Addressing the Security Council on Thursday, the head of the World Food Programme (WFP), Cindy McCain, highlighted the growing need for humanitarian aid worldwide against a backdrop of reduced funding.
She called for innovative public-private sector partnerships to respond to tomorrow’s crises.
“I come from the private sector myself,” said WFP‘s Executive Director, at the start of a debate on the role of partnerships in humanitarian aid, initiated by Albania, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency for September.
“Thriving businesses and flourishing economies are the critical engines that will power global efforts to eradicate hunger and poverty, and strengthen international peace and security”, said Ms. McCain.
The widow of former Senator and presidential candidate John McCain, she has been an active philanthropist for many years, and heir to one of the largest privately held companies in her home state of Arizona.
“Sadly, today the humanitarian sector is one of the world’s biggest growth industries,” the WFP chief said.
“War, economic turmoil, and increasingly, climate change and environmental degradation – are driving millions of people into poverty and despair each year.”
Recalling that nearly 783 million people live in deep food insecurity, and 47 million of them in 50 countries, are on the brink of famine – while 45 million children under five suffer from acute malnutrition – Ms. McCain was pessimistic about the humanitarian crises ahead.
“I wish I could tell Council members that the surging hunger seen in many parts of the world stems from one-off causes and will reduce as circumstances change”, she said.
“But it won’t. We are now living with a series of concurrent and long-term crises that will continue to fuel humanitarian needs. And this is happening just as funding for humanitarian relief operations is drying up.”
She said even WFP had to make “the agonizing choice to cut food rations for millions”.
“This is our new normal,” she added, “and we will be dealing with the fallout in the years to come.”
Rather than resign herself to “powerlessness” the WFP chief called for greater use of the private sector, which has over 200 years helped reduce global poverty through the power of private enterprise.
She said the time has come, in the face of the new realities and budget cuts, to “rethink how we engage and find new models” of partnership.
The WFP chief said a new and more effective collaboration would be of benefit to all.
“Reducing poverty and hunger is a necessary precondition for healthy workforces, functioning markets, and sustainable economic growth and prosperity. When people and communities thrive, so do businesses.”