Remarks by Chargé d’Affaires Duffy at the Opening of the WFP Executive Board Annual Session

(photo credit Giulio Napolitano)

Remarks by Chargé d’Affaires Thomas Duffy at the Opening of the World Food Program Executive Board Annual Session

June 18, 2018

(As prepared for delivery)

We would like to welcome the President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, and Princess Haya Al Hussain, the United Nations Messenger of Peace, to this meeting and to Rome.  We thank you for your earlier statements.

Director Beasley, welcome back to you too, from your tireless journey raising awareness about WFP’s leading role in feeding the hungry in the ever- increasing number of disaster and conflict zones in some of the most dangerous and inaccessible parts of the globe.  In 2017, WFP addressed no less than eight level three and seven level 2 emergencies, providing assistance to 91.4 million people in 82 countries.  The magnitude and ongoing nature of these crises serves as a somber reminder of the scope of challenges and human suffering facing WFP today. We applaud WFP’s indispensable efforts to meet the needs of these vulnerable populations and we encourage your continued close cooperation with UNHCR and the entire humanitarian community.

We note that WFP, despite every challenge, has remained on the front lines of the world’s catastrophes: in Yemen, Nigeria, South Sudan, Central African Republic, and Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as in other intractable situations where WFP is doing what it does best – tenaciously remaining engaged to feed the world’s hungry and desperate.

Though the world is consumed by an exceptionally high number of humanitarian emergencies, it is critical that we not lose sight of long term development priorities.  Keeping that focus can only have positive returns in helping to mitigate the future risk of food insecurity.  As the CSP process fully rolls out globally, we anticipate seeing increased transformation on the ground and a better understanding of how emergency response links to the peace and development nexus.

In the face of all of this, WFP is continuing to remake itself as an organization, addressing workforce issues; combating sexual exploitation and abuse and harassment; improving accountability; developing concepts for faster deployments; decentralizing training and mentoring…the list goes on.  This is clear evidence that you are listening closely to donors, looking ahead, and planning for the organization that WFP will need to be to meet future challenges.  It’s a difficult balance to strike but one I know that you and WFP are up for—to not wane in the pursuit of organizational change while continuing to address the unprecedented scale of human suffering at the level we’ve all come to expect.

It is also important to reflect on progress on the Grand Bargain, which the United States values as a means to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the humanitarian system.  The U.S. Government remains fully committed and engaged, and we encourage all donors and humanitarian actors to do the same.

The U.S. Government is especially interested in seeing tangible results in two specific areas:  Improved Joint Needs Assessments and Reduced Duplication and Management Costs.  We encourage WFP and all relevant UN agencies to implement joint needs assessments in crisis-affected countries, feeding into holistic and prioritized response strategies that address needs according to urgency and are inclusive of all affected populations.

Across the entirety of the Grand Bargain, the U.S. Government urges signatories to produce robust reporting, as well as renewed efforts to advance those elements that require collective action.  By robust reporting, we mean better quality and transparent reporting as opposed to more reporting.

In line with the spirit of partnership of the Grand Bargain, the U.S. Government continues to advance areas identified for improvement, such as our efforts to streamline reporting requirements, support localization, and improve accountability to affected populations, amongst others.  However, if the U.S. Government is going to make additional significant changes in line with the Grand Bargain, we expect our partners to also demonstrate progress over the next year.  The Grand Bargain will not work otherwise.

The United States commends the work WFP has performed thus far to combat sexual exploitation and abuse, and we will address this issue in more detail later.  We know that sexual exploitation and abuse and harassment in all forms undermines the ability of international actors to work effectively and threatens their ability to carry out their missions.  To uncover such cases, we expect reporting on the abuse of power and harassment in all of its forms and protection for whistle-blowers who come forward.

We would like to see all staff – at headquarters and field locations – receive appropriate and ongoing training on equality for all persons, child protection, ethics policies, and recognizing and addressing sexual exploitation and abuse as well as  harassment.

The United States notes a number of common themes from WFP documents on Oversight being presented at this session.  We applaud WFP’s work to date on oversight and accountability, including through the updated Oversight Framework.  We look forward not only to its approval and implementation but also to improved implementation of existing oversight and accountability systems that will provide donors further assurance of our investments in WFP.   We also call attention to areas of needed improvement and strengthened controls in WFP’s systems including in the areas of beneficiary management and verification, cash-based transfer programming, and very importantly, management and oversight of WFP’s NGO partners.

We would also like to express our appreciation for Executive Director’s Beasley’s commitment in establishing a new school feeding unit within WFP and look forward to coordinating efforts to feed school aged children and help countries develop national school meals programs.

Before closing, I also want to note the absence of our friend Elizabeth Rasmussen.  We wish her all the best and please let her know that she is in our thoughts.

Thank you.