Opening Intervention by Ambassador Ertharin Cousin World Food Programme Executive Board Second Regular Session

Thank you, Mr. President.

Let me join Brazil in recognizing the address of His Excellency President Napolitano as delivered by Ambassador Sebastiani, as well as the presence of High Commissioner Guterres.  Their words today are a testament to their strong partnership with and high regard for WFP.

As noted by you, Madame Executive Director, 2011 is indeed an historic year for many reasons.  It marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of WFP, of which the United States was a critical founder.  It also marks the 50th anniversary of WFP’s largest supporter – USAID – which houses the Office of Food for Peace.  WFP is Food for Peace’s biggest emergency partner.  Together, we have done remarkable work in saving lives and protecting the livelihoods of billions around the world over the last five decades.  Many of the countries that have received our assistance over this span of time have since become food secure, graduating to high volume exporters and donors themselves.  The United States warmly thanks and congratulates the entire WFP family, past and present, and all its international partners for striving to achieve the admirable mission of a world free from hunger and poverty.

2011 is also an historic year for the founding of WFP’s other U.S. Government partners such as the Peace Corps, which is also celebrating its 50th anniversary and with which a new Memorandum of Understanding was signed last month here in Rome.  In the countries where both WFP and the Peace Corps maintain a presence, this MOU will improve their collaboration in food security and nutrition related activities.

Madame Executive Director, we agree with your statement that the world has changed tremendously over the years, which is why we must continue to strengthen and reinforce partnerships such as ours in order to maximize our collective leverage as we address today’s many challenges.  With ever increasing global financial austerity, we are pleased that WFP is now taking steps to achieve corporate efficiency and improve controls, including the announcement today of the appointment of a Chief Monitoring Officer.  In this environment, it is extremely important for WFP to pursue new initiatives that provide full value for money to all the stakeholders it serves.

The United States appreciates the work of WFP and UNHCR as well as other key partners around the world, particularly at this dire moment in the Horn of Africa where the desperate conditions in Somalia exemplify the myriad of challenges we face.  As we continue to grapple with the obstacles of insecurity and restricted access, let us do so thoughtfully and coherently.  We must utilize lessons learned that will ensure our programmatic responses are appropriately designed to achieve the maximum positive and sustainable impact.   For example, we must support resiliency building activities across communities that help vulnerable populations withstand the impact of shocks such as droughts… We say the words “droughts need not result in famine”… now we must together perform the work to make the words a reality.    In this regard, we look forward to approving, later today, WFP’s new policy on disaster risk reduction and management.

Finally, Mr. President, we note the announcement that the Secretary General intends to initiate a process for the upcoming appointment of an Executive Director.  The United States will fully support this appointment process and respect for the appropriate role of this Executive Board, while recognizing the ultimate decision rests with the Secretary General in consultation with the FAO Director General.

As you know, the United States is deeply committed to the WFP and its mission as evidenced by the $23 billion we invested over the first 50 years, and the United States will remain committed to this organization and its mission for its next 50 years.

Thank you, Mr. President.