Opening Statement by U.S. Ambassador Lane at the Second Regular Session of the World Food Programme Executive Board Meeting

This morning I would like to begin by acknowledging the heroic work and sacrifice of WFP staff and contractors across the organization this past year, and likewise for WFP’s implementing partners.  In particular and with great sadness, we acknowledge Mr. Ayman Omar, Mr. Abdul Qader Haj Jneid, Mr. Ahmad Haj Jneid,  and Mr. Housien Hammoud , who were tragically killed in Syria while supporting WFP operations there.  Whether WFP is in Syria, or in South Sudan, or West Africa or somewhere else around the planet, you are delivering life, hope and dignity to the people that WFP serves, sometimes at your own personal risk or away from family and friends; and it is our job as WFP’s Executive Board to help you do that well.

We also commend WFP for its leadership and support for the Ebola response, where WFP has undertaken an extraordinary and urgently needed logistics role.  We appreciate the special challenges that the Ebola response brings, and the energy and commitment with which WFP has answered.

In this regard, we welcome WFP’s People Strategy, which seeks to revitalize WFP’s human resource management, including by offering a supportive and healthy workplace as well as strengthened performance management.  WFP’s devoted staff deserves a Human Resource function that protects staff well-being and offers a transparent and accountable merit-based system of performance.

For the coming year, WFP faces an unprecedented gap between assessed needs and projected funding, and we have some reason to believe that this gap will persist.  Among other factors, it is a gap that reflects humanitarian needs created by conflict, political instability, poverty and economic policies; and it will largely fall to us as member states to narrow the gap – by helping to bring peace and stability to conflict-affected countries, by encouraging good governance and sound economic policy, by contributing more resources to WFP, and by partnering with WFP to expand its donor base.

WFP also has an important, though different, role to play in narrowing the funding gap by continuing to improve efficiencies and impact, and we are pleased by Management’s strong and ongoing efforts in this regard to make WFP fit for purpose.  An area of increasing importance to the United States for improved efficiency is the use of biometrics to best ensure that scarce food goes to food insecure households; and we urge WFP to prioritize the development and use of biometrics in cooperation with UNHCR in places like Chad and Ethiopia where biometrics have the potential to make a significant impact.

WFP has a special role among the UN Agencies in Rome when it comes to nutrition.  Nutrition is at the heart of WFP’s work and its mandate, and we look forward to WFP’s strong engagement at the Second International Conference on Nutrition and within the UN system in supporting the Post-2015 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

I would like to close by sharing some personal observations about WFP’s outstanding work in and around Syria, mindful that we could say the same of WFP’s work in South Sudan, where people may again face famine in the coming months:  Two weeks ago, Australia’s Sam Beever and I had the privilege of visiting WFP’s ongoing Syrian refugee operation in Jordan and to meet with the outstanding WFP team there.  I came away from the visit with five key, for me, takeaway points:

  1. The people and Government of Jordan have been incredibly generous and hospitable in receiving Syrian, Iraqi and Palestinian refugees, but it is unfair –and untenable—to ask them to shoulder this regional responsibility alone;
  2. The WFP team in Jordan is doing an outstanding job, they are giving everything that they have to meet the needs of Syrian refugees, and they deserve both recognition and thanks for the commitment, compassion and creativity that they are pouring into the operation.
  3. The WFP operation needs our sustained financial and political support.  Circumstances are unlikely to change in the near term, as we all know, and we must view the WFP pipeline as an operation that needs our sustained budget contributions and commitment;
  4. Pipeline breaks – and even signaled or possible pipeline breaks – have real consequences for Syrian refugees and for Jordanian communities.  Signaled pipeline breaks lead to increased tension between refugees and host communities, and they force people to take desperate and in some cases irreversible measures to ensure their survival.
  5. Most Syrian refugees in Jordan depend upon WFP assistance for survival.  If WFP assistance is reduced or curtailed, refugees cannot meet their basic needs in Jordan and may be forced to return to Syria, where they face considerable and imminent danger.  Once in Syria, it is very difficult for them to return to Jordan.

In closing, I appeal to every member present to encourage your respective governments to find ways to make sustained financial contributions to WFP’s Syrian refugee and Sudan operations; and I want to underscore this last point: the WFP must have new contributions in its pipelines in December or it risks a serious pipeline break.  The American people have been giving generously to help save Syrian and Sudanese lives, but these operations desperately need more funding today – and a sustained commitment for funding over the next year.

Thank you, Madame President.