WFP at the UN General Assembly: Highlights

WFP’s Executive Director Ertharin Cousin is in New York this week, taking part in a range of hunger-related events in and around the UN General Assembly. Here are the day-by-day highlights:

Thursday, 26 September

The U.N. General Assembly continued its annual gathering on Thursday, and the World Food Programme was there to keep the issue of global hunger on the forefront of discussions. Among WFP’s activities this day:

  • Executive Director Ertharin Cousin participated in a meeting on African Risk Capacity, an innovative insurance plan for disaster preparedness in African countries.
  • Cousin, Assistant Executive Director Elisabeth Rasmusson, and New York Office Head Thomas Yanga participated in a High Level Meeting on the Sahel, co-chaired by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
  • Cousin, Rasmusson, and Mideast Regional Emergency Coordinator Muhannad Hadi participated in various private meetings with representatives of donor countries and other agencies for humanitarian advocacy and effectiveness.
  • The third anniversary celebration of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves was held, with a keynote speech by former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. WFP is a key member of the Global Alliance, and WFP staff attended the anniversary reception.
  • Hadi was interviewed about the humanitarian crisis in Syria on the Al-Jazeera TV program Ma Wara al-Khabr (Behind the News in English).


Wednesday, 25 September

As the U.N. General Assembly continued its annual gathering, the World Food Programme used the opportunity to discuss the challenges, advances and risks of fighting food insecurity with the larger humanitarian community. Among WFP's activities this day:

Digital Food

Ertharin Cousin speaking into a microphoneWatch Ertharin Cousin explain what we mean by 'digital food' in this video posted on Mastercard's Morning Brewblog. Watch video

Digital food was one of the issues discussed at the Social Good Summit held at UNGA on 24 Sept. (see below)

  • Executive Director Ertharin Cousin participated in an Informal Ministerial Consultation on the Humanitarian Situation in Syria and Neighboring Countries, co-chaired by the European Union and Jordan.
  • Associate Executive Director Elisabeth Rasmusson and New York Office Head Thomas Yanga participated in a ministerial meeting on humanitarian challenges in the Central African Republic. The event sought to raise the international profile of CAR’s humanitarian crisis, which was characterised by US Ambassador Samantha Power as “the worst crisis people have never heard of,” and to seek sustained engagement in its resolution by all relevant parties. It featured OCHA's Valerie Amos, ECHO's Kristalina Georgieva, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and CAR Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye.  
  • Yanga was also a speaker at a special meeting on the Millenium Development Goals. He highlighted the need to stay focused on eradicating hunger and undernutrition, while embracing transformational ideas and embracing science and technology. He said we must find the necessary political will and approach our work with both a short-term and a long-term perspective -- we must enhance the capacity of national governments to respond to crisis situations.
  • WFP Director of Nutrition Martin Bloem represented WFP at a special forum of the global "Every Woman, Every Child" partnership to spur improvement in women's and children's health.
  • Rasmusson spoke about opportunities for new partnerships in Africa at a forum on African Humanitarian Champions: The Face of African Humanitarian Partnerships. “Both in research and in implementation, partnershipsamong international organizations, regional institutions, governments and communities can help us to build the world and the Africa that we want," she told attendees.
  • Cousin, Rasmussion and Mideast Regional Emergency Coordinator Muhannad Hadi held various private meetings with representatives of donor countries and other agencies to fuel even greater effectiveness.
  • Continuing her media advocacy for WFP, Cousin was interviewed on camera about Syria by Al-Jazeera television, and, separately, by Xinhua News Agency, the official news service of China, about achieving the MDGs, the post-2015 sustainable agenda, and Cousin's recent trip to Syria.  


Tuesday, 24 September

The U.N. General Assembly convened on 24 September, and the World Food Programme was there to keep the hunger issue on world leaders' radar.

Among our key activities on UNGA's first day:

  • Executive Director Ertharin Cousin and Associate Executive Director Elisabeth Rasmusson attended the opening session, ensuring WFP's participation in the U.N. process.
  • Cousin and Mideast Regional Emergency Coordinator Muhannad Hadi participated in a discussion convened by UK's DFID on operational issues and gaps in assistance for Syria.
  • Ertharin Cousin talking with Elizabeth Rasmusson and Lauren Bush LaurenCousin participated in a panel discussion at the Social Good Summit about innovation. She was joined by Lauren Bush Lauren, who is marketing a line of bags, clothing and accessories to help fight hunger and malnutrition, and by MasterCard's Gary Flood. MasterCard is using its financial services expertise to help WFP provide "digital food," using cash and voucher delivery systems. To meet the UN's Zero Hunger goal, Cousin said we must "not only feed stomachs but begin to build resilience . . . and we can't do that without innovation."
  • Rasmusson spoke at a special event on "China on the World Stage."
  • WFP co-hosted a special reception honoring leaders in nutrition with partners DSM and World Vision, where Cousin told guests that "partnerships are important -- partnerships matter," and declared, "Let's get it right until we get it done!" The Sight and Life Nutrition Leadership Award was presented to Bob Black, professor of international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Attendees also celebrated the successes of Tanzania, which has reduced its child morality by two-thirds in 20 years.
  • Cousin, Rasmusson and Hadi held numerous private meetings with representatives of donor countries, talking about WFP's work and ongoing financial needs.
  • Cousin spoke about our issues with various media to help the public understand the importance of supporting anti-hunger activities in the developing world. These activities included a briefing for more than 20 journalists from major international outlets convened by the UN Foundation. Cousin spoke with them about Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Niger, Syria and more. She also talked about coordinating activities among the UN agencies. "A child who receives water instead of food, or food but not medicine when they need medicine -- we're not meeting their needs. They need the entire package."  


Monday, 23 September

Even before the U.N. General Assembly formally convened on 24 September, WFP was engaged in helping to keep hunger at the forefront of this annual gathering of world leaders.

Hunger and food security are critical issues that shape many other U.N. priorities, and the many related events and discussions on the eve of UNGA provided an opportunity to underline the urgency of WFP's work in seriously food-insecure areas. While discussions will focus on all parts of the globe, much of the debate in the lead-up to UNGA naturally have been about Syria, including efforts to secure access to areas closed off due to conflict.

ED with AP reporter Edie LedererAmong the actions taken by WFP in the day or so before UNGA opened:

  • Executive Director Ertharin Cousin served as a judge at the prestigious Hult Prize competition, which awards US$1 million in seed money to an exceptional business concept for solving a global development problem. The competition is organized by the Clinton Global Initiative.
  • Cousin took part in a "high-level" meeting hosted by the Secretary-General on "Millenium Development Goals: Momentum Toward 2015 and Beyond"
  • Cousin participated in a roundtable discussion on nutrition co-chaired by Ghana's former President John Kufuor and Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
  • Cousin spoke at a special forum on protecting children in humanitarian emergencies and conflicts
  • Associate Executive Director Elisabeth Rasmusson spoke at a UN Inter-Agency Meeting on "Inclusive Finance for Development"
  • Cousin and Rasmusson met privately with representatives of several countries that support WFP's work, to report on goals achieved and discuss future need.

(Photos in text: 24 Sept - Ertharin Cousin, Elisabeth Rasmusson and Lauren Bush Lauren at #2030Now, the Social Good Summit organized by tech and social media news website Mashable (Copyright: WFP/Cindy Kremer); 23 Sept - Ertharin Cousin being interviewed by AP's veteran UN reporter Edie Lederer on the Syria crisis (copyright WFP/Steve Taravella)