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Inklings | The leadership shuffle at WFP headquarters 

Notes and musings on how aid works, from The New Humanitarian’s policy editors.

Graphic for Inkling's Newsletter. On the top right we see a serif font with the word "Inklings". Underlined with a red inky pen effect. On the bottom right with the same fonts we see the topics in this newsletter: The leadership shuffle at WFP headquarters.

Welcome to another edition of Inklings, where we explore all things aid and aid-adjacent unfolding in the wilds of Geneva, on the front lines of emergency response, or in the dark corners of online aid punditry.

It’s also available as an email newsletter. Subscribe here.

Today: The food aid history of that ship struck by Houthi missiles, how staff poaching drains local aid, and thoughts on moving beyond “tokenism and wishful thinking”.

On the radar|

WFP shuffles the deck: The World Food Programme has a shiny new organogram – and a leaner leadership structure that has shrunk the number of directors and departments under chief Cindy McCain, and funnelled oversight through her deputy. This “organisational restructure”, as the WFP is calling it, is aimed at streamlining a clunky model that led to duplication, murky oversight, slow decision-making, and an “unclear vision”, according to a 2023 survey of directors at country, regional, and headquarter levels. Three assistant directors will lead three slimmer departments and report straight to Carl Skau, the Swedish diplomat (and one-time TNH panellist) brought in as McCain’s deputy and chief operating officer last year. The revamp saw HQ-level director positions up for grabs – and a rush to apply for these jobs. “Change is never simple. But this transformation journey is vital,” McCain wrote in a January message to staff.

Red Sea shipping strikes: Yemen’s Houthi rebels say they’re targeting international shipping to support Palestinians. A cargo ship they struck this week played a part in an aborted UN-backed plan to relieve pressure on global food supplies – and may have delivered to Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen last year. 

  • Food for thought: The Rubymar, the cargo vessel hit by Houthi missiles on the Gulf of Aden this week, made food shipments under the Black Sea grain deal (h/t “massive shipping nerd”, self-described). It delivered more than 120,000 tonnes of wheat and corn in four deliveries to Egypt and Türkiye, according to UN stats. Separate from the Black Sea deal, the vessel was also recorded as arriving in Houthi-controlled Hodeidah last year, according to ship tracking websites. Yemen received 259,000 tonnes of cargo under the grain deal. This included a wheat shipment to Houthi-controlled Al-Salif port last year.
  • Spillover: The shipping slowdown sparked by the stand-off is jeopardising aid logistics for Yemen and far beyond.

Ethical recruitment: How do aid groups hire staff without draining smaller, local organisations? A report from Humanitarian Advisory Group adds some numbers to a problem local organisations have long talked about. In interviews, a majority of local organisations said the loss of staff to bigger organisations had “substantial impacts” – including delaying or ending aid programmes, and even forcing some operators out of business. “I know several smaller organisations that just disappeared because of the lack of personnel,” one respondent said.


CFE-DM: The Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance, which is linked to the US Department of Defense, has a new report looking at “humanitarian corridors” at sea.

SR: This is the full title of a position that somehow lacks an abbreviation: “Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context”. Special rapporteurs are mandated by the Human Rights Council, which begins a new session in Geneva on 26 February.

Data points|

Where is aid not getting through? In its latest research on humanitarian access in Sudan, aid analysts Humanitarian Outcomes crunched the numbers for five responses and found Sudan and Myanmar had (at the time) among the lowest proportion of people reached compared to people said to be in need:

End quote|

“Simply wishing to see greater diversity is nothing without identifying the blockers to greater DEI.”

Ignacio Packer stepped down as head of the International Council of Voluntary Agencies last year to make way, he hoped, for new leadership from the Global South. It didn’t quite go as planned.

What happened? Packer and others have been reflecting on what gets in the way of change in the humanitarian sector, including here and in podcast form. Now, after weeks of occasional nudging, ICVA’s board has also weighed in.

“The process has raised a number of questions on how ICVA and the sector can push the systemic change and go beyond tokenism and wishful thinking,” board chair Shahin Ashraf wrote in an email to my colleague, podcast producer Melissa Fundira.

Fundira and co-host Heba Aly talk about this in the latest episode of Rethinking Humanitarianism, which also features other voices from the aid sector reflecting on “stepping aside”.

The Inklings newsletter: Have any tips, recommendations, or indecipherable acronyms to share? Get in touch: [email protected]

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