010 and $73 million to date in Fiscal Year 2011 under our Emergency Food Security Program. As WFP increases the use of these types of programs, we strongly caution you to ensure and implement accountable programs. We believe the Emergency Food Security Program complements traditional in-kind resources by providing, in appropriate situations, cash for the timely purchase of available food commodities in local markets.

Another innovative program I would like to highlight is WFP’s Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative. In December 2010, I traveled to Uganda and Kenya to observe firsthand WFP P4P operations in action. (If Stanlake Samkange’s team is listening in from Kampala and if Burke Oberle’s team is listening in from Nairobi, thank you again for the outstanding logistical support and insight you provided.) I observed two P4P programs using WFP’s purchasing power to act as a catalyst in transforming maize marketing. In Uganda the program has initiated a successful warehouse receipts system, significantly contributing to the small-holders ability to sustainably farm a higher yield, produce a higher quality and reduce post harvest losses. However, I also observed that continued progress and success of P4P will depend on increased participation of partners in the areas of production and seed quality as well as post-harvest value chain – areas that go beyond the comparative and operating advantage of WFP. Thus, the collaboration with partners like FAO in Uganda must be expanded.

With regard to nutrition, we are pleased that WFP is collaborating more effectively through the Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN) and with NGO and UN partners alike through REACH (Renewed Efforts Against Child Hunger and Under-nutrition). We note joint efforts with FAO to improve the FSNIS (Food Security and Nutrition Information System) network. Your efforts through SUN (Scaling up Nutrition) to leverage expertise and resources and create fruitful synergies in the analysis of food security and nutrition and the development and application of new and improved foods that target the most vulnerable populations is also noted. WFP’s role in nutrition is significant due to the scope and reach of its programs, but we encourage further institutional mainstreaming of nutrition-focused programming and, perhaps more importantly, increased programmatic synergy between WFP, FAO and UNICEF to address child malnutrition in countries such as Chad or Niger, for example. We look forward to regular updates on progress with partners for a “whole of international community” approach.

WFP’s role in implementing safety net programs is also essential, especially in light of ongoing food pri ce volatility. All of us gathered here today recognize the harmful impact of this volatility on the poor and vulnerable especially in those countries in protracted crisis.   We continue to monitor food prices closely in a local and regional context to understand how they are impacting the ability of world’s poorest to access food. FAO and WFP should continue providing decision-makers with information that will ensure we can collectively then determine the right type of intervention — food aid, cash transfers, vouchers, etc. We know we can count on the leadership of WFP and FAO to identify the right response, should the time come for us to act.

We recognize the important work WFP has performed for the past 50 years and although the start of 2011 has been overshadowed by increasing financial austerity, political uncertainty and food price volatility, this organization as stated by the Executive Director is better prepared and better positioned to meet the increasing needs of the world’s hungry. Our collective effort as members of this governing body is to ensure WFP provides the most effective and efficient instruments or tools that will create a more food secure and nutritionally secure world. Let’s work together to achieve this honorable task.

Thank you, Madame President.