Ambassador Cindy McCain Takes the Helm at WFP at Critical Moment for Global Food Security

Photo: WFP USA/2023
Published April 5, 2023

ROME – Cindy H. McCain joins the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) as the new Executive Director today. She warns that the world faces 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 that delivered food assistance to an estimated 158 million people around the world last year. Hunger 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 U.N. World Food Programme chief will be to set up a task force on innovation, bringing together the best minds in both the public and private sectors to recommend measurable steps to address hunger.

The U.N. World Food Programme estimates that more than 345 million people worldwide are facing crisis levels of hunger 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 the U.N. World Food Programme’s operations up close, traveling to Laos, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Zambia, Tajikistan and Madagascar in the last 12 months. The new U.N. World Food Programme chief takes over from former South Carolina governor David Beasley, who was Executive Director from 2017 until now.

“I am deeply honored to lead the U.N. World Food Programme and thrilled to be a part of the team. The U.N. World Food Programme 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.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and the world’s leading humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

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