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Ertharin Cousin to be new WFP ED

Ertharin Cousin, from USA to lead WFP

The United Nations has announced the appointment of Ertharin Cousin, an American with a varied career in corporate, non-profit and government affairs, as the next head of the Rome-based World Food Program.

Cousin, who has more than 25 years of national and international corporate, nonprofit and government leadership experience, is currently the U.S. Ambassador to the UN agencies that have food and agriculture mandates and are based in Rome. These include the 10,000 employee World Food Programme, WFP. Cousin will succeed Josette Sheeran, also of the United States, who has held the post since 2007.

The appointment followed a U.N. practice whereby jobs as heads of major agencies held by citizens of permanent Security Council members often pass to successors from the same country. It was announced by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Food and Agriculture Organization chief Jose Graziano da Silva.

Sheeran is joining the World Economic Forum in Geneva as vice president when her WFP term expires in April.

The WFP is the primary U.N. agency for hunger relief and says that each year, on an average, it feeds more than 90 million people in more than 70 countries. Voluntarily funded, the WFP goes into action in emergencies, getting food to survivors of floods, storms and drought, saving the lives of victims of war, civil conflict and natural disasters. After emergencies have passed, WFP distributes food to help communities rebuild their shattered lives.

Cousin was nominated as Ambassador by President Barack Obama on June 19, 2009 and sworn in on August 17, 2009. Immediately prior to this appointment, she was president of The Polk Street Group, a national public affairs firm located in Chicago, Illinois.

Cousin previously served as executive vice president and chief operating officer of the largest U.S. domestic hunger organization, Feeding America, then known as America's Second Harvest.

She led the organization's response to Hurricane Katrina, an effort which resulted in the distribution of more than 62 million pounds of food to survivors across the Gulf Coast region.

Cousin is experienced in the retail food sector too. She served as senior vice president of chain grocery Albertsons Foods and she also served as president and chair of the company's corporate foundation, managing the organization's philanthropic activities.

Cousin is a native of Chicago and a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Georgia School of Law.

During the administration of U.S. President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, she worked as deputy chief of staff for the Democratic National Committee and later White House liaison at the State Department. In 1997 she received a White House appointment to the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development.

U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement on Tuesday that the United Nations "will be well served by Ambassador Cousin's experience and commitment to the World Food Program's vision of a world in which every citizen has access to the food they need to survive and to thrive."

U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said of Cousin, "She has been central to designing and implementing our country's food security policies. I am confident that she will continue to be a powerful voice in the global fight against hunger and lend her energy, optimism and experience to the World Food Programme."

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has welcomed the appointment of Ertharin Cousin as its new Executive Director.

“Leading WFP is a great honour and a critical link to the world’s most vulnerable. I offer every support to Ertharin Cousin and wish her the greatest success at this critical time for the world’s most vulnerable nations and people,” said WFP’s current Executive Director, Josette Sheeran.

"On behalf of the WFP Executive Board I wish to congratulate Ertharin Cousin on her appointment as next Executive Director. We have known and appreciated her as a colleague in Rome and we now look forward to working with her in her new role,” said Ambassador Jim Harvey, President of WFP’s Executive Board. “We also congratulate the current Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, on her new appointment at the World Economic Forum that will allow her to build on her many accomplishments at WFP. Both Josette and Ertharin are outstanding champions in the fight against world hunger".

Earlier this month, Sheeran announced that she would move to the World Economic Forum in Geneva where she will be the new Vice Chairman at the world’s leading platform for engaging corporate and government leaders in solutions to global social, economic and humanitarian challenges.

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Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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