The director of the United Nations' World Food Programme laid out a plan to spend $6.6 billion to combat world hunger — a direct response to a back-and-forth with Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who claimed he would sell Tesla stock to fund a plan if the WFP could describe "exactly how" it would work.
David Beasley, the U.N. food program director and former Republican governor of South Carolina, tweeted a link on Monday to a 1,000-word "executive summary." It maps out how the UN would deploy $6.6 billion worth of meals and vouchers to feed more than 40 million people across 43 countries that are "on the brink of famine" — thereby averting what the WFP is calling a looming "catastrophe."
In the document Beasley posted, the WFP proposes dedicating $3.5 billion to buy and deliver food directly, $2 billion "for cash and food vouchers (including transaction fees) in places where markets can function," and spending another $700 million to manage new food programs that are "adapted to the in-country" conditions and ensure "the assistance reaches the most vulnerable."
Another $400 million would be used for "operations management, administration and accountability" and supply chain coordination.
"The world is on fire," Beasley wrote. "I've been warning about the perfect storm brewing due to Covid, conflict, climate shocks & now, rising supply chain costs. IT IS HERE."
"This hunger crisis is urgent, unprecedented, AND avoidable," Beasley wrote in a separate tweet, tagging Musk, who is the world's wealthiest person with a net worth of approximately $288 billion. "You asked for a clear plan & open books. Here it is! We're ready to talk with you - and anyone else - who is serious about saving lives."
As of Wednesday afternoon, Musk had not responded.
The back-and-forth between Musk and Beasley kicked off with a CNN interview last month in which Beasley asked billionaires to "step up now, on a one-time basis" to help combat world hunger, specifically citing the world's two richest men: Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.
Beasley said giving $6 billion, or 2% of Musk's net worth, could help solve world hunger.
Musk responded on Twitter, writing, "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."
"But it must be open source accounting, so the public sees precisely how the money is spent," Musk added.
Beasley previously replied to Musk's tweets, assuring him that systems are in place for transparency and open source accounting.
"For him to even enter into this conversation is a game-changer because simply put, we can answer his questions, we can put forth a plan that's clear," Beasley told CNN in a follow-up interview earlier this month. "Any and everything he asks, we would be glad to answer. I look forward to having this discussion with him because lives are at stake."
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the world's hunger crisis was already exacerbated by climate change and conflict. The pandemic compounded the existing issues though, leaving "42 million people that are literally knocking on famine's door," Beasley said. "This is a worst-case scenario."
It's not clear if Musk or Bezos have seen the plan and will ultimately decide to lend their support. Spokespeople for Musk's companies did not respond to requests for comment. A representative for Bezos, Angela Landers, declined to comment on the WFP's proposal but pointed to other philanthropic donations Bezos has made to combating hunger.
Musk has previously made bold promises on Twitter, committing resources to charitable endeavors. In 2018, for example, he pledged to "fund fixing the water in any house in Flint that has water contamination above FDA levels." Musk ended up donating about half a million dollars for installing water filters in the town's schools, according to an August article from a local news outlet.
Musk has made more sizable donations to certain projects. This year, he promised to donate $30 million to Brownsville, Texas, the city nearest to a massive rocket hub run by his company SpaceX, and local schools.
He also set up the Musk Foundation, which says it gives to efforts related to renewable energy expansion, human space exploration and safe uses of artificial intelligence. He's also signed The Giving Pledge, a promise to donate at least half of his wealth to charitable efforts during his lifetime, something Bezos has not done.