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U.N. Food Program Is The First Line Against Terrorism, Beasley Says


David Beasley is the former Republican governor of South Carolina and now head of the United Nations World Food Programme.

Since he took that job, he has seen horrors, like during a recent trip to a refugee camp in Uganda, just across the border from war-torn South Sudan.

DAVID BEASLEY: I must have interviewed a dozen boys and girls of the age 15, 16, 17. And I would ask questions like, where's your mother and your father? And then they would tell the atrocity - their mother and father were hacked to death or macheted to death right in front of their very own eyes.

INSKEEP: One concern now is that organizations like the World Food Programme may not have enough money to help.

President Trump's proposed budget eliminated most international food aid from the United States. But as our colleague David Greene found out when he spoke with Beasley, The World Food Programme recently got a reprieve.

BEASLEY: Here's the good news. Six weeks ago, the U.S. House and the Senate passed $990 million for famine relief on top of what had already been appropriated - so that was message number one.

Message number two was when President Trump, two weeks ago at the G-20, made his first statement supporting humanitarian aid in these crisis areas.

DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: So, I mean, to - do - does it go beyond words, though? Because, I mean, President Trump has - has made quite a case that a lot of conservatives have really backed him on, which is that the United States has, you know, limited resources and that he would prefer to spend money elsewhere and - and cut into foreign aid significantly.

BEASLEY: Well, I've always said very clearly that I believe if President Trump has sufficient facts before him, he'll make the right decision.

And so what I have been arguing and making the case for, very clearly, is the World Food Programme. We're the first line of offense and defense against extremism and terrorism, and these groups will use food as a weapon.

If you can't feed your child, as a dad, I - I know after two weeks, you go do what it takes.

GREENE: And that would mean, if - if necessary, taking food and assistance from - from an extremist group, you're saying, and joining forces with them.

BEASLEY: We see it every day out there.

GREENE: Well, can - you know I - I talked to Stephen Moore not so long ago, who - who advised President Trump's campaign on economic policy, and he said there is zero evidence that development aid has any effect on raising living standards. Do you agree with that?

BEASLEY: No, I don't agree with that. Clearly, I don't agree with that because I can show case after case where development support has made an impact. But yet, we can also show, on the other side of the coin, there's been a lot of development expenditures that have not rendered success stories.

GREENE: But what's a piece of evidence you would give to him and say...

BEASLEY: Well, this is...

GREENE: ...Steve Moore, with all due respect, here's - here's a piece of evidence for you.

BEASLEY: Well, let me zero in on four - five countries that used to be beneficiary countries. China - large beneficiary country in terms of receiving food aid, today it's a donor country. South Korea, Mexico - look at Kenya. Look at Nigeria. Now, should they be doing more? Of course.

I think, at the White House, there's a learning curve. Many of the leaders in the White House are really coming to understand the need for the World Food Programme.

We believe that we can help develop a sustainable agricultural economy so that they're not just relying on Western interests - so they can become self-sufficient and self-reliant.

GREENE: David Beasley is the executive director of the World Food Programme, and he came into our studios in Washington, D.C. Governor, nice talking to you. Thanks a lot.

BEASLEY: Thank you very, very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF JULIA KENT'S "LAST DAY IN JULY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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