Opening Remarks by the Executive Director for the First Regular Session of Executive Board, 2015

Delivered on: 09 February 2015


Excellencies, distinguished delegates, please allow me to first congratulate and then join our new President, thanking those who served over the past year, particularly our former President Her Excellency Evelyn Anita Stokes-Hayford, Ambassador of Ghana.

Let me also take the opportunity to thank Ambassador Ghisi, who will be leaving us after this session. Without his support, we would not have had the renovations made to this now beautiful building. Second, allow me to join the President welcoming the new members of the Board and the Bureau.

I would like to particularly recognize distinguished guests: from Madagascar, His Excellency Andrianiaina Paul RABARY, Minister for Education; from Cuba, Her Excellency Ileana Núñez MORDOCHE, Vice-Minister for External Trade and Foreign Investment; from Colombia, Ms. Maria Andrea Albán Durán, Director for International Cooperation; from the Republic of Korea, Ms. Oh YOUNG-JU, Director General of the Development Cooperation Bureau; and from the United States, Ms. Dina ESPOSITO, Director of the USAID Office of Food for Peace.

I would also like to welcome all other delegation members who have travelled from capitals to join us.

As you recognize from the agenda, this is a relatively short meeting but it is nonetheless important to welcome guests, new members and even new members of the senior management team, during this time we have together.

As many of you know Elisabeth Rasmusson our Assistant Executive Director for Partnership, Governance and Advocacy is on an extended medical leave. Please join WFP management in wishing and praying for her speedy recovery.

Allow me also to recognize Barbara Noseworthy. Barbara joined us 10 days ago as Assistant Executive Director ad interim for Partnership, Governance and Advocacy. Barbara will ensure the work started by Elisabeth, and her team, continues.

Please allow me one last piece of business before I begin my remarks this morning.


I would like to take a moment to recognize Kenji Goto. Kenji Goto was an award winning Japanese journalist who spent much of his career telling the stories from war zones across the globe.

In 2013, Kenji travelled to Jordan as the producer for an award-winning film aired at primetime on TV Tokyo. It featured WFP’s activities supporting Syrian refugees in Jordan in a very positive light and significantly raised WFP’s profile in Japan.

In addition to this documentary, Kenji travelled extensively to the Syrian refugee camps, with WFP staff members. Often in Zaatari, among other places, he used to ask us—our staff—what toys he should bring for the children he would meet.

In a heinous act of terrorism Kenji, lost his life on January 31.
It is important we remember him today.
You will not be forgotten.
We are indebted to you.
Thank you.

Kenji’s loss, as well as the shooting down of the plane carrying our colleagues by the SPLM-N in Sudan’s Kordofan region remind us that we must condemn every violent or political act that targets humanitarians.

We thank the Government of South Sudan and, particularly, the Sudanese Government for their assistance in securing the safe return of the six Bulgarian crew members.

Just yesterday, there was another attack, not on WFP, but on a Sudanese Red Crescent Society distribution team conducting food distributions, who were ambushed and lost their lives.


We began 2015 much like we ended 2014, supporting the food and nutrition needs of the most vulnerable people in some of the toughest places in the world. Simultaneously, we are working with partners to achieve, what we all agree is attainable, the goal of eliminating hunger and chronic malnutrition—particularly stunting—and achieving the Zero Hunger goal in our lifetime.

Just as there is a great deal happening in the world there is a lot going on here at WFP. But because this is a short Board session, I will try and keep my remarks short, taking the opportunity to share some key issues to support the food and nutrition security of those we serve.

I will outline how WFP plans to participate throughout this year’s summits and meetings to develop new protocols and architectures.

We believe we must finish this “year of opportunity” better positioned to address chronic hunger and malnutrition issues for the most vulnerable mother, father, girl and boy that we serve. This is how we achieve Zero Hunger.

Ladies and gentlemen, 2014 was a year of turmoil. It brought challenges and crises, at times pushing us to our limits. But it was also one of inspiration. A year when the world proved its readiness to respond. A year when ten more countries reached the MDG hunger target. And it was the year the world laid the foundations for a new development agenda.

Already 2015 has proved turbulent for WFP and the world. Although the world has changed, what the world expects from WFP is becoming clearer and clearer every day. There is an expectation that WFP must respond. In fact, WFP is much appreciated and recognized for our service during times of crisis and turmoil, for our logistics, telecommunications and supply chain expertise, and for our work with UNHAS and the UNHRDs—work which saves lives and livelihoods.

The recognition by the global community of our abilities reflects your generous contributions and investment in our effort. Last year, WFP raised 5.4 billion U.S. dollars. Over 90 percent of this was directed, and over 70 percent was targeted for Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Central African Republic and our work in the Ebola response.

The increasing scale and growing complexity of crises, results in rising demand for WFP’s assistance and services. Five concurrent Level 3 emergencies, together with six ongoing Level 2 emergencies, illustrate the unprecedented challenge facing the organization, its staff, its partners and this Board. But despite the dollars raised, the increasing demands of the world require ever increasing resourcing. Because unlike buying a pot or a blanket, a child with a hungry stomach must be fed every day, and hopefully more than once per day.

So, we recognize and thank partners for their unprecedented support last year. And we recognize, securing scarce funds is difficult. We must advise the Board, the 2015 global funding outlook is 7.45 billion U.S dollars. Based on donor projections, we currently anticipate a funding shortfall of 3 billion U.S. dollars.

We will continue to work closely with the Board to avoid critical resourcing gaps. Gaps that sometimes force Country Offices to either reduce the level of assistance provided or—in worse case scenarios—to suspend it altogether. We will target as appropriate. When tough decisions are required, we will give donors adequate notice of our concerns before we take action.

We also recognize the long-term impact of protracted, complex and major emergencies on our processes and capacities, and we will make appropriate changes. This year, we will re-examine and update the Generic Response Capability Model, to maintain and enhance our capacity to provide the assistance and services the world demands from WFP, while ensuring that we are taking care all our people performing this work.

Of all our operations, the Ebola Virus Disease operation takes the toughest physical, as well as mental, toll on our people. This operation highlights the breadth, depth, urgency and innovation now required of WFP.

While infection rates have slowed, worrying signs remain which limit our ability to achieve the goal of Zero New Cases. Taking the nightmare away,” demands massive, localized and coordinated action from communities, governments, the United Nations, NGOs as well as the private sector.

To date, WFP has provided food assistance for over three million people, including: those in-treatment, survivors, orphaned children, and communities in isolated and high-transmission areas. Crucially, WFP also provided: Humanitarian Air Services; Logistics Support; Telecommunications, IT and Engineering Support to the wider operations of the humanitarian community—and to WFP.

The year ahead requires sustained commitment, and the beginning of longer-term recovery. To support this shift, we will work with the governments of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, introducing: school-meal safety nets to get children back to learning; market-based programmes to support local economies; and livelihood support to vulnerable communities and smallholder farmers.

As UNMEER winds down, the world now expects WFP will ramp up common services efforts to support access to the last mile, to the last person, and to the last case. With your continuous support we will do it.

Staying in the region, in Central African Republic, violence continues to impact operations. Already this year, international aid workers were kidnapped. Staff are subject to curfew and trucks are frequently looted. Despite the unstable security context, we continue food and nutrition activities with a primary focus on IDPs.
Supporting recovery, we will reach 1.2 million people through market-based programmes, assisting communities to resettle and enabling farmers to rebuild their livelihoods.

The Director-General of FAO and I committed to support our organizations to prepare joint plans and implement joint programmes; where FAO will provide seeds and tools, while WFP distributes food to prevent smallholders—with literally nothing—from exhausting their resources. Working together, our goal is to provide hope for a successful planting season, in a place where hope is in very short supply.

In Mali, now an L2, sustained but fragile recovery permits a focus on tackling entrenched hunger and chronic poverty. Our strong collaboration with the Government enables not only emergency assistance but also interventions supportive of national safety nets and nutrition efforts—particularly school feeding and maternal and child nutrition programmes. When Mali was an L3, the donors provided the financial support that made the difference. The current 75 percent funding deficit undermines our capacity to reach 1.2 million people and support a national recovery. We need your help.

Moving to Nigeria. We are not operational today, however, because of the evolving situation, we are working with the National Emergency Management Agency to monitor the impact of violence in the north. Despite the strong nation-wide harvest, people living in conflict zones experience extreme difficulties meeting their food needs. In the absence of humanitarian support, up to 3 million people are expected to face food consumption gaps by July. We will continue to assess the challenges in Nigeria, as well as the ongoing conflict in Niger, where this past weekend Boko Haram activities impacted humanitarian work.

Denise Brown, the Regional Director and most recently our Ebola Response focal point, will provide you with more details on each of these programmes and other areas of concern across this region.

Moving east, to South Sudan. Our country team is working to overcome severe access restrictions, from ongoing fighting and deteriorating road conditions, to reach 3.2 million people. With the intensifying number of armed actors, negotiating access for operations on the ground—particularly in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile States—access is increasingly difficult.

Truck, barge and aircraft contractors face increasing threats—including being taken into custody and having food shipments confiscated.
We must act now to utilize the critical three-month window period before the rainy season begins, to preposition 107,000 metric tons by surface transport. Delivering this amount by air would cost 180 million U.S. dollars more; this is why we must take the risk of surface-transport.

Yet we must not allow political impasse and potentially high overheads to dehumanize or limit our activities. This operation, like all others, is about women, men and children who need—and deserve—our support.

Despite the increasingly complicated context, we seize every opportunity to expand nutrition activities for mothers and children. For example, together with UNICEF we reached more than 415,000 children, and 50,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women, last year alone. Where we can—we also pursue programmes to increase community resilience and self-reliance.

The wider regional dimension of this crisis cannot go unmentioned. Nearly 500,000 refugees fled to neighboring countries last year, where our assistance stabilized very high rates of malnutrition. Pipelines for Kenya and Ethiopia are now healthy. But in Uganda, shortfalls only permit support to the most vulnerable and new arrivals.

In Somalia, despite slight improvements in food security, crisis affects 730,000 people and 200,000 acutely malnourished children. Yesterday, for the first time in 20 years, we established our Country Office in Mogadishu. Our Country Director moved back into the office. Our presence will further strengthen strategic engagement with the Somali Government and further increase our footprint, where it is required most.

But again, in 2011 when the famine struck, WFP received the necessary funding. For the poorest and most vulnerable little has changed. Yet our funding has reduced dramatically. However, without funding, these food and nutrition gains achieved working in partnership with FAO and UNICEF, lie in jeopardy. This month, shortages forced cuts affecting 350,000 people.

In Burundi, we remain watchful and vigilant concerning the impact of heightened political tension on food and nutrition security. For the first round of elections, beginning in May, we will establish response capacity to cover emergency needs for 350,000 people.

In DRC, renewed conflict in the east, coupled with the effects of the CAR crisis, render 6.5 million people severely food insecure. Newly displaced people and refugees are hardest hit. Political tensions, access constraints, and funding shortfalls threaten our capacity not only to deliver emergency assistance, but also to support resettlement and long-term recovery. In this country, WFP has introduced mVAM, targeting and new voucher programming, but we must have your support to continue.

Valerie Guarneri will of course give you more details about these and other programs during her Regional update.

Further south on the continent, we continue to respond to worsening floods. In Malawi, rainfall exceeded “worst case scenario” planning figures—damaging homes and destroying crops. Some 370,000 people urgently need life-saving food assistance. Across the border in Mozambique, the same emergency affects 160,000 people, mostly in Zambézia, where access is difficult. We will keep the Board fully informed of the continuing risk posed by this rainy and tropical cyclone season.

Chris Nikoi, who has recently visited these countries, will provide you with more information during his briefing.

Now to the Middle East, North Africa and other operations.

In Syria, protracted crisis now tragically enters its fifth year. The food security situation continues to deteriorate. Continuing conflict, fragmentation and disrupted food production, results in almost 10 million people now requiring some assistance. Through a combination of regular food deliveries, cross-line inter-agency convoys, emergency air-lifts, and cross-border deliveries, we reach—on average—some 3.5 million severely food-insecure people, every month.

It is not enough. Reaching everyone in need requires us to overcome significant challenges—including new population movements. This is a population that has been on the move for four years. We will further step-up our efforts, including across lines of active conflict, to access vulnerable families in hard-to-reach places. We will also work to introduce a longer-term timeframe into our planning, programming and operations.

We will progressively increase our nutrition activities, reaching 15,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women with voucher-based assistance, where food is available. We will also expand school-feeding programmes, where schools have been able to open inside Syria. In addition, where we can, we will give a greater emphasis to resilience and longer-term activities; deploying livelihoods programmes in urban and rural areas; supporting basic services, agricultural infrastructure and vocational training. These programmes must be considered as we go forward.

Moving to the wider regional response. The overall refugee caseload is now, for the moment, largely stabilized. Yet refugees remain exposed to a wide range of risks. Host communities too remain heavily impacted.

Unfortunately, resource constraints now require reductions in both the level of assistance we provide and the number of people we can reach. If we must reduce, then we must target, but there are risks. The potential consequences to vulnerable populations and host communities must be recognized and accepted, not just by WFP and other humanitarian actors, but also the host governments, as well as the donors. The negative impact on vulnerable refugees and their host communities could be significant.

For example, in Lebanon, where we already reduced the value of our assistance by 30 percent, current plans to significantly reduce the target caseload create identifiable risks—given the potential increase in vulnerability, secondary displacement—and even exposure to extremist groups. We continue to seek significant cost-savings, with the use of the OneCard platform and other cost-efficiencies. Yet savings alone are insufficient, sustained, predictable funding is required.

Conflict in Iraq shows little sign of abating. Massive levels of internal displacement, and even subsequent return, require our continued and greater engagement in every governorate. But access constraints, in ISIS-controlled areas, affect our ability to provide 1.8 million people with the life-saving food parcels they need.

In Yemen, where hunger and chronic nutrition numbers remain extremely high. The political crisis is now in the global spotlight. However, the country’s humanitarian needs remain unnoticed. With more than 10 million people now food insecure, the evolving security and political situation requires reinforcement of our mitigation measures, to ensure maximum operational capacity for any increase in humanitarian needs. In other words, as the crisis goes on, we accept the number will rise.

Now to Libya, where WFP is working to establish a presence as soon as the security situation will allow. Working through the Libyan Red Crescent, DRC and national NGOs, we plan to reach 115,000 people, identified as being of particular concern.

Also in Ukraine, increasing hostilities, displacement and market disruption affect some 900,000 individuals, and require an emergency response by our programme. Concentrating our efforts in the east, we prepositioned emergency food parcels for one-off assistance in vulnerable conflict-affected areas. Lack of unfettered access remains a concern.

Mohammed Diab will present the Regional Update, while Muhannad Hadi will also discuss issues related to Syria.

WFP is supporting other parts of the world as well. In Central America, prolonged drought severely affects over 2 million people in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. Urgent assistance is required for all of the most vulnerable. Likewise, in Haiti, our school-feeding operation, reaching half a million children, remains underfunded and at risk.

Miguel Barreto will provide you with additional information regarding these issues and others affecting the Latin American region.

Finally, moving to the Asia region.

In Pakistan, our partnership with the Government grows ever strong. Our office has repositioned to support national development efforts in the areas of food and nutrition, preparedness, and disaster risk reduction. We are pleased to confirm the Government’s pledge to contribute 155,000 metric tons of wheat in 2015; making Pakistan our largest host government donor, and placing Pakistan within the top 20 of WFP donors. Since 2013, Pakistan’s contributions amounted to 170 million U.S. dollars.

David Kaatrud will provide more details about this and other programmes as part of his regional presentation.


This litany of bad news, topped off by some good news, from protracted emergencies, crises—representing some two-thirds of our financial portfolio—is evidence enough of the demand and need for this organization.

Yet the work we perform in other countries—while today it doesn’t receive the donor support nor leadership attention it requires—represents the places where focusing on the opportunity to: help the beneficiary we serve; the community where she lives; and the governments who serve her as well; makes the difference, to achieve durable sustainable Zero Hunger.

Thank you for your support with our now strengthened corporate leadership structure—placing Deputy Executive Director Amir Abdulla at the heart of United Nations Headquarters in New York City and, more often, on the road. This change ensures we are closer to decision-making, more coherent in our messaging approach, and proactively promoting WFP’s role in achieving Zero Hunger.

Of course, we recognize this is not our task alone. Advancing Zero Hunger requires the active influencing of five key global agendas by WFP, and all of the Rome-Based Agencies—together with members state, civil society and other UN agencies.

We must make this year a turning point, not just in filling stomachs but in making the changes needed to move on the SDGs.

Making this year a turning point means this March, in Sendai, at the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, we will bring a strong message that the world must recognize the link between food security and disaster risk reduction. We again call on member states for their support to secure an outcome that adequately reflects what is required to support food and nutrition.

In May, as Rome-Based Agencies, we will harness the unique opportunity of Expo Milano 2015, making the worldwide case to end hunger. For the entire period of the EXPO, we will be very much involved. And in June, we will join IFAD at FAO to host an event acknowledging countries that achieved MDG One and those on the cusp of achieving this important milestone.

This July, in Addis Ababa, at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, WFP will further highlight the Cost of Hunger evidence-base. We will ask, as WFP, for recognition that programming to prevent undernutrition is not dead aid—in fact—it is a cost-effective, high-impact investment. We will push forward and highlight WFP innovations and tools, including FoodSECuRE as a multiyear investment opportunity to support resilience building and nutrition. We will support the reform of development and humanitarian financing. We need to ensure that the document is one that reflects the daily realities of people on the ground must drive this reform.

The proposed Sustainable Development Goals and—speaking parochially—the goal to end hunger and chronic malnutrition, the Zero Hunger goal, will only be achieved with new financial mechanisms that ensure our ability to achieve outcomes and not just output interventions. We must overcome the financial, as well as the programming divide, between humanitarian and development response, or we simply just won’t get there. Our work in Addis Ababa is crucial to achieving this goal.

This September, in New York, at the UN General Assembly, we will build on our successful Delivering Zero Hunger campaign. Where WFP will support member-states in their efforts to finalize Sustainable Development Goals which matter for one-in-nine of our planet’s people and one-in-four of its children. WFP will join the RBAs to host a side event through which we hope to launch our global efforts in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Then, this December, in Paris, at the UN Climate Change Conference, we will highlight the climate-food-nutrition nexus; ensuring our ability to give voice to our mandated responsibility of supporting Zero Hunger across the full spectrum of related conversations.

Throughout the year, we will raise Zero Hunger at the highest levels in the G7 and G20, ensuring we retain it as a priority on their agenda.

And in preparation for next year’s World Humanitarian Summit, we will ask the Board and member states to support an outcome from this which: safeguards principled humanitarian action; overhauls our humanitarian architecture but maintains individual agencies to perform; and supports competent, legitimate and accountable humanitarian leadership.

Going forward, the world needs upfront investment in preparedness, resilience-building and emergency response. We must act quickly to prevent future outbreaks from becoming tragic pandemics. We must empower refugees to achieve self-reliance, and we will, working with UNHCR.

It wouldn’t make sense for WFP to put this much effort into not only ensuring that food and nutrition security are a part of the new global road map, if we too were not working to help achieve the goal.

So of course, we must continue examining our own house. Closer to home, we must ensure we continue Fit for Purpose’s major organizational reform and strengthening, we emerge fitter and more efficient.

Fit for Purpose is now reaching the first “fruition” stage—as we realize tangible, positive results. Through the Business Process Review, we reinforced our core competencies, specifically our emergency response capacity and provision of system wide-services becoming ever more efficient and effective in our service delivery.

On the people side of the house, we have made incredible strides, including:

o We transferred national staff to the WFP-FAO framework, making us truly one workforce;
o We introduced the Diversity & Inclusion Strategy;
o We launched the Women’s Leadership Development, providing support for women’s leadership;
o We established an Emergency Response Roster;
o We launched the JPO talent pool to improve retention—now at 60 percent;
o We improved the 2014 promotion process, making it fairer and more transparent;
o We put career frameworks and pathways in place for general service and professional staff—both national and international;
o We launched Talent Pools, for the first time, opening new pathways for qualified people to enter into service;
o We developed a “Leading for Zero Hunger” programme for Heads of Sub-Office and Unit Heads, the first of its kind worldwide; and
o We revised over 130 job profiles, for the first time since 2005.

But our journey continues.

In the remaining two years of my Fit for Purpose mandate, we will continue to refine this organization into the WFP our beneficiary’s need to meet life-saving challenges and achieve the Zero Hunger world that this governing body demands.

At the Annual Session, we will present a renewed set of priorities that we—the leaders and staff of WFP—believe will get us there over 18 months. Yes, this world needs our high performing network of warehouses, trucks, ships, standby partners and suppliers to rapidly respond when crisis strikes. But it also now requires our ability to support through networks of banks, micro-finance institutions and mobile-money operators, as well as private sector and civil society. Expanding partnerships in this area is critical.

It also means we need to reform our 20-year-old financial architecture, designed primarily for commodity transfers. Because our architecture must serve—and not hamper—our ability to meet increasing demand for technical assistance, common services and other wider multi-year roles now required of WFP.

Today, 90 percent of resources are directed and restricted. Fifty percent have time restrictions, limiting access to important mechanisms, such as internal lending, ultimately impacting people. Going forward, our financial framework must provide Country Offices with both flexibility and predictability, clearly articulating the link between funding and results.

Throughout all of this, we will continue to grow staff capabilities and skillsets. Becoming a Fit for Purpose WFP calls for an engaged workforce, in the right roles, with the right skills.

We must continue growing the talent, skills and experiences of both national and international, general service and professional staff. We must building our excellence, ensuring accountability to the people we serve.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I said I would keep it short, I apologize, because there is much to bring to your attention and there is much to do. Those who depend on us require nothing less than our wholehearted commitment to perform and to achieve.

Bangladesh’s Nobel Peace Prize winning Muhammad Yunus once said:

“To overcome poverty and the flaws of [..] crisis in our society [..] we have to free our mind, imagine what has never happened before and write social fiction. We need to imagine things to make them happen. If you don't imagine, it will never happen.”

Now more than ever we must take concerted actions not just to address the challenges of conflict, but we must also take concerted actions for Zero Hunger.

We must see a Zero Hunger world. Success must be within sight.

The task of ending hunger is not for the next generation, it is for this generation.

We must seize the historic opportunity this year presents. All of these summits must mean something for the people we serve. Our hurdles and challenges, whether financial, intellectual or related to our partnerships must not stop us.

We must see them for what they truly are, merely obstacles to be overcome on the road to achieving a world we can see. A world we must see if we are to achieve a peaceful and prosperous world, where every child lives to his or especially her full potential. A world with Zero Hunger.

We see that world at WFP. With your support and your vision, we can achieve a zero hunger world.

We are the last generation who will be able voluntarily to take the necessary steps that will build the road to dignity for all.

Thank You.