On 26 March 2013, Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), addressed an event jointly organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture and Food for Development and WFP in London. Chaired by Lord Cameron of Dillington, leading NGOs, such as Oxfam and UNA-UK, took part in the event.
In her speech, Ms Cousin outlined key WFP projects focussed on short and long-term food security. She spoke extensively on WFP's ‘Purchase for Progress’ initiative. Currently operational in 20 pilot countries, the initiative aims to provide market access to small-holder farmers. With reliable buyer and assured fair prices for their crops, such farmers are encouraged to increase both the quality and quantity of their yields. She also described WFP's cash and voucher transfer programme. Cash transfers provide money to the poor to purchase food and vouchers are redeemed by them to buy food items directly or from specified shops, enabling them to find the best deals to suit their needs.
Speaking of the need to strengthen local capacity to provide lasting access to food, Ms Cousin stressed the importance of the partnerships that WFP has forged with organisations such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, governments and civil society groups.
Turning to the UK context, Ms Cousin referred to the written evidence that WFP had provided on ‘global food security’ to the UK Parliament's International Development Committee. In particular, she highlighted the deleterious impact of conflict and natural disasters on access to food and the changes in hunger graphs the world over - issues which are discussed in the written evidence.
Ms Cousin acknowledged the notable contribution made by the UK to WFP initiatives. With contributions of £126m, the UK was the fourth largest donor to the WFP in 2012. She also welcomed the Enough Food for Everyone IF Campaign (IF Campaign) - a joint initiative of several UK NGOs, including UNA-UK.
During a lively Q&A session, Ms Cousin fielded questions on a variety of issues, ranging from eliminating chronic malnutrition to private sector innovation and even priority areas for the G8 on food security. She also reaffirmed the WFP’s commitment to gender issues by stating that the WFP has always strived to promote “purposeful investments in gender”. She closed by reminding the audience that “changing the landscape from hunger to hope” was a core objective for the UN and WFP.
Photo: WFP distributes food vouchers at the Darfur Camp for displaced (UN Photo/Albert González Farran)
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