UN selects David Beasley, Trump supporter and former US politician, to lead WFP

David Beasley. Photo by: Marylandstater

David Beasley, a Republican politician from South Carolina, will lead the World Food Programme as its new executive director, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General José Graziano da Silva confirmed in a public announcement on Wednesday.

Beasley was a one-term governor of South Carolina in the 1990s and was a supporter of President Donald Trump throughout his contentious election campaign against Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, also a former governor of  South Carolina, nominated Beasley — one of more than 20 nominees — for the position.

While Beasley has executive experience working at the state level, he has never worked in international affairs, humanitarian relief or development. After his term as governor, he lost two bids for reelection — one as governor and then for a Senate seat — before going on to hold various fellowship and advisory positions with the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a faith forum.

He will now oversee the WFP as it responds to the largest humanitarian crises the organization has experienced since its inception more than 50 years ago — and as the Trump administration moves to cut foreign aid and U.N. funding, according to the blueprint budget it released earlier this month.

The WFP is seeking a combined $2.7 billion to respond to escalating food insecurity situations and famines present in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria. So far, they have received only 14 percent of that funding. This reflects only a portion of the WFP’s responses to emergency and protracted situations, such as the conflict in Syria.  

His selection, which succeeds Obama-appointee Ertharin Cousin, may be a way for the U.N. to help ensure that the U.S. continues to play a leadership role at the U.N. and does not move to severely slash funding, as Foreign Policy reported.

Beasley thanked Haley in a Facebook post Wednesday, saying he was grateful “for her friendship and backing during this nomination process.” As of now, he appears to maintain a low key profile on social media, with a personal Twitter handle that reads: “Married to Mary Wood. Four children. Follower of Jesus.”

“It is truly a singular honor to be selected to lead the World Food Programme and its 14,000 employees around the globe who are fighting against hunger and poverty,” he wrote in his Facebook post.

“I look forward to being on their team, working with and expanding the public and private partnerships that can help WFP be even more effective in getting food and assistance to those who so desperately need it. The world faces far too many hunger crises today and we must redouble our efforts to build upon the great work of the WFP done under the leadership of Ertharin Cousin.”

Beasley joins a long line of American national WFP executive directors.

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About the author

  • Amy Lieberman

    Amy Lieberman is the U.N. Correspondent for Devex. She covers the United Nations and reports on global development and politics. Amy previously worked as a freelance reporter, covering the environment, human rights, immigration, and health across the U.S. and in more than 10 countries, including Colombia, Mexico, Nepal, and Cambodia. Her coverage has appeared in the Guardian, the Atlantic, Slate, and the Los Angeles Times. A native New Yorker, Amy received her master’s degree in politics and government from Columbia’s School of Journalism.