Opening Remarks by the WFP Executive Director on the Occasion of the Second Regular Session of the Executive Board

Delivered on: 10 November 2014


Thank you, Madame President.  Excellencies, please allow me to take a few moments to welcome you to this session and to give a special greeting to those of you who have travelled here from your capitals.


I would also particularly like to welcome: from Russia, His Excellency Mr. Gatilov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; from Chad,  Her Excellency Ms. Nour, Minister of Planning and Cooperation; and Her Excellency Ms. Amane, Minister of Agriculture and Environment; and from Senegal:  His Excellency, Mr. Camara, Executive Secretary of the National Council of Food Security.


I hope each of you enjoy our new accommodation and refurbishments for observers and for the diplomatic community.  At 1 P.M. today, we invite you all to join us to thank our host, the Italian Government, when we jointly dedicate our Peace Garden.


Excellencies, this board session is about cutting through the noise—and even the quiet—of the media to get to the real discussion.  Our goal is to connect you with and to share the stark realities about our operations and the situation in the world out there.  Since our inception, member states mandated the World Food Programme to meet both emergency food needs and chronic food and nutrition malnutrition worldwide.   


For this reason, every sitting of the Executive Board provides an opportunity for all of us to uphold our shared responsibilities—as determined by our founding principles.  In this session, I will report to this board on five key areas: first, advising you on the state of our high and medium level emergencies; second, sharing our understanding of the food security and nutrition outlook; third, addressing the growing need for new norms to support Zero Hunger; fourth, updating you our continuing Fit for Purpose transformation and finally, I will turn to the management plan.

As we begin, let us begin with an issue that is in media.  On the Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak.  I just returned from Sierra Leone, reviewing our response to the crisis. I met with survivors, health workers, our staff, and President Koromo. 

We would like to show you a short video from this mission.

Ladies and gentlemen, I saw firsthand the negative impacts of Ebola.  The closed schools.  The unattended farms.  The empty markets.  And I heard the stories of the strong local women like the one you just heard—nurses, community activists, community leaders—who work on the frontline, who we don’t see on TV.  Courageous women who fell ill, healed, and came back to the fight.  It is said ‘stories are statistics with a soul,’ and I promise you, these women and these communities are the heart and soul of the world’s response.  We must not forget our abandon them.  We must redouble our efforts to help them hope and help. 


At the latest count, WHO report some 13,110 cases and 4,828 deaths in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.  But Ebola’s effects go far beyond thirteen thousand people.  This health crisis imperils the daily livelihoods of millions, lowering income and increasing the vulnerability of the already food-poor.


Our role, in WFP, is to prevent this health crisis from becoming a food and nutrition crisis, and to provide on-time, on-demand logistical support to the wider response effort.  Of course, WFP contributes with food and nutrition assistance for people in Ebola Treatment Centers, survivors, quarantined and hard-hit communities.  To date, we reached over 1.3 million people this way. 


WFP also provides vital transport, logistics and communications support to medical partners and the wider international community.  Our work is crucial.  Because stopping the relentless chain of transmission requires a regular supply of medical equipment, hygiene items, and even generators and vehicles.  Already, WFP and UNHAS air services restored critical movement of staff and light cargo between Conakry, Monrovia and Freetown.  Our logistics and telecommunications hubs are now in place.   


We can help the nurses, community activists and community leaders to rid their communities of this disease and restore them back to health.  And we can reach survivors and hard-hit communities.  We must, if we want to change lives, we cannot wait. 


Moving eastward across the continent to South Sudan, we see how rapidly a nation’s food and nutrition security situation can deteriorate.  In this room, almost twelve months to the day, we approved a program of work, changing our focus from emergency to recovery.  Yet, just weeks later, political instability overtook South Sudan, leading to conflict, massive internal displacement and refugee flight. 


We scaled-up our emergency responses in refugee-hosting Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.  To avert famine and severe acute malnutrition inside South Sudan, we quickly implemented emergency food assistance.  Our inability to preposition food before the onset of the rainy season required expensive airlifts supported by multi-agency rapid response teams.  Our extraordinary efforts worked.  Relief mitigated a severe crisis in the affected areas.   


But it is not over.  The latest IPC report estimates emergency and crisis levels will affect 2.5 million people within the first three months of 2015.   Inside Sudan, our team is scaling-up.  Now as we begin the dry season, insecurity and conflict continue to threaten our operations, especially in the most difficult locations where the need is greatest.  Our national staff, increasingly face harassments and threats.


In fact, on October 16 our National Field Security Officer was abducted by eight armed men in Malakal.  Please allow me to reassert our call for his immediate release and ask for this Board’s and your capitals’ support to assume what we still hope and pray is his safe return. 


In Central African Republic, sporadic outbursts of violence seriously impede our operations.  We plan.  We prepare.  Then, we are blocked.  Last month, for example, staff movement was restricted for two weeks.  Despite these restrictions, we must continue to provide life-saving assistance to IDPs and other vulnerable groups.  In the past months, WFP has provided food support for over 700,000 inside of CAR.  The latest assessment, unfortunately, categorized some 1.4 million people as food insecure.  Our newly appointed Country Director, even after four months, has not received agrément from the government.  So we continue to face challenges.


Ladies and gentlemen, in Syria, as we approach the fourth year of this evermore-protracted crisis, increasing radicalization, rising insecurity, and diminishing resources reduce our capacity to respond with certainty.  Right now, food insecurity affects 9.8 million people.  Despite the growing limitations, we continue our efforts to reach 4.25 million people inside Syria.


Across the region, the refugee population now exceeds more than three million.  Throughout this crisis, the host nations of Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt responded with solidarity.  Yet some now warn they may have reached their maximum capacity.  Despite the generosity of our membership, funding constraints jeopardize our operations, with potentially devastating consequences. 


Ladies and gentlemen, in Iraq, rapidly deepening food security crisis now affects every governorate in the country.  Excluding besieged areas, 2.8 million people now require food assistance. Currently, we reach almost 900,000 people.  To double our efforts, we plan progressive increases in our assistance, reaching 1.8 million people by March 2015. 


Moving to our Level Two (L2) emergencies, in Somalia, the fragile political and humanitarian situation, erodes household resilience, increasing food insecurity and malnutrition.  The latest inter-agency assessment report states 1.1 million people now require urgent assistance, and 15 percent of children under five suffer acute malnutrition.  Unfortunately, next month, when the lean season hits hardest and when our assistance is most needed, shortfalls will require a major suspension of our operation. 


Yemen is turning into a forgotten crisis.  The political situation threatens an already fragile food security situation.  Food insecurity affects more than 10.6 million people.  At this time, contributions cover just one-third of the 83 million U.S. dollars we require to maintain life-saving food and nutrition assistance for the next six months. 


In Mali, communities grow impatient for recovery.  For nearly a decade, roughly a fifth of the population endured food insecurity. 

And today, undernutrition affects four out of ten children.  We will later ask this board to consider our proposal and new strategy to support the national recovery, through rebuilding livelihoods.


Of all the L2 operations, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) gives us reasons for renewed optimism.  Disarmament enabled some 1.8 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to return home.  Even the economy boasts growth of 7 percent.  In this country—where for people, having food is synonymous with peace and stability—severe food insecurity afflicts 6.8 million people.  Lack of funding has forced significant cuts in our WFP operations.  Today, we have reduced our support to only the most vulnerable.  Our operations support just 1.3 out of the 6.8 million vulnerable hungry poor. 


That didn’t sound like good news, so I am going to try again on the good news side.


In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), our appeals for urgent donor support resulted in the contributions of 18 million dollars.  This money will ensure our ability to continue a viable nutrition program in the DPRK.


So that is a bit of good news, yet the picture I’ve just painted is one you all know well.  Never before has the humanitarian community been so strained.  I must say traditional donors have been generous, new donors continue to step up their support but the reality is one feeding today comes with one contribution.  We must all do more.  Effective emergency response avoids humanitarian tragedy, but it will not achieve Zero Hunger.


Ladies and gentlemen, moving now, to the second part of my presentation on the global food and nutrition outlook, in the midst of these challenges in many parts of the world, it is clear, there is incremental progress reducing the incidence of chronic hunger. 


Again, our global estimates demonstrate a downward trend—undernourishment now affects 805 million people.  This year, FAO’s crop prospects also provide good news.  Cereal production estimates point to a multi-year high.  These expectations already resulted in lower prices of wheat, maize and rice.  But of course, the situation is not universal, for example in Central America, significant drought will undermine production and erode food security gains. 


Globally, undernutrition also remains stubbornly high.  Although the latest nutrition trends show modest progress, the World Health Assembly target to reduce stunting is off track.  Stunting still affects some 161 million children under five years of age—about half of whom live in Asia and one third in Africa. 


Put together, these numbers demonstrate slow yet steady progress, but when we look behind the numbers—it is clear, we must remain vigilant.  At the current pace of reduction, it will take many decades to achieve our goal of Zero Hunger.


This brings me to the third part of my presentation, the need for new norms to support Zero Hunger.


Every day, global momentum for international humanitarian and development reform increases.  Whether we speak of the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, the World Humanitarian Summit, the Scaling Up Nutrition movement, the ICN2, or the Hyogo Disaster Risk Reduction Summit, the appetite and demand for change is almost unquenchable. 


The call for new global frameworks, operational structures and normative priorities demand this board’s and this organization’s attention.  The way forward from each of these global initiatives must create an enabling environment, which provides operational agencies like WFP with the ability to sustainably support the vulnerable hungry poor—and their governments—while tackling acute crisis, and simultaneously providing the space for WFP’s engagement in program support in long-term food security and improved nutrition.


It is true we must never lose sight of our mandated responsibility to provide emergency food and nutrition assistance.  As one of the major donors confirmed for me recently, the world depends on WFP’s legendary, effective and efficient logistics and supply-chain management capacity.  And to date, we have responded without fail.  Together with the global community we will continue to do so. 


But we must begin to ask ourselves some hard questions.  Because the world situation requires a WFP with the capacity to address the challenges of acute hunger and malnutrition as well as chronic food insecurity.  The world also requires a WFP with the ability to meet the global challenges of achieving Zero Hunger, including capacity development in Middle Income Countries, as well as, increasing partnerships to scale up our nutrition interventions where needed.


We must continue building an organization with the ability to perform the programmatic work as well as the emergency logistics and response support.


Certainly, meeting these objectives means WFP must continue to evolve our financing mechanisms, our partnerships, as well as our structures.  Our global goals and the global frameworks in which we operate, must enable us to do both.


When it comes to the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, the conversation of course remains open.  As we stated many times before, WFP’s role is only to advise.  This conversation is member states’ prime responsibility.  To this end, we commend the report of the Open Working Group, and its proposed goal on hunger, food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture.  The discussion now moves to means of implementation, indicators and targets—essential to promoting a new integrated way of addressing chronic and acute hunger.  WFP and the other Rome-Based agencies are committed to supporting member-states in this conversation, as we move forward.


At this time, I must raise our concern about the direction the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) is taking.  As it stands, the current draft framework omits references to food security and nutrition.  This sends the wrong signal that DRR should not and will not target vulnerable and food-poor people.  We ask for your support to amend the draft framework.


The World Humanitarian Summit also provides WFP with a key opportunity for reform and to improve the operational efficiency of our current systems.  We will offer WFP’s comparative advantages—our ability to mobilize, collaborate, reach scale, provide common services and innovate.  But member states need to ensure the outcome provides WFP with the ability to do the work the world needs. 


Of course, Rome-Based Agency collaboration is essential to all of these efforts.  Because we know, when we speak with one voice and act together, our inputs provide real added-value.  Rome, through the CFS, the upcoming SUN Global Gathering and ICN2, offers a unique opportunity for WFP, FAO, IFAD—and indeed civil society, member states and other UN organizations—to strengthen linkages between food, nutrition and even health sectors.  We have much work in front of us, and we must continue to engage.


Ladies and gentlemen, now moving to the fourth and final part of my presentation.  Each day Fit for Purpose reforms, deliver enhancements and efficiencies, improving the value and impact of our work.  We completed organizational design, presence and process reviews, executive management changes, and strategies for partnerships and people.  We have now accomplished ten of the fourteen workstreams.   Only four remain. 


In January, a new Division of Innovation and Change Management will ensure we keep momentum on our reforms, monitor our progress.  The Global Change Team will oversee the implementation and tracking of each workstream, including the new strategic plan, while creating a permanent space to incubate innovation across this organization.  This team will also support our Cost Excellence initiative, where we will examine potential efficiencies and cost-savings, including service center feasibility.  We must and we will do more, but always with an eye towards driving efficiency, in both headquarters and the field.


Gender remains a crucial part of Fit for Purpose.  For the first time, we now know our resourcing of gender.  Some 11 percent of our projects target gender-related activities—roughly 370 million dollars.  We recognize and believe it is an ambitious start, but we must and we will do more.


On the people side, achieving “excellence” requires capable, committed and motivated people.  This Board session, we will consider the People Strategy.  In July, we concluded the first phase of the Local Staff Transfer Project, transferring some 3,400 employees to the FAO legal framework, building one WFP team.  We also made career appointments to more than 400 long-serving national staff across the organization.  Now, in the second phase of this Local Staff Transfer Project, our attention is on improving medical insurance and HR services.  We must and we will do more. 


For all staff, a new Career Framework will allow us to move from short-term thinking and assumption-making to long-term planning and evidence-based decision-making.  This fundamental shift in how we manage our people is crucial to achieving the human capacity required to perform the work the world requires from WFP. 


Repeatedly, WFP’s people prove their willingness to take up the most difficult of challenges.  When it came time to respond to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, within a matter of days, 400 people across the organization signed up to volunteer.  Right now, almost 700 WFP personnel work directly on the ground.  We have one of the largest footprints of any of the agencies performing in West Africa.


Recognizing the commitment all personnel make serving in high risk, and indeed all WFP operations, we will establish a new Wellness Division to bring together our medical and counselling services into one single unit. 


Nowhere is this new integrated approach more apparent, than our response to the Ebola virus disease outbreak.  A specially formed Ebola Deployment Cell brings together Medical, HR, travel, and emergency preparedness experts to support all personnel working to stop this outbreak while simultaneously working to mitigate the risks.


Evaluation also takes priority reform focus.  Later this week, we will discuss the OECD Peer Review of the evaluation function at WFP.  Overall, the review assessed the central evaluation function highly, rating it among the top performers in the UN.  It observed, rightly, there is further work to make full use of monitoring, review and evaluations in our programming.  And we welcome the Panel’s recommendations.


Moving to partnership, we recognize everything we do, we do collectively.  Our commitment to become the Partner of Choice is stronger than ever.  For the governments we partner with, we will continue to harmonize and strengthen our approach—communicating “the how, the why and the what” necessary to generate the political will to eliminate hunger. 


For host governments particularly, we keep improving our ability to harness the resources they offer us—this year alone we received 200 million U.S. dollars’ worth of support from 24 host governments.


For the more than 1,300 NGO and Civil Society partners, responsible for delivering more than two-thirds of the programme, we are reinvigorating our relationship, taking steps to improve funding predictability and provide better partnership frameworks—ultimately to move beyond just an implementing partnership to become real partners who work together.


For private sector partners, a new partnership architecture increases transparency and reduces transaction costs. 


Throughout all of these changes, the corporate body—and all our personnel—must fully adhere to the highest standards of conduct.  To support this goal, we launched a single Code of Conduct, the first for any UN agency. 


And of course, the Office of the Ombudsman and Mediation Services remains an independent and confidential place to resolve workplace conflict by informal means for all of WFP’s staff. 


All of these changes in how we manage processes, people, partnerships require resources, and so finally, I will now turn to the management plan.


Let me begin by unreservedly thanking every contributor to WFP for the financial resources they provide.  For 2015, the proposed management plan focuses on the financial numbers for implementing the Strategic Plan.  This plan enhances accountability.  It incorporates Value for Money and performance management principles, from budget review to implementation.


We foresee operational requirements of 7.45 billion U.S. dollars, while our estimated funding unfortunately is 4.4 billion U.S. dollars.  So, despite your increased support, and our increased mobilization of new resources, the gap between what we must do, what we need to do and what we are resourced to do is widening. 


We know this is not comfortable to hear.  However, if we did not highlight our operational requirements, we would fail to uphold the duties you entrusted to us.  But we recognize and acknowledge we must plan to make choices, and present the results to you in the Management Plan.  


For the first time we present a prioritized workplan of 4.4 billion U.S. dollars, which is fully aligned with the estimated funding for 2015.  You therefore have a document grounded in financial reality.


We also committed we would live within our means in our PSA budget.  The plan we present maintains Zero Nominal Growth.  Despite a no-growth constraint, it includes the reallocation of 8.1 million U.S. dollars to the PSA budget to support corporate priorities.  We propose 9.2 million U.S. dollars in non-recurring critical corporate initiatives—the same level as 2014, which includes 3.1 million U.S. dollars to progress the Financial Framework Review, and funding to implement the People Strategy.


To increase overall operational flexibility and predictability, we propose to increase the target level of the Immediate Response Account from 70 to 200 million U.S. dollars.  We need this change, particularly when we address five L3s with no immediate end in sight.  It is important to note, the current IRA target was set in 2004, when we were working in a different context.


Excellencies, as I conclude, I ask this board to acknowledge the unprecedented and growing humanitarian needs undermining our ability to truly address the challenges of acute hunger and malnutrition as well as chronic hunger and malnutrition.  We must also recognize that these competing needs—despite our shared global commitments—threaten our ability to achieve a Zero Hunger world in our lifetime.


In spite of these challenges, we press ahead at full speed on what we need to do to become fully Fit for PurposeBecause as the challenges increase, so does the imperative to deliver across all the objectives we set for ourselves.

We must ensure that we set new norms, so the current unprecedented state of crisis does not undermine or eclipse our global goal of Zero Hunger. 


We must take the time to adequately reform our architecture, adopt new methods of working, innovation and collaboration must become the new normal. 


Let us serve as ‘administrators of human potential,’ providing people with the support they need and deserve.  The author Sarah Ban Breathnach once said:


“The world needs dreamers. 

And the world needs doers.

But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.”


Excellencies, board members, we together are the doers.  The possibilities are infinite.  With the decisions we take, and the actions we perform, we can achieve our dream of a day when every child grows up in a home of his or her choice, in his or her own state, fully nourished.  With the opportunity to live life to his or her full potential, where he or she is food secure, fearing not hunger, fearing not want.   


This work we must do and dream together.


Thank You.