The World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize

The United Nations World Food Programme has been awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize for its work in the fight against hunger.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has been awarded the 2020 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”. The WFP is the largest humanitarian organisation combating hunger and promoting food security. In 2019 alone, it assisted over 100 million people across 88 countries.

Hunger in light of the pandemic

Norway’s Nobel Committee reminds us that “the coronavirus pandemic has contributed to a strong upsurge in the number of victims of hunger in the world”. Especially in those countries that are already struggling with violent conflicts, such as Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and Burkina Faso. In light of this critical situation, “the World Food Programme has demonstrated an impressive ability to intensify its efforts”. The committee also mentioned a statement from the WFP itself: “Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos”.

The press release announcing the winner of the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize also contains an explicit request to ensure that the WFP and other organisations providing food aid receive the necessary financial support. Failure on this front would cause a “crisis of inconceivable proportions”. All the more so because hunger and conflicts are connected by a dangerous vicious cycle.

From this perspective, the World Food Programme has played a vital role in South America, Africa and Asia. Through pioneering projects, it has helped local populations while contributing to social and political stability. The institution took part in the diplomatic efforts that culminated in Resolution 2417, which was unanimously adopted in May 2018 by the UN Security Council. For the first time, the link between hunger and conflicts was officially acknowledged: a ban was instituted to stop attacks on farms, markets, water systems and other infrastructure on which people’s food safety depends.

world food programme nobel peace prize
Distribution of food at Ifo refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya © Scott Kelleher/AusAid/Wikimedia Commons

Past Nobel Peace Prizes

In 2019, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, “for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea“. Among the most well-known past winners are Martin Luther King (1964), Mother Teresa (1979), Nelson Mandela (1993), Aung San Suu Kyi (1991) and Malala Yousafzai (2014).

There have also been years, such as this one, in which the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded not to a single person but rather to an organisation. For example, the prize went to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 1969, to Amnesty International in 1977, to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in 1981, to Doctors Without Borders in 1999, to the European Union in 2012 and to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICANW) in 2017.

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