Virtual Annual Session of the Executive Board 2020



From 29 June to 3 July, the WFP Executive Board held the Annual Session 2020.  It was an intensive and productive week that included the entire Board agenda with no documentation postponed to sessions later in the year or to 2021.  

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and in alignment with the latest decree by the Italian authorities, once again the fully multilingual Session was held virtually in a hybrid manner, with the President chairing from his seat in the Auditorium and the wider Membership as well as United Nations and non-governmental partners connected online.  WFP continues to improve the digital meeting systems performance in order to provide Members with a more fluid and efficient experience while maintaining the appropriate level of digital security that is required for a formal session of a governing body.


Virtual Annual Session of the Executive Board 2020


In the opening segment, the Executive Board Membership observed a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the pandemic, especially to offer their heartfelt condolences to the WFP colleagues who tragically succumbed to the virus in South Sudan and Yemen.

The Board also recalled in loving memory Dr. Abdul Razak Ayazi, the Alternate Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan who passed away on 6 May.

A total of 43 documents were produced for this session, 35 of which were examined for approval or for consideration.  Among the eight documents submitted for information, two were tabled for discussion at the request of some Members.

Before the opening remarks, the Board discussed and approved the document on the Proposed reorganization of WFP’s senior leadership structure, fine-tuning the five WFP working streams: emergency supply chain, programme policy and development, resource management, partnerships and the new workplace culture.


Virtual Annual Session of the Executive Board 2020


In his opening remarks, the Executive Director David Beasley commenting that this annual session of the Executive Board was happening during most extraordinary times in world history:  Mr Beasley defined COVID-19 as “a storm coming to render chaos and destabilization”, potentially the worst health and socioeconomic disaster in more than a century, that represents “the biggest humanitarian response in the World Food Programme’s history”.  The Executive Director warned that ,“If we do not handle this pandemic, we can end up with more people dying from its economic impact than the virus itself. We cannot make the cure worse than the disease and that is why we are working so strategically”.  Mr Beasley also provided an overview of WFP’s latest global needs analysis and shared sobering figures estimating that the number of acutely food insecure people will reach 270 million people by the end of 2020. This urges a “coordinated and well-resourced global response”, requiring an unprecedented level of funding: USD 12.8 billion for the whole of 2020.  The Executive Director concluded that, “this time the United Nations will prove why it is needed in the most important since its inception 75 years ago. And I believe that the World Food Programme will be the leader of the pack showing the world why the world needs the United Nations”.

The opening speech was followed by a virtual panel discussion around the theme “Working together to ensure coherent humanitarian development and peace efforts that meet and reduce the needs of the most vulnerable during the COVID-19”.  Four special guests intervened remotely: 

The first guest speaker, His Excellency Janez Lenarčič, European Commissioner for Crisis Management, expressed his deep appreciation for the tremendous efforts the WFP has been making in responding to the numerous emergencies around the world as well as its response to the COVID-19 crisis. H.E. Lenarčič stated that the pandemic has clearly demonstrated the need for “a joined up approach combining short-term response with efforts to alleviate the social and economic impact of the crisis and to build up the resilience of the most vulnerable”.  His Excellency maintained that the European Union has quickly adopted “a strong and joint approach paving the way also to future EU responses to global challenges”, and envisages “further strengthening strategic partnership with WFP and other UN agencies”.  Click here to read the full speech.

Her Excellency Reem Ebrahim Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation, United Arab Emirates, called for “a shared spirit of collective responsibility” and illustrated the various initiatives promoted by the United Arab Emirates in the strong and valuable partnership with WFP in order to respond swiftly and decisively to the global challenge.  According to Her Excellency Al Hashimy, the COVID-19 global pandemic demands continued collaboration but also provides an opportunity for a “fierce incentive to re-shape the 21st Century economy and build a future that is more resistant and more resilient to shocks, whether those are socio-economic, consequence of climate change or born of a threat we have yet to identify”. See the entire statement here.

In her speech Ms Susanna Moorehead, Chair of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD-DAC), explained how the member countries adopted the nexus approach to respond to the crisis by dealing simultaneously with the immediate health and humanitarian crisis, but at the same time protecting the economy and the most vulnerable people.  “The nexus, it is not a catchy title, but it is not rocket science”, she explained. “Essentially, what it means is that the multilateral system and the bilateral system - which is often funded by the same members - need to work better on the ground”. Read the full speech here.

Mr Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and the Emergency Relief Coordinator, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), reinforced the message of previous speakers and urged the Board to step up in this moment of acute need “to avoid us having to watch millions of children starve to death by the end of the year or early next year and assist to the biggest global tragedy anybody in our lifetime has seen accumulate in front of us”. Click here to read the statement.

At the conclusion of interventions from the panel, the floor was open for comments, remarks and an extensive interactive Q&A segment with the participation of nearly a dozen Board Members and Observers occurred, making it the longest interactive Q&A segment since it became part of the Board’s agenda over two years ago.

Please read all the Membership statements submitted and transcripts of the session under the dedicated section of the restricted EB Membership Area.


Key Board Decisions


In addition to approving the Proposed reorganization of WFP’s senior leadership structure, key documents approved during this fruitful virtual annual session worth mentioning include the following:  Annual performance report for 2019; Mid-term review of the WFP Strategic Plan (2017–2021); Comprehensive action plan (CAP) for the implementation of the recommendations of the joint Board/management working group on harassment, sexual harassment, abuse of power and discrimination; Audited annual accounts, 2019Replenishment of the special account for wellness programmes (SAWP); Annual evaluation report for 2019; and Summary report on the evaluation of WFP's Gender Policy (2015–2020).


Virtual Annual Session of the Executive Board 2020


Click here to review all documents from the agenda, supplementary information, one virtual side event (see below) and video materials.


Virtual Annual Session of the Executive Board 2020


Virtual Side Event

The Innovation and Knowledge Management Division sponsored a virtual side event showcasing how innovation and technology allowed WFP to tackle COVID-19 challenges in an agile way with new approaches and solutions.

Click here to hear stories from dedicated staff in the field about creative solutions to keep delivering timely and vital assistance despite the pandemic. A collection of videos and other material on innovation and technology in times of COVID-19 can also be found on the meeting page under the tab “Videos”.