The new chief of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) officially took up her duties today by calling for a renewed commitment to the almost one billion hungry men, women and children throughout the world and highlighting that every year 4 million more people become malnourished.
Executive Director Josette Sheeran will spend her first month in office focusing on the organization’s most important operations and areas of work, spending half her time at WFP headquarters in Rome and half her time in the field, where her first mission will be to Africa which she will visit at least twice in her first 90 days.
“Despite enormous efforts by WFP and its donors and partners, we are losing ground on hunger with 4 million more people malnourished each year than the year before. Together, we can turn that tide,” she told staff in Rome.
“I feel very fortunate to join WFP, which I learned during my time on the UN’s High-Level Panel is a gem in the UN system. WFP has earned the trust of the world’s most vulnerable and the respect of more than 90 donor nations. All its supporters, public and private, know that over 93 per cent of their donations are used directly to reach the hungry, giving WFP one of the lowest overheads of any aid provider.”
Every year WFP feeds an average of 90 million people, maintaining a logistics operation that encompasses an international team of nearly 12,000 in more than 80 countries.
Ms. Sheeran was selected for the post in November by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director General Jacques Diouf, with the unanimous concurrence of WFP’s 36-member executive board.
She brings to WFP a broad background in the public and private sectors, with more than 20 years management and leadership experience in diplomacy, government, foundations, journalism and business.
Most recently Ms. Sheeran served as Under Secretary for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs at the State Department in the United States and as alternate US delegate to the World Bank and regional development banks, working on economic issues including development, trade, agriculture, finance, energy, telecommunications and transportation.
Last year she was asked by the former Secretary-General to serve on the High-Level Panel looking at UN reforms in the areas of humanitarian assistance, development and the environment. She spent nine months travelling the world conducting hundreds of interviews with UN aid recipients, country teams, private sector donors and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
“I come into this position with four commitments. First: to the more than 850 million men, women and children who know what it is like go to bed hungry, I promise you that you will never be forgotten and I will do everything I can not just to bring you food, but hope for a better future,” said Ms. Sheeran.
The Executive Director listed her other commitments as being to WFP’s supporters and to all the UN, NGO and other bodies that work with the organization. She also promised WFP staff that their efforts will not be taken for granted but that their sacrifices will “always make a difference.”