What's behind Elon Musk - UN WFP Feud

Author: Julia Sun

The "fight" between Tesla founder Elon Musk and the United Nations Food Program has caused heated discussion. What's Musk's stance on charitable giving? Is WFP effective in solving the problem of global hunger?

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UN Food Program calls on Musk to donate funds

Last month, Tesla founder Elon Musk surpassed Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to become the world's richest man. David Beasley, Executive Director of the United Nations Food Program (WFP), posted a message on social media to congratulate Musk and said that if Musk donated 2% (or US$6 billion) of his net worth, It can help the 42 million people on the planet who are suffering from hunger.

Musk immediately responded that if the WFP could accurately describe how $6 billion would solve global hunger, he would sell Tesla shares immediately. On the 2nd of this month, Musk posted Cao Zhi's "Seven-Step Poetry" in Chinese on social media: Cooking beans burns the bean sprouts, and the beans weep in the cauldron. They are born from the same root, so there is no need to rush into mutual conflict. This move was considered a response to "forced donations" and aroused heated discussion.

Who is WFP?

WFP is the United Nations' professional agency responsible for food aid and is the world's largest humanitarian aid agency. WFP was founded in 1961 by the United Nations and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. WFP's mission is to achieve zero hunger and eradicate malnutrition. In 2020, WFP won the Nobel Peace Prize for its "efforts to fight hunger" and "contributions to improving conditions in conflict areas."

Musk established the Musk Foundation in 2002, but has been criticized for not donating more of his wealth. Musk has pledged to donate at least half of his fortune to charity. He recently announced he would donate $100 million to support a competition to develop carbon capture technology and devote millions more to other philanthropic efforts. The Musk Foundation focuses on supporting five areas: renewable energy, manned space exploration, pediatric research, science and engineering education, and artificial intelligence for the benefit of mankind, which is partly related to its business map. The Musk Foundation's grants include nonprofits in the international aid field such as Doctors Without Borders, health care organizations such as World Spine Care, and the Millman School for Gifted Children.

What has been the response to this call for donations?

Some experts have questioned whether similar appeals can influence billionaires' giving behavior. David Laborde, a senior fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), believes that "it makes little sense to compare the wealth of a few billionaires with the recurring needs of fighting hunger and famine."

The debate has also sparked further discussion: How to attract potential high-net-worth donors in the age of social media? Where do humanitarian agency statistics come from? How is accountability between funders and funded organizations? Phil Buchanan, chairman of the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), said that the public has seen the increasing wealth of billionaires during the epidemic and hopes that billionaires will do more charity in the future. Buchanan said that many billionaires are willing to do charity and they should be encouraged to do more charity. This kind of public pressure is healthier and more constructive than questioning charitable motives and criticizing charitable actions.

Is WFP effective in solving global hunger?

WFP provides emergency food aid and works to achieve zero hunger and eradicate malnutrition. WFP mainly provides food and food assistance to conflict or disaster-stricken areas, and helps recipient countries and beneficiary populations achieve basic food and clothing and improve nutrition through technical support and capacity building.

In 2013 and 2018, the Multilateral Organization Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN) evaluated WFP twice, focusing on institutional effectiveness (strategy, operations, relationships and performance) and goal-oriented results. The 2018 evaluation found that WFP had made significant progress in many areas compared with 2013, but there were also areas for improvement.

Who is MOPAN?

The Multilateral Organization Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN), launched in 2002, is dedicated to monitoring the performance of multilateral development institutions. MOPAN is mainly composed of donor countries of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (OECD DAC). Through joint evaluations of multilateral organizations and the exchange of monitoring and evaluation knowledge, members understand the strengths and weaknesses of multilateral organizations and promote the improvement of the effectiveness of multilateral organizations.

MOPAN currently has 19 member countries, including: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. In 2021, Qatar and the EU became MOPAN observers.

WFP has four major advantages

First, the long-term vision is clear and clear. The Zero Hunger Vision proposed in the WFP Strategic Plan (2017-21) is well known throughout the organization and is closely linked to the two major goals of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: Zero Hunger (SDG 2) and Partnerships (SDG 17), and is closely related to WFP The two major humanitarian and development missions are well matched.

Second, the rapid response capability has been recognized. In the face of an increasing number of humanitarian emergencies, WFP's flexibility and agility in rapid response have been highly praised by partners. 

The third is to focus on results at the national level. WFP works with partners on holistic planning, focuses on country-level results, and reports openly and transparently on the use of its resources and the results achieved.

Fourth, we attach great importance to supervision and evaluation. WFP has sound supervision and evaluation institutions and functions, and its functions such as independent evaluation and joint inspection teams have been highly praised.

Five areas where WFP should continue its efforts

One is that the partnership has not yet been fully realized. Partnerships to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 17), one of WFP’s two overarching goals, have not yet been fully achieved. Partnerships with the private sector also lack a unified approach and strategy.

Second, human resources reform lags behind. WFP's structural staff planning has not kept pace with other reforms. Systematically assessing the composition of personnel and their skills at the national level and providing the necessary guidance and relevant human resource support are critical to the long-term development of the institution.

Third, the management results framework still needs to be improved. WFP has made efforts to link humanitarian work to higher-level results and set out indicators to strengthen capacity, but more is needed to provide guidance to staff, establish mechanisms and provide resources to ensure reliable reporting of results. Further improvements.

Fourth, the knowledge management system is not fully integrated. Despite accumulating a wealth of valuable knowledge, WFP has yet to develop a comprehensive system that can be used internally and externally. WFP could develop a more comprehensive knowledge management system, a move that would also help strengthen WFP's reputation.

Fifth, there is a failure to systematically implement all cross-cutting priorities. Due to limited manpower, resources and human understanding, WFP has yet to fully integrate cross-cutting priorities such as gender equality into its operations. A lack of dedicated resources also hinders WFP's work in new areas such as climate change and environmental sustainability.

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