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United States Opening Statement at the February 2021 WFP Executive Board given by
Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Jennifer Harhigh
February 22, 2021




Rome, February 22, 2021

Thank you Mr. President and Executive Director for your thoughtful remarks and comprehensive presentations.    

The U.S. Government remains committed to our strong partnership with WFP.   The Biden Administration looks forward to continuing–and strengthening–the long tradition of close collaboration with WFP to meet the needs of the world’s most vulnerable populations.   

Before I continue, I wanted to offer a warm welcome to Ambassador Luis Fernando Carranza Cifuentes as the new President of the Executive Board and to express the deep appreciation of the U.S. Mission to outgoing President Ambassador Ulrich Seidenberger for his leadership and to our fellow outgoing Bureau members for their dedication to the work of WFP.    

The Biden Administration is firmly committed to both multilateralism and humanitarianism, and brings a renewed focus on issues core to WFP’s work. This  includes working with our friends and partners around the world to address climate change, which has a direct impact on food security.  We will continue to promote resilience in the face of climate-related hazards.  Our government also is committed to advancing gender equity and will continue to engage with WFP to promote diversity, social equity, and inclusion across our work and throughout WFP’s policies and procedures. 

In that spirit, we encourage WFP to continue building momentum to improve WFP’s workplace culture. The delay of the adoption of the People Policy, although disappointing, should not deter WFP from carrying out activities under the Comprehensive Action Plan or continuing to pursue improvements in human resource management and workforce planning.  Moving forward, we recommend that WFP quantify and communicate to the Executive Board early in the process when there are budgetary impacts for policies and strategies. The United States stands by to assist with efforts to finalize and launch the People Policy. 

The United States recognizes 2020 was a challenging year for humanitarian assistance, as we saw the number of people in need of emergency food and nutrition assistance increase at an alarmingly fast rate.   

The United States continues to appreciate WFP’s robust response to these increased needs, particularly its ability to adapt to changing contexts and new beneficiary populations. 

The United States is concerned about the alarming rise in projected food insecurity and beneficiary numbers in 2021, driven by worsening conflict as well as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The situations in South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Yemen are of particular concern, and the United States remains committed to working with WFP and other international actors to promote principled, humanitarian access.  

We look forward over the course of the next several days to discussing the details of these projected needs as well as WFP’s efforts to expand the donor base, including through engaging the private sector and partnerships with International Financial Institutions.

Oversight, accountability, and transparency are core priorities for the United States, and we expect to see continued prioritization of these issues in the coming year.  We welcome and strongly support the institution of the recent Management Assurance Project to ensure minimum controls are being met across WFP, as well as the Bottom Up Strategic Budget Exercise to ensure that funding is strategically meeting WFP’s core priorities.  Particularly in a year where needs will continue to outpace resources, the United States looks forward to working with WFP to ensure that core funding is prioritized for those areas that are critical to WFP’s efficiency and effectiveness – including monitoring, NGO management, beneficiary management, and internal controls.  We hope to see WFP’s commitment to transparency and accountability continue in 2021.  

Finally, I want to end by expressing sincere thanks to Kiko Harvey, who was instrumental in strengthening the capacity of WFP’s Office of Inspector General during her tenure.  Ms. Harvey’s emphasis on transparency, accountability and open communication were greatly valued and appreciated by the United States.   

Kiko’s replacement will have very big shoes to fill.  We look forward to the process by which WFP will identify a candidate of the same caliber.  In the interim, we have full confidence in Anita Hirsch and look forward to working with her during the transition period.   

Let me end by reiterating the U.S. commitment to the work that we are all engaged in here to improve the lives of the millions of people WFP reaches every year.  We look forward to the discussions this week.  

Thank you.