Amid a looming global hunger crisis accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic, the United Nations World Food Program, which works to bring aid to millions of food-insecure people, has been awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced Friday.
Pointing to a need for international solidarity and multilateral cooperation, the committee said the world’s largest humanitarian organization was awarded the prize this year “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.”
Reacting to the award Friday, the humanitarian organization, headquartered in Rome, Italy, called it “a humbling, moving recognition of the work of WFP staff who lay their lives on the line every day to bring food and assistance for close to 100 million hungry children, women and men across the world.”
“Every one of the 690 million hungry people in the world today has the right to live peacefully and without hunger. Today, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has turned the global spotlight on them and on the devastating consequences of conflict. Climate shocks and economic pressures have further compounded their plight. And now, a global pandemic with its brutal impact on economies and communities, is pushing millions more to the brink of starvation,” WFP said in a statement.
The U.N. agency also praised world governments as well as other public and private sector partners for helping to make their work possible. It further noted that as long as there is hunger, the world cannot achieve peace.
“We could not possibly help anyone without them. We are an operational agency and the daily work of our staff each day is driven by our core values of integrity, humanity and inclusion,” WFP said. “Where there is conflict, there is hunger. And where there is hunger, there is often conflict. Today is a reminder that food security, peace and stability go together. Without peace, we cannot achieve our global goal of zero hunger; and while there is hunger, we will never have a peaceful world.”
Earlier this year as the pandemic began to unfold, David Beasley, head of WFP, warned in a presentation to the United Nations Security Council that the number of people suffering from hunger could go from 135 million to more than 250 million. He described the coronavirus pandemic as “the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II” and said an estimated 300,000 people could begin starving to death daily in “multiple famines of biblical proportions” within months.
Eradicating hunger is one of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015 but war and armed conflict has significantly worked against progress in fighting hunger, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said. Despite the conflicts, the committee said, WFP has valiantly continued with its work.
“In countries such as Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and Burkina Faso, the combination of violent conflict and the pandemic has led to a dramatic rise in the number of people living on the brink of starvation. In the face of the pandemic, the World Food Program has demonstrated an impressive ability to intensify its efforts. As the organization itself has stated, ‘Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos,’” the Nobel Committee said.
“The link between hunger and armed conflict is a vicious circle: war and conflict can cause food insecurity and hunger, just as hunger and food insecurity can cause latent conflicts to flare up and trigger the use of violence. We will never achieve the goal of zero hunger unless we also put an end to war and armed conflict.”
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It was also pointed out that WFP actively participated in the diplomatic process culminating in May 2018 that resulted in the U.N. Security Council’s unanimous adoption of Resolution 2417.
The resolution condemned the starving of civilians as a method of warfare and for the first time explicitly addressed the link between conflict and hunger.
“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. The World Food Program plays a key role in multilateral cooperation on making food security an instrument of peace, and has made a strong contribution towards mobilizing UN Member States to combat the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict,” the Nobel Committee said.