On 26 October 2021, David Beasley, director of the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), claimed that a small group of ultra-wealthy individuals could help solve world hunger with just a fraction of their net worth. Specifically citing billionaire beefstars Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, Beasley noted how the rich need to step up for a one-time donation. “$6 billion to help 42 million people that are literally going to die if we don’t reach them. It’s not complicated,” he added in the interview with CNN. Now, Tesla and SpaceX’s CEO, who has a track record for random Twitter rants, wants solid proof from the UN to back these claims.
Replying to a screenshot of the CNN article tweeted by Doctor Eli David, co-founder of the AI-based cybersecurity platform Deep Instinct, Elon Musk wrote: “If WFP can describe on this Twitter thread exactly how $6B will solve world hunger, I will sell Tesla stock right now and do it.” The CEO followed up on Halloween eve by stating how this must be open source accounting, “so the public sees precisely how the money is spent.”
Shortly after the conversation started trending on Twitter, Beasley stepped in to offer his diplomatic take—but only ended up fuelling swinger claims. “Headline not accurate,” he wrote in his initial tweet, adding how $6 billion “will not solve world hunger, but it will prevent geopolitical instability, mass migration and save 42 million people on the brink of starvation.” The UN official explained that this is “an unprecedented crisis and a perfect storm due to Covid/conflict/climate crises.”
Four minutes later, he added that Musk could help “bring hope, build stability and change the future.” Highlighting how this situation “isn’t as complicated as Falcon Heavy,” a semi reusable heavy-lift launch vehicle designed and manufactured by SpaceX, “but too much at stake to not at least have a conversation,” Beasley offered to be on the next flight to Musk in order to talk about the initiative. “Throw me out if you don’t like what you hear!” he concluded.
In response to Musk’s open source accounting call-out, Beasley further assured that the UN has systems in place for transparency. “Your team can review and work with us to be totally confident of such,” he replied in the thread. In a supposed dig, however, Musk quickly followed up by requesting the official to publish the UN’s current and proposed spending in detail so that the public can keep a track of it. “Sunlight is a wonderful thing,” he wittily added, unsurprisingly silencing the Twitter thread.
This radio silence from the UN’s end, however, seems to be fuelling claims and suspicions—with Doctor David himself stating how open source accounting is a terrible idea. “The public will see that most of the money is wasted on bureaucracy and incompetence,” he wrote, while Musk pulled up a 2015 Express article which outlined a shocking report on how starving children as young as nine years-old were being forced to give UN officials oral sex to get food. The article highlighted how no one had been arrested more than a year and a half after UN authorities were made aware of the sexual abuse allegations. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, at the time, expressed “profound regret that these children were betrayed by the very people sent to protect them” while accepting the panel’s broad findings.
Another user posted a recent investigation by Reuters, which revealed how members of the World Health Organisation (WHO) had sexually abused women during an Ebola mission in Congo. Adding to these controversial unearthings was a list of harassment and discrimination complaints from the staff employed at WFP itself.
This is not the first time Beasley has called upon billionaires to step up to the task of solving world hunger. In fact, the UN official even acknowledged Musk when his net worth increased with the recent Tesla-Hertz deal. “Congratulations, Elon! 1/6 of your one day increase would save 42 million lives that are knocking on famine’s door,” Beasley tweeted at the time. “Unprecedented crisis. Unprecedented wealth. Help!!” A fact check statement by Doctor David, however, stated how the WFP had raised $8.4 billion in 2020. What happened to it and how come it didn’t “solve world hunger?”
“The $8.4B you refer to covers what we needed to reach 115 million people in 2020 with food assistance,” Beasley replied in the thread, adding how “we need $6B plus now on top of our existing funding requirements due to the perfect storm from the compounding impact of Covid, conflict and climate shocks.” In short, the $6 billion quoted during the CNN interview makes up a band-aid solution of sorts. In the grand scheme of things, the amount also seems quite small to permanently solve a prevalent issue in the first place—considering how the US is currently spending a total of $13.3 billion to build the USS Ford, its most advanced aircraft carrier to date.
According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Musk is currently the world’s richest man and the first person ever to amass a net worth of $311 billion. So a ‘donation’ of $6 billion—essentially 2 per cent of his wealth—would still let him beat the second richest man, Jeff Bezos, by at least $100 billion. A rather unnecessary and disgusting comparison, I know. “It’s not complicated. I’m not asking them to do this every day, every week, every year,” Beasley said to CNN on the grounds of such ‘one-time’ donations. “The top 400 billionaires in the US, the net-worth increase was $1.8 trillion in the past year,” he continued. “All I’m asking for is 0.36 per cent of your net-worth increase. I’m for people making money, but God knows I’m all for you helping people who are in great need right now. The world is in trouble.”
The band-aid solution to world hunger now rests on this Twitter thread, Mister Beasley, and it’s still not too late to reply to the transparency requests on the platform. Oh, and make sure to highlight exactly how the UN spent the $8.4 billion in question last year while you’re at it.