Beasley, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020. Photo: WFP/Rein Skullerud

Former S.C. Gov. David Beasley, who has been executive director of the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) since 2017, today said he would step down from heading the organization in April 2023.

“Serving in this capacity has been the greatest joy and deepest heartache of my life. Thanks to the generosity of governments and individuals, we have fed so many millions of people,” Beasley said in a statement today after an inquiry by the Charleston City Paper on Thursday. “But the reality is we have not been able to feed them all – and the tragedy of extreme hunger in a wealthy world persists.”

In December 2020, Beasley accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the organization for its work to alleviate hunger worldwide.

At the time, he said, “Waking up in this wealthy, modern, technologically advanced world, it’s hard to imagine us going through a famine like that. But my tragic duty today is to tell you: Famine is at humanity’s doorstep for millions and millions of people on earth. Failure to prevent famine in our day will destroy so many lives and cause the fall of much we hold dear.”

Beasley, 65, served as South Carolina’s governor from 1995 to 1999.  Eighteen years later, after a business career mixed with missionary work, he became the executive director of the WFP, the world’s largest humanitarian agency.  It helps more than 100 million people in 88 countries to battle hunger every year. 

When Russia’s war on Ukraine started earlier this year, Beasley was asked to extend his leadership as the conflict interrupted grain supplies.  Ukraine was the world’s seventh largest producer of wheat, much exported to Africa, before the war.

In his statement, Beasley noted the organization’s difficulties faced by “the unprecedented global hunger crisis sparked by a perfect storm of conflict, climate change, COVID-19 and now exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and soaring global food prices.”

Making a difference after leaving governor’s office

Beasley in Uganda in 2017. Photo courtesy of WFP.

Beasley has been described as South Carolina’s Jimmy Carter for his work after serving as South Carolina’s chief executive because of the difference he has made since leaving public office.

“All of the darkness of the world can’t put out the smile on a face,” Beasley said in 2017 just months after taking the job that has jetted him from hunger-sapped countries to European capitals in search of funding to help more people.  “This job brings humanity down to the core level. When you see a hungry person, you don’t see a Democrat or a Republican, a black or white.  You see a brother or sister who is struggling to survive.  That transcends politics.  All you want to do is help them.”

Beasley said a search for a successor is underway to take charge after he steps down.

“It has been an honor to serve this inspiring organization and to work with its 23,000 dedicated women and men,” Beasley said. “I thank the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres for giving me this role to play.

“But most of all, I thank the women, men and especially the children who live in poverty and hunger: every day, they show an extraordinary strength, courage and generosity of spirit the whole world needs to learn. They are an example to us all.”

  • If you would like to donate to the WFP to fight hunger, click here.

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