Opening Statement by Ertharin Cousin, World Food Programme Executive Director, at the Committee on World Food Security, 39th Session

Delivered on: 15 October 2012

Reform+3: Urgent Business

Chairman Mr. Yaya Olaniran, Director General Mr. José Graziano da Silva, President Mr. Kanayo Nwanze, Ministers, Excellencies, Distinguished Leaders of Civil Society and the Private Sector, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of WFP, I am honored to join you today at this 39th Session of the CFS, and to amplify the words of my esteemed FAO and IFAD colleagues who have spoken before me.  Never have the UN Rome-based Agencies been more unified than we are today, and never has the world’s commitment to multilateralism in the fight to end hunger been stronger.

As Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) since April of this year, I have seen the closest possible cooperation among FAO, IFAD and WFP.  In addition to regularizing monthly consultations and joint advocacy statements, the UN Rome-based Agencies have begun working to maximize our collective advantage, including our work together in the 2015 thematic group, as well as our joint efforts during Rio+20 including a joint side event and now our combined follow up to Rio +20. We are also working together with the high level task force and AMIS on issues related to price volatility.  We are continuing our joint positioning on nutrition, including our work together on the SCN and with REACH. The P4P movement also has become a more productive tool through collaborative effort. In effect, we are working together more effectively at the global level as well as more collaboratively at the country level.

One of our recent joint endeavors, the 2012 edition of The State of Food Insecurity in the World, will be presented to you this afternoon.

Over these last three years the global community has witnessed a transformed CFS.  The achievement of a reformed CFS serving as the foremost inter-governmental platform for all stakeholders, working together to ensure food and nutrition security for all, that lofty goal is no longer our collective vision; it has become our collective reality.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have built the machinery.  Now the task before us is to keep it fully energized, on the road, and driving toward our next urgent destination. 

This is not the time to slow our efforts.  In fact, our time for reflection may be nearly exhausted.  The State of Food Insecurity in the World signals that while we had made some progress nearly 870 million people remain chronically food insecure.
In the last year we have seen more growth in the relationship between hunger and conflict.  Thirty years ago, 15 percent of hunger emergencies were related to conflict.  But today conflict is a factor in 35 percent of humanitarian emergencies.   Some conflict zones have evolved into protracted emergencies, where ongoing needs are becoming financially difficult to sustain with traditional types of assistance.  The spread of violence to new areas including Syria and Mali risks rapidly undoing our best efforts, and adding to the suffering of the world’s most vulnerable people.

In addition, we are seeing the continued consequences of climate change, with the occurrence of more frequent and intense natural hazards, such as droughts, floods, and tropical storms.  In Africa, over 90 percent of agriculture is rain-fed and rains are becoming less predictable.1  In the Sahel and the Horn, drought impacts crop cycles in areas where people were already vulnerable.  These trends increase the urgent need for better tools and resilience strategies to support local communities in reducing their vulnerability to the impact of these risks.

High food prices, the global crisis that sparked CFS reform three years ago, presents resurgent challenges, deepening hunger and food insecurity for the most vulnerable, especially women and children. 

Fully sixty percent of people living in developing countries lack safety nets for social protection, rising to as much as 80 percent in the poorest countries, according to our latest State of Food Insecurity estimates.

All of this reinforces our CFS mandate that only a cross-sectoral, multi-stakeholder approach promoting practical action at the country level, and combined with regional and global policy convergence and coordination, is capable of meeting these complex challenges.

We need active and positive engagement from all CFS stakeholders to build support for these initiatives to reduce food insecurity, and to keep us on track towards the achievement of Millennium Development Goal number one, halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger, and Goals four and five, to improve child and maternal health.  And with deadlines for these goals fast approaching, we must also extend our vision beyond 2015, by closely coordinating efforts toward a post-2015 agenda and follow up to Rio+20  that includes eliminating hunger and chronic undernutrition.

As demonstrated by the rich agenda planned for this 39th session and the many informative side events, CFS is the unique place where global convergence on food and nutrition security policies is a possibility.  Our round tables on social protection and climate change, the Global Strategic Framework (GSF), the High-Level Experts Forum on Protracted Crises, side events on new and continuing initiatives supporting gender and nutrition – all of these will provide essential guideposts to help lead the global community forward.

But with the increasing scope and pace of CFS work, this session is also our best time to take stock of our achievements, assess work in progress and set priorities for where we must go next.  This 39th session’s increased focus on monitoring and work planning are welcome steps towards leveraging our collective substantial investments in CFS through these last three years.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s each do our best to ensure this 39th plenary session sets down another historic milestone on our continuing journey. Together we can and we must mobilize the unique collaborative advantage that this assembly offers: work for practical decisions and implement practical actions that will bring us closer to our common goal - ending global hunger.

Thank you.