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World Food Program Executive Board Annual Session – U.S. Opening Statement by Chargé d’Affaires Rodney Hunter
June 26, 2023

Thank you, Mr. President.  The United States is happy to participate in this first meeting of the Board under the leadership of Executive Director Cindy McCain.  Executive Director McCain, you can count on the full support of the United States, now and throughout your tenure.  We are thrilled to see you in this role.

We also take this opportunity to welcome Her Majesty Queen Maxima and look forward to our discussion.

Colleagues, as we begin our work this week, we extend our deepest sympathies to the families and colleagues of those who lost their lives in the violence in Sudan and the earthquake in Türkiye.  We are humbled by the sacrifices made by these courageous individuals, who worked tirelessly to ensure that food and aid reached those most in need.

We also remain horrified by the ongoing consequences of Putin’s unprovoked and illegal war against Ukraine.  While investigations on the destruction of Kakhovka Dam are still underway, it bears repeating that this latest humanitarian crisis, agricultural crisis, energy crisis, environmental crisis, and unnecessary nuclear risk would not even exist had Russia not launched and continued to conduct its brutal, unconscionable, unprovoked war against Ukraine.

Russia must stop the war, now.  Russia must stop its destruction of Ukraine’s agriculture sector.  Food should not be used as a weapon of war, and Putin is doing exactly that.  We call on Russia to fully implement and expand the Black Sea Grain Initiative which has been critical in getting food out of the region to those who need it most.  We stand solidly with the Ukrainian people and will continue to do so.  Russia must stop this pointless aggression and return to the principles of the UN charter.

Colleagues, as we turn our attention to the upcoming work of this meeting, we are faced with the sobering reality that the gap between available resources and global humanitarian needs continues to grow, as the Executive Director made clear in her remarks earlier.  Against this backdrop, the United States expects WFP to prioritize humanitarian assistance for those who are most vulnerable.  It is imperative that WFP’s approach is grounded in rigorous, evidence-based targeting and followed up with strong monitoring processes to ensure equitable and transparent food assistance distribution.

Since we last met in February, we note with grave concern the discovery of large-scale, coordinated food diversion in Ethiopia, the largest of its kind in history.  While the United States appreciates WFP’s continued collaboration in investigating the incident, we call on WFP to devote additional resources to strengthen program monitoring and oversight across its global operations to ensure WFP assistance always reaches its intended recipients.

The United States also wants to commend Executive Director McCain’s commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment by ensuring WFP’s food assistance programs address the unique needs of women and girls.  Food assistance programming must be safe, accessible, and inherently protective for those most in need.   We are encouraged that the Executive Director has agreed to be the next Interagency Standing Committee Champion for Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, which will help ensure continued, tangible progress for vulnerable populations.

Colleagues, the United States reaffirms our strong commitment to WFP’s mission of ending global hunger, malnutrition, and poverty, and we commend the dedication and hard work of the WFP staff who have saved millions of lives.  We recognize the immense challenges that lie ahead but are confident that, by working together, we can achieve our shared goals.  Let us honor the memory of those who have given their lives in service of this cause by redoubling our efforts to achieve the goal of zero hunger.

Thank you, Mr. President.