UN’s World Food Programme Wins Nobel Peace Prize

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) 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,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced Friday.

The win draws attention to the organization at a time when the coronavirus pandemic and the climate crisis have increased the number of people at risk from starvation worldwide. At the same time, UN organizations including the WFP have experienced a dip in funding in recent years as countries, including the U.S., reduce the money they give to international bodies, CNN reported.

 

 

“With this year’s award, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to turn the eyes of the world towards the millions of people who suffer from or face the threat of hunger,” committee chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen said when she announced the prize.

The WFP was founded in 1961, according to CNN. In 2019, it provided food assistance to 97 million people in 88 countries, the most since 2012. It is also the primary UN body in charge of meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goal of eliminating world hunger, the Nobel Committee pointed out, but that goal has gotten harder than ever to reach in recent years.

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute director Dan Smith told CNN that the number of people experiencing hunger had begun to increase in the last four years after decades of decline, largely because of climate change.

The situation has gotten even worse because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Nobel Committee noted. In countries like Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and Burkina Faso, the pandemic has combined with armed conflicts to put significantly more people at risk from starvation.

WFP head David Beasley told NPR earlier this year that 135 million people had been at risk for starvation in 2020 before the emergence of COVID-19. After its spread, that number had shot up to almost a quarter of a billion.

“In the face of the pandemic, the World Food Programme has demonstrated an impressive ability to intensify its efforts,” the committee said. “As the organisation itself has stated, ‘Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos.'”

Beasley said he was “speechless” in the face of the award and credited the organization’s staff for the win.

“It’s because of the WFP family,” Beasley said in a video shared on Twitter. “They’re out there in the most difficult, complex places in the world. Whether it’s war, conflict, climate extremes — it doesn’t matter. They’re out there, and they deserve this award.”