World Food Programme wins 2020 Nobel Peace Prize

Credit: Keystone/EPA/Yahya Arhab

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has been awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts in fighting hunger.

This year's winner was announced virtually from Oslo, Norway, this morning. The WFP was honoured "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.”

Created in 1961, the initiative today provides food for over 90 million people a year. It has stepped up its operations significantly in recent months as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed millions of people into food insecurity.

Speaking during the announcement, the chair of the Norwegian Nobel committee Berit Reiss-Andersen noted the impact of the pandemic on food supplies and the WFP's work to meet the growing need for support around the world.

"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 organisation itself has stated: until the day we have a vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos," Reiss-Andersen added.

WFP has faced a drop in financial contributions in recent years as countries reduce funding for global organisations. The Nobel Committee took the opportunity to implore governments around the world not to cut financial contributions to international humanitarian groups.

“This is also a call to the international community not to underfund the World Food Programme,” Reiss-Andersen said.

"This is an obligation, in our mind, of all states of the world to ensure that people are not starving."

WFP have thanked the Nobel Committee for the honour via Twitter.

The news was met with delight by David Beasley, the executive director of the WFP, who was in Niamey, the capital of Niger, when he heard.

“This is the first time I’ve been speechless,” he said in a video on Twitter. “This is unbelievable!”

Back in April, Beasley warned that the planet was facing multiple famines of “biblical proportions” in a matter of months, with the pandemic pushing an additional 130 million people into food insecurity and starvation.

Speaking in an address to the UN Security council, Beasley urged swift action to avert disaster.

"While dealing with a Covid-19 pandemic, we are also on the brink of a hunger pandemic," Beasley told the UN's security council. "There is also a real danger that more people could potentially die from the economic impact of Covid-19 than from the virus itself."

Speaking during the announcement, Reiss-Andersen warned countries against populism and urged the need for strengthening international support for organisations such as the WFP.

"When the UN was founded, it was exactly on a great emphasis on the universalism of the world,” Reiss-Andersen said. “There also is a universal responsibility for the conditions of human mankind."

"If you ask anybody within the UN system, they will claim that it is harder these days to get the necessary financial support for the different activities of the different agencies," she added.

Other favourites to win the prize this year included the World Health Organization (WHO), climate activist Greta Thunberg and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.