The WFP's new chief and Trump's climate rollback: This week in development news

A view of the U.N. General Assembly Hall during the opening meeting of the 61st session of the Commission on Stats of Women. Photo by: Rick Bajornas / U.N.

The World Food Programme looks for safety from Trump’s budget cuts in a politically savvy choice for executive director, while the U.N.’s annual Commission on the Status of Women reflected a mix of progress and protest. This week in development news:

President Donald Trump took his first steps to roll back the Obama administration’s actions to combat climate change and fulfill U.S. commitments to the Paris climate agreement. Trump issued an executive order Tuesday that aims to end government policies that would limit carbon emissions by regulating power production and compel the U.S. government to invest in climate change resilience. The Trump administration, which includes many officials who dispute that manmade climate change poses a threat to global stability, described the move as an effort to end “costly regulations that harmed American jobs and energy production.” Opponents of Trump’s attack on climate action, such as Oxfam America’s Tom Damassa, called the executive order “a disgrace in its complete disregard for people and the planet.” Many have pointed out that on the heels of the Obama administration’s pivotal role in securing a Paris climate agreement, Trump’s policies represent an abdication of U.S. climate leadership. As Devex reported at last year’s climate conference in Marrakech, the United States’ failure to fulfill its own voluntary commitments to the U.N. agreement could erode the cooperative relationship between America and climate-vulnerable countries where the impacts of climate change are mounting.

David Beasley, a former Republican governor from South Carolina and a supporter of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, will be the next executive director of the World Food Programme. The appointment, announced by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres Wednesday, maintains a status quo of U.S. leadership at the agency, despite the Trump administration’s frequent statements about cutting U.S. contributions to the U.N. The WFP has so far received only 14 percent of the $2.7 billion it is seeking to respond to emerging famines in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria. Beasley’s appointment, which was enthusiastically supported by fellow South Carolina politician and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, is seen by some U.N. officials as an effort to shore up U.S. support, despite the Trump administration’s general skepticism of the U.N. system, Foreign Policy reported.

The bodies of two U.N. researchers who had been missing since March 12 were discovered Monday in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the U.N. announced in a statement. Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan disappeared while investigating large-scale violence and human rights abuses in Kasai-Central Province. They were members of a U.N. group of experts appointed by the United Nations Security Council, who had traveled by motorcycle to access areas where fighting between the Congolese army and rebel groups had reportedly led to mass killings and the conscription of child soldiers. The two investigators were accompanied by four Congolese nationals, an interpreter and three drivers, all of whom are still missing. “I trust that the Congolese authorities will conduct a full investigation into this incident. The United Nations will also conduct an inquiry. In case of criminal acts, the United Nations will do everything possible to ensure that justice is done,” Guterres said in the statement.

The Commission on the Status of Women, an annual U.N. gathering to address issues of gender equality, concluded last week in New York. CSW — taking place in the shadow of the Trump administration’s travel ban, which compelled some groups to boycott the event — focused both on internal issues of gender parity at the U.N. and on broader concerns, such as the global gender wage gap and the disproportionate impact of climate change on women. “It wasn’t lost on observers that UN Women continues to be the least-funded U.N. agency,” Devex’s Amy Lieberman reported. Guterres, who has made appointing women to top U.N. posts a priority of his leadership, held a first-ever civil society town hall to discuss issues around hiring, persistent issues of sexual exploitation and assault within the U.N. system, and gender financing.

Join the Devex community and access more in-depth analysis, breaking news and business advice — and a host of other services — on international development, humanitarian aid and global health.

About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.