The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

Anti-hunger advocates split on choice for WFP post

U.S. anti-hunger advocates are split over whether former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman or Ertharin Cousin, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. food agencies in Rome, would be the best U.S. candidate to become executive director of the U.N. World Food Program.

Dan Glickman
Dan Glickman
The U.N. secretary general and the director general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization make the appointment in consultation with the WFP board, but governments recommend candidates and the Obama administration is believed to be considering both Glickman and Cousin.

Some U.S. anti-hunger advocates have said that they believe Glickman would be the better choice because he has the management experience of a Cabinet secretary and is respected and well liked on Capitol Hill, while there are questions about whether Cousin, a Chicagoan, has the management experience to run a U.N. agency, even though she was a high-ranking official at Second Harvest, the food bank chain now known as Feeding America, and at Jewel Food Stores and Albertsons Foods.

Ertharin Cousin
Ertharin Cousin
But another anti-hunger advocate has told The Hagstrom Report that Cousin may be the better choice.

“She is a strong speaker and very believable,” the advocate said. “She has a good ability to relate to and motivate people.”

The advocate also noted that Cousin “has learned a lot about WFP” during her tenure in Rome and would have more knowledge to address WFP’s many management challenges than Glickman, who spent 2004 to 2010 as president of the Motion Picture Association of America.

In addition, the advocate said that Cousin may be more enthusiastic about traveling to the countries where WFP distributes than Glickman, who resigned after a short tenure at Refugees International, another organization that works in developing countries. (Glickman has said he left Refugees International because he decided he would rather work on the agricultural issues he knew so well.)

Obama administration officials from the Agriculture Department, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development have interviewed Glickman, Cousin, and Josette Sheeran, the current WFP executive director, sources said, but it is unclear whether the interviewing team has forwarded a recommendation to the White House or whether the White House has forwarded a recommendation or recommendations to the United Nations.

U.S. officials have told Sheeran, a Republican who served in the Bush administration, that they will not support her for a second five-year term.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told The Hagstrom Report late last week that both Glickman or Cousin are good candidates.

“Either one would do a fine job," Vilsack said in a telephone call from Vietnam. He described Glickman as a friend, and said Cousin has been involved in food security work for several years.

"The president will make the right choice," Vilsack said, noting that President Barack Obama will make the recommendation in concert with the State Department. Vilsack added that he hopes whoever is appointed “represents the American interest.”

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon told the WFP board last week that the process of appointment would be “open,” meaning that Sheeran would not be appointed automatically for a second term.

As of last week’s board meeting, Sheeran was trying to convince officials from other countries to support her reappointment, sources said, but it is difficult, if not impossible, for a citizen of a country to get or maintain a U.N. appointment without support from that country’s government

The United States is the largest donor to WFP, and an American has held the position of executive director since 1992.