WASHINGTON D.C. — Filling a position that has been vacant since Aug. 9, 2016, Kip Tom, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, will soon be ready to leave the United States and head for his office in Rome, Italy.
The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture is the head of the U.S. Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome, Italy, and thus the U.S. ambassador to the three United Nations agencies for food and agriculture located in Rome: the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme. One formal title of this position is United States Representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture with the rank of ambassador during his tenure of service.
“I can assure you job one is to make sure we can build up resilience and capacity in food production systems around the world,” stated Tom. He stated the demand for immediate food relief continues to increase. “In fact, this past year we have nearly 10 percent more hungry people in the world than we had a year earlier. So that says we’re losing ground, in fact nearly one billion people are undernourished globally, most of those of course are in developing countries, so we’re losing ground. At the same time with our ability to create capacity and resilience, that meaning helping people learn how to feed themselves, we’ve also failed. We just haven’t had leadership in the organizations to make sure we deliver on those promises.”
Tom added, “we won’t be bullied any longer in going along with systems destined to be failures … we go into a lot of difficult and challenging countries. We’re in Yemen, Somalia, Syria, throughout the Middle East, across Africa … food is a big challenge. It’s used as a leverage against the general population to maintain control of them. We’ve got to do what we an in these very challenging situations to make sure these people have the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty, have a better diet and can actually grow their economy. It is very critical and very important to us.”
Additionally, Tom said the role he is in is “critical. As (U.S.) Secretary (Mike) Pompeo said, we’re the first line of defense fighting extremism around the world. If we can’t sustain that basic filler of food security in a lot of these developing countries that’s when we start to see people start to migrate into other countries and when they do that is when they are exposed to joining extremist groups and also become, unfortunately, involved in human trafficking. So he sees the importance of this role as saying either try to help people feed themselves, give them food or we’re buying bullets, is what it is going to come down to. We prefer to try and do what we can helping people learn how to feed themselves.”
Tom, whose term is to serve at the pleasure of the president, will serve a minimum of two years. He noted the office is based in Rome, as it is where UN based organizations are located. It is planned he will be leaving for his new home around May 10.
“I have a good team around me, good people,” Tom stated, noting the World Food Programme is led by David Beasley, past governor of South Carolina who lives in Rome. He encouraged people to follow the organization on Facebook and Twitter to grasp some of what is going on in the Food and Agricultural Organization, which is, “very active with social media, talking about some of the things we’re doing around the world.”
History/About UN Agencies For Food And Agriculture
Originally, there had been a U.S. permanent representative to the Food and Agriculture Organization. But it had not held ambassador rank, instead had been part of the Embassy of the United States to the Italian Republic and reported to the U.S. Ambassador. President Ronald Reagan, in 1983, created the U.S. Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome and split out this role to a separate, ambassador-rank position.
As head of the mission, the ambassador sees over staff from the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Agency for International Development.
The U.S. Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome is part of the “Tri-Mission Community” in Rome along with the Embassy of the United States to the Italian Republican and the Embassy of the United States to the Holy See.
Through 2016 there had been 10 ambassadors to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, who are typically appointed for three-year terms. Well known Americans who have held the position include: Millicient Fenwock was the first to hold the rank and was a nationally prominent former member of the U.S. House of Representative; George McGovern, a former U.S. Senator and 1972 Democratic Party presidential nominee; Tony P. Hall, a long-time sitting member of the House who resigned his seat in order to take on the role. Several nominees, especially McGovern and Hall, had long prior involvement with food, agriculture and hunger issues. Following the resignation of David J. Lane on Aug. 9, 2016, the Charge d’affaires was the acting personage, who was Thomas M. Duffy.
The USUN Mission in Rome works to advance U.S. policies and support UN efforts in the areas of emergency food assistance, sustainable agricultural development, food safety standards, fisheries, forests and financing for rural development.