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close this bookCERES No. 096 - November - December 1983 (FAO Ceres, 1983, 50 p.)
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View the documentThe twentieth anniversary of the World Food Programme
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The twentieth anniversary of the World Food Programme

A joint message from the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Director-General of FAO

We take pleasure in extending our congratulations to the United Nations/FAO World Food Programme on its Twentieth Anniversary.

The Programme was established as an experiment in multilateral aid, at a time when massive food surpluses were an important feature of the economic landscape. The role of the Programme during its first three years was modest in relation to the total volume of food aid, but important as a demonstration that the United Nations system could effectively utilize food for development and for emergency relief.

By the time of the Programme's tenth anniversary, in 1973, the level of its resources had increased almost fivefold, but the North American surpluses were disappearing and the food crisis of the mid-seventies was gathering momentum. Since contributions to the Programme are normally made in money terms, the sharp rise in food prices during 19 73 and 19 74 drastically reduced the volume of food available to the Programme. Despite the resultant cuts in its deliveries, the Programme emerged from this cliff cult period with commendable credit. Indeed, the ability of the Programme to handle a major crisis of this nature helped to build up its reputation as one of the most practical and effective components of the United Nations system.

The Twentieth Anniversary finds the Programme recognized as a significant force for development, handling about 20 per cent of all food aid, and functioning as one of the principal sources of emergency relief. Besides its regular resources, the Programme administers the International Emergency Food Reserve, handles a part of the shipments made under the Food Aid Convention, and supplies certain non-food items in support of its development projects. It is significant that the Programme has succeeded in maintaining the level of contributions in real terms during the current recession.

Over the two decades of its life, the Programme's resources have provided relief for more than 100 million victims of disasters, both natural and man-made. Almost 70 million people have benefitted from development projects, toward which WFP has committed more than five billion dollars. About 80 per cent of its development aid now goes to low-income food-deficit countries. The Programme's administrative costs remain among the lowest in the United Nations system. Aid has been provided on strictly humanitarian and non-political lines, according to the criterion of need.

The World Food Programme, has, from the beginning arranged for its projects to be fully and frankly evaluated and for weaknesses to be corrected It has constant) sought to minimize the risks inherent in food aid, particularly that of discouraging food production in the recipient country. Indeed, the Programme has contribute directly toward agricultural development and higher level of production: for instance, through land settlement projects it has helped to extend farming into new area and it has fostered, through irrigation works, a more intensive use of land already under cultivation.

The World Food Programme has drawn on the expert, available in the relevant organizations of the UN system to ensure that its development projects were technical, and economically sound and to link food aid project to broader development goals and programmes. FAO has played a critical role in this regard, not only because. it shares with the United Nations the 'parentage" of the Programme but also because it provides technical service for the formulation and appraisal of projects in the field of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries, and advises the Programme in nutritional matters. Furthermore, the Director General of FAO has specific responsibilities with regard emergency relief.

This is indeed an impressive record and justifiably source of pride to those responsible. But it should not. lead to a sense of complacency since the basic problem remains that food add falls short of requirements. Current studies indicate that the need for food aid in the mid eighties is likely to be substantially higher than was estimated earlier, largely because of a serious decline in the ability of the poorest countries to import food on commercial terms. For cereals alone, the level of aid should more than double to about 20 million tons by 198 Almost 40 per cent of this may be required in the forms of project aid and emergency relief, which WFP has shown in proficiency in handling. The Programme will be call' upon to make even greater contributions toward both emergency relief and economic development in the yea ahead.

We are confident that the Programme will continue in receive the strong support of the international community both donor and recipient countries, as well as the a operating organizations of the United Nations system, in this continuing effort.