Urgent Call to Strengthen WFP Advocacy for Humanitarian Ceasefire in Gaza and to Leverage WFP’s Influence to Prevent the Use of Hunger as a Weapon of War.

UPDATE: The below letter was shared with the WFP Executive Director on 28 October, 1 PM Rome time. We thank everyone who has contributed, and applaud your bravery for standing up for humanity. We will keep the link open for more colleagues to join the call. We kindly ask you to keep this internal only and avoid sharing the link outside of WFP. 

- Petition Authors


Dear Executive Director, 

We, as dedicated employees of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), urgently call on WFP Leadership to strengthen advocacy for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and to leverage WFP’s influence to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war.

As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the UN Security Council: “The grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas. And those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.” (1)

Since the Hamas attack on Israel on the 7th of October, we have witnessed unfathomable death and destruction in the Gaza Strip. Thousands of people have been killed and injured. One million Palestinians have been displaced (2) due to heavy bombardment of civilian areas and in great part due to repeated evacuation orders that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had urged Israel to reconsider (3). More than two hundred people are still being held hostage by Hamas, including children and elderly. On 23 October, UNRWA reported that 35 of its staff had been killed since 07 October, half of them teachers. Across the Gaza Strip, 600,000 internally displaced Palestinians are sheltering in 150 UNRWA facilities (4). But the facilities are not safe - 40 UNRWA buildings, including schools and warehouses, have been damaged by the strikes. Many civilians sheltering inside them were killed (5). While some humanitarian aid has been allowed into the Gaza Strip, UN agencies, including WFP, have described this as a drop in the ocean of the needs in Gaza (6). Israel continues to impose what it has publicly declared as a “full siege”, cutting off water and electricity supplies, and blocking the entry of goods, including essentials like food, medicine, and fuel (required to keep UN operations, desalination plants, and hospitals running), as well as blocking the movement of Palestinians out of the Gaza Strip (7). On 24 October, OCHA cited WFP estimating that current stocks of essential food commodities in Gaza will last for about 12 days (8).

We strongly support the joint statement issued by WFP, WHO, UNDP, UNICEF, and UNFPA (9) on 21 October calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, and are in awe of the incredible efforts undertaken by WFP to provide life-saving assistance to affected people.

However, we have noticed that in the days following this statement, WFP public statements, social media posts, and official interviews have failed to carry forward this call. Further, WFP has not released any advocacy materials on the illegality of the use of hunger as a weapon of war, an issue directly linked to WFP’s core mandate. 

In 2020, WFP was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its “efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict”(10). The WFP Strategic Plan 2022-2025 states that WFP will take steps to “prevent and end conflicts” and to ensure respect for the rules of war (page 10). It states that “in accordance with International Humanitarian Law, WFP will protect the space for principled humanitarian action by promoting all four humanitarian principles (humanity, neutrality, impartiality and operational independence) while integrating conflict sensitivity” (page 17). Importantly, it states that “encouraged by the Nobel Peace Prize award, WFP will engage in humanitarian diplomacy and peace advocacy” and “will continue to support the implementation of Security Council resolution 2417 and draw attention to access constraints and instances of starvation as a method of war.” (page 30)(11).

Today, we, undersigned employees of WFP, put our voices together and urge WFP leadership to:

  • Ensure that WFP communications resoundingly echo the UN Secretary-General and OCHA Humanitarian Aid Chief's calls for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire”(12). On 24 October, the UN Secretary-General told the UN Security Council that “clear violations of international law” had been committed in Gaza and said Hamas’ 07 October attacks “did not happen in a vacuum.”(13).
  • Leverage our influence as a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and sponsor of UNSC Resolution 2417 to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war (14). 2417 unanimously condemned the use of starvation against civilians as a method of warfare and declared any denial of humanitarian access a violation of international law.

Understanding that our organization operates within a complex political landscape, we believe this should not inhibit our public and private advocacy against clear violations of the rules of war, especially in the extremely sensitive context in which these violations are taking place: on 14 October, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory warned that Palestinians are in “grave danger of mass ethnic cleansing”(15). We believe that standing together with our Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Humanitarian Aid Chief Martin Griffiths in their call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire would send a stronger and more decisive message to all parties to the conflict. We emphasize our strong belief that a clear call for a humanitarian ceasefire in the current context will reinforce rather than undermine WFP’s neutrality in this conflict. As humanitarians, we have a duty to call for the protection of civilians and to advocate for upholding the principles of International Humanitarian Law on which we rely for our access to affected populations and which continue to come under attack, thereby also risking the security of our staff and of humanitarian workers around the world. We restate that this duty to protect civilians and uphold the laws of war forms part of WFP’s identity and was cited in WFP’s 2022-2025 strategic plan (16).

Finally, we firmly believe that UNRWA’s confirmation of 35 UN staff killed alone should force a resounding UN-wide call for a ceasefire – a call WFP has contributed to in the past (17).

We also wish to express our strong appreciation for the extraordinary work of our colleagues at WFP globally. Their dedication underpins the incredible impact we have on millions worldwide. Our motivation in this appeal is solely driven by our unwavering commitment to the people we serve.

We call for your immediate attention and action on this extremely urgent matter, underscoring our collective responsibility in the face of clear violations of International Humanitarian Law. In the words of UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini, “history will judge us all if there is no ceasefire in Gaza.”(18).


Concerned WFP Employees



(1) https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/speeches/2023-10-24/secretary-generals-remarks-the-security-council-the-middle-east%C2%A0

(2) https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied-palestinian-territory/hostilities-gaza-strip-and-israel-flash-update-13-enarhe#:~:text=The%20number%20of%20internally%20displaced,complete%20siege%20of%20Gaza%20continues  

(3) https://www.who.int/news/item/21-10-2023-joint-statement-by-undp--unfpa--unicef--wfp-and-who-on-humanitarian-supplies-crossing-into-gaza 

(4) https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied-palestinian-territory/unrwa-situation-report-13-situation-gaza-strip-and-west-bank-including-east-jerusalem-all-information-valid-23-october-2023-6-pm-enar 

(5) https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/oct/26/i-run-the-un-agency-for-palestine-refugees-history-will-judge-us-all-if-there-is-no-ceasefire-in-gaza 

(6) https://www.who.int/news/item/21-10-2023-joint-statement-by-undp--unfpa--unicef--wfp-and-who-on-humanitarian-supplies-crossing-into-gaza 

(7)  https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/defense-minister-announces-complete-siege-of-gaza-no-power-food-or-fuel/ 

(8) https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied-palestinian-territory/hostilities-gaza-strip-and-israel-flash-update-18-enarhe 

(9) https://www.who.int/news/item/21-10-2023-joint-statement-by-undp--unfpa--unicef--wfp-and-who-on-humanitarian-supplies-crossing-into-gaza#:~:text=We%20call%20for%20a%20humanitarian,Gazans%20to%20preserve%20their%20dignity

(10) https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/2020/wfp/facts/ 

(11) WFP Strategic Plan 2022 - 2025, p. 10, 17, 30. https://executiveboard.wfp.org/document_download/WFP-0000132205  

(12) https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/speeches/2023-10-24/secretary-generals-remarks-the-security-council-the-middle-east%C2%A0

(13) Ibid.

(14) https://undocs.org/S/RES/2417(2018) 

(15) https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2023/10/un-expert-warns-new-instance-mass-ethnic-cleansing-palestinians-calls 

(16) WFP Strategic Plan 2022 - 2025, p. 17 https://executiveboard.wfp.org/document_download/WFP-0000132205  

(17) For example, WFP calls for a ceasefire during the Tigray conflict, calls for peace and condemnation of starvation in cities  in Ukraine: https://www.wfp.org/news/wfp-delivers-food-another-1-million-people-tigray-during-june-and-july-only-reaching-half; https://www.wfp.org/stories/war-must-end-ukraine-crisis-seven-months; https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-kyiv-united-nations-david-beasley-europe-c366ee40872be664c8af3945da42ef02 

(18) https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/oct/26/i-run-the-un-agency-for-palestine-refugees-history-will-judge-us-all-if-there-is-no-ceasefire-in-gaza 

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