Opening Remarks by Ertharin Cousin at the WFP Executive Board Annual Session of 2013

Delivered on: 03 June 2013


Please allow me to welcome all of you to this Annual Session and to give a special welcome to those of you who have travelled here from your capitals:

  • From Canada, Ms Leslie Norton, Director General of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA);
  • From Côte d'Ivoire, Ms Candia Camara, Minister of National Education and Professional Training;
  • From the Czech Republic, Ms Zuzana Hlavičková, Director of Development and Humanitarian Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
  • From Finland, Ms Anna Gebremedhin, Director of the Unit for Humanitarian Assistance in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs;
  • From Germany, Ms Ursula Mueller, Director General of the Ministry of Economic Cooperation;
  • From Iceland, Mr Emil Breki Hreggvidsson, Director of Humanitarian Assistance in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
  • From Mauritania, Mr Mohamed Ould Mouhamedou, Commissioner for Food Security;
  • From the United States, Ms Patricia Sheikh, Deputy Administrator for the Office of Capacity Building and Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture; and Mr Matthew Nims, Deputy Director for the Office of Food for Peace in USAID;
  • From Switzerland, Ambassador Manuel Bessler; and
  • From the European Union, Ms Florika Fink-Hooijer, Director for Strategy, Policy and International Co-operation in ECHO.

We acknowledge the importance that representation from capitals gives to this Annual Session, and we value your presence and contributions.  We take this opportunity to thank you each of you for joining us.

I would also like to take a moment to recognize the staff association representatives who will address us on Wednesday morning.  Maintaining this very direct and open channel between our staff and the Executive Board is an important check on our progress towards a unified and Fit for Purpose organization.

A little over three months ago, at our last Board meeting, I prefaced my opening remarks by predicting that 2013 will be a busy and a productive year. I expect all of you will agree that our work to date fits that description.

The start of this Annual Session completes the first full cycle of the Executive Board meetings since I began my tenure as WFP Executive Director. Now, as I begin my second year, this board meeting is my opportunity to report on the accomplishments – not only over the last year but also during the first part of 2013 – and our plans for the balance of 2013.  I am also committed to providing you with a progress update on our Fit for Purpose organizational strengthening programme, including as I committed to you, an update on how we invested the US$20 million you allocated for our support.

This Board session will cover a significant amount of WFP business and requires more time for discussion.  As such, that is why management and this Board agreed not to invite a guest speaker.  We want to provide the maximum time for possible discussions and, as always, I am personally committed to giving my maximum engagement during the next four days.

We have an ambitious agenda for this Board session.  Agenda Items 4 and 5, our Annual Performance Report for 2012 (APR) and WFP Strategic Plan for 2014–2017 provide the accomplishments, lessons learned and forward-looking vision for our journey.

Later today, Management will present for your approval, strategies for expanding engagement with the private sector.  I hope you will all agree with our need to expand WFP’s funding sources.  The private sector offers the potential to accelerate progress in our essential mission to end hunger.  Tomorrow, we take a full day to comprehensively review our financial statements. This is Management’s opportunity to present, and your opportunity to evaluate, whether WFP’s resources and investments, as expended, are delivering all possible value for money.

On Wednesday, we will discuss the nutrition policy update and other matters of special interest to this Board.

Our attention to nutrition is particularly timely because on Saturday WFP and other United Nations agencies will meet in London with government representatives and leaders of the business and scientific communities for the G8’s second high-level event on nutrition. You will also recall that last year the United Kingdom also convened a hunger event on the last day of the London Olympics. That event set an ambitious goal to reduce childhood stunting by half between the close of the London Olympics and the opening of the Rio Olympics in 2016.  Now the United Kingdom will convene a discussion of organizations, business and government that will identify additional measurable commitments toward achieving this goal.

At this pre-G8 event, WFP anticipates announcing our expanding partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Working with UNFPA, we seek to improve the nutritional status of mothers during the critical 450 days from conception to birth and continuing into the first six months of breastfeeding. We focus on, as a community, the first 1,000 days, but too often we neglect the importance of focusing on women during this very critical period.  We also recognize that we must bring nutrition support and reproductive information to adolescent girls before pregnancy.

The latest research confirms that these times in the life of a mother and her child – before and during pregnancy, and the six months immediately following the birth of her child – are the most critical windows, when timely interventions can have the maximum impact on outcomes for a healthy child and future adult.  We must focus on the mothers as well as the children.

Let me begin by talking about our continuing efforts to strengthen WFP.  The Fit for Purpose exercise we initiated last year after comprehensive conversations held both from outside of WFP and within our own ranks, including all of you, led to the conclusion that strengthening WFP’s organizational structure and internal technical capacities would provide the opportunity to move from a good WFP to a great WFP.

We all agreed that WFP exists to feed hungry people and to empower individuals, communities and countries to feed themselves in the future.  Our progress toward this goal requires a focus on beneficiaries and country offices. 

 Fit for Purpose was not just a resourcing shift, an exercise of moving resources from Rome to our country offices.  On the contrary, our goal was to strengthen the entire organization around nine workstreams, which we believe will make WFP more fit-for-purpose in achieving these goals.  In the last year, we have made significant progress toward achieving this vision.

Let me give you more details on some of the activities around Fit for Purpose that we have accomplished over the last year, particularly in the areas of people, partnerships and our business and programming processes. I’ll talk about people first.

In determining what we needed to do to become a more people-centered organization, we consulted over 700 people in preparing the new organizational design that took effect on the 1st of February of this year.  Our new organizational structure establishes explicit lines of responsibility for better managerial accountability, while also limiting scopes of authority to ensure the checks and balances that every modern organization requires for effective oversight across all levels and functions.

The new structure mainstreams gender, with the gender unit reporting directly to the Deputy Executive Director and the Chief Operating Officer. More importantly, our gender team has begun to not only identify opportunities for strengthening our performance on gender-related programming, but also to identify new opportunities and innovative ideas for mainstreaming gender. You will hear more about these gender-related activities from our gender team, which is scheduled to report to this Board several times over the coming months.

You will recall that in September, for the first time in WFP’s history, we opened up over 100 senior management positions for competitive reassignment as a part of this organizational strengthening.  We opened nearly all the D1 and D2 posts worldwide. We asked every applicant to describe why they were the best candidate for the job and what role they proposed to play in carrying forward the new position and their vision in that position.

In November and March, we completed the annual reassignment for P2 through P5 staff. More than 500 staff members were assigned to new positions. We got it done three months earlier than in previous years, allowing extra time for WFP staff and their families to prepare and plan for transitions.

Through both exercises, our HR team processed over 3,000 applications, realizing high professional standards for a fair and transparent process with full engagement, oversight and accountability from senior management throughout the process.

With your support, we also performed an agreed separation exercise. Agreed separations and early retirements have brought positive impacts that have already begun affecting the entire organization. They have created space for growth, expanded promotional opportunities, and helped us more proactively address long-standing gender parity challenges as well as missing capabilities in some functional areas.

In fact, half of the promotions during the senior reassignment process went to women. Two out of six Regional Bureaus are now led by women.  So far this year we have advertized 38 fixed-term international positions for external recruitment, including profiles related to nutrition and cash and vouchers which are some of the essential skills we need to build the WFP of the future.

Because many of the separating staff members held senior grades, we can now shift the resources released to create a greater number of junior positions.  This provides a way for new talent to enter WFP, and allows some of our talented junior staff members already on the payroll to move up into more senior positions.

Many of you have enquired about WFP’s annual promotion exercise for P2 to P4 staff. We postponed last year’s promotion exercise because we want to make sure we do it right, and we cannot do that without first designing a sharply improved process explicitly linking performance and potential to ensure that every promotion is merit-based. I have tasked the director of Human Resource Management with building an open, merit-based process that quantifies criteria for promotion and ensures a consistent approach for all hiring managers throughout WFP. That team anticipates finishing the process redesign this summer with an end of October target for completing the 2013 promotion exercise.

Ensuring we have the right staff in the right jobs also includes our national staff.  As we assess our relationship as a WFP family we have identified issues of importance to our national staff. One of those issues, the contract status of our locally recruited staff, has been identified as a significant barrier to full staff recognition. These contracts impact most directly the 85 percent of WFP staff working in their home countries – some 12,000 people at the last count.

You will recall that when we first looked into this, we focused on the need to move our staff holding UNDP contracts to WFP contracts in order to achieve a unified payroll and a single HR management system across the entire organization. But this job is about listening, and in listening to our locally recruited staff we learned that they also wanted greater fairness in the types of contracts WFP provides.

This is why we launched the Locally Recruited Staff Transfer Project. We are not only going to examine the issue of the contracts with UNDP and moving them over, but also how to best overcome the challenges to bring the necessary changes, including new strategies for providing long-term career development opportunities for national staff.

But it does not stop there.

At the February Board, I presented initial results from our 2012 Global Staff Survey. Since then, we have identified three priority areas for action: staff growth and development; effectiveness of line managers; and performance management. We have distributed the localized results of the Global Staff Survey to divisions, regional offices and country directors for use in appreciating staff priorities and hearing staff ideas on how to make WFP a better organization.  I have asked managers to analyze their survey results and develop local actions focused on these priorities that they must incorporate into their 2013 work plans. To measure our progress, in 2014 we will repeat the survey using the 2012 results as the baseline.

We have identified another way to better engage staff: my eighth All Staff Meeting held last week was shared for the first time with WFP offices around the world in the United Nations languages of Arabic, French and Spanish. That may seem unimportant, but we recognized that many of our national staff do not speak English. If we want to communicate with them it is not just about engaging with staff, but is about engaging with staff and ensuring that we are communicating to them in their languages.

During that meeting I emphasized that each of our directors must hold similar staff meetings at division, regional and country levels. I suggested to them that these meetings, reaching via telephone to remote staff serving at frontline sub-offices and warehouses, are essential for achieving progress on our fit-for-purpose goal to work better together by building a culture of commitment, communication and accountability. We are also providing our country directors with a template agenda and communication talking points for these meetings.

Becoming more Fit for Purpose also requires supporting the physical well-being of all our staff. The WFP Medical Unit is setting the pace for the United Nations system with its global health appraisal survey. Its purpose is to not only to promote health awareness at WFP but also to find ways of enhancing the health and well-being of our colleagues, especially those in the field, in a holistic way. The survey reached an unprecedented number of staff and will soon be adopted by sister agencies like UNHCR and FAO, potentially leading to the first consolidated global picture of the health of humanitarian workers.

The question we must then answer is how we can improve the mental and physical well-being of our staff. Many of our people are called to work in some of the most dangerous places on earth; therefore, their personal health is often neglected. We must provide the tools, information and support to ensure that Fit for Purpose includes well-being. It is not good enough to just say our people are our greatest asset, we must also practice this through our efforts and where we invest our time and resources.

Another area of importance as we move forward is building the right partnerships, because our partners are an important priority in the Fit for Purpose exercise.

We continue to make significant progress in knitting up with the other Rome-based Agencies, including successful developments in 2012 and earlier this year like our first Annual Award of Excellence for Working Together in the Field. As I noted at our last session, we presented that award during the IFAD Governors’ meeting earlier this year. We have already agreed that next year’s award ceremony will take place at the February WFP Board meeting.

And at my most recent meeting with FAO Director-General Mr Graziano da Silva and IFAD President Nwanze we agreed to travel together at least once a year to reinforce our joint message encouraging our respective teams in the field to work together. We feel that it is important that they see us not just talking about working together here in Rome, but also demonstrating that commitment in the field. We are now planning a joint field trip to Latin America this August.

WFP and the other Rome-based Agencies also agree that we must continue to reinforce the important progress that has been made by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in recent years. I have shared with you our decision to replace the existing funding arrangement, where FAO pays half of CFS operating costs while WFP and IFAD cover one-quarter each, with a temporary one-year commitment to divide expenses equally in shares of one-third. It is temporary because we must have the commitment of our Board before we can make an ongoing commitment of additional funds. The Rome-based Agencies will seek that support from each of our Boards to support a permanent and transparent solution enabling the CFS to sustain its important work with funding structures reflective of its community ownership.

At the regional level, at the end of last month we introduced the status of the African Risk Capacity, or the “ARC,” which I know you will agree is a truly breakthrough partnership between WFP and the African Union.  It was a pleasure to listen to the Board members after that presentation because of the pride you demonstrated in WFP’s role in developing and supporting this tool with the African Union.  The ARC enables African nations to control their own destiny after disasters, an achievement made more meaningful as it comes in the African Union’s fiftieth anniversary year.

Countries around the world already have access to insurance pools supporting their agricultural systems.  We are excited that African nations will now also benefit from these essential services. The future hand-over of the ARC to a stand-alone specialized agency of the African Union will provide WFP with our clearest model to date of a successful partnership at the regional level, where we will truly say ‘we came, we saw, we worked together, and we handed over,’ and, in the same spirit, we are working as better partners.

Following the success of our biggest and best 2012 Annual Partnership Consultation, preparations are under way for the next consultation, scheduled for 29 and 30 October at WFP.  Last year we had over 25 CEOs of our NGO international partners as well as national partners. This year we are expecting even greater participation. This year’s APC will have a format similar to the one used for the 2012, fully engaging NGOs and other international partners through participant-led papers and dialogues.  I know many of you appreciated joining the wrap-up session that was held at the conclusion of last year’s consultations and we look forward to welcoming you back for the closing session of this year’s consultation.

Besides moving people and forging partnerships we are also working to create more efficient and effective business processes.

We are investing in a new methodology and tool that helps country offices review their cost structures by benchmarking costs against similar offices elsewhere and closely examining every budget line item. This tool helps Country Directors identify where support cost structures are out of balance with their current portfolio of activities. In some cases, this process leads to cost savings, while in others it highlights where scaling up can improve our effectiveness on the ground.

When our Afghanistan country office first piloted this approach last year, its use led to a US$12 million reduction in direct support costs. We will conduct more pilots through the rest of this year. One is ongoing in the DRC. We aim to mainstream this promising approach over time across all WFP Country Offices.

We are also identifying changes needed in our central business processes, including programme management cycle, resource management allocation and utilization, supply chain management and monitoring, and reporting and evaluation.

This Business Process Review initiative is runs across the entire organization. Over 150 staff members are directly involved through regional workshops and all WFP staff have been asked to contribute their ideas. The first diagnostic phase of the work will be completed in July, followed by business cases supporting major changes in subsequent phases.

Already this work has yielded multiple dividends achievable as quick wins for little costs. Ideas for larger undertakings will become the backbone of WFP core business process improvement plans over the coming years. Many of the most innovative improvement ideas are informed by first-hand experiences that would have remained untapped without this organized business process review to amplify and broadcast practical lessons learned both at Headquarters level and in the field that is making knowledge management work for the benefit of those we serve.

Other resources have been invested for the review of WFP Liaison Offices. This work, now completed, establishes a framework for determining the future need for WFP presence in these non-operational locations. It also sets criteria for determining which offices should be stand-alone and common terms of reference for WFP offices performing these functions.

We now have a clearer set of reporting lines for work performed in stand-alone offices and the processes are in place for evaluating future requests for non-operational offices. This investment ensures future Liaison Offices will have a strong business case; it also ensures that resources within existing offices will be managed more effectively and efficiently.

In addition to these WFP strengthening efforts targeting people, partnerships and processes, we also need to consider our significant financial challenges.

Obtaining the best value for money is critical because no amount of organizational strengthening will support us in achieving our hunger-ending mission without the resources needed to sustain WFP activities. In other words, no matter how strong we become in our operational areas, if we do not have the money to perform, it will mean nothing.

Stated in a different way, as our Norwegian representative reminded us, “a vision without resources is a hallucination.” And we know there is a sizeable gap of US$1 to US$2 billion between what we are now able to raise and the resources that are required to fully implement all the hunger-ending approaches laid out in the Strategic Plan. Our forthcoming review scheduled for later this year will provide an analysis of that funding gap and our plans for beginning to address the challenges of that gap.

To fill the gap, WFP must continue tapping into non-traditional funding sources including donations from private sector companies and trilateral, South-South exchanges for which the Brasilia-based Centre of Excellence against Hunger has been a model activity. This afternoon we have an entire session dedicated to private sector strategies.

Let me now return to our Fit for Purpose organizational strengthening programme.  When you approved our US$20 million allocation, I promised that we would continue to discuss with the Board and provide information on how that money has been spent.

Tomorrow morning, when we discuss financing, we will give more details. But now in the spirit of keeping the commitments I make to this Board, let me provide an overview.  We have invested about US$10 million, or half of the US$20 million of the transition fund, to support the costs of the separations that we discussed. In addition to that US$10 million, other HR activities make up the bulk of the remaining funds. These include investments in people and organizational strengthening, activities I have discussed as a part of today's presentation. This is where the costs for those activities have now been expended.

Two workstreams are close to completion: the organizational design and Liaison Office presence review that we have discussed. You will remember this slide. We have another nine workstreams in progress and a few that will begin soon, mostly related to people and HR.

As we go forward with the Management Plan for this year, we will continue to provide you with additional detail, but this is the first look at where we have expended the US$20 million. In total, we expect that close to all of the US$20 million will be used by the end of the year. We still have half a year to go and these initiatives are very dynamic in nature. At our November Board meeting I will again present this chart with more details on the outcomes from the expenditure of the US$20 million.

Our Fit for Purpose organizational strengthening work is not a destination but a journey; a journey that will ensure WFP maintains the people in the right place with the capacity and tools, the right partnerships to meet the food assistance needs of the world's most hungry people with the goal of not only helping them become more resilient to shocks and crisis, but also a goal of feeding themselves and their children. This is our vision. But we must also continue to serve as the frontline organization for meeting the nutrition and hunger needs during times of crisis. This is our daily work.

So, I would like to move to a status presentation of our work in a few major operations today. Let me start with Syria, where we are coping with the dire humanitarian consequences of a civil war with potential impacts across the region. At the end of May, WFP managed to reach 2.5 million beneficiaries inside Syria and almost 800,000 refugee beneficiaries in the neighboring countries of Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey.

The regional Syria emergency operation anticipates an increased caseload of over 800,000 for June, with a further increase to over 1 million refugees beginning in July. We project by year end the operation inside Syria will serve, at the current pace, approximately 4 million, and the operation in the neighboring countries will exceed another 3 million.

The crisis in the Syria and the region has tested our ability to work within a shrinking humanitarian space, navigating cross-line operations. It is certain to become a case study for humanitarian workers in the future.

In cross-line operations we operate in three areas: regime-held areas, opposition areas and conflict areas where neither side has control. We face severe challenges in reaching people who are trapped in those conflict areas. 

 Thanks to the bravery and commitment of our local partners, particularly the Syrian Arab Red Crescent movement, often operating at daily risk of losing their own lives – in fact, we have lost six Syrian Arab Red Crescent workers since this crisis began – we are usually able to move food to those where it is needed across all 14 governorates. This partnership has been a key factor in our success.

Cash and vouchers have been an important food assistance transfer modality throughout this emergency. In Jordan, WFP distributes food in the camps and we use cash and vouchers outside the camps. In Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt we use only vouchers, and in Iraq we use a combination of food and vouchers. Here, too, there are major lessons to be learned including the electronic voucher card that we are now using in Turkey that we hope to implement in the coming days in Lebanon.

Many governments have made generous contributions. Let me underline that, many governments have made generous contributions to our efforts and we thank you for your support. These contributions, however, have been erratic; but our advance financing and forward purchasing tools provide us with the flexibility and predictability necessary to maintain a consistent pipeline throughout these operations.

But these details tell only part of the story. As reported in a recent New York Times article, the young people of Syria are the next lost generation. They will suffer from long-term impacts from spending years out of school and trauma from violent incidents, and, sometimes, even sexual abuse.  For far too many of them, the fallout of this emergency has blacked out any hopes for a better future.  For these children WFP's continuous goal is to ensure hunger is not included in their memory of these tragic times.

Moving to the Sahel, during April WFP reached over 460,000 beneficiaries in Mali with food distributions, marking a significant scale-up of assistance.  We are gradually re-establishing our presence in Timbuktu and Gao.  Our move into Kidal is slower because of ongoing conflict in that area.  Our emergency operation inside Mali has targeted 564,000 beneficiaries while the regional emergency operation targets 281,000 refugees and host communities in the neighboring countries of Mauritania, Burkina Faso and the Niger.

The United Nations Security Council has voted for an integrated mission to be deployed on 1 July.  WFP is also preparing for potential impact of the presidential elections scheduled for 28 July.  We anticipate that Mopti will serve as a future base for additional WFP humanitarian support in the northern regions of Mali.

In Niger, a bad harvest in northern Nigeria has begun to drive up and increase food prices. In the last weeks, border conflicts between Mali and Niger have necessitated the evacuation of WFP personnel from northern Niger.

Last year, the international community came together for the Sahel. WFP and our partners supported close to 9 million people in the Sahel region, not just with our blanket feeding programmes, but also with valuable concerted effort, together with the governments, that began the resilience building process for many of this region's hungry poor.  But one good harvest does not equate to resilient communities.  As expressed in our WFP appeal letter of 14 May, the emergency in the Sahel has not ended and additional funding is required to meet continuing needs.

In the Central African Republic, the security situation is gradually improving but remains volatile. According to OCHA, approximately 206,000 people have been internally displaced since December 2012.  WFP's emergency operations in the Central African Republic have now been categorized as Level 2.  We have been progressively scaling-up food assistance activity as the security situation allows, with plans for reaching 39,000 beneficiaries.  Our staff continues to live in barricaded central quarters.  It remains particularly unsafe outside the capital, limiting WFP's ability to scale up the operation at a faster pace, but we will continue to move forward and increase and scale up our operation as the security situation allows.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a ceasefire was declared to facilitate the United Nations Secretary-General's recent visit to Goma.  The ceasefire appears to be holding, but the tensions remain elevated in North Kivu.  Following the persistent fighting, refugees continue crossing the Obangui River and WFP is targeting 25,000 refugees in north DRC. Discussions are ongoing between WFP and UNHCR on an implementation strategy to open refugee camps in this area.

In Sudan, recent fighting in South Kordofan has displaced an additional 47,000 people.  Since January 2013, WFP has reached over 140,000 people with food assistance from the South Kordofan and Blue Nile region.  Various clashes in the Darfur states have displaced 300,000 people in 2013. Fighting in northern Darfur has displaced 86,500 people since January.  WFP has reached 66,000 of them with a two-month emergency ration.  Fighting in central Darfur in April has displaced some 30,000 people and enforced another 30,000 people to cross the border into Chad where we are planning a needs assessment and will provide additional assistance where required.

In parts of Darfur which have not been affected by the recent wave of clashes and fighting, WFP continues to provide food vouchers to vulnerable families, school meals to children and nutritious supplementary food to children, pregnant and nursing women and we continue our resilience-building activity, particularly those focused on women.

In South Sudan, thanks to generous country support, we have ramped up our activities for this year's rainy season.  Security in Boma and the Jonglei region has deteriorated recently and remains tense and volatile.  Violence is seriously affecting our humanitarian operations in the area and in the Jonglei region we have experienced some looting of WFP stocks.

Sad news, one of our national staff was shot in his home in Rumbek on 23 May and later died of his wounds at a Juba hospital.  Exact circumstances of this incident are still being ascertained and our security offices are following up.

I also want to include a mention here of what is happening in Somalia and the Horn of Africa. At this time, it is not on our emergency watch list, but it is Somalia, so it requires that we continue to give this area the necessary attention.

On Friday, I attended the TICAD V side event on Somalia in Yokohama, Japan, where I presented, on behalf of three United Nations agencies: FAO, UNICEF and WFP.  I discussed our opportunities for progress in the Horn of Africa as Somalia enters a new phase of stabilization, peace- and nation-building.

Mindful of the United Nations commitment to never again repeat the tragic events of the 2011 Somalia famine, FAO, UNICEF and WFP, in support of the Somali Government’s Six Pillar Framework, have launched a three-year joint programme to strengthen community resilience and reduce vulnerability while also preserving the integrity of individuals and households.

We believe that if our international community is truly serious about giving peace a chance in Somalia, we must move beyond top-down security interventions. We must also put on the ground productive investments, basic services and safety nets addressing the root causes of chronic vulnerability.

During my time in Japan, I met with the President of Somalia, who not only welcomed our joint United Nations efforts but encouraged and challenged WFP to help his government build the capacity to scale up these food assistance activities across the entire country.

As this Somalia example illustrates, WFP continues to seek out opportunities to knit up our efforts with others.  This commitment also carries through to managing our humanitarian operations.  Last week, WFP’s Emergency Director participated, along with other emergency directors from several Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) organizations, in a mission to Pakistan and Afghanistan.  The goal of this mission was to develop an improved understanding of escalated operational challenges and how we, as a humanitarian community, will stay in Afghanistan, as well as Pakistan, and operate in worsening security environments.

Through discussions with humanitarian country team members and colleagues working on the ground, as well as with partners and beneficiaries, these directors identified operational challenges and areas for further support.  They also drew on good practices at country level, notably measures to implement the Transformative Agenda.  These lessons will inform the oversight and support of emergency directors managing not just this but other large complex operations.

I hope you will all attend tomorrow’s briefing on Afghanistan and Pakistan because the situation there continues to evolve and our ability to stay continues to become more and more challenged as the days go by.

In all of these activities, one of our biggest issues for humanitarian operations is access – and access early.  It is about recognizing that when the rains fail it is our responsibility to begin planning with governments of the affected countries early, with donors supporting us to ensure that we can position the appropriate assistance to meet the needs of those we serve in a timely manner.  That is what has changed between Somalia and the Horn of Africa and our most recent successes in the Sahel and our work in Syria.

It is also a twin-track approach.  We need to ensure that assistance provided during the early response supports building resistance in affected communities and prepares the ground for additional hand-over to a development response.  You do not draw an artificial line between filling stomachs today and supporting a family to feed itself tomorrow.  We must support resilience-building throughout the entire response.

Access early and a twin-track approach: these are two primary lessons we have learned and that we are now implementing in our response activities in the Sahel and elsewhere.

On the access issue, we are facing an ever-evolving challenge to humanitarian operations.  As such, WFP and OCHA are now planning to host a side event during the upcoming United Nations General Assembly regarding access challenges and impacts on populations in need when access is denied.  Through this discussion, we hope to enhance understanding of the necessity for ensuring unfettered humanitarian access.

This past year has been challenging and rewarding.  As you can see, the journey has begun with our essential first steps towards achieving our Fit for Purpose goals.  We must get stronger.  We must also get smarter.  I hope you will agree that our discussions this morning demonstrate we are making good progress on this journey.

I hope you will agree that the work of WFP, which we will examine over this next four days, exemplifies a stronger, smarter and more capable institution.  But we have only just begun.

We need a WFP united behind a guiding strategy; freed from business-as-usual attitudes and thinking-inside-the-box ideas.

We need a WFP that recognizes the importance of driving value for money; where every decision, from investments received from contributors and taxpayers, to how we provide beneficiary support, is accomplished efficiently and effectively.

We need a WFP that integrates feedback systems at every link in the multi-player food assistance supply chain for continuous learning and service improvements.

We need a WFP that blends the urgent imperative of access to food with the long-term process of building community resilience to future shocks.

We need a WFP that not only supports the food needs of those we serve, but also works with our partners to ensure we achieve the goal that every mother and father can provide and has access to nutritious food for their family’s needs.

This afternoon, we will review and discuss the details of WFP’s guiding strategy – the Strategic Plan.  But let us always remember that we are aiming for something bigger than just a set of solutions.

We are aiming for a different way of doing things, a more knitted-up approach for getting things done together and a more elevated purpose.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has challenged us to lift our sights towards the goal of achieving zero hunger in our lifetime.

During the next months, with your approval WFP will advance our Strategic Results Framework while fully leveraging our new strengths in people, partnerships, programmes and processes.

We are poised to achieve full implementation of the Strategic Plan and ensure WFP’s actions are coherently knitted up with other United Nations agencies through the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR) process, and with the entire world through targets set by the post-2015 agenda.

The world’s hungry poor deserve the support of every United Nations General Assembly member in pressing for specific targets on hunger and nutrition embodied in a stand-alone post-2015 goal.  To ensure we are knitted-up with the entire world and we continue to have the public will to support the end of hunger and chronic malnutrition, we are asking all of you, each of you, to support a stand-alone post-2015 goal for the ending of hunger and chronic malnutrition, and the commitment of all nations to marshal the necessary resources to achieve these targets.

At WFP, supporting people and communities to feed themselves will always remain our ultimate goal, because in the end we are not just aiming to change solutions or change this organization.  In the end, we are aiming to change lives and with your support we can do it.

I thank you for your patience in listening this morning and I look forward to our discussion.