UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.S. Ambassador Cindy McCain was appointed Thursday to head the U.N. World Food Program, the world’s largest humanitarian organization which aims to help nearly 150 million people confronting conflicts, disasters and impacts of climate change this year.
The appointment of McCain, widow of Arizona senator and 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain. was jointly announced by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Qu Dongyu.
McCain has been the U.S. envoy to Rome-based WFP and FAO since November 2021, and the U.N. and FAO chiefs called her “a champion for human rights” with “a long history of giving a voice to the voiceless."
McCain will succeed David Beasley, a former South Carolina governor who has led WFP over the last six years including through the COVID-19 pandemic and the global food crisis sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Beasley was at the helm when the World Food Program was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020 in part for being "a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.”
Guterres and Qu praised Beasley for his “deep compassion.”
“He has humanized for the world the women and children most affected by hunger and has used his powerful voice to bring awareness and substantial resources to one crisis after another,” they said in the joint announcement.
Beasley's term ends April 4 and McCain then takes over as executive director. Her appointment was made after consultation with WFP's executive board.
The board's president, Poland's Ambassador Andrej Pollok, welcomed her selection., saying she takes over ""at a moment when the world confronts the most serious food security crisis in modern history."
An advocate for children, McCain has served on the board of directors for Operation Smile, a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing facial deformities for children around the world, visiting India, Morocco and Vietnam, the joint announcement said.
McCain also founded the American Voluntary Medical Team which provides emergency medical and surgical care to impoverished children throughout the world, the UN and FAO chiefs said. And she traveled extensively in her personal capacity on behalf of WFP, visiting mother and child feeding programs in Cambodia, Sierra Leone, Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press