Soon a new WFP Executive Director will be appointed (by the Secretary General of the United Nations and the Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization). The Trump administration has proposed that an American be appointed; the UN/FAO has recently interviewed candidates. Usually, the UN rotates the nationalities of people in its top jobs.
I had the honor to be the first American to lead WFP. The American view at the time was that because the US voluntarily donated over one third of the WFP resources, it was time that a US national had a turn at running the organization. The US has not given it up since. This year, choosing an American candidate might be the best insurance that the US will continue if not increase its approximate $2 billion plus annual commitment to WFP. Will it? We can hope.
However, WFP is not only about collecting money and food. Its reputation is built on its efficiency and effectiveness. In order to reach millions of starving people, WFP must be even more impactful and streamlined. In these days of belt tightening and cost cutting, there are several areas where the new Executive Director could make a difference, as President Trump says, “On Day One.”
Therefore, for the new Executive Director of WFP, here are ten DAY ONE recommendations for cost savings and management streamlining:
- Do not fill all five of the next level “assistant secretary general ASG” positions in the organization. Comparable organizations (UNHCR and UNICEF) operate similarly large, complex programs with three and four posts respectively at the assistant secretary general level (ASG). The WFP Executive Director can immediately save money and streamline his/her organizational structure by limiting the organization to three of the authorized positions.
- Appoint only one of your ASGs as your deputy. Management lines are simpler and more efficient with one deputy. Every single time an executive director has appointed multiple deputies, the organization has wasted time and money with little rivalries that build up.
- Choose the deputy from another region of the world with vast management experience and operational knowledge and in whom you have great confidence. That person needs to manage the organization as much if not more so than you do.
- Make sure the person who runs your immediate office comes from inside the organization. You have a big enough learning curve as it is; learn faster by having an experienced professional next to you. It also helps to bring one colleague who knows YOU, for a posting elsewhere in your office.
- Commit to your staff to run an efficient, transparent, and fair human resources system worldwide.
- Reestablish a system of competitive hiring of entry-level international staff, thus limiting the “you have to know someone” process of hiring and ensuring equity and stability for staff.
- Follow the UN rules on limited hiring of retirees who already receive pensions.
- Rotate staff through dangerous duty stations; staying too long impedes a person’s effectiveness, health and safety. Redeploy as many headquarters staff as possible to the immense challenges in the field.
- Carefully monitor your own and others’ travel; do not go home on the company’s dime.
- Do not take the housing allowance. Your peers who are based in New York City, including the head of UNICEF, receive little if any housing allowances, even though the cost of living is much higher there than in Rome. However, for the last 15 years, the WFP Executive Director has received thousands of dollars per month for housing, in addition to a salary like that of a cabinet secretary (and tax-free), an entertainment allowance, and transportation for all business matters in Rome. The leader of an organization designated to feed the poorest, hungriest people on earth does not also need housing provided.
Your success is imperative in saving millions of lives. The world is with you in spirit as you lead the way to end hunger through this most challenging and critically important leadership role.
Catherine Bertini is a Lugar Center Affiliated Expert and served as the Executive Director of the World Food Program from 1992-2002.
The Lugar Center values the views of our affiliated experts and believes they make important contributions to current foreign policy debates. Their views do not necessarily reflect those of Senator Lugar.