Days after the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) won the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, plaudits continue to pour in for the organization.
On Monday, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Inger Andersen congratulated WFP, calling it “instrumental in the pursuit of peace."
“Where there is conflict, you will sadly often find hunger,” said Andersen. “And with climate change threatening to exacerbate fighting, and food shortages, around the globe, the role of WFP is arguably more important than ever before.”
UNEP works with WFP in conflict-affected countries like Sudan to combat food insecurity and address the impact of climate change on rural households.
During a socially distanced ceremony in Oslo, Norway on 9 October, the Norwegian Nobel Committee recognized WFP for its “efforts to combat hunger (and) for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas.”
In 2019, WFP aided nearly 100 million people in 88 countries. The Nobel committee mentioned specifically its work in five war-torn states: Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and Burkina Faso.
“Every one of the 690 million hungry people in the world today has the right to live peacefully and without hunger,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley, in a statement.
“Today, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has turned the global spotlight on them and on the devastating consequences of conflict.”
Inger Andersen said “In many conflict zones, fighting has gone hand in hand with environmental degradation. In those places, restoring nature is vital for providing people with a solid foundation on which to rebuild their lives.”
For example, in the arid Sudanese region of Darfur, where a brutal conflict has killed 300,000 people in the last 17 years, UNEP and WFP are working together to halt desertification, expand agricultural production and improve food security. As part of that effort, the two organizations have helped plant 75,000 trees, train 1,584 households in water harvesting techniques, buttress the banks of seasonal rivers to prevent erosion of farmland, and build three major water spreading structures (weirs) that allow 4,500 families to cultivate vegetables and grains on 2,200 hectares of new productive land.
WFP’s Nobel win comes amid what committee chairperson Berit Reiss-Andersen, called a “dramatic” rise in the number of people on the brink of starvation. An estimated 265 million people may face acute hunger by the end of the year as a result of wars, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reiss-Andersen called on countries to step up their commitments to the battle against hunger.
“The world is in danger of experiencing a hunger crisis of inconceivable proportions if the World Food Programme and other food assistance organizations do not receive the financial support they have requested.”
Amid rising populism in many countries, the committee pointedly said the award was meant to underline the importance of multilateralism and international bodies working to solve global problems.
WFP is the seventh United Nations organization to earn the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. Other laureates include: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who won the award twice – in 1954 and 1981; UN Children’s Fund in 1965; International Labour Organization in 1969; UN Peacekeeping Forces in 1988; the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2005; the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007; and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in 2013.