Thank you, Mr. President and good morning everyone.
I am pleased to warmly welcome Executive Director Ertharin Cousin and congratulate her once again on her appointment to this position. The United States, and particularly the US Mission to the UN in Rome, looks forward to continuing our close partnership with the World Food Program in our joint efforts to meet the immediate food needs of populations affected by crises and build their resilience to withstand future shocks. We are happy that FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva is here today. Your presence this morning reinforces the renewed focus on collaboration among the Rome-based agencies. And we are honored that you, Mr. de Mistura, are here with us also.
We offer our sympathy and support to the victims of the earthquakes in Northern Italy. We also join WFP in celebrating the recent release of WFP staff member Patrick Noonan.
Madame Executive Director, we commend you on your thoughtful remarks in which you highlighted key priorities, including strengthening WFP’s partnerships, supporting global initiatives on food security and nutrition, improving transparency and accountability, the internal WFP improvements pertaining to staff capacity and having the right tools, and the increased emphasis on improving programming by using results-based evidence. And last, but certainly not least, the cost savings measure you just announced.
We congratulate you for going on missions to the Sahel, as well as to seven donor capitals, within your first two months on the job. These actions demonstrate your commitment to both effective communications and transparency, and to meeting the acute needs of millions in the Sahel, Yemen, and elsewhere.
We are encouraged by your dynamism and drive. Your engagement with staff and Board, and your clear and frank communication on intentions will undoubtedly be an asset to the organization and the broader humanitarian community.
We strongly support WFP’s emphasis on accountability and transparency. We appreciate that you in your note on the Annual Report to the WFP Inspector General called attention to and reaffirmed the importance of strong oversight and risk management.
The United States particularly values WFP’s continued focus on ‘evidenceof effectiveness’; enhanced monitoring and evaluation will be critical moving forward and the United States has high expectations in this area.
The United States has undergone a transformation in the range of tools that we use to address food needs, so we understand and know first-hand that the complex environment in which we operate, as well as all available tools, must be considered in planning and executing programs.
U.S. food assistance tools are expanding to ensure that the right people receive the right assistance at the right time. In-kind food from the U.S. is complemented by cash-based assistance, cash transfer and food vouchers, and local and regional purchase of food. The United States looks forward to further detail on how WFP will build a strong internal team and ensure that its staff will have the necessary skills to meet the challenges of the shift from food aid to food assistance.
As highlighted by President Obama in his recent address at the Chicago Council Symposium, the U.S. Government will remain committed to partnerships in food security. The U.S. food security initiative, Feed the Future, is predicated on the AFSI/Rome Principles, and takes a comprehensive approach toward meeting the challenges of global food insecurity. The New Alliance that was announced at the recent G-8 meeting in Washington will continue this work by catalyzing local and international private investment in African agriculture, food security, and nutrition, with a goal of lifting 50 million people out of poverty by the year 2022.
The U.S. is greatly encouraged by the Executive Director’s early emphasis, and action, on partnerships between UN agencies, government partners, the private sector, and nontraditional donors. In these times of fiscal austerity and growing needs, the U.S. sees this collaboration as the foundation for improved and more cost-effective food security and nutrition programming in the field and we look forward to seeing measurable results in these areas.
We are especially heartened by the focus on increased collaboration among the Rome-based agencies. WFP, FAO and IFAD, have critical and complementary roles in promoting food security worldwide and coordination among these three agencies, along with donors and the private sector, is essential to ensure an effective international response to food insecurity.
The U.S. Government is committed to tackling hunger and undernutrition through the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, and the 1,000 Days Partnership and Nutrition are front and center in U.S. food assistance programs. However, the causes of malnutrition are multifaceted and go beyond access to food assistance. WFP’s enhanced partnerships with other agencies specializing in nutrition, healthcare, gender, agriculture, and access to safe water are essential to address the problem in a holistic manner. The U.S. is also applying the best evidence of nutrition science to target the special nutritional needs of vulnerable groups, with a focus on women and children under two. In the next 12-36 months, nine new or reformulated products will be coming on line.
Demonstrating our commitment in these areas, we are pleased to announce a $10 million dollar contribution to WFP for the following: to support capacity and institution-building for the Food Security Information Network; to support the work of the WFP Gender unit including a gender expert in the Sahel and the Research into Action program; to enable research in the area of nutritional impact; and to help further WFP’s resilience work. Also included is $5 million in unearmarked funds to be used towards WFP’s greatest needs.
Since last year, we have been working with our international partners to respond to early warnings with early action in the Sahel. To date, the United States has provided $227 million in assistance thus far. We recognize WFP’s major role in the response. We are both focused on providing life-saving assistance to populations affected by crisis in the Sahel, and as importantly, on keeping with our commitments made at L’Aquila and in recent meetings in Africa and the United States. We are increasingly addressing needs in a way that helps build resilience and stability. For example in Eastern Chad, the Bouyour dam constructed under WFP’s food-for-work program improved livelihoods and built the resilience of vulnerable populations through off-season farming, and improved watering points, thus decreasing the dependence on food aid and protecting critical household assets such as livestock.
In Yemen prolonged insecurity and restricted humanitarian access in northern, central, and southern Yemen have significantly hurt the country’s economy. Humanitarian needs have also been exacerbated by rising food and fuel prices. But the United States has responded with over $73 million in assistance. WFP is providing food vouchers to people to meet immediate life-saving food needs while ensuring that market systems are maintained, and that people do not have to engage in negative coping mechanisms (such as migration or selling off of assets) that make recovery more difficult.
Madame Executive Director, colleagues and friends, food assistance has never been more important. Tonight, nearly 1 billion people will go to bed hungry and this year 3.5 million children will die of malnutrition. The impact of climate change and other extreme weather events, combined with the growth of densely populated urban centers in areas vulnerable to natural disasters, are increasing the risk of large-scale displacement, damage, and loss of life. We have an enduring commitment to respond to crises and help those in need, while we improve their ability to withstand the next crisis. I know that we will continue to care and act.
Thank you, Mr. President.