Opening Remarks by the Executive Director on the Occasion of the 2014 Annual Board Session

Delivered on: 03 June 2014


Distinguished Guests,

Please allow me to join the President in welcoming all the new members of the Board.

I want to also extend our thanks to those who have served over this last year. I would like to recognize: from the European Union, of course, our Special Guest, the Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Ms Kristalina Georgieva, who you will hear from later; from Kyrgyzstan His Excellency Bazarbaev Kudaibergen Bazarbaevich, the Minister for Social Development; from Lesotho, His Excellency Pitso Maisa, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office; and from Cameroon, Her Excellency Clementine Ananga Messina, the Vice Minister for Rural Development. We are also joined by a frequent visitor from Switzerland, His Excellency Mr. Manuel Bessler, Head of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit. Thank you again for being here.

I would like to welcome all the delegations who have travelled from capitals to join us. We acknowledge the importance that your representation, your presence from capital gives to this session.

Today, I will focus on four key areas. First, the continuing need for transformational change. Second, operational issues that warrant your concern. Third, major policy and process changes as we move forward with the implementation of our Fit for Purpose strategy. And finally, our understanding of the way forward for food and nutrition security in the post 2015 sustainable development agenda. In each of these areas, the WFP team seeks your counsel and your support.

WFP, you will remember, introduced Fit for Purpose because we, all of us—Board members, host governments, partners and WFP staff—recognize the need to perform our work differently. We recognize that food and nutrition security remain out of reach for far too many, with devastating consequences. We knew that to perform well, and to break the cycle of hunger, required a more effective and collaborative response. A response that requires change in how we work and with whom we work.

Management consultants suggest change as a five-stage journey. It begins with the stagnation that prompts the decision to change followed by four other stages: preparation—when the appetite for change reaches critical mass; implementation—when the impact of changes are felt; determination—when real grit is needed and required to maintain the focus of the change; and fruition—when tangible, positive pay-offs are realized.

We often say that WFP is a family. And any family that has ever taken the journey together will know all too well the question – are we there yet? The answer is, we are nearly there, we are getting there. In fact, on this journey of change, WFP is now—we believe—in that determination phase. The phase where it takes the true grit to maintain and withstand the course. Of course, some countries are further ahead. And some, unfortunately, are even lagging a bit behind. For those who are lagging behind, we must ensure preparing for change does not become a new form of stagnation and limit our ability to change.

Realistically, we must, and we do, accept some setbacks. This is expected. Yes, we must acknowledge the setbacks and determine the cause, but we must also continue to move forward because now is the time for candor and to address the problems where they arise. We are firm in our resolve, ensuring that every change we take and every innovation offers potential for real transformative action.

This Annual Session is an important step forward in our change process, because we need your feedback. We need you to ask us the hard questions. We will genuinely listen and attempt to answer. We ask the same of our staff, our partners, our host governments, as well as the people we serve.

Fit for Purpose is not an abstract concept. It is a journey. It is about remodeling this world’s food programme. Our success in achieving Zero Hunger fully depends on our ability to adapt to accelerating global changes and to meet and to achieve the goals we set forth on this journey in becoming Fit for Purpose.

In some respects Fit for Purpose is a recommitment to our DNA. We of course continue to—and will always—respond to crisis, anytime, anywhere, any place. We believe our response to crisis is, now because of Fit for Purpose, every day more efficient. It means when responding to crisis, we no longer take for granted that delivery of our all-important inputs is good enough, if that is all we do. We better recognize the need for partnership to deliver not just outputs but to achieve outcomes.

Fit for Purpose is also about setting our goals higher, demanding program innovations, new behaviors, new beliefs and that we work together with partners to serve total needs.

When I first addressed this Board, two years ago, we were just beginning this journey. Two years later, there is no doubt that we are an even healthier organization, performing ever better and ever more excellent work, achieving on the commitment to be Fit for Purpose, to provide value for money, to ensure that we effectively and efficiently deliver.

Today we have delivered on the promise. We have achieved major milestones. We restructured the organization. Regional bureaux are now frontline platforms for supporting country offices. We presented to this Board, and this Board approved, a new Strategic Plan. We enhanced our program design process for better quality control. We are making good on our promise to become a fully people-centered organization and we reinvigorate it, how and with whom we partner, all for the benefit of those we serve at country level.

Gender remains a key cornerstone of our Fit for Purpose reform, because whatever we do, wherever we work, women are our major stakeholders. Programme design, implementation and evaluation must take into account the full needs of women, men and girls.

To drive forward our Fit for Purpose initiatives we have established a global change team led by Deputy Executive Director Amir Abdulla. This team serves as the engine for coordinating and tracking all initiatives, leveraging efficiencies between them and safeguarding corporate coherence. This team ensures that every initiative provides the benefits where it matters most—on the ground, in our daily operations.

To achieve a zero-hunger world requires change, not just from WFP. We recognize this fact. Change is necessary across the entire international development and humanitarian community. We need a global paradigm shift. We cannot ring-fence the requirements of the 21st century into discretely divided humanitarian or development projects. Why? Because cyclones, typhoons, crises and challenges do not neatly confine themselves to any one sector. Nor does conflict for that matter. The time has come for us to realize a paradigm shift in how we design, plan, fund, implement, partner and demonstrate our efforts and implement our activities.

We recognize this paradigm shift comes at the worst possible financial time for the global community, but financial limitations should not limit our achievement of these objectives. We will return to these topics later.

Let us take a moment and pay attention to our operations.

We must warn the Board, in the upcoming months we expect particular financial difficulties. Our 2014 global funding shortfall through December stands at 2.3 billion U.S. dollars. Unfortunately, more than half of the shortfall comes from, and will impact, our programs in sub-Saharan Africa.

While managing the operational shortfalls, WFP now manages four Level 3 emergencies. Syria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and now—for WFP only—Cameroon, require the highest level of attention and resources that we can provide.

In the Syrian Arab Republic, the outlook remains grave. Now, the Syria Arab Republic is not just the epicentre of war where access for humanitarian assistance grows smaller every day and more challenging every day, but the Syrian Arab Republic may now be at the centre of a regional drought. Last December some 6.3 million people were in need of live-saving assistance. Since then drought has badly damaged the country’s harvest. We anticipate an additional two million people may require life-saving assistance increasing the number to 8.3 million people in need. Together with FAO we will undertake a crop and food supply assessment mission to fully understand the food security context.

Needless to say, this is not a binary conflict nor is the humanitarian access a zero-sum game. The realities on the ground require demanding negotiations with an array of groups and non-state actors. In March, we reached almost 4.25 million people with assistance, however, protracted fighting, new cargo loading regulations and increased access impediments have reduced our access in both government and non-government controlled areas. We now estimate our dispatches will only cover 80 percent of the target for the month of May. We call on all parties to heed and comply with the Council Resolution 2139. The victims of this crisis demand nothing less.

Across the region, we continue to work with partners in host governments in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. We reach almost 1.6 million refugees, mostly now with electronic vouchers. To maintain operations until December, we require an additional USD 384 million for the Syrian Arab Republic and USD 565 million for the regional response.

In South Sudan, the situation worsens on a daily basis as nearly 4 million people face serious food crisis. In southern Unity State alone, the food insecurity situation grows increasingly perilous. Conflict and insecurity prevented us from pre-positioning the food commodities necessary in Sudan for an operation of this size. Over 5,000 tons of food have been looted since the start of the conflict. Even now with an agreed ceasefire, we receive reports—and too often witness—sporadic fighting in Unity State and Upper Nile State, impacting our ability to serve and deliver.

Our window to undertake road deliveries is quickly closing. We are using all means at our disposal but we have not reached our pre-positioning targets to date given the access constraints. We now need to urgently open the river corridor if we are to prevent starvation during the rainy season. Already it is quite clear that because of the rainy season we will need to initiate a massive airlift operation with the price of airlifts at six times that of road deliveries and seven times that of barge deliveries. Our operational costs will in turn increase exponentially.

We call upon the Government of South Sudan and the opposition to uphold their agreements, which facilitate the access and movement of food across the country as well as other humanitarian supplies, whether by road, river or air. We must have these agreements met to ensure that people receive the assistance required.

We thank the Government of Ethiopia for hosting South Sudanese refugees again, and for supporting the passage of food assistance. We ask the Government of Sudan to expedite all necessary arrangements and approvals so that we might immediately transport food deliveries through this vital corridor. We ask all our donors to continue standing with and investing in the people of South Sudan.

Turning to the Central African Republic, we again underline the urgent needs. Widespread insecurity and sporadic, yet bloody attacks, continuously affect food production and daily economic life. If we are to reach 1.25 million people in-need we must increase our food assistance efforts fivefold. Regrettably, the operational scenario in the Central African Republic mirrors that of South Sudan. Insecurity, coupled with lack of resources, prevented rainy season pre-positioning. We are right now moving all-terrain trucks into the Central African Republic, but to reach the most food-insecure areas where security is a top concern will require air deliveries, at the cost previously explained.

In addition, now the situation across the border in Cameroon also warrants extraordinary Level Three (L3) efforts to meet the food and nutrition needs of more than 80,000 mostly women and children who fled the Central African Republic. We must also respond to the needs of their highly vulnerable host population. In Cameroon, refugee MUAC screenings show that the Global Acute Malnutrition rates for boys and girls has reached 25 percent, ten points higher than the threshold we use to define a critical situation. While we are not calling for an L3 for the entire humanitarian community, we believe this situation merited an L3 for WFP’s food assistance response. And we, in turn, urge the humanitarian community to keep the pledges made in Brussels because the Central African Republic cannot wait.

As you know, not all crises make the headlines, however, I know your missions and capitals are closely following each of these situations.

First Somalia, which remains fragile. More than 850,000 people are chronically malnourished. Global Acute Malnutrition rates already exceed 15 percent. And, because of the sporadic and insufficient rains, a new advisory warning of potential further food security deterioration has been delivered. WFP is scaling up yet we face an operational shortfall of USD 53 million.

In Yemen, there has been political progress. For political progress to succeed, however, people must experience real dividends in their lives. In July, we will begin a new PRRO working for sustainable solutions to the food security situation. Of course, we will continue with the necessary relief efforts in Yemen but we will also introduce additional safety net and livelihood activities, school meals and a doubling of take-home rations for girls. Today the Yemen operation faces a shortfall of USD 100 million for the remainder of 2014.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, despite the festering food insecurity, we can only meet the needs of the most food-insecure because barely one-third of our funding requirements have been met. We re-prioritized our efforts to the severe eastern part of the country and Equateur, where we are targeting 1.7 million people over the next six months. We require a further USD 21 million to continue these efforts.

Recently I visited the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), where we reduced and prioritized our program to address the nutritional needs of one million children during the first 1,000 days. Unfortunately, even this prioritization is now in extreme peril, because we are only 24 percent funded. We are now considering the reduction and/or discontinuation of even this meagre program. Global Acute Malnutrition rates in the DPRK already exceed 15 percent and because of sporadic and insufficient rains a new advisory warns of potential further food security deterioration across the country.

There has been progress in many of the countries that we have discussed here today, but our inability to meet the needs means that we will not have the ability to continue to move forward with that progress. But, I do not want to end on that note. Let me give you some good news.

We successfully put the new Operations Centre to the test. We successfully implemented, and used, the center in responding to the floods in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia thanks to the UNHRD, our ever committed air services and our decentralized approach led by our regional bureau in Cairo. As well as the astute, and very young people, who support our Operations Centre. I invite you all to visit them today before you leave the building.

On that good news note, let me move on.

This afternoon, with Assistant Executive Director Elisabeth Rasmusson, we ask for your approval of our new corporate partnership strategy. This morning, I would like to share some key partnership issues with you.

Strong, effective and outcome-oriented Rome-based agency collaboration remains a core priority for WFP. We believe we can achieve more by building on each of the organization’s comparative advantages and maximizing our collaborative efforts. One example, our joint submission to the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals informs Member States in their deliberations regarding agriculture, food security and nutrition. We continue supporting the revitalized Committee on World Food Security (CFS) as well. The agenda for action on protracted crises will help achieve transformative action by all actors at all levels. We look forward to this discussion at the CFS.

More broadly, WFP remains an active player in inter-agency coordination, particularly on the humanitarian side but also in Delivering as One and other United Nations coherence building efforts. The upcoming Humanitarian World Summit provides an opportunity to shape future collaboration and coordination efforts. WFP will demonstrate our comparative advantage during these discussions. Both during the preparations and the discussions themselves, we will articulate a vision of humanitarianism in the coming decade; humanitarianism that responds to emergency needs while also building the resilience that will begin the development outcomes where the most vulnerable can sustainably and durably feed themselves.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees remains a close strategic partner. In July, we will launch
joint campaigns on Sub Saharan Africa as well as Yemen. And at this Board, I hope you will join High Commissioner Guterres and me for an important event regarding the Central African Republic.

In addition to our global Annual Partnership Consultation, at the regional level, we now engage in structural and strategic dialogue with non-governmental organizations and civil society. Those discussions have begun this year in Nairobi, Johannesburg and Dakar.

Finally, our new private sector architecture is beginning to yield results. We strengthened our engagement with the private sector, bringing both critical financial resources and expertise. To understand the impact of private sector engagement, we are testing a new measurement tool, which will assess the true value of these partnerships beyond just their financial and resources provided.

On the people initiatives, we are also delivering on the promises.

First, our local staff—who represent the majority of our workforce and the backbone of our operations. Later this month, we will begin the process of transferring 3,000 locally recruited staff from UNDP to FAO and WFP rules and regulations. This significant change will ensure that every staff member, whether international or national, will work as one team towards one goal under one set of HR rules.

Second, gender parity—we are taking steps to meet the United Nations sector-wide approach (SWAP) standard for gender parity in staffing. We plan to achieve this parity in five years. For international staff, this will require a target level of 65 percent for new female entrants into the Programme, a tough but achievable objective. For our national staff, there are many different contexts and challenges across our workforce affecting gender issues. However, we will strive to achieve the goal of gender parity for our national staff as well.

Justice is a key part of our commitment to a people-centred organization. We completed an Internal Justice Review, which concluded that overall our system of justice achieves its objectives. There were also recommendations to strengthen managerial accountability. In the coming months, we will share an action plan regarding our justice system and improvements to our justice system with this Board.

We are also delivering on the promises to better manage our resources.

We know that our ability to raise funds requires that we demonstrate clear accountability and transparency and that we must generate greater savings and efficiencies.

We considered the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review resolution, concerning a core funding model for administrative and support costs. However, encouraged by the strong positions you voiced at the informal consultations, we will continue with the present full cost recovery model and a single indirect support costs recovery rate.

Value for money is a mainstay of this year’s Management Plan. We now comprehensively assess fund requests and allocations against their potential to deliver on our commitments and to meet our beneficiary needs. Our performance monitoring frameworks now include markers for determining the effectiveness of resource investments. These actions are a major step forward in the promotion of an accountability and results-focused culture.

Of course, we must realize a results-based culture where our actions take place, on the ground at country level. So, at country level we are delivering on our corporate commitments to improve monitoring and evaluation performance. Six Regional Monitoring and Evaluation Advisers are now in place rolling out the corporate M&E system at the country level.

In the performance of our work, we cannot avoid and sometimes are limited even in our ability to mitigate risks. Effective risk management is essential to this operation and to this organization. Through the Preparedness Response Enhancement Programme, otherwise known as PREP, and the roll out of the Performance and Risk Organizational Management Information System, decision-makers will have the information they need to make the decisions our beneficiaries require.

WFP will continue to strive for the highest levels of accountability. This year, we are again improving our engagement with the international aid transparency initiative. We will publish monthly, rather than quarterly, data regarding this initiative.

This Board session, we will present the 2013 Annual Audited Accounts for your approval, prepared under International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) for the sixth year with an unqualified audit opinion. These accounts reflect donors’ continued strong support for WFP operations, contributing some USD 4.4 billion. We thank you for your continued confidence in our operations.

At the beginning of this morning’s presentation, I spoke of the need to realize a paradigm shift, not just inside WFP.

Our world is changing at an accelerating rate. It brings new opportunities but also challenges such as urbanization, population growth and climate change. If we do not address these challenges head-on, we will erode any progress achieved. Climate change alone will increase the risk of hunger and child malnutrition by 20 percent. Climate impacted change is not a distant threat; it already affects every part of our food system from production through to pricing. Similar challenges exist from the consequences of increasing population growth.

We require nothing short of transformation in our humanitarian and development thinking and in our performance of our actions. If our efforts remain fragmented, we will fail; fail to take advantage of the enormous opportunity that exists not just to tackle the problems but to begin providing the durable and sustainable solutions required. A 360-degree approach is required that brings together all our efforts from food to health to water and every other necessary sector for the sustainable food and nutrition future the world needs and wants.

In nutrition, this means we must coordinate and collaborate across the United Nations system, national governments, academia, civil society and the private sector, not only coordinating our processes but our delivery of our interventions. We must ensure that outcomes of efforts like the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), the Scaling Up Nutrition movement (SUN), and even the Zero Hunger Challenge are harmonized toward one set of common priorities and goals that easily translate into country and more specific community-led plans.

WFP is fully committed to new ways of working. We believe the SUN United Nations network provides space for the United Nations system to streamline efforts including those of the Standing Committee on Nutrition as well as the Renewed Efforts Against Child Hunger and Undernutrition initiative (REACH). We must speak and work with one voice together.

Resilience-building activities offer the humanitarian and development community the possibility to achieve a new mode of working. We all accept the insufficiency of responding only to crises after they happen. We must perform and support disaster risk reduction activities (DRR), as well as post-crisis recovery activities. We must end the redundant divisions between development and relief that deny a new way of thinking. In this, the Rome-based agencies must demonstrate leadership, particularly for food and nutrition matters. By acting earlier, we can achieve greater benefits, yield greater results from our actions and reduce the cost of emergencies and multi-stakeholder and multi-year responses are required.

In WFP, we hope that FoodSECuRE will allow us to reinforce the community resilience by responding to climate shocks before they occur and providing the financing for long-term activities.

But we must also think of wider issues if we are to eliminate hunger in our lifetimes and achieve zero hunger. Despite great strides and economic growth and development, hunger and food insecurity and malnutrition persist for millions of people left behind. The majority of people who now experience food insecurity, some 70 percent, live in Middle Income Countries (MICs).

In advance of this session, many of you asked for an update on how WFP can address this persistent hunger situation in middle-income countries. Some of you may believe that WFP’s role is limited in middle-income countries. Others may believe we can do more. We are providing the work and doing the analysis that will demonstrate WFP’s valid role within our mandate within middle-income countries.

Whether it is our work in middle-income countries, least-developed countries or in crisis-affected countries, we will continue to deliver on the promise. We will continue to move forward and ensure that WFP is the partner, the actor that the world needs to ensure that we can achieve a zero hunger world.

With that, I thank you.

It is an honor to welcome Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva here with us this morning. Today provides the opportunity to acknowledge the Commissioner’s unwavering commitment to eliminating hunger.

Commissioner, you achieved many important milestones during your time in this office, including the launch of the Emergency Response Centre and your championing of the need for consistent and broad approach to resilience building.

Most importantly for WFP you kept food and nutrition security not only at the top of the European Union’s agenda but also at the top of the global agenda. For this, we thank you.

WFP and ECHO share many common points of view and areas of mutual concern.

WFP and ECHO are strong components of United Nations reform through the Transformative Agenda, because we recognize that strong coordination is essential to achieve efficient and effective humanitarian action.

WFP and ECHO agree that while we must do things right we must also do the right things.

In fact, thanks to ECHO’s financial support, along with the support from others, WFP has developed and implemented the new tools required when addressing today’s problems. For example, your investment in Cash for Change through the Enhanced Response Capacity Programme enabled WFP to consolidate, build and roll out a new suite of corporate response tools and frameworks; benefiting WFP and other partners. These included the new cash and voucher tools, which we deployed quickly and appropriately when Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines. Yes, within just two weeks, the markets responded and reopened, and appropriately, WFP was distributing cash and vouchers.

Your early investment of €3 million proved instrumental in helping the cash and vouchers approved-portfolio increase from 200 million U.S. dollars in 2011 to the 1.2 billion U.S. dollars today. This kind of one-off investment is just a shadow of the regular investment that the European Commission and its Member States make to WFP.

Commissioner, WFP and ECHO share a sense of urgency when it comes to connecting humanitarian and development efforts supporting the resilience-building activities requisite for the people we serve. We ask for ECHO’s continuing support and for that of EuropeAid. We must think holistically about the problems of food insecurity and malnutrition in a manner that addresses immediate needs but also that shapes the future we want.

It is often said that we have the tools to end hunger, yet we lack the will. Your political will, strong advocacy and your financial support, enables the investment in the food and nutrition assistance those we serve need and helps us provide the response in an ever-changing world.

Commissioner, we look forward to your statement and we thank you once again for joining us this morning.

On behalf of the people we serve, and of WFP, we express our deep appreciation to you. Madam President, Members of the Board, please again join me in thanking our Commissioner, Kristalina Georgieva, for joining us and for her service as Commissioner for ECHO and her work with WFP over these years.

Thank you very much, Commissioner.