UN food agency WFP wins Nobel Peace Prize

Published October 9, 2020
A logo of the World Food Programme humanitarian organisation is seen on a plane at the National Airport Minsk, Belarus on April 19, 2018. — Reuters
A logo of the World Food Programme humanitarian organisation is seen on a plane at the National Airport Minsk, Belarus on April 19, 2018. — Reuters

The United Nations food agency, the World Food Programme (WFP), won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for its efforts to combat hunger and improve conditions for peace in areas affected by conflict.

The Rome-based organisation says it helps some 97 million people in about 88 countries each year, and that one in nine people worldwide still do not have enough to eat.

“The need for international solidarity and multilateral cooperation is more conspicuous than ever,” Berit Reiss-Andersen, chairperson of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, told a news conference.

The WFP is a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict, and the Covid-19 pandemic, which the WFP says could double hunger worldwide, has made it even more relevant, she said.

“The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to a strong upsurge in the number of victims of hunger in the world,” the Nobel committee said in its citation.

“Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos.

“There is an estimate within the World Food Programme that [...] there will be 265 million starving people within a year, so of course this is also a call to the international community not to underfund the World Food Programme.”

'Over and above the call of duty'

The organisation responded by tweeting its thanks for “recognition of the work of WFP staff who put their lives on the line every day to bring food and assistance to more than 100 million hungry children, women and men across the world”.

At a briefing in Geneva, WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri told reporters: “For WFP this year we have gone over and above the call of duty.

“Everything went into shutdown following nationwide and global restrictions following Covid-19. The WFP stepped up to the plate, we were able to connect communities. At one point, we were the biggest airline in the world when most if not all commercial airlines had ground to halt.”

Dan Smith, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said the Norwegian Nobel Committee had wanted to send a message of both hope and “support for international cooperation”.

“Hunger, like climate change, the pandemic and other issues, is a world problem that can only be properly addressed through cooperation. The World Food Programme is an institution of global cooperation,” he told Reuters.

“Unfortunately in too many quarters, especially among the great powers, there is a declining appetite for cooperation,” he said, adding that world hunger was increasing again, having declining for several decades until 2016.

The prize is worth 10 million Swedish crowns, or around $1.1 million, and will be presented in Oslo on December 10.

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