Statement by U.S. Ambassador Ertharin Cousin on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the World Food Programme

Today we celebrate the founding of the World Food Programme (WFP) 50 years ago, and take the occasion to renew our commitment to WFP’s mandate of saving, restoring and rebuilding lives around the world.  The United States played a critical role in the establishment of WFP when, in 1961, George McGovern, then the director of the U.S. Food for Peace program, proposed the experiment of a multilateral food aid program.  Fortunately, that ‘experiment’ succeeded, thereby allowing WFP to be the world’s largest humanitarian aid agency in the fight against hunger.

The United States remains committed to WFP, having invested $23 billion over the past fifty years, helping alleviate hunger around the world.

Through the support of WFP and its partners, many countries have been able to reduce their food insecurity and poverty levels; some of them have gone on to become exporters and donors themselves.  For example, Brazil’s successful Zero Hungry program has led to the establishment of a newly formed (with WFP) “Centre of Excellence Against Hunger”, through which WFP and Brazil provide food aid and development assistance to governments in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The United States has strongly supported WFP’s new pilot Purchase for Progress (P4P) program, which was launched in 2008.  This pilot is now active in 21 countries around the world.  The P4P pilot program offers smallholder farmers the opportunity to flourish, by helping them to increase their yields and become active players on food markets.  WFP enables this by becoming a reliable buyer for smallholder farmers, serving as a catalyst for market producers.  To date, together with a U.S. donation of $41 million, donors have contributed a total of $140 million to WFP for technical capacity assistance for P4P (not including food aid), thereby allowing 500,000 smallholder farmers to benefit and become viable players on the food market.

The lessons learned from this pilot program, when appropriately applied to other countries, will potentially allow more small holder farmers to become food secure in the future.

Man-made and natural disasters continue to present challenges to WFP’s humanitarian efforts.  Rising food prices, climate change, the famine in the Horn of Africa, and terrorist organizations’ blockage of aid groups compound food emergency relief.  WFP and its partners work daily to overcome these challenges, transforming practices, where appropriate, to then meet the targeted needs of those they serve.

The United States is deeply committed to the WFP and its mission.  The United States will continue to provide assistance, while pressing forward with renewed urgency for long-term sustainable solutions, so that future droughts no longer lead to famine.

Congratulations to the WFP for the success of its first 50 years as the critical food life-line for the most vulnerable.  Let us all continue to strive for a world free from hunger and poverty, a world in which families can feed themselves, share their bounty, and fulfill their dreams.