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Kristalina Georgieva European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response Commissioner Georgieva speaks at the World Food Programme Executive Board in Rome World Food Programme Executive Board Rome, 7 June 2010
Commission Européenne - SPEECH/10/294 07/06/2010
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European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response
Commissioner Georgieva speaks at the World Food Programme Executive Board in Rome
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World Food Programme Executive Board
Rome, 7 June 2010
Madame Executive Director,
Distinguished Members of the Executive Board,
It is an honour to be here today as European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response and share my views with you and with the WFP staff around the world that are currently listening in. Many of them work in harsh conditions and I would like to express my respect and gratitude for their service to humanity.
I am delighted to be next to Mr. Rajiv Shah and would like to seize this opportunity to thank him and the whole US administration, especially President Obama, for the strong commitment to the cause of food security around the world.
From the outset of my mandate, in early February this year, I was immediately confronted with severe humanitarian emergencies. The very first, and still the most devastating one, was the earthquake in Haiti. There, I had the opportunity to witness how well the WFP performed its critical task of providing immediate and sustained access to food to people whose lives had been so suddenly and tragically disrupted. And now I am just back from Niger, where I saw first hand how much people in the Sahel rely on the World Food Program to protect them from hunger, in the face of a looming food crisis, putting up 10 Million people at risk.
Haiti and Niger are examples of the reality we face today: disasters are on the increase, in frequency, intensity, and costs to society. This applies to both natural disasters and man-made calamities, like the situations in Darfur, Somalia and West Bank and Gaza. Funding for these growing humanitarian needs faces the limitations of budgets under stress from a prolonged economic crisis and competing demands from equally important development priorities.
So with disasters on the increase and constraints on the resources, we have no other option than to make the best use of every penny we have. This means better division of labour and cooperation among all partners, and more effective use of our scarce resources. Those principles are important, not only because the people who depend on us deserve no less; they are also important because only through a stellar performance can we retain the strong support of our citizens, and master the political will to end hunger around the world.
Let me start with cooperation. It is essential in the field and in headquarters. In Niger my first stop was in the centre for undernourished children in Guidan Roumdji in the Maradi province. One of the first kids I saw there was Laoure, the 17 days old daughter of Nassiroi Yahaya, a young mother of two. Laoure was in intensive care, suffering from diarrhoea and digestive problems. Painful as the image of this tiny baby was, there was also hope as the index of success in the treatment applied to Laoure is of 90% on average, and 95% in that particular centre. Laoure´s chance to live and grow up healthy is the result of a partnership based on comparative strengths. The hospital is funded by the EC, supplied with food by the World Food Program, operated by Médecins sans frontières, and this is based on standards established by UNICEF and WHO.
There are many success stories like this, showing how working together we can make a difference. I therefore strongly believe in the humanitarian cluster system. With it, we, the humanitarian community, have made a big leap forward in ensuring better coordination in the delivery of aid, to avoid gaps and overlap, and to increase the overall effectiveness of food assistance interventions. The WFP is already one of the central players in the cluster approach. It is the lead in the Logistics, Emergency assistance, and Telecommunications clusters and participates actively in others. We are now looking forward to the establishment of the Global Humanitarian Food Security Cluster to further enhance the delivery of food assistance. The need to deploy the cluster system with strong leadership, and including all humanitarian partners, is stronger than ever. It is also vital that we not only deepen existing partnerships, but also explore new ones. I commend in particular the WFP´s efforts to reach out to emerging food assistance donors and the success it has achieved in doing so.
Here, in Rome, cooperation between WFP, FAO and IFAD is particularly important. We, in the European Commission, have been consistently urging the main food actors to work closely together and very much appreciate the initiatives taken by the leadership of the three agencies in this direction. They can count on our support and on our efforts to underpin collaborative actions. In L´Aquila, we decided to act together on the food price crisis that endangered the food security of hundreds of million of people. The EC pledged a total of € 2.7 billion for 2010 – 2012 in support of food security, and, as always, will deliver on this commitment, working closely with the UN system, and in particular with the Rome-based agencies. And since today I am addressing the Executive Board of the WFP, I would like to stress that I am impressed with the WFP’s ability to be the first provider of humanitarian food assistance and highly respect its strong emergency response capacity. As Executive Director Sheeran mentioned, we will announce today another step we take together, with a 46 Million EUR commitment from the EU to the WFP´s efforts in Sudan.
Let me move to my second point, effectiveness. It is paramount to focus on measurable results in everything we do. We, at the Commission, request from our implementing partners to spell out the expected results from the projects they propose for our support. For example, with 1.5 Million EUR, the hospital I mentioned will treat 20,000 severely malnourished children and 10,000 pregnant women. This allows us to gain credibility with the population we strive to serve, but also with our taxpayers. The WFP has been among the most rigorous partners in terms of accountability for results. Early screening and strong attention to kids under 2, to pregnant women and to most vulnerable households pay off in the Sahel, where the WFP, with support from many donors, including the EU, has steadily increased preventive action and well targeted assistance since the 2005 crisis. Today the situation there is rapidly worsening, but we are much better prepared to face it – and to avoid that a food crisis turns into a major catastrophe.
WFP has also embraced innovative food assistance responses, for instance by using cash transfers and vouchers, which pre-empt crisis peaks, as well as persist beyond those peaks to ensure recovery. We strongly support these solutions, spelled out in our own food aid communication from March 31, 2010. Indeed, we believe that in many cases, when food is available locally, cash transfers work better than direct food distribution because they link the fight against today´s hunger with support for long-term food security. Cash in the hands of vulnerable households encourages the development of local and regional markets, and combines feeding the hungry with a boost for local farmers. Thus, to reinforce its effectiveness, the WFP can consider moving further away from financial structures and systems that are specifically oriented to in-kind food operations.
Let me finish with a couple of words on the issue of political will. In the EU, 88 % of our citizens support humanitarian aid. Europeans are united against hunger and are determined to fight it. But in times of economic crisis, when hardship strikes at home, the temptation to reduce financial contributions to people in need around the world is there, and cannot be ignored. This is why it is even more important to have effective, focused and lean institutions, reaching out in a coordinated manner to those who suffer from lack of food security. It is our duty to build on the commitment the world leaders have taken to end hunger.
I have no doubt the WFP will be in the front line of delivering the results that make it possible to develop and sustain this political will. I pledge to work with you relentlessly towards this goal.