David Beasley

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I was out in the middle of Niger. And somebody just comes busting into our meeting, said, 'Nobel Peace Prize! Nobel Peace Prize!' And I'm like, "Well, yeah, wow, who won it?' And they're like, 'We did!' That was the greatest surprise in my life. And wow, wow, wow!

David Muldrow Beasley (born February 26, 1957) is an American politician and the Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme. Beasley, a member of the Republican Party, served one term as the 113th Governor of South Carolina from 1995 until 1999.


In my opinion, even with climate extremes, we can end world hunger. But it’s just not doable without the wars being ended.
  • I was out in the middle of Niger. And somebody just comes busting into our meeting, said, 'Nobel Peace Prize! Nobel Peace Prize!' And I'm like, "Well, yeah, wow, who won it?' And they're like, 'We did!' That was the greatest surprise in my life. And wow, wow, wow!
    • As quoted in Kate Hudson on being a World Food Programme ambassador, CBS News, (22 November 2020)
  • When I joined the World Food Program a few years ago, the number of people that were marching toward the brink of starvation was about 80 million people. But over the past three years pre-COVID, it spiked up to 135 million. And you ask the question why? The primary reason was manmade conflict, compounded with climate extremes and fragile- fragile governments. But since COVID has come in and truly exacerbated every extenuating circumstances we had around the world, the numbers are going from 135 million from one year ago to 270 million people marching to the brink of starvation. This is not people going to bed hungry. This is people really struggling to get their next meal... if we don't address this Margaret, this is what we're looking at- we're looking at famines, destabilization and mass migration. And it's a lot cheaper to come in and prevent it and do it right. You know, if people in the United States are struggling for food, what you imagine is happening in Niger, Burkina Faso or South Sudan.
  • The cost of supporting the Syrian in Syria is about 50 cents per day. That same Syrian ends up in Berlin or Brussels or London, it is 50 to 100 euros per day. And we know that people don't want to leave home. But if they don't have food and they don't have some degree of peace and stability, they will do what any of us would do for our children. So it's a lot cheaper to come in and prevent the destabilization than it is to have war and conflict afterwards.
  • The United States has always been the most generous nation on Earth. And I don't expect the United States to back down now, because it's going to be a lot cheaper to come in and do it right and prevent a lot of migration and a lot of destabilization and, in fact, a lot of deaths from hunger. People are dying now, about every five seconds a child dies from hunger... when it comes to food aid and stabilizing nations and preventing famine, it's remarkable to watch the Republicans and the Democrats come together, lay aside their differences and literally do what they can. And it's been quite a miracle to see. We went from about 1.9 billion when I arrived 3.5 years ago to now about almost four billion dollars from the United States. And so whether you talk about Bush, Obama or Trump and I know Biden will- we will have the support we need from Republicans and Democrats to help the needy people around the world. But this is a one time extraordinary crisis. And we're going to have- actually we're going to have to ask the billionaires to step up in a way they've never done before.
  • We are now looking, literally, at 2021 being the worst humanitarian crisis year since the beginning of the United Nations. … We have to prioritize, as I say, the icebergs in front of the Titanic. We’ve really got to give priority to famine, destabilization and migration.
    • World Food Programme Chief Warns of “Catastrophic” Humanitarian Crisis in 2021, Democracy Now! (7 December 2020)
  • What tears me up inside is this. This coming year, millions and millions and millions of my equals, my neighbors, your neighbors, are marching to the brink of starvation. We stand at what may be the most ironic moment in modern history. On the one hand, after a century of massive strides in eliminating extreme poverty, today those 200 million of our neighbors are on the brink of starvation. That’s more than the entire population of Western Europe. On the other hand, there is $400 trillion of wealth in our world today. Even at the height of the COVID pandemic, in just 90 days, an additional [$2.7] trillion of wealth was created. And we only need $5 billion to save 30 million lives from famine. What am I missing here?...
    I don’t go to bed at night thinking about the children we saved; I go to bed weeping over the children we could not save. And when we don’t have enough money nor the access we need, we have to decide which children eat and which children do not eat, which children live, which children die. How would you like that job? Please, don’t ask us to choose who lives and who dies. In the spirit of Alfred Nobel, as inscribed on this medal, “peace and brotherhood,” let’s feed them all. Food is the pathway to peace.
    • Food Is the Pathway to Peace: World Food Programme Wins Nobel Peace Prize & Warns of Hunger Pandemic, Democracy Now! (10 December 2020)
  • I have done the usual things you do before an awards ceremony. After extensive high-level consultation, I think I now have the right suit and tie. Carefully folded in my pocket is a long list of people to praise, many far more deserving of praise than I. I am ready.
    Growing up in a small South Carolina town, I never imagined life would bring me to this moment and allow me to be part of the wonderful, blessed enterprise I have found in WFP, the World Food Programme.
    I feel pride today, but also a sense of shame I cannot seem to shake. There is failure in this victory. We are having our media moment while hunger still rages.
    I know that just as WFP receives this coveted award, in a nameless village in Yemen, a skeletal child will be hovering close to death, hooked to a feeding tube. You have, no doubt, seen these children in fleeting images on your television screens. Well, let me tell you those images don’t come close to the reality.
    I have met these frail Yemeni children, most often in hot and dusty clinics filled with flies. The mothers usually give up on shooing the flies away and sit quietly by their sides. When you enter the room they pray you are the western miracle that has come to save their child. You know you’re not and you could not be more uncomfortable.
  • The WFP reflects the best in humanity and the worst. It exists because many of us care and it exists because many of us do not. Sadly, most hunger today is a self-inflicted wound. Six out of 10 of the world’s hungry live in countries at war with themselves – more than 400 million people... Hunger in Yemen is complex – fighting still rages and donor confidence is ebbing, while food prices are up 140%... Millions are food insecure and famine-like conditions have begun to appear. It is, simply put, a country in chaos. But we have brought Yemen back from the brink before... Coping with the bitter politics in Yemen will surely test us. But if we are determined, we can succeed again. We cannot let hunger simply fade into the background in the age of Covid-19. My dream for today is that all the feeding tubes in Yemen will suddenly vanish and those tiny children will go home smiling in the arms of the mothers. What is happening in Yemen now is a shame. We all share that shame and we need to end it together.

Quotes about[edit]

  • The United Nations today announced the appointment of David Beasley of the United States as the Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), which delivers emergency food assistance around the world and works with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. In a statement, Secretary-General Guterres said that Mr. Beasley “brings to the position extensive experience with key governmental and business leaders and stakeholders around the world, with very strong resource mobilisation skills.” Mr. Beasley, who is the Chair of the Center for Global Strategies, was Governor of the state of South Carolina from 1995 to 1999. He will replace Ertharin Cousin, also a US national, whose five-year term expires on 4 April.
  • The latest fighting in Yemen has exacerbated the world’s worst humanitarian crisis — where the United Nations warns about 80% of Yemen’s 30 million residents are in need of assistance. World Food Programme director David Beasley said Friday that Yemen tops the list of nations at risk of famine due to war, disease and the climate crisis... Beasley predicts a record 235 million people around the world will need humanitarian aid next year — a 40% increase from 2020. The World Food Programme will receive the Nobel Peace Prize on Thursday, International Human Rights Day.
    • World Food Programme Chief Warns of “Catastrophic” Humanitarian Crisis in 2021, Democracy Now! (7 December 2020)
  • This is a very apt recognition for the organization. However, I think that executive director Beasley will also agree that the best circumstance would be that there be no need for an organization like the World Food Programme. What it is doing is heroic because it’s essentially delivering emergency food to populations that have no recourse. But we really need to be asking ourselves: How is it that in the 21st century, when the planet as a whole is producing almost half, again, as much in terms of calories that we need to feed everyone, that there are some people that are in such dire circumstances as he described? So, we must always do that work. We must support that work. We must congratulate the people that devote their lives to do that. But I think a more important calling is actually to prevent the incidence of hunger on the planet, which is entirely doable.

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