the Public Eye, In Uganda, India, Chad and at the Top, Not Yet on North Korea
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN
UNITED NATIONS, June
3 -- While the World Food Program was among the five UN agencies whose programs in
North Korea were targeted for "urgent audits" by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
earlier this year, now it stands alone as having no audit released.
was released at UN Headquarters and a
was held. At the UN's
noon briefing, Inner City Press asked
Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson
Inner City Press: It doesn't mention the
WFP, but WFP obviously is active in North Korea and they said they were
arranging for an audit through their own separate mechanism.
Spokesperson: It is a separate audit.
Question: Will that be released here?
Will that also go to ACABQ? [The UN's Advisory Committee on Administrative and
Spokesperson: Well, if it is going to be
released, it is going to be released by the WFP.
Question: Right, but does it go to ACABQ
here in New York?
Spokesperson: I will try to find out for
you what process this specific audit will follow, but you can ask questions
about UNDP to David Morrison. He will be here at 1 o'clock.
At the 1
p.m. press conference, the other four agencies were discussed, but there was no
word from, or presence of, the World Food Program. In part this may be explained
by the fact that the bureaucratic path for such an audit is different for WFP
than the other four agencies, which are under the UN Board of Auditors. But the
public does not distinguish between, or care much about, these bureaucratic
distinctions. All five are UN agencies. So how can one of the five simply slip
from the list, and not yet be audited?
credit, WFP has been answering questions that have arisen in the public record
concerning its operations in Chad, India and about the "cash or butter" debate.
Josette Sheeran Shiner, all smiles in Darfur per WFP
10, Inner City Press asked WFP to respond to charges leveled in an article
wheat subsidy scam; Bonn, Cremica in the dock,"
including that the Food Corporation of India
"had supplied 13,000 tons of wheat to Bonn
Breads and 30,000 tons to Cremica Foods at a highly subsidized rate of Rs 415
per quintal. These firms were to supply bread and biscuits for the UN's World
Food Program. However, instead of manufacturing bread and biscuits, they
allegedly sold it in the open market within a few days of the purchase for
double or more than the double price."
responses and an inquiry, WFP has responded:
Subject: Update on Indian Wheat
From: Paul Risley [at] wfp.org
To: Matthew Russell Lee
Sent: Wed, 30 May 2007 5:16 am
Matthew, My apologies for being tardy in
The World Food Program provides
vitamin-enriched wheat biscuits for school feedings in five states in India. We
buy the biscuits from manufacturers on barter terms, i.e., WFP buys wheat from
the Food Corporation of India that we then give to the biscuit manufacturer to
both turn into biscuits and as payment for the processing. This is done on a
competitive basis -- the lowest bidder gets the contract. The wheat we buy
from FCI is subsidized, a subsidy that is transferred to the biscuits which are
distributed to the eligible poor under WFP projects, as for which the subsidy is
Contracts with the two manufacturers are
ongoing and deliveries of the biscuits are on schedule and as per quality
requirements; approximately 640,000 school children, eat these biscuits every
day in five Indian states (This is a WFP food delivery program that is meant to
be replicated on a larger scale in other states across India). The article is
misleading in suggesting that the manufacturers had sold wheat that was intended
for biscuits ( "However, instead of manufacturing the biscuits .."); indeed, the
manufacturers have produced the biscuits as required under contract.
Following publication of the article that
caught your attention, the WFP Representative in India met with Government of
India counterparts and asked for a government review of the actions of the two
companies. From its side, WFP has checked on the two companies' contractual
compliance and is satisfied with the result. Until GoI has completed its
investigations, WFP India and GoI agreed not to write a rebuttal to the Indian
press allegations. I will send you a further update if necessary then.
alright. On the wider issue of food versus cash donations, WFP has provided
Inner City Press with the following response from Deputy Executive Director,
"The debate isn't really about whether
cash is better than food. The reality is that WFP doesn't have enough of
either. Circumstances vary and our experience is that there is a time and a
place where food and cash can make the difference. Unfortunately, the reality
is that less than 5% of the resources that WFP receives from donor governments
are given to us without restrictions on when, how and where we can use them.
"We've got to realize that the world in
which we live is changing rapidly. Gone are the days when the big agricultural
economies of the world were producing huge surpluses of food. Today we live in
a post-surplus disposal world, and it's getting harder and harder to meet the
needs of a growing number of hungry people when there is less food around and
commodity prices are higher.
"Globally, we're facing a real squeeze in
meeting the needs of the hungry. World cereal stocks are at their lowest levels
in 20 years, and increasing demand for food form China and other parts of Asia
is leading to sharp increases in the prices of wheat and maize. You then add
the impact of biofuel production, which means less grain is being produced for
food use. And on top of that we're facing shipping congestion on the high-seas
and high costs for transporting cargo because of relatively inflated fuel
prices. Taken together it's a challenging environment for an agency like WFP
and means the money we raise simply doesn't go as far as it used to.
"Climate change has an impact on the
supply side as changing weather patterns make agricultural production more
uncertain, and it also has an impact on the demand side as the frequency of
natural disasters increases and hits the poorest and most vulnerable people in
the world. Chronic hunger is a growing problem, it already affects more than
850 million people and the latest figures from the Food and Agriculture
Organization say it's increasing at a rate of 4 million a year. WFP is caught
between feeding more people and having less financial muscle to achieve those
City Press has asked for Ban Ki-moon's position on the above referenced "impact
of biofuel production [that] less grain is being produced for food use," and got
this (non) response:
"The Secretary-General is aware that a
number of UN studies have recently been released regarding biofuels and the
opportunities and challenges they pose for developing countries, the world's
poor as well as the environment. The emerging issue of biofuel development
merits to be carefully evaluated in all its aspects by UN bodies and the
international community as a whole so that its impact can be fully taken into
account by Member States, civil society and the private sector."
Inner City Press has held off further inquiry on issue surrounding the selection
of WFP's current Executive Director Josette Sheeran Shiner, the same is not true
We will look forward to Ms. Sheeran Shiner finally making herself available for
questions, not only on these topics, at UN Headquarters, which has yet to
happen. For now we note that previous WFP executive director Jim Morris has just
been named an advisor to... the
basketball team, click
for this interim WFP report, the following has been provided in response to an
Inner City Press questions based on
reports of suspension of WFP service to Eastern Chad:
Inner City Press asked:
can you provide an update on the reported suspension of WFP service to the town
of Iriba and in the Biltine district more generally?
WFP's office in Iriba remains closed (as do those of other humanitarian
agencies) following the recent attack on our staff, WFP continues to carry out
the essential work of pre-positioning food in the East ahead of the rainy
season, which is imminent. No one is not currently
receiving food as a result of the closure of the Iriba office. June
distributions will begin shortly and we are confident that the situation in
Iriba will have improved sufficiently for WFP and others to continue work as
Inner City Press asked about
testimony in the U.S. Congress on May 10 that "In
Sudan alone, WFP is supporting the food needs of almost two million internally
displaced people (IDPs) in Darfur and another million people living near the IDP
camps in Darfur who are affected by the crisis. To date, the U.S. has borne a
disproportionate share of this food aid burden, providing about 475,000 metric
tons per year for Sudan and Eastern Chad." From WFP's perspective, is the
475,000 metric tons figure accurate for, as it seems, Sudan and E. Chad
together? Is there a break-down between the two? And any description of what the
food aid consists of?
WFP: I do not
have the figures for Sudan to hand as this falls outside my remit. In 2006, the
US provided a total of 24,376 mt of food for WFP eastern Chad operations. Food
aid consists of:
monthly food distributions for Sudanese refugees (2,100 kcal rations per person
per day). This predominantly wheat and sorghum, but also smaller quantities of
corn-soya blend and pulses.
- Nutrition support for children under 5 and pregnant and nursing mothers
- Food distribution for IDPs (1,800 kcal rations per person per day)
- Food-for-work activities for refugee and IDP crisis affected local population
(1,800 kcal per person per day).
Press asked about WFP's May 14 press release about food for Chad transported
through Libya, are the "6,000 tons of food.... still in warehouses in Khufra."
WFP: In Khufra
there are some 5,200 mt that are expected to have been dispatched by end May.
Some 3,800 mt has already arrived in Chad through the Libyan corridor and
another 8,600 mt is en route.
Well alright. One earlier WFP response:
Sri Lanka article, WFP Country Director Jeff Taft-Dick was summoned to the
Foreign Ministry in his capacity as the acting United Nations Country Team
Resident Coordinator at the time, a summons unrelated to WFP operations in Sri
Lanka. The two 'UN staff arrested by the LTTE' were national employees of UNOPS
working in LTTE-controlled areas."
Inner City Press will be asking UNOPS,
the UN Office of Project Services, about this, as well as about the North Korea
audit, regarding which they, UNFPA and UNICEF have yet to say anything.
Again, because a number of Inner City Press'
sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while
it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this
installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of the
UN agencies and many of their staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone
calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep
the information flowing.
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(and weekends): 718-716-3540
Other, earlier Inner
City Press are listed here, and
some are available in the ProQuest service.
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UN Office: S-453A,
UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439
(and weekends): 718-716-3540