Closing Remarks by Executive Director Ms. Ertharin Cousin on the Occasion of the Second Regular Session of the WFP Executive Board

Delivered on: 08 November 2013


Your Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, I must begin by informing the Board that today we are closely tracking tropical cyclone HAIYAN, which has reached category five status.  The storm is expected to be destructive and to impact the lives of millions in the Philippines.  In response, the government has already begun widespread preparedness measures, including mass evacuations and the distribution of emergency relief.  I echo the words of the Philippines Ambassador from our opening session, and I assure him that WFP will support the Philippines.  WFP’s Country Office is already preparing itself to respond, should the Government of the Philippines  and its people require any assistance during this difficult time.  This tropical cyclone is another example of the ever present and growing challenges that we face. 


Your Excellencies, in my opening remarks, I presented our main areas of concern from both an immediate operational perspective and from a longer-term one.  These included:

  • the threats against humanitarian access;
  • the urgent needs in emergency operations;
  • the need for standalone goal on food security and nutrition;
  • WFP’s participation in system-wide reform efforts;
  • the invigorated approach to partnerships;
  • our revised policies; and
  • our Strategic Results Framework and Management Plan.

During these four days, which were filled with many detailed discussions, we have successfully covered many issues.  You provided strong guidance to the both the management and staff of WFP.  This Executive Board is a model from which others might learn.  We were inspired by your commitment to reaching consensus on decisions.  As our governing body, we recognize that disagreement, probing questions and robust dialogue will, should and must occur.  But disagreement without being disagreeable is the spirit in which we work together.  This week, the management team was genuinely inspired when at first decisions could not be agreed, this did not create a split board, but rather it energized the members to discuss and find the common ground that all could endorse.  We take heart from this, and we feel that there is a sense of community and shared vision running through all of our veins.  WFP’s management team will strive to reciprocate that same spirit and energy, as we—with support from and on behalf of this membership—serve those who need us most: the poor; the hungry and the vulnerable.  We are truly grateful for this Board’s commitment and active support.


Excellencies, during this week’s discussion, we have appreciated and understood your concerns and expectations—from your approval of the new Strategic Results Framework and Management Plan, to the endorsement of revised policies, the approval of new project documents.  We also acknowledge our role, as a management team, in meeting these expectations.  There are five areas that we, as the leadership team, would like to highlight from these discussions:


First, we thank the Board for its endorsement of the Management Plan.  You have approved a Programme Support and Administrative (PSA) budget that we believe will continue to cement the achievement of a Fit for Purpose WFP.  We have also listened carefully to your guidance.  You have asked that in future we document the savings and quantify the efficiencies that we are delivering.  We have heard you and we will deliver.  We will present these to you in future Management Plans and Annual Performance Reports.  We recognize that we must give life to the term “return on investment,” by communicating clearly with you and holding ourselves to account.


Second, you have asked that we continue to focus on our strengths.  A number of members have raised concerns about the growing gap between the needs and the actual resources of the organization.

With regard to the needs, we will ensure that operational requirements are rigorously reviewed and fully aligned with the food-assistance activities that are mandated by the Strategic Plan.  As an organization committed to assist all of the most vulnerable people within our reach, we recognize that our ability to do so is entirely dependent on mobilizing the requisite voluntary contributions.   WFP management will therefore work to expand our donor base and explore reasonable, achievable innovative financing tools.  We must act with a sense of urgency.  We need your ideas, your support and of course your continuous assistance.


Third, WFP’s management team will benefit from your many constructive and useful suggestions regarding the Strategic Results Framework.  In approving the Strategic Results Framework (SRF), you have asked for better articulation of WFP’s quantified results, and that we continue to develop and embed the WFP “Results Culture” with a strengthened monitoring, reporting and performance management system—across the entire organization.  The SRF, together with the Management Results framework (MRF), are key tools that we will deploy to effectively set WFP’s new performance and accountability standards.


In doing this, we remind ourselves that WFP has always been results focused.  We must, however, also develop our ability to communicate the results that we achieve.  This includes our ability to tell both the quantitative and the qualitative story.  By demonstrating our outcomes at project and programme levels, we know that we can support you—Executive Board members accountable to your citizens—to demonstrate the value of your investments in WFP.  By doing this, we are able to prove the positive results for the people we serve.  We must perform this work together, with your open endorsement and support.  We must communicate our successful results—as well as our challenges—so that we can build the global public will that is needed for sufficient, sustained investment to eliminate hunger.


Fourth, we acknowledge your request for a greater focus on the equity and gender agenda.  We are working to revitalize our approach.  Some progress has been made, in terms of gender mainstreaming, but we know that WFP must move beyond diverse programs with varied degrees of commitment to gender programs designed for greater transformative impact.  When designing and implementing programs, we must ensure that no one is left behind.  Our Fit for Purpose strategy has given greater priority to gender.  In our next three board sessions, we will discuss this issue.  Our goal is to ensure that equity becomes part of WFP’s DNA.     


Fifth and finally, on behalf of all the staff of WFP and the management team, I would like to thank you, the Executive Board, for acknowledging our commitment to humanitarian principles and for expressing your solidarity with WFP staff.  We know that today many humanitarians are risking their lives to provide assistance in the face of increasing threats.  To support our staff, we will continue to invest in their overall development and well-being.  Because, a Fit for Purpose organization includes taking care of our people at every level, wherever they work, and particularly those working in the most dangerous locations.


Before I conclude, allow me to also to recognize our long-serving staff, who retired and separated from the organization.  Please join me in wishing these dedicated women and men the best for the next step in their lives.


Ladies and gentlemen, my opening remarks concluded with an African proverb.  In that same spirit, I conclude today with words from Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Inc., who gave us new tools which are changing our world he said:

 “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes, the ones who see things differently.  They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo.  You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.  About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them, because they change things, they push the human race forward.  And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.  Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do it.”

Excellencies, let us proudly be the crazy ones, the ambitious ones, the ones who see beyond the limits of today, who capture the opportunities, who find the resources that will build a better tomorrow, not for ourselves, but for those depending upon us to get it right, to make it happen, to deliver on the vision of a hunger free world.  Yes, we must be action focused, deliver on our promises and take the necessary steps to create real results on-the-ground.  And, we must be accountable to both you—our board—and ultimately to the people that we serve.

Thank you for providing your counsel, guidance and support to the proudly crazy and ambitious management and staff of WFP.