WFP’s First Virtual Regular Session of the Executive Board

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On 16 and 17 April, the World Food Programme convened its very first virtual Executive Board Session.  In light of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and alarming information originating in the north of Italy, the First Regular Session of the Executive Board 2020 – which was originally scheduled for 24-25 February – was postponed for nearly two months.

First Virtual Regular Session of the Executive Board – Auditorium
First Virtual Regular Session of the Executive Board – Auditorium

Working with MSDI HQ Audio-Video and TEC colleagues, the Executive Board Secretariat began testing several different virtual systems that would allow remote multilingual participation in six languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Spanish and Russian).  Leveraging investments already in place, Estreemo, an Italy-based firm, was able to develop a product associated with the Bosch multilingual speaker system which the Government of Italy as host nation funded as part of the WFP Landmark HQ Renovation project.  Board delegates were able to connect online using the same interface they were accustomed to in the Auditorium, that is, holding a virtual seat at the Board room oval table.  As a result, WFP became the first United Nations agency to successfully carry-out a fully multilingual virtual governing body meeting.

Photo taken by participants - H.E. Artur Andrzej Pollok, Poland
Photo taken by participants - H.E. Artur Andrzej Pollok, Poland

In accordance with WFP’s Rules and Regulations, this session opened with the election of the 2020 Executive Board Bureau, which is headed by President H.E. Dr. Ulrich Seidenberger, Permanent Representative of Germany, and Vice-President Mr. Luís Fernando de Carvalho, Deputy Permanent Representative of Brazil.  Click here to view the full composition of the Bureau.

Executive Director David Beasley delivered his opening remarks while connected from his home in the United States. After contracting the virus, the Executive Director reassured the Board he was in good health and fully recovered.  He also stressed the importance of continuing to provide vital food assistance to the nearly 100 million WFP beneficiaries. “We are moving in the right direction and we are not going to let COVID-19 stop us from doing what we need to do. If people cannot get food, they will die”.  As WFP is the “logistics arm of the United Nations”, working around the clock and on the ground on emergency operations in the humanitarian sector, now intensely delivering medical devices and supplies all over the world, Beasley invited all to reflect on the consequences of “not keeping our supply chains moving”.

First Virtual Regular Session of the Executive Board - Executive Director, David Beasley
First Virtual Regular Session of the Executive Board - Executive Director, David Beasley

The first day followed with a comprehensive update on WFP’s response to COVID-19.

The second day the Board welcomed Special Guest Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization who joined the session from Geneva. The WHO Director-General expressed his appreciation for the strong partnerships with WFP and the United Nations joint effort to fight to COVID-19 pandemic.  He also underscored the need to involve partners outside the United Nations system and called for increased collaboration with multilateral agencies and the private sector.

Special Guest Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization
Special Guest Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization
The main document approved at this session included the Update on the Integrated Road Map: Proposed delegations of authority and other governance arrangements, while other documents considered included the Summary report on the strategic evaluation of WFP’s capacity to respond to emergencies (2011–2018), Summary report on the evaluation of the WFP People Strategy (2014–2017).  Click here to see all documents in the agenda and supplementary information.