The United Nations’ World Food Programme has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its work to combat hunger around the world, beating favorites Greta Thunberg and the World Health Organization.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said it was awarding the prize to the UN body “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.”
Announcing the award, chair of the Norwegian Nobel committee Berit Reiss-Andersen said it was an obligation of states around the world to “ensure that people are not starving” and called on the international community to not underfund the World Food Programme.
The committee praised the organization’s ongoing work around the world during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has hit food supply chains hard, especially in areas already struggling.
The WFP said it is “deeply humbled to receive” the award “in 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.”
It is the 101st time the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded.
The Nobel Peace Prize is the fifth of six awarded this year — on Monday the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences will be awarded.
The World Food Programme is the world’s leading humanitarian organization fighting hunger and promoting food security. Founded in 1961, the UN branch aided 97 million people around the world in 2019. It leads the charge in realizing one of the UN’s sustainable development goals — ending hunger and achieving food security by 2030. In June, the organization said it was seeing a “massive rise” in hunger around the world as the coronavirus pandemic threatened food security. “The frontline in the battle against the coronavirus is shifting from the rich world to the poor world,” said David Beasley, WFP’s executive director.
When revealing the winner, Berit Reiss-Andersen, who chairs the Norwegian Nobel committee took time to address the impact the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has had on food and hunger. “The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to a strong upsurge in the number of victims of hunger in the world,” she said. “In the face of the pandemic, the World Food Programme has demonstrated an impressive ability to intensify its efforts.”
“As the organization itself has stated: until the day we have a vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos.”
Alfred Nobel, who left the endowment and instructions to fund the prizes that now bear his name, does not have as peaceful a legacy as one might expect. In his lifetime, he was well known as an inventor of weapons, the most noteworthy of these being dynamite. After reading his own obituary — which followed a case of mistaken identity by a french journalist — that described him as “the merchant of death,” he reflected on the kind of legacy he wanted to leave. The Nobel Prizes are the result of that.