Opening Remarks by Ertharin Cousin at the WFP Executive Board First Regular Session of 2013

Delivered on: 18 February 2013


This year promises to be another busy but productive year.  Persisting global hunger and malnutrition require our collective, earnest and best efforts here in Rome and most importantly at country level. 

We will continue the progress we began last year, building upon the early gains we achieved with the launch of our Fit for Purpose exercise, continuing our drive to ensure WFP at every level is meeting the complex and ever changing challenges ahead.

I wish to extend a warm welcome to high-level guests who have traveled from capitals to join this First Regular Board Session of 2013:

·         From Germany, Director General Ms Ursula Müller of the Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, and representation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, both present with us at this level for the first time.  Thank you very much for your presence here today;

·         From Niger, Mr El-Hadji Ibrahim Adamou, Director-General of Planning and Development;

·         From Mauritania, His Excellency Mohamde Ould Mouhamedou, Commissioner of Food Security;

·         From Spain, Mr Francisco Quesada Benavente, Cabinet of the Secretary General of International Cooperation; and

·         From the European Union, Ms Florika Fink-Hooijer, Director of the Directorate of General Humanitarian and Civil Protection (ECHO).

Thank you all, and to all our guests welcome to WFP.

Before I begin, I would ask the members of the Board to please recall that when I met with each of the Lists over recent weeks I promised a detailed stocktaking of our organizational strengthening exercise at the Annual Session in June. 

Today, however, I would like to provide an overview of a few of our achievements, particularly management changes to date.

While our management approach starts with people, we also need to provide staff with the organizational structure and support to work most effectively.  I am proud of the many people who committed long hours to ensure on-time delivery of our more fit for purpose management structure that went into effect on the first of this month, as scheduled.  To the Executive Board members who supported us throughout this process, I say thank you for believing that change was both possible and necessary.  WFP is moving forward.

I am pleased that two new executive leaders of that forward movement have been appointed:

·         Assistant Executive Director for Resource Management and Accountability, Mr Manoj Juneja of India, who joined on 1 January on an inter-agency transfer from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); and

·         Assistant Executive Director for Partnership and Governance Services, Ms Elisabeth Rasmusson of Norway, whose appointment I announced only last week, and who comes to WFP following her exemplary service as Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).  Elisabeth will join us on 15 April. 

I would also ask you to join me in welcoming Ms Prerana Issar of India, as the new Director of Human Resources. Prerana comes to us after a distinguished global human resources career with Unilever.  Prerana began her WFP career last week.

And welcome to our new Director of Communications, Mr Jean-Philippe Chauzy of France.  Jean-Philippe comes to us from the International Organization for Migration where he is communications director.  Jean-Philippe will begin his WFP career on 11 March.

Finally, under Agenda Item 5, I seek your approval for the appointment of Mr David Johnson of the United Kingdom as Inspector General and Director of the Oversight Office, replacing Suresh Sharma who will retire effective 31 March.  David is currently Head of Internal Audit and Counter-Fraud at the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

WFP welcomes new faces and new ideas in building a more globally engaged and fit for purpose organization.  Our ranks are made both stronger and smarter through the rich and myriad experience these leaders bring to WFP.

Shifting the center of gravity from headquarters to the field requires having the right leaders in place, particularly at field and regional level.

Shortly after the last Executive Board session, we held our annual Global Management Meeting.  This was my first opportunity to meet in person the entire global leadership team, including our country-level leaders, to listen to their feedback directed to me and the Executive Management Group, and to begin together forging a culture of shared responsibility and commitment.  Our leadership group made a host of commitments that I can share with you now.

To strengthen programme implementation we committed to:

1.      Instituting a revamped country director training programme;

2.      Developing “fact sheets” on key aspects of WFP strategy and the shift to food assistance, helping our leaders at country-level explain what it means to move from food aid to food assistance;

3.      Restoring capacity strengthening as a unit within the Policy, Programme and Innovation Division; and

4.      Pursuing resources to strengthen strategic programme design and to seed innovative action at country and regional levels.

To make WFP a partner of choice for governments and others we committed together to:

1.      Proactively and systematically engage in partnerships at every level of this organization;

2.      Exploring new actors and models of partnership;

3.      Looking beyond the costs of partnerships to end results that will better service beneficiaries; and most importantly,

4.      Adhering at every level to good partnership principles.

And because people are at the center of all our moving forward activities, we committed to:

1.      Communicating better with our staff;

2.      Emphasizing the culture and values of WFP; and

3.      Creating, supporting and maintaining an accountability regime in our offices at every level, including completing individual performance reviews that support career development for our staff, particularly our junior staff.

These commitments are built upon the work we’ve already begun in this organization.  At every level we are moving in the right direction.

At our November Board meeting I told you about our Global Staff Survey.  This survey, which was carried out late last year, will help us understand what staff think about their work and WFP.  The survey will help us identify any areas we need to address and those issues we need to act on that will serve as benchmarks against which we can measure progress.

The overall impression I have learned is that pride for the work we do for the people we serve runs wide and deep in this organization.

That impression is backed by the survey results which found that 85 percent of our staff said they are proud to work for WFP, with majorities favorably rating WFP for clarity of purpose, understanding of roles, objectives, teamwork, and effectiveness of line managers.  However, as in every organization, there are areas where we need to do better, including providing opportunities for career growth, and equality and empowerment for women staff members.  We are taking this feedback seriously as we move forward with WFP’s commitment to a people-centered leadership approach and culture.

In addition to people-centered leadership, you will note in every address since my first address to this Board I have underlined management’s full commitment at all levels to moving forward together in partnership.  I now want to share with you five examples of this commitment.

The first example is working together in protracted refugee situations.

At this session we have for Executive Board consideration a series of joint UNHCR-WFP impact evaluations, Item 6 on the Agenda.  These joint evaluations examine in depth the complex challenge of breaking the cycles of dependency and despair in protracted refugee situations by combining the expertise of the two United Nations agencies with leading operational experience in these environments. 

WFP and UNHCR are committed to working together to identify and develop resilience strategies for populations affected by crises, including host populations and long-standing refugee groups in protracted situations which are becoming more challenging to sustain.  This high-level dialogue demonstrates we are working to do this better; to design and deliver durable, resilience-building food assistance adapted to the particular needs of vulnerable populations in protracted situations.

The second example of United Nations agencies heeding the call to move together in partnership comes from the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR).  Earlier this month, I participated in the Joint Meeting of the Executive Boards held in New York to discuss operationalizing the 2012 QCPR.

As I remarked at that meeting, new global challenges demand a more efficient United Nations that provides value-added services.  This means that WFP and the other United Nations agencies must respond:

·         First, to the growing demand for country-led development, particularly supporting and encouraging South-South and triangular cooperation;

·         Second, to the proliferation of new institutional actors, including from the private sector, through new multi-sector partnership building and leadership;

·         Third, to the increasing number and intensity of natural mega-disasters, conflicts and the state-building process in many post-crisis situations, which leaves millions vulnerable to economic or environmental shocks; and

·         Fourth, the United Nations must present ever more cost-effective and efficient programmes.

How is WFP specifically responding to these challenges?

·         First, by leveraging the Centre of Excellence against Hunger in Brazil, we have been advancing South-South and triangular cooperation to strengthen the capacity of communities and countries to organize and operate sustainable national school feeding programs as part of broader national frameworks;

·         Second, by joining with FAO and IFAD, we are developing the “Agenda for Action” to address food insecurity in protracted crises by analysing the linkages between food security and fragility to help determine the types of investments which countries should consider as a part of their national plans; and

·         Finally, by facilitating United Nations system-wide cooperation with the Department of Field Support (DFS), we have developed a Memorandum of Understanding covering areas such as shared services, common premises, ICT, as well as aviation and logistics services.

Of course, none of these activities means anything unless they drive measurable and quantifiable results.  Business as usual is not good enough.  Together we must focus on systems and frameworks that strengthen our ability to achieve value for money and work towards a second generation of Delivering as One that is geared towards results and accountability.

A third example of WFP partnership is the African Risk Capacity, known as ARC. 

In July 2012 the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government decided to establish ARC as a specialized agency of the African Union, providing its Member States with cost-effective contingency funding that will support food security responses after severe natural disasters.  Since June 2011, as the Board is aware, WFP has been providing the African Union Commission with managerial and technical services to support this strategic venture for food security in Africa.  The ARC treaty has entered into force provisionally upon signature by 22 countries and the ARC Agency’s first Conference of the Parties will be hosted by the Government of Senegal next week.

The Conference will next elect the Agency’s Governing Board, decide an interim regulatory regime for its financial affiliate – a mutual insurance company to be established by the Member States – and appoint an interim Director-General.

As part of our commitment to working together, WFP has offered to continue our support for ARC by providing administrative and technical services for this new specialized agency, including if asked, administering the position of Acting Director-General, until the organization can stand fully on its own feet.  We are grateful for the trust and confidence the African Union has placed in WFP in this strategic partnership and I will keep the Board fully apprised of our work with the AU and the new ARC Agency.

A fourth partnership example comes from our own neighborhood with IFAD, FAO and WFP – the three Rome-based United Nations agencies – working together on agricultural development and tackling hunger. 

FAO recently hosted the Annual Consultation of Purchase for Progress (P4P), our pilot initiative to leverage WFP purchasing power.  FAO provided technical assistance to P4P and IFAD has provided financial expertise which helps us connect smallholder farmers to markets through improved access to technical know-how, inputs, tools and credits. 

Now entering its fifth year, P4P has contracted 300,000 metric tons from smallholder farmers, commodities valued at US$115 million.  In addition to what farmers sell to WFP we know they are also selling to buyers beyond WFP because of the work of P4P.  This would not have been possible without the collaboration and support of many partners, including 814 farmers’ organizations with a total membership of over one million people.

In another example of collaboration, last Thursday at the IFAD Governing Council, the three agencies hosted our first “Award of Excellence for Working Together in Partnerships” which is designed to incentivize innovation and collaboration among our country teams.  Eleven geographically diverse countries were nominated and the Mozambique Country Team stood out with distinction and received the award.  I encouraged every country team nominated for this year’s award to keep striving for excellence in working together and return next year to share their continuing stories of exemplary collaboration.

We look forward to seeing nominations from other countries.  We three agencies recognize that we must “walk the talk” of working together.  We are committed to celebrating the collaborative activities of our teams on an annual basis.

In this same spirit, on 8 March the Rome-based United Nations agencies will join together here at WFP, and for the first time the International Development Law Organization – also sited here in Rome – will join us in observing International Women’s Day.  In this event, we will place the spotlight on the persistence of violence against women in countries across the world, and how violation of women’s human rights both restricts and undermines economic growth, food security, and opportunities for sustainable agriculture production. 

This event promises to be both thought provoking and inspirational.  I hope all of you will join us. 

The fifth and final example of WFP working together in partnership is our renewed commitment with UNESCO and UNICEF linking improved nutrition with better education. 

This commitment was celebrated at the World Economic Forum last month where UNESCO, UNICEF and WFP joined with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, government representatives, NGOs, and CEOs of leading companies – including WFP nutrition partners DSM and Unilever – in launching this new collaboration, aptly named Nourishing Bodies, Nourishing Minds

This three-year pilot focuses on jointly targeting, monitoring and evaluating our performance in supporting children in Haiti, Mozambique, Niger and Pakistan with the nutrition and the educational infrastructure they need to arrive at school fit for learning and to stay in school, successfully attaining measurable education and nutrition outcomes. 

Nourishing Bodies, Nourishing Minds will go beyond anecdotal evidence, gathering and analyzing quantitative data in the four countries and applying it toward the design of scalable models to raise educational opportunities for children everywhere.

Working together to make WFP better means nothing – whether through our people or our partnerships – unless it all comes together to ensure we can meet the emergency food security needs of those depending upon us around the world.

Right now, we are facing a most serious challenge in Syria, where WFP is assisting 1.5 million people and working to phase up our response to 2.5 million people before the end of April. 

Yet the reality is that we are operating in a conflict zone and there are serious challenges to our ability to deliver.  We have appealed to both the Government and the opposition sides to create the essential humanitarian space that will enable WFP and our partners to reach everyone in Syria who needs our help.

We also want to thank the Governments of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey for their solidarity and support in assisting the up to one million Syrian refugees who have crossed international borders in search of safety. Working with these governments and partners WFP is feeding, through either food or vouchers, over 320,000 Syrian refugees.

But the global community cannot prioritize one hungry child over another. 

So, at Wednesday’s High-level Event on the Sahel we will review the 2012 Sahel response and draw on lessons learned, informing the way forward to building resilience in the region.  Last year’s event clearly framed the issues:  persistently high levels of malnutrition and chronic vulnerability in the face of a potential famine.  Now, one year on, a lesson being relayed from WFP offices and partners in the field is that resilience building has made an impact.  We avoided a crisis in the Sahel. 

What lessons did we learn and how do do we move forward building upon those lessons learned, particularly when complicated by the evolving conflict in northern Mali and other parts of the region?  As the President of Niger said to me, “In Niger, food security is security.”

We look forward to Wednesday’s discussions and we hope all of you will join us at this event.

I often tell my team that our credibility as an organization is directly related to our performance in the field.  We recognize that we must provide all our contributors with value for money.  As of 3 February we had confirmed contributions of US$533 million toward our 2013 requirements.  This number is 39 percent above where we stood at the same time in 2012.

These contributions have allowed WFP to respond more effectively to urgent crises, including the Sahel and South Sudan, as well as Syria.  Early contributions are essential to avoid pipeline breaks in many of WFP’s most critical emergency programs.  We thank you for this demonstration of your confidence.  However, we recognize that if we are to retain this accelerated pace and avert shortfalls, we will need additional support beyond our current year-end projections.

This year’s good start follows a landmark reversal in 2012 of the downward trend witnessed in recent years, with confirmed contributions of US$3.95 billion.  This was our highest contribution level since 2009.

I also want to express our appreciation to donors making multilateral, multi-year commitments.  Multi-year contributions in 2012 reached a record high of US$386 million. These multilateral and multi-year contributions bring essential flexibility and predictability that helps WFP reduce risks, plan ahead, and do better for the people we serve. 

Before we move on from funding, I want to underscore the success of WFP’s multi-sourced contributions, commonly referred to as “twinning”.  Twinning allows WFP to match cash with in-kind contributions from host governments and emerging donors.  In 2012, twinning arrangements reached a total value of US$273 million, another record high.  At your request, later this year, we will hold an informal consultation with members to review what we are learning from twinning arrangements, and to discuss future improvements for this promising funding instrument.

In closing, I want to share with you three very current examples of how WFP is aiming to become not only stronger as an organization, but also faster and smarter.  These emerging tools illustrate how we are right now equipping our operations with technologies to maintain WFP’s leading status as a partner of choice in a complex and changing world.

In Liberia and Sierra Leone we are now running our new SAP-enabled Logistics Execution Support System (LESS).  LESS has empowered these two WFP country offices, their remote sub-offices and warehouses, with real-time supply chain management and commodity reporting capabilities. 

Liberia and Sierra Leone – two post-conflict countries – not the simplest places to deploy high-tech solutions reaching far beyond capitals.  Nonetheless, they are leading the way to full oversight and integration of a humanitarian supply chain connecting donors, humanitarian actors and beneficiaries. 

LESS accurately accounts for every kilogram of food; it records supply chain transactions all the way to the beneficiaries’ own neighborhoods.  Extending this powerful capability throughout WFP will dramatically boost our efficiency and accountability.

Our next step is to deliver efficiency enhancing technology with appropriate food assistance directly into beneficiary’s hands.  Here too, we are not waiting for tomorrow to get things started.

During my recent visits with Syrian refugees in Turkey, I have personally witnessed beneficiaries purchasing food at local shops using electronic cash transferred to them from WFP via the Turkish Red Crescent Society’s Kizilay Visa Card.  Through WFP’s partnership with Mastercard, similar services will soon be operating in Lebanon and other countries.

But we aim to take it one step further.  We need to link the entire distribution chain.

This is being achieved in Pakistan where a Beneficiary Feedback Desk first deployed in 2010 has matured to become far more than a dedicated hotline.  It has evolved into a system with multiple entry points to receive feedback on food assistance services from beneficiaries by phone, e-mail, postal services, or even by talking directly to a WFP staff member.  The system is connected to Transparency International’s feedback system to secure wider coverage.  It is run by dedicated WFP Pakistan staff responsible for system management, analysis and follow-up action. 

We are working to have a similar system set up and running in Syria within the coming days, giving Syrian beneficiaries an ability to tell us directly if and when they are receiving WFP food assistance.

WFP seeks out and builds new solutions with partners because we believe that ending hunger is urgent business. Smart solutions bring us ever closer to ending hunger and chronic malnutrition. 

As I mentioned to staff on my first day, WFP is an organization of doers. So, we say, as we always have: “Let us just get it done.”

There is much to do, and I, along with every member of my team, look forward to working with you this year to… “just get it done.”