World Food Programme executive director David Beasley gave a global perspective of the current humanitarian crisis in the world at the March 29 Folks Center Forum at UofSC’s Darla Moore School of Business to more than 400 in-person and online registrants from around the world.
Beasley pointed out that while extraordinary progress has been made in the last 100 years, this unprecedented food crisis has been mainly caused by man-made conflicts and augmented by rippling effects of climate change.
Due to man-made conflict, Beasley said that the current Russian war in Ukraine has caused a major disruption and shortage in the food supply around the world since a crucial portion of the world’s wheat, corn and barley comes from Russia and Ukraine. Due to the war, crops have not been widely planted, which will in turn severely reduce the amount of food to be harvested.
In addition, the prices for commodities have soared — from wheat to fertilizer and fuel — which have created major impediments in the purchasing, supplying and storing of food around the world. The disruption is creating the overwhelming need for new measures and solutions for the WFP to address the worst situation of hunger in history, affecting more than 100 million people in 80 countries where WFP is present. Ending acute food insecurity is possible, he said, if we can end the wars and conflicts.
These conflicts have spawned a major refugee crisis, which is intensifying the already-dire
food crisis. The spiraling costs and scarcity of goods for WFP to feed these refugees
are impacting distribution and producing potent reverberations throughout the global
Climate change impacts
The effects of climate change around the world have also worsened the humanitarian situation, especially for those found in fragile environments and destabilized nations affected by severe flooding and drought, particularly seen throughout the African continent.
This crisis has had an immediate impact on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable and has weakened the middle class. Beasley has brought to the fore the devastating impact of the war in Ukraine on the food crisis with G7 governments (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, plus the European Union) and with the private sector asking for their leadership and support.
Beasley sees private sector engagement as an especially critical element to end poverty and food shortages by soliciting innovative ideas, creativity and resources from the corporate world. He sees a pressing need to empower and engage young CEOs with the sense of social responsibility and the impact it can have in a strategic role for their companies.
If the nonprofit sector, government and businesses continue working independently,
they cannot solve this critical issue. Government leaders should find better ways
to incentivize companies to build a more vigorous system for long-term partnerships
that work effectively and efficiently toward sustainability and prosperity. The stability
and economic empowerment of developing nations will take place if we can engage more
private sector participation along with empowering entrepreneurs to help build a better
world for all.
Corporate social responsibility
To bring to light the corporate perspective, two corporate partners of the Folks Center for International Business joined Beasley on the forum stage to share ideas. One was Johann Baar, executive board member of the Hilti Foundation, a corporate foundation based in Liechtenstein that is focused on programs that provide economic empowerment to improve the lives of those in need, particularly in developing countries. The second was Val Dolcini, Head, Business Sustainability and Government Affairs North America for Syngenta, a Swiss-based global company with a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility to strengthen the world’s food systems. The panel was moderated by Andrew Spicer, an associate professor of international business at the Moore School.
The panelists discussed ways that businesses can build partnerships by engaging others that contribute to a lasting positive impact. In addition to financial support, businesses can achieve significant impact through their knowledge and understanding of building long-term sustainability to address the complexities in the current systems.
Innovation is critical to WFP to deliver on its mandate to end hunger, as just four crops — wheat, maize, rice and soybeans — provide two-thirds of the world’s food supply. Supporting innovations that can improve how these grains are stored, processed or distributed is essential to disrupting hunger.
To drive sustainable impact, companies are partnering with local employees and entrepreneurs to help them invest in their communities and create a more prosperous society. For example, the Hilti Foundation focuses on achieving scalable impact in its community-supported projects by bringing knowledge and expertise, such as in engineering or logistics, to its partners about building decent and affordable housing, which has significant consequences for people’s health and livelihood.
In another example, Syngenta has teamed up with WFP and other companies to form the “Farm to Market Alliance” in Africa, chaired by Syngenta CEO Erik Fyrwald, to build resiliency and sustainability in the region. The alliance helps to equip those in need with the tools and resources they seek to move from being beneficiaries of aid to drivers of business.
In closing, the panelists discussed their ideas on how to be a responsible global citizen:
- Get outside of your comfort zone and be engaged in what is happening around the world.
- Think about global issues beyond just simple facts to consider what personal knowledge or resources you can contribute, as many opportunities will then open up.
- Don’t hesitate to engage in your local community, as you’d be surprised who is struggling in your own neighborhood.
- Shift your mindset and use technology wisely. Take advantage of easy access to information but be aware of the propaganda that manipulate the facts. Don’t get caught up in the moment of politics.
- Be an optimist and support young people who will seize opportunities and help achieve these goals of ending poverty and hunger.
This Folks Center Forum was made possible by The Rachel and Jim Hodges Fund, in addition to corporate support and participation by Hilti North America and Syngenta.
Our appreciation goes to former South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges for opening the forum in honor of Governor Beasley, and to Alex Harrell, UofSC student body president and Laney Quickel, UofSC student body treasurer and Moore School international business sophomore, for welcoming the distinguished guests.
-Karen Brosius, executive director, Folks Center for International Business