Opening Remarks by World Food Programme Executive Director Ertharin Cousin on the Occasion of the Annual Board Session 2016

Delivered on: 13 June 2016

Check Against Delivery

Thank you Madam President.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Please join me in offering a warm welcome to our very special guests:

From Andorra, His Excellency Gilbert SABOYA SUNYE, Minister of Foreign Affairs;

From Argentina, a welcome home, to Her Excellency Susana MALCORRA, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship;

From the Republic of the Congo, His Excellency Jean Claude GAKOSSO, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation;

From Burkina Faso, His Excellency Jacob OUEDRAOGO, Minister of Agriculture and Water Management;

From Chad, Her Excellency Mariam Mahamat NOUR, Minister of Plan and International Cooperation;

From Gambia, the Honourable Fatou LAMIN FAYE, Minister of Basic and Secondary Education;

From Kyrgyzstan, His Excellency Bazarbaev Kudaibergen BAZARBAIEVICH, Minister of Labour and Social Development;                    

From Lesotho, the Honourable Kimetso Henry MATHABA, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office;                    

From South Sudan, His Excellency Hussein MAR NYUOT, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management;

From El Salvador, Her Excellency Liduvina del Carmen MAGARIN,

Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs for Salvadorians Abroad;

From Ethiopia, His Excellency Mitiku KASSA, Commissioner for National Disaster Risk Management;

From France, His Excellency André VALLINI, Minister of State for Development and Francophonie;

From Somalia, His Excellency Abdinasir Garane MOHAMED, Deputy Minister of Livestock, Forestry and Range;         

From Canada, Heather JEFFREY, Director General of International Humanitarian Assistance at Global Affairs Canada;

From Switzerland, His Excellency Manuel BESSLER, Director of Swiss Humanitarian Aid;

From the United States of America, Ms. Dina ESPOSITO, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator at USAID.

And finally, from our Permanent Observer, the European Union, His Excellency Christos STYLIANIDES, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.

We also welcome every delegation member who travelled from capitals to join us.

We acknowledge the importance your representation and your presence gives to this 21st Annual Session.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I began my tenure in 2012, stating emphatically to this Board my sincere belief in our ability to end hunger in our lifetime.  Caveating this bold statement by acknowledging that achieving this goal would require collective, sustained effort by: all the agencies, particularly the Rome Based Agencies; by governments both host and donor; by the private sector; and by civil society—particularly the faith community.

All working together to not only perform the work, but to build and sustain the collective global public will required to ensure the requisite multi-year, multi-stakeholder investments necessary to attain Zero Hunger—this ambitious but fully achievable goal.

Recognizing that the challenge of enabling people to not only improve their food and nutrition security but also of achieving their livelihood potential, would require an ever more effective, more efficient, more accountable, more transparent and strengthened WFP, WFP management sought and this board approved our plan to create an ever more Fit for Purpose WFP, putting those we serve at the Centre of all we do.

A plan, reaffirming the importance, first, of our people—national, international staff members, as well as our consultants and JPOs—recognizing that our people must receive the tools required to implement the necessary programmes.

Second, a plan to strengthen and implement more evidence-based programmes.

Third, Fit for Purpose was also about moving beyond just talking about better partnerships, creating a culture at all levels, where we work collaboratively, in partnership with an ever more diverse set of actors.

Finally, the Fit for Purpose plan also recognized the need to increase and expand the WFP financial resource base.

The task was not to reset, but to retune, building on the legacy of 50 plus years of innovative WFP programs.

This afternoon, I can report significant progress reorienting our work and putting Zero Hunger high on the global agenda.

And I must echo the stirring words from His Holiness Pope Francis, who spoke of the work we have yet to do, and of the results we have yet to achieve for sustainable development, as well as to adapt to climate change.

Excellencies, in these difficult times, WFP and all of our partners must renew and reaffirm our responsibility to work differently.

Although the number of undernourished people has fallen to under 800 million today, the reality is climate-change, conflict, instability, and entrenched poverty increasingly jeopardize the capacity of tough people, living in marginal and climate-vulnerable places, to transform their own lives, and lift themselves out of poverty.

Such entrenched hunger and hopelessness is evidenced by:

80 percent of people WFP serves today living in climate vulnerable places;

Every fourth child, undernourished with her potential stunted;

By the 42,000 people forcibly displaced everyday by conflict or persecution, now totaling over 60 million displaced people and refugees worldwide.

Entrenched hunger and hopelessness is also evidenced by:

The more than half of refugees living in limbo in camps, some for up to 60 years;

By the farmer unable to safeguard one-third of her harvest because of poor post-harvest infrastructure and an inability to reach her local market;

By the women and girls locked out of education, denied skills, knowledge, access to land rights, access to capital and training; and

By the countless communities parched by drought flooded with natural disaster—facing predicted, yet unprecedented risk.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this continued existence of daily indignities, needless barriers and unending crises—impacting lives, ending dreams, and bringing despair, must motivate each one of us to do better, by our fellow global citizens.

Last year when member states unanimously approved the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the world acknowledged the interconnectivity of the goals.  The world acknowledged the necessity of simultaneously achieving all goals, and the requirement for addressing the needs of the furthest behind first. 

And it is the same motivation, which underlines the importance of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) outcomes.  WHS confirmed the commitment to overcome the humanitarian and development divide, recognizing that every person, everywhere must have an opportunity to achieve peace and prosperity.  This will only come when those of us addressing humanitarian needs don’t stop at just saving lives and livelihoods.  We owe those we serve more.  Humanitarian response must serve as a part of the development continuum.

For example, when FAO, IFAD and WFP work together ensuring farm families aren’t forced to eat their seeds during an emergency—because WFP provides food so that farmers can plant with the seeds and tools they are given by FAO.  Also, when all the Rome Based Agencies work together in places like Somalia and Central African Republic, helping rural communities and smallholder farmers move beyond subsistence, not only feeding their families, but also meeting other household needs through economic growth.

Another example, when UNICEF, FAO, WHO, IFAD and WFP work together to address malnourishment and to meet nutrition needs of the women and children we serve, not just during emergencies, not just scaling-up support during the rainy season, but implementing the longer term programs that will eliminate stunting.

The WHS also recognized the importance of local first responders, including local governments, local civil society and, as you heard us talk about earlier, local faith communities. 

As a result, UN agencies and donor countries together pledged to invest 25 percent of all humanitarian resources as close as possible to local first responders by 2020.  WFP supports this commitment.

WHS also recognized the importance of moving towards more context-based responses, providing cash and cash-based transfers, as a method of providing the assistance necessary, recognizing cash provides not just dignity but also market development and stabilization support.

Yes, WFP is implementing a cash and voucher program which will support the delivery of conditional cash, commodity vouchers as well as unrestricted cash.

Also now UNHCR, UNICEF and WFP are working together to develop a cash platform solution which will meet the food, as well as non-food, needs of the world’s growing refugee population.

Excellencies, with plans to provide over 9.5 million people with nearly one billion dollars’ worth of cash transfers this year alone, WFP is the global cash leader.  We recognize our greater system-wide responsibility to support others improving delivery mechanisms and to work towards single solutions, particularly for governments seeking support, implementing agile, shock-responsive safety nets.

Solutions such as the One Card system in Lebanon, utilizing and building local supply chains with proven added value in interoperability, targeting and traceability.

Ladies and gentlemen, the WHS also advanced many years of dialogue on improving humanitarian financing, increasing the availability of private and public resources, as well as the need to accelerate and apply innovation.

The WFP team left the summit with a renewed determination to shift the orientation of humanitarian action beyond care-and-maintenance toward helping those we serve move beyond their circumstances.

The WFP team left the summit evermore committed to achieving Zero Hunger.

Ladies and gentlemen, the call for reorientation and recommitment will continue. 

At the upcoming High Level Panel on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, WFP and the Rome Based Agencies will urge attention not only on the tragic migration crises now hitting the headlines, but also on the need to prioritize durable solutions for the millions of people trapped now for decades in camps in places around the globe, including Kenya and Ethiopia. 

And at next October’s Habitat III Conference in Ecuador, the Rome Based Agencies will again amplify the fact that poor people everywhere, whether in Beirut, Bangkok, New Delhi or Chicago, pay more for food—requiring the need for a New Urban Agenda supporting urban food security and nutrition, which will ensure access by everyone for nutritious food—all towards the goal of achieving Zero Hunger.

Excellencies, the work we are performing with this Board’s guidance and counsel is vital to fully structure WFP for Agenda 2030.

With your support, our proposals for four integrated work-streams for effective programming, remodeling how we operate, maintaining our purpose and strength, while transforming our capabilities.

Beginning with the 2017 to 2021 Strategic Plan, which operationalizes our contribution to national-led action, while defining how WFP will support emergency and longer-term development priorities: responding to and preparing for emergencies; providing direct assistance where necessary; and working through country systems whenever possible.

The plan is ambitious, you are right, it is.  Because achieving Zero Hunger requires nothing less than ambitious plans.

So in the future, Country Strategic Plans developed with key stakeholders, and based on thorough context analysis, local capabilities and needs, will articulate the actions necessary to secure food and nutrition, reduce vulnerabilities, and enhance resilience.

This new plan-and-action setting approach will be backed by a revised financial architecture, outlined by the FFR, which to date we call the Financial Framework Review, but from now on means Financial Framework Revolution. 

Because for the first time at WFP, the country portfolio budget structure will establish clear linkages between strategic planning and our financials, as well as our operational performance, enabling simple, feasible and transparent budgeting, as well as smart cost-structure management.  We will also now have the capacity to align our activities, their costs and the outcomes we will achieve with other UN agencies.

The new Corporate Results Framework, will give structure to the program cycle and our theories of change, enabling performance measurement on outcomes, as well as providing a full understanding of how effectively and efficiently our investments achieve results.

Finally, a new Resource Mobilization Framework, will provide donors and contributors with many more opportunities to articulate and obtain support for the agile, analytical WFP of tomorrow—not just responding but anticipating and ending need.

We know these changes impact long-established processes and ways of working, and we will continue to work closely—as close as necessary—with our membership, ensuring the new processes fully allow contributions within your government and institutional criteria.

Excellencies, we make all of these efforts with the clear purpose of moving beyond the simple, automatic repetition of year-on-year, season-by-season acute responses.

Because whenever possible our 21st Century programme offering must not only be cost-effective and impactful, it must also facilitate empowered people, empowered communities and governments leading for the future of their own people.

Our investments must achieve outcomes ensuring people can not only manage daily risks, but also mitigate long-term challenges.  And, our operations at every level must be strong and cost-effective with a clear value proposition.  Which underlines the importance of our Cost Excellence Initiative, creating an ever more efficient processes, rationalizing our costs here in the Rome Office, for the benefit of more efficient operations at every level of the organization. 

In July, after consultation and feedback from the WFP Internal Advisory Group, we will present a going-forward plan for informal consultation and feedback. Management recognizes the importance of Board support for all our activities, particularly for our Cost Excellence Initiative.

Ladies and gentlemen, this critical restructuring paves the way for a much improved, strategic approach to partnership, especially with local players.

Recognizing the need to do better by local responders, we will build their capacities to become real partners, ensuring our 1,000 community-based partners, can fully contribute to joint analysis, joint monitoring, joint evaluation and joint decision-making on what’s best for their communities.  And our commitment to reach out to strategic stakeholders includes organizations with faith-inspired missions.

Today, honoring the address by His Holiness Pope Francis, we announce the launch of the Inter-Faith Religious Advisory Coalition.  I have reached out to my partners in FAO and IFAD asking how we can make this a Rome Based Agency initiative, guiding how we can fully harness faith based- and inspired-action to end hunger and improve nutrition.

But of course, we will not stop here.

We will continue to maximize private sector participation because we know expanding business-engagement pays off in dividends.  For example, in Indonesia, a consortium of businesses and companies are leveraging their business knowledge and consumer acumen with WFP’s country presence to inspire a national advocacy campaign promoting healthy and balanced diets for adolescent girls and mothers.

Ladies and gentlemen, recognizing that building awareness is vital to energize all our partnerships as well as to energize our people, our new Communications Strategy will articulate “the why, the how, and the what,” necessary to lift hunger and the SDGs in the public eye.

By storytelling with the people we serve, by focusing on impact to illustrate our collective results, and by enhancing local communication skills, we will improve the visibility of our operations in a way that your citizens, taxpayers, and your parliamentarians are demanding from us—to know how your investments in WFP support communities they are concerned about.  And to ensure those of you who host programs are aware of the impact, working together, we are making on your citizens. 

Excellencies, this is what is required for us to achieve Zero Hunger.  We must ensure that people have the opportunity to be aware and to support these efforts.

Excellencies, we can also revolutionize how we collectively address immediate, medium and long-term challenges. With eight out of ten crises lasting on average more than seven years, we possess significant scope to move away from funding cycles responding only to needs after they arise—we have an opportunity, but only if we embrace it, to move towards managing risk as opposed to managing need.

In this age of austerity and increasing need, we must take the necessary steps leveraging what we know to model and anticipate risk.  The truth is we can do just that using existing and available data. 

WFP’s early work, as an example, catalyzing the AU-led African Risk Capacity (ARC) proves innovative financing can quickly make hunger contingency funds available for events and disasters we know will occur.

Last year, ARC’s first payouts of $25 million to Mauritania, Niger and Senegal were crucial to avoiding a drought becoming a crisis, not only by mobilizing early intervention but also validating the practicality of transforming risk and response financing.

More widely harnessing risk management in this way, will transform our response. 

Providing insurance-based resources for emergency activities frees-up stable and regular resources for greater long-term investment in disaster risk reduction.

This is why we are working to replicate ARC’s success with ARC Replica. The Replica program will potentially double insurance coverage to vulnerable and at-risk populations. 

Of course, there are other initiatives we must also prioritize that give us the ability to mitigate risk.

Such as the R4 Resilience programme, which is breaking new ground in rural risk management providing micro-insurance. And this year providing El Niño-affected farmers in Ethiopia, Senegal and Malawi with some half a million dollars.

We will continue to pursue all the mechanisms for helping communities mitigate climate risk, through food security initiatives at our disposal, including now the Green Climate Fund, for which WFP was recently accredited as an agency that the fund will support to assist governments in the implementation of programmes.

All the tools provide WFP with the weapons required to help those we serve manage risk. 

Because, as I said, every drought need not become a crisis.

What we can predict we can mitigate, bringing the Zero Hunger Goal even closer to reality.

Simultaneously, we pursue better programming, within our traditionally largest space—emergency preparedness and response.

While we enhance our own capacity to deliver ever-more and ever-better, our major focus going forward is in supporting—where possible and where needed—national emergency capacities, including our work with middle income countries.

The Readiness Initiative sets out our approach to strengthen response effectiveness, humanitarian supply chains, as well as organizational resilience, with national agencies.  Using the Emergency Preparedness Capacity Index we will measure and hold ourselves to account.

Building on our legacy of managing complex emergency responses—as well as providing system-wide services—we will reconfigure, adjust and right-size our corporate supply-chain, developing and mainstreaming our strategic response capabilities, including through innovative retail strategies, achieving efficiency and effectiveness gains, while remaining agile and adequately responsive.

Going forward, WFP will also continue to improve our development-oriented programs, including our ever-evolving work with smallholder farmers, spanning 35 countries—where Rome Based Agency collaboration is fully realized.

Coordinated investments through Purchase for Progress, the Patient Procurement Platform, the Post-Harvest Loss Initiative, Purchase from Africans for Africans, and Home Grown School Meals.  With these programs, we deliver pro-smallholder addition throughout the food-value chain.

We will strive for even greater national and international support for school meals programs, nourishing bodies and nourishing minds through quality education, supported by nutritious school meals.

We will revitalize our approach supporting smallholder farmers while contributing to educational targets, particularly for the 6.5 million girls and boys participating in Emergency School Meals Programs.

And in all of our country offices we will deepen and enhance South-South and triangular cooperation with our middle income country partners, facilitating lessons learned from farmer to farmer, from organization to organization, from region to region, and from country to country.

Our experience demonstrates such cooperation is key to enabling the policy contexts necessary for success.

Engaging with 35 developing countries, the Centre of Excellence Against Hunger in Brazil demonstrates the value of exchange in promoting school meals, safety nets, and social protection programs.

With financial investment from the Chinese Government, two weeks ago, I opened the Center of Excellence for Rural Transformation in China, offering learning from China's unparalleled poverty alleviation and development experience.

Such South-South Cooperation propagates effective strategies tackling food security and malnutrition, in the most difficult settings.

Excellencies, all of these efforts, internal and external, in partnership and in collaboration, beginning now and taking us the next fifteen years to 2030, have one concrete purpose to do better by the people we serve, giving every child, woman and man access to the food and nutrition security required to achieve Zero Hunger.

Including the 60 million people worldwide, bearing the impact of the recent El Niño phenomenon, at least half of whom live in Southern Africa,
where Lesotho, Malawi and Zimbabwe are among the now most deeply affected.  In Ethiopia, where El Niño resulted in four-fold increase in food, nutrition and health system needs. And in Central America’s Dry Corridor and Haiti.

And it is not over yet.  The La Niña effects will occur in the next few months bringing some of these same communities massive flooding.
WFP will support the new UN Secretary-General Special Envoys working to bring more global attention, hopefully resulting in more financial resources, without which this El Niño and the upcoming La Niña will result in ever more hunger and poverty.

With this in mind, this morning I signed the appropriate documents declaring an El Niño Level 3 Internal Emergency here at WFP, giving us in management the capacity to call on all the necessary resources across the organization to grow our support for the challenges El Niño is creating, resulting in hunger challenges.

Ladies and gentlemen, in conflict settings our resolve to do better is too often limited by impeded limited access.
Including in Syria, where 4.6 million people, remain trapped in hard-to-reach areas.  As of last Friday, there is some good news.  The United Nations received approval to reach all 19 besieged locations with humanitarian aid during the month of June.  We hope this will enable greater cross-line and air access to the 592,000 people living in besieged locations, some unreachable since 2012.  Yet WFP remains ready to use whatever means required including airlifts, airdrops, and air bridges if we must.

In Yemen’s extremely challenging context, we prioritize support to 3 million people in emergency and critical zones.

In Iraq, we’re closely monitoring Fallujah where households reported severe food shortages for the third month in a row. 

In the Lake Chad region, Boko Haram’s six years of violence drive displacement now affecting some 2.2 million people in Nigeria alone.  We are expanding our presence, extending mVAM food security monitoring,
and working closely with national responders to reach some 430,000 people.

Tension and instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo deepen displacement, rendering 4.5 million people food insecure. 

Again some good news, thankfully.  South Sudan’s peace agreement, and the formation of a transitional government of national unity signal positive prospects for the future of South Sudan.  Yet I must honestly say, we remain deeply concerned about this country.  About the growing humanitarian needs and economic challenges including a 260 percent rise in staple food prices in the last year. 

More widely, we monitor all other hotspots, where people’s access to nutritious food is under pressure.  We must if we are to ensure that no child goes hungry.

Ladies and gentlemen, in all our efforts we continue applying innovation, gender and protection lenses.

I’ve spoken already of some key innovations we’ve applied.  And through the in-house Innovation Accelerator, we will systematically incubate and harvest new approaches and technologies: strengthening the platforms we provide; establishing better feedback mechanisms; permitting inter-operability; and harnessing data for real-time adaptive programming.  Programming such as the CIFF-funded pilot in Malawi, where we are using data visualization helping mothers to prevent child stunting.  By the end of this year, we will roll-out up to 20 food-security related innovations.

Simultaneously, we will robustly—and I underline robustly—apply a gender lens to all our actions.  The new Gender Equality Accreditation Programme will ensure every operation, every WFP programme, is held accountable for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

And we continue to reinforce for WFP personnel, partners and contractors, Zero Tolerance of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, recognizing the higher standards and obligations to which we must uphold, to protect those we serve as well as to protect those colleagues who serve with us.

Excellencies, in conclusion, I start where I began four years ago. 

We can and we must achieve Zero Hunger. 

With this board’s guidance and support, WFP will continue to perform the work internally and externally to meet the needs of those we serve.

Our world grows smaller every day.  Communications access now gives even those in vulnerable places windows into the world of what is possible. 

We as global citizens, as members of a shared global humanity, must create the public will required to ensure the global investment necessary to achieve Agenda 2030, which will include achieving Zero Hunger.

WFP will maintain our determination to reinvigorate our work by accepting change as our norm, by making decisions based only on evidence, by embracing innovation, and by partnering with strategic stakeholders, accelerating Zero Hunger and Sustainable Development.

Ladies and gentlemen, everyday WFP and our partners bear witness not only to the devastation, despair and deprivation brought by hunger and malnutrition, but also of the achievements of resilient tough people who—with nourished lives—will fulfil their potential, and take us all one step closer to the founding dream of “we the peoples.”

A global community where every child, born anywhere, born to anyone, is born with an equitable opportunity to live a life free of want, free of fear—a true Zero Hunger world. 

Thank you for being part of this journey.