ROME – Cindy H. McCain joins the United Nations World Food Programme as the new Executive Director today, warning that the world is facing an unparalleled food crisis that requires the Rome-based agency to urgently raise more resources, innovate further, and develop ambitious new partnerships.
McCain, who has served since 2021 as the United States Ambassador to the three UN food and agriculture agencies in Rome, takes the helm of an organization which last year delivered food assistance to a record 158 million people around the world. Food insecurity remains at unprecedented levels in 2023 as conflict, economic shocks, climate extremes and rising fertilizer prices continue to disrupt food production globally.
“Hunger is soaring, resources are running dangerously low and ration cuts are coming if we don’t have the money to get food to those who need it most. Without the funds, we simply cannot feed as many people,” McCain said. “My priorities are clear: increase our resources, improve our effectiveness, and scale up partnerships and innovation to bring modern solutions to those most in need.”
The new Executive Director stressed that no organization can solve world hunger alone and that global cooperation is critical to save the millions of lives at risk. She said one of her first actions as WFP chief will be to set up a taskforce on innovation, bringing together the best minds in both the public and private sectors to recommend measurable steps to address hunger.
WFP estimates that more than 345 million people worldwide are facing crisis levels of food insecurity in 2023, an increase of almost 200 million since early 2020. Of these, 43 million are just one step away from famine.
“We need even closer collaboration with our partners to reverse this unparalleled crisis,” McCain said. “Today we are asking new friends – especially from the private sector – to step up and join us. The world must not turn its back on the hungry.”
In her role as United States Ambassador to the UN food and agriculture agencies in Rome, McCain has seen WFP’s operations up close, travelling to Laos, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Zambia, Tajikistan, and Madagascar in the last 12 months. The new WFP chief takes over from former South Carolina governor David Beasley, who was Executive Director from 2017 until now.
“I am deeply honoured to lead WFP and thrilled to be a part of the team. WFP has been in my life for decades and was an inspiration in my own humanitarian career,” she said.
McCain is the former Chair of the Board of Trustees of the McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University, where she oversaw the organization’s focus on advancing character-driven global leadership based on security, economic opportunity, freedom, and human dignity as well as chairing the Institute’s Human Trafficking Advisory Council.