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close this book The NGLS handbook of UN Agencies, Programmes and Funds Working for
close this folder World food programme (WFP)
View the document Origins and background
View the document WFP activities
View the document NGO relations

Origins and background

The World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nation's food aid agency, is the largest multilateral food aid organization in the world. Its task is to combat the hunger that afflicts one out every seven people on earth. WFP is the principal organization providing timely food assistance to victims of natural and human-made disasters. It also supplies food aid to poor people in developing countries with the aim of building self-reliance. In 1995, WFP provided food to 50 million people in 90 countries—approximately three million metric tons were delivered. Half of those people were victims of emergencies.

The World Food Programme was established on 24 November 1961 by the UN General Assembly and the 1961 Conference of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). It began operations in January 1963. WFP is an organ of the united Nations linked to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the General Assembly.

WFP's governing body. the Committee on Food Aid Policies and Programmes (CFA), was transformed in 1996 info the WFP Executive Board in accordance with the provisions of General Assembly resolution 48/167. Its first session was held in January 1996 in (he headquarters of the World Food Programme. The Executive Board consists of 36 members, who serve three-year terms and are eligible for re-election.

The functions of the Executive Board are to examine and approve relief and development operations, draw up administrative and financial plans and budgets, ensure that the programme's activities and operational strategies are consistent with the overall policy set by the General Assembly and ECOSOC, and monitor the performance of the programme.

WFP and its governing body have recently begun a process of reform and revitalization. which includes the approval of a medium-term Strategic and Financial Plan incorporating a strategic vision over a four-year period. The reform process also incorporates new long-term resourcing and financing policies, which are based on full-cost recovery and greater accountability.

WFP's secretariat, with headquarters in Rome and offices in over 80 countries, is headed by an Executive Director appointed by the Secretary-General of the UN and the Director General of FAO, in consultation with the Governing Body. The Executive Director, responsible for the management and administration of the programme, is accountable to the Executive Board for all aspects of the programme. The Executive Director is assisted by a Deputy Executive Director.

WFP's Operations Department is headed by an Assistant Executive Director. WFP has nine divisions and offices: Operations, Strategy and Policy, Resources and External Relations, Finance and Information Systems, Human Resources, Management Services, Evaluation, Audit and Inspection. Field activities are supervised by WFP country directors.

The programme's activities are carried out by some 2000 permanent staff worldwide. Temporary staff are contracted for short-term logistics and emergency operations. Three-quarters of WFP's staff are based in developing countries.


The programme is funded through voluntary contributions from United Nations and FAO member countries, and from inter-governmental bodies, such as the European union. Contributions come in commodities, cash, and services.

Total 1995 expenditures were US$1.2 billion. Since its establishment, WFP has committed a total of US$21 billion in relief and development projects worldwide.

Most contributions received by WFP are recorded against the Food Aid Conventions (FAC) obligations (the latest revision of the FAC was in 1995). These conventions are legally binding mechanisms by which governments contribute grain for food aid.

New WFP resourcing and financing policies were elaborated jointly by the Secretariat and the Member States. Beginning in 1996, the financing structure consists of three programme categories (Development, Protracted Relief Operations, Emergencies and Special Operations) and three funding windows (multilateral, directed multilateral and bilateral). The new policy is based on full-coal recovery for both direct and indirect costs. New standardized formats for appeals and reports will enhance accountability. WFP has instituted a process of regular consultations with donors based on analyses of forthcoming relief and development needs. This consultation process augments the regular biennial Pledging Conference and forms an integral part of the new resourcing and financing procedures.

The programme's resources and activities make WFP the largest source of grant assistance to developing countries within the UN system; the largest supporter of development projects involving and benefiting poor women; the largest provider of grant assistance for environmental protection and improvement; and the largest purchaser of food and services in developing countries.