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Once focused on the delivery of food to hungry people, programme design at the World Food Programme (WFP) continues to evolve into a much more elaborate function in response to an increasingly complex humanitarian and development environment. This is because:

  • Responding to the evolving nature of food insecurity and international development assistance, the shift from food aid to food assistance has repositioned WFP from a provider of food to that of broader hunger solutions. This has opened up a palette of programming options, both in terms of the objectives pursued (often more than one) and the best way to achieve them. Each of these options, in turn, is subject to comprehensive assessments, analyses, consultations and evaluation procedures.
  • The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) acknowledge global development as requiring both multi-disciplinary and cross-cutting efforts. The SDGs’ interdependent and mutually reinforcing nature supposes a much higher level of harmonization than before, both within WFP and between WFP and its partners. 
  • WFP’s transition to Country Strategic Plans, now underway, stems from a recognition that effective programming requires integrated, country-specific and government-owned intervention strategies that can bridge the divide between humanitarian and development responses.
  • New standards of quality and accountability in programming are multiplying the need for consultations at all levels – with governments, internally, with donors, with partners, and with the affected populations.

It stands to reason that programme design should also be tailored to local contexts. The objectives, intervention strategies and implementation modalities will indeed vary greatly between, say, an emergency intervention following a natural disaster and a situation in which the primary target is chronic malnutrition; or between conflict settings and peaceful ones, or between contexts which require in-kind food assistance and those where the market infrastructure allows for cash transfers.

Overall, however, and irrespective of its particulars, a well-designed programme will be:

  • based on clearly identified food and nutrition needs;
  • rooted in local contexts and livelihoods;
  • informed by best practices;
  • aligned with existing or planned policies and strategies;
  • realistic, adaptable and results-oriented;
  • and measurable over a range of indicators.

The programme in question must also have undergone vigorous consultation, apt to generate consensus internally and externally. By the same token, gender sensitivity is now a mandatory part of project design, in an effort to ensure that the different needs of men, women, boys and girls are met, and that the programme contributes to greater equality and transformative change.

Above all, delivering the most appropriate and timely form of food assistance to the most vulnerable, in any given situation, remains WFP’s overriding objective.