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8 February 2010

Opening Intervention by Ambassador Cousin at WFP Executive Board First Regular Session, February 8, 2010  

ROME – Thank you, Mr. President.

Congratulations to you, my friend, (Ambassador Sabas Pretelt de la Vega, Colombia) and to all the other newly elected members of the Executive Board Bureau. I and the other members of the U.S. team look forward to working closely with you to collectively advance our efforts to achieve global food security. Let me express our utmost gratitude for the outstanding leadership of outgoing President Vladimir Kusnetzov for all that you have done during 2009.

May I also take a moment of sweet remorse…as this will be the last Board session with Staffan de Mistura. The United States thanks you, Staffan, for your leadership during this short period with WFP. We all know how much you wanted this opportunity to serve WFP. Recognizing this, the United States is also very grateful knowing your personal and professional sacrifice that you have accepted this new role as the Secretary General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.

Madame Executive Director,

The United States extends it heartfelt condolences to the people of Haiti, for the devastation and tremendous loss of life in the aftermath of the earthquake last month. The United States stands behind Haiti in this hour of need. We will be there every step of the way on the path to recovery working to build the New Haiti – the food secure Haiti.

We also extend our sincerest appreciation to you, Madame Executive Director, and your team for the outstanding work performed to deliver food to the people of Haiti when many on your team had no homes and only the clothes on their backs. We can all proudly say that WFP delivered. WFP has proven to be the right organization with the right leader at its helm at the right time, working together with the leadership of the Government of Haiti under the most difficult of circumstances. The United States is proud to be your partner.

I must also say we all have deep respect and admiration for your operations team led by Amir at headquarters and Ramiro on the ground, for the hours worked to reach the affected populations. To Ramiro in particular, I’d like to say it is good to have you here, my friend, but I know you are being sorely missed in Port-au-Prince (we have to figure out ways to clone you!) Let me also for the record thank WFP Haiti national staff, many who suffered great personal losses yet worked valiantly to help their countrymen. They are the true heroes that we won’t see on CNN. The U.S. recognizes and salutes them.

Your exemplary leadership in logistics and management of essential humanitarian clusters is commendable. Coordination in a crisis of this magnitude is important and we wish to acknowledge your exceptional collaboration with an array of civil as well as military partners – from the Haitian Police to MINUSTAH to Brazilian security and European representatives and to U.S. and Canadian forces – to ensure a secure environment for the distribution of food.

Coordination was not always easy and there were and are lessons learned for the future. We are pleased that Under Secretary Holmes will join us later today to discuss humanitarian coordination efforts and we look forward to discuss his comments and a spirited discussion. Admittedly, as donors, we too must look for improvements in our responses.

Now in Haiti as donors and as member of the multilateral community we must ensure that the outpouring of good-hearted assistance does not morph into long-term dependency on humanitarian relief. Time is now ripe to work together in earnest to help Haiti create a sustainable and food secure future. And these efforts should intertwine the expertise of the private sector, which has also proven to be a valuable partner in relief and recovery efforts. Of course WFP as a global designer and provider of safety nets must participate in helping to create this new Haiti.

As we look towards the other activities WFP will participate in this year, the high quality of this organization’s work makes it all the more worthwhile for WFP to continue reform efforts that will make it a more accountable organization. We acknowledge the substantive actions WFP has taken over the last six months under the financial framework review to revamp processes. The Unites States hopes WFP will continue on this path towards strengthening processes that deliver more concrete actions within the accepted timeframe. We look forward to working with you on the completion of this project.

Although the start of 2010 has been overshadowed by such sadness, 2010 is an important year to do stock taking on several of our global community commitments. It is the year of reviewing the progress toward empowering women since the first conference on women in Beijing in 1995. Beijing +15…we must honestly assess what difference have we made for women still striving to feed their babies? It is also the year we benchmark achievements toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to which we all committed. The work of WFP and the Rome-based agencies is key to reducing hunger by half. How can we build the public will that will be required to make any progress towards meeting this goal? How can we actualize our work at last year’s World Summit on Food Security and the global adoption of the Rome-based principles to coordinate the work of the Rome-based agencies to make progress on the hunger-related MDG? We as members of the governing bodies of the these agencies are responsible…each of us…for not just critiquing but also working with each of these organizations to perform the work, to make these organization more efficient and effective. These organizations have accomplished much but there is much more to do.

Thank you, Mr. President.
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