Catherine Bertini served as Executive Director from 1992 to 2002. At the time of her appointment, Ms Bertini was the first American woman to head a UN organization. Re-appointed for a second five-year term in 1997, she oversaw WFP’s emergence as the world’s largest food aid organization. After taking up in April 1992, Ms Bertini ushered in a new era at WFP. Under her direction, the Agency moved away from simply providing food aid and instead, focused on women as the most effective means of ensuring fair food distribution. Bertini’s reasoning for the shift was simple but critical. In almost all poor society, it is women who grow, prepare and serve food to their families.
When food is provided as part of larger schemes to educate and train women, they are often able to lead their family out of poverty. Over 80 percent of WFP Country Offices now organise women into food aid committees to identify and help beneficiaries. In March 2000, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan named Bertini as his Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa. Her subsequent mission to the drought-hit region helped avert the risk of famine. Ms. Bertini stepped down at the beginning of April 2002 when her second term expired.