Speeches

Closing Remarks by the WFP Executive Director on the Occasion of the First Regular Session of the Executive Board, 2015

Delivered on: 10 February 2015

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Thank You, Mister President.

Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Colleagues.

We began this board with an intercessional update, providing a tour of challenges of current humanitarian need in this world.
I reported the stark realities about the challenges this organization faces in maintaining its capacity to respond to five L3 emergencies and six L2s, amongst many other operational concerns.

This was a difficult tour.

Except for, of course, the opportunity to applaud Pakistan for joining the top 20 donors.

As we said before, responding to this unprecedented challenge has become our new norm at WFP. Because the world demands more from WFP than ever before.

It demands more food.

It demands more logistics.

It demands more cash and vouchers.

It demands more common services.

And as Regional Director Chris Nikoi put it, now it demands us to deliver know-how and smarts as well.

This board session has been truly engaging. As we expected, you asked us the hard questions. But you did more than that. You acknowledged our strengths, raised those tough questions and—where you thought the compass required reset—you pointed us in the right direction.

Most importantly, you offered the guidance we need to keep responding. You asked us to continue our evolution into the organization this board demands, and this world requires. You reaffirmed this organization’s commitment not only to addressing the lifesaving and livelihood saving work of emergency response. And you also recognized the value of our efforts in countries like Zambia, Honduras and Indonesia, where we are working to help those governments, communities and families achieve the vision of Zero Hunger.

Yes, this has been a short board, but this compact agenda has been dense. Chocked full of the meat of the change we are working to deliver.

The robust and comprehensive Cash and Voucher Policy evaluation discussion gave this board an opportunity to review one of the most important programmatic transitions in this organization’s history. We heard you. And we recognize this journey from food aid to food assistance challenges WFP not just is able to deliver, but to provide the right intervention based on the circumstances in which we serve. And also to develop the agility to modify, or even change, the modality for delivery of our support—if and when the situation changes.

We hear you. More importantly, we hear our beneficiaries. It is not about what we think but what they need that we must deliver in every circumstance. Then we must monitor our impact and evaluate our effectiveness. We will continue to report to you, our board, as we build the system for delivery of that right intervention. A system not just for WFP—like other common services—but for the benefit of the broader humanitarian response community. And ultimately, building a system that we can actually hand over to governments. This is the vision we should be working towards, where governments themselves support the social protection needs of their communities in their countries.

We also spent a significant amount of time in a dynamic discussion regarding the Strategic Evaluation of WFP’s pilot Purchase for Progress Initiative. This discussion provided the opportunity to review an important and influential pilot programme

P4P, let me underline, is still a pilot program. It is a pilot programme that has been operating in many countries because there is so much interest in what we are doing to not just increase the yield of smallholder famers but also to provide the opportunity for sustainable and durable markets. But it’s a pilot, we’ve learned many lessons. We have made a number of mistakes and learned many lessons.

When management discusses mainstreaming, we recognize that every country programme will not include P4P. We know that WFP maintains strength in the upstream with our ability to provide a market catalyst. We have also learned, however, that WFP can bring value in our ability to use our food aid tools to help support farmers during harvest and post-harvest. We know this work is only successful in the downstream areas when performed in partnership with those—including FAO and IFAD as well as AGRA and governments—who have more operational strength and advantage.

P4P, cash and vouchers, school feeding and nutrition programmes are important tools in WFP’s arsenal. We must get better at designing plans that include the right plans for the communities we serve not just for the skills we have in-country. In this regard, we hear you and we are getting better every day. The upcoming P4P Annual Consultation will provide an opportunity to further outline what we have learned and to discuss, specifically, how we can best use that learning in the communities we serve. I encourage all delegations, who can, to attend this consultation.

This management team ends this board session with more clarity around your concerns as well as, I believe, more support for our work around these and other important issues. We also end this board session with a shared recognition and awareness of the constant, unrelenting demand of complex emergencies, which we must unfortunately support for more than the foreseeable future.

We can do it. Because, we—in WFP—have a strong culture of “doing” and “delivering,” whatever the cost. I am proud to work with this board because you support this culture of performance. But we must now recognize that the unprecedented level of response required by WFP is no longer extraordinary.

Unprecedented response is—in fact—now ordinary.

It is our new normal.

This management team also recognizes that we do not have the luxury of only supporting and attending to these emergency response and recovery activities. Management and our teams spend as much time on Syria and Ebola Special Operations as we do on Cash and Voucher platform development activities. As well as increasing our ability to deliver credible nutrition programmes that provide the right outcome.

This level of activity on both sides of the house, working at the pace required to deliver is—honestly and admittedly—taking a toll on people and our processes. My fear is that, without change, it will ultimately affect our ability to deliver if not supported appropriately.

As an example, in 2013, 2014—and now 2015—we have repeatedly asked our people to undertake not just one but multiple TDYs. In their home offices and countries, we have limited staff who can back fill, so those who stay behind are too often required to take on the additional work. We cannot expect our staff to perform to a point of burn-out. We know it. And I know this board is acutely concerned and aware of this issue.

With this board’s support, we must take steps to ensure that our continued response to immediate, short-term emergency needs does not trump our medium- and long-term priorities for our Zero Hunger goals.

Going forward, this means we must align our internal capacity-building for the increased requirements we are expected to perform. It also means we must continue to invest in the systems and processes which hamper our ability to respond, both efficiently and effectively. For example, we must speed-up investment in our ability to collect and manage data, essential for evidence-based decision-making and also our investments in mobile technology, such as mVAM, SCOPE and COMET systems. Because completing these systems ensures that we have the advantages that they provide to our performance and productivity in the field.

At the Annual Session, we will present the short-term priorities that we will focus on for the next two years—work that will help us meet our strategic goals as agreed by this board. Particularly, ensuring that we are performing and investing in the work required to save lives and livelihoods, while working and partnering in countries such as Zambia, Indonesia, India and Honduras—to achieve the outcomes that will make a longer term sustainable difference on the food security and nutrition situation of the most vulnerable. All the while, we must balance the support for our people as we move forward.

In April of 2012, when I first sat in this boardroom, you supported Fit for Purpose as a journey. Every journey requires you stop the car, wash the windshield, fill up the gas tank and even sometimes to take a different road to reach your destination. Our destination is a Zero Hunger world with a WFP equipped to not only make the journey but to help deliver those we serve to the destination.

Your continuous support is essential to ensuring our ability to appropriately prioritize our work, our focus and our investments along this journey.

We will keep delivering along the way.

We will continue communicating the challenges because it is only with your support that we can overcome the hurdles.

We will continue communicating what we deem as opportunities, because it is only with your support that we can capture the opportunities for the benefit of those we serve.

We will also continue communicating our successes, because it is only when we demonstrate our ability to credibly deliver that you continue supporting our work and the investments necessary for our journey.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. We can get there, but we will get there only with your support.

***

Before I close, if I can take a moment to acknowledge the passing of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the late King of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.

In 2008, Saudi Arabia, under King Abdullah's leadership, responded swiftly to the global food crisis by providing WFP with a $500 million contribution. It was the largest single donation we ever received. In fact, the largest any organization had received at the time.

The King was a true humanitarian leader, always on the side of the world's hungry poor. Last year, when we could not afford to support the people in Syria, the King helped us. Because, whenever we struggled to save lives, to save people and to feed people, we could always count on the King's generosity.

On behalf of WFP’s staff, and the millions of people he helped us serve around the world, allow me to once extend our deep condolences at the loss of a true hunger hero. We appreciate him very much.

***

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, as I close, let me note, Johnathon Swift once said:

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”

I believe, WFP can safely say, this board, our board—I am proud to say—is providing us with insight for our operations today, and while we address the vision that we can see and the others see is possible, the vision of a Zero Hunger tomorrow.

Thank You.

***

Before we close, Mister President.

In time-honored tradition, I would like to spend a few moments recognizing those staff who have or will soon retire from WFP.

I would like to start with senior staff Martin Ohlsen, Nicole Menage, Helmut Rauch, Bernard Chomilier, Pedro Figueiredo, Carlos Veloso, Francesco Zaccaria, and Heather Hill, who all retired from WFP.

I would also like to recognize the contribution of Alice Martin-Daihirou, Douglas Coutts and Bradley Guerrant. They are not here with us today, but I am sure you would like to join us in recognizing their contributions to WFP.

There is one person who is with us today. This is his last WFP Board meeting. I say that with a smile because the one thing I learned is that no one ever leaves WFP.

Today in this chamber, I recognize Ron Sibanda, whose sterling service with WFP will soon end. Ron, can you stand-up for a moment, so we can all see you.

Ron is our Country Director in Kenya today. We thank you Ron, as one of the wise men of WFP. You always answered the call for service. Even in your last few months, you readily took the call to lead a country operation for one of the most innovative and challenging responses ever required of WFP. You helped us support our Ebola response. We know you will come back to us. But in the meantime, let me thank you for your formal career in WFP.

To all those who have retired, or who will retire, on behalf of the management, this organization thanks you for your commitment and lifetime of service.