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232. Memorandum From the Deputy Secretary of State (Christopher) and the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture (White) to the Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget (McIntyre)1


  • 1979/1980 Request for the UN/FAO World Food Program

The purpose of this memorandum is to ask that you seek the President’s approval for a U.S. commitment of $220 million to the UN/FAO World Food Program (WFP) for calendar years 1979/1980. The WFP is the principal source of food aid within the United Nations system. It was established with strong U.S. endorsement and we have been its major contributor since its initiation in 1963. Its worldwide assistance is for economic development projects (60 percent), direct feeding as a nutritional supplement (30 percent), and disaster relief (10 percent). The U.S. pledge for 1977/1978 is $188 million.

Of the proposed $220 million, $216 million would be financed under Public Law 480. No additional P.L. 480 budgetary expenditures would be incurred since virtually all of our assistance through WFP is covered by the annual minimum tonnage mandated for the P.L. 480 Title II donation program.2 Under the International Development and Food Assistance Act of 1977,3 the mandatory minimum tonnage for Title II has been raised from 1.3 million tons to 1.6 million tons, of which 1.3 million tons must go through WFP and the voluntary agencies. We believe the distribution within the sub-minimum of approximately two-thirds to the voluntary agencies and one-third to WFP is reasonable and should be continued in 1979/1980.

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The remaining amount—$4 million in cash for WFP’s administrative expenses—will fall within the Foreign Assistance Act and represents a $1 million increase for the two-year period.

WFP programs are aimed at the poorest segments of developing country populations. About 75 percent now goes to the poorest countries, compared with 50 percent in 1972. WFP activities are precisely those that we have in mind when we call for multilateral institutions to focus on the basic human needs of the developing world. Developing countries long have viewed WFP as one of the major programs for development assistance, and this role was further enhanced by the 1974 World Food Conference.4 We regard WFP, which consistently has had enthusiastic support in the Congress, as a prime vehicle for our multilateral development assistance efforts.

At its October 24–November 4 meeting, the Program’s governing body must decide on a target for its calendar years 1979/1980 biennium. The Secretariat is repeating its proposal, first made last spring, that the target be $950 million (compared to $750 million for the 1977/1978 biennium). The United States (and several other major donors) objected to such a large increase at the time.

We believe that a target of $950 million is too high, but that a target of $880 million can be attained realistically and used effectively. A decision to pledge $220 million:

—would be consistent with the President’s desire to increase food aid and with Congressional intent that we utilize WFP as a major vehicle for food aid distribution;

—would enable us to maintain an influential voice in the major multilateral forum discussing food aid policy; and

—would in the short term, strengthen us tactically in our efforts to hold WFP operations to a sound, realistic level.

At the October meeting we plan to indicate that, while we are prepared to raise significantly the U.S. contribution to WFP, we cannot support the $950 million for these reasons:

—There is evidence from recent WFP project evaluations that a number of very poor developing countries have problems providing the management expertise and additional financial resources necessary to absorb significant increases in food aid.

—Although we believe the Program should grow, we want to ensure that projects are selected on the basis of development or nutritional impact and not simply resource availability.

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WFP will need time to consider and implement recommendations that its projects be coordinated more closely with those of other development assistance donors (i.e., through joint planning with UNDP, the FAO, and the financial institutions).

However, as WFP begins to coordinate its food aid more closely with the development aid of other major donors, and if new ways are found to help the developing countries absorb higher levels of WFP assistance, we may wish authority, perhaps in FY 1980, to increase our pledge.

Warren Christopher
John C. White 5
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Deputy Secretary: Records of Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 8, Memos/Letters FM WC to Agencies. No classification marking. No drafting information appears on the memorandum. Cleared in draft by Frank and Ferch. Attached but not printed are 9 tables: “U.S. Pledge Composite;” “WFP Targets and U.S. Pledges;” “Concentration of Commitments on LDCs and MSAs;” “Development Projects by Region and Type;” “Development Projects by Region and Stage;” “Emergency Operations by Region and Stage;” “Pledges Announced for the Period 1977–78;” “Overall Situation of WFP Resources 1963–1976;” and “WFP Resources and Expenditures Projected Until the End of Calendar Year 1978.”
  2. The Title II provision of P.L. 480 allowed the United States to donate commodities to private voluntary and religious organizations for use in their overseas feeding programs.
  3. Public Law 95–88.
  4. See Document 221.
  5. White and Christopher signed and dated the memorandum on September 21 and October 7, respectively.