Nobel Peace Prize Awarded to UN's World Food Programme

The humanitarian aid organization provides food and other resources to over 100 million people around the world.

There were 318 individuals and organizations nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize and it will be 50 more years before we're allowed to know who they were. But on Friday morning, the Norwegian Nobel committee confirmed the identity of one of those groups, when it announced that the United Nations' World Food Programme was the winner of this year's prize.

United Nations World Food Programme Headquarter In Rome
Franco Origlia / Contributor/Getty Images

The 59-year-old humanitarian organization was honored "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."

Last year, the WFP delivered food to more than 97 million people in 88 countries, and it distributed more than 15 billion rations. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic, along with armed conflict in Burkina Faso, Nigeria, South Sudan, and other African nations, has further emphasized the importance of the organization's ability to deliver food assistance.

"The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to a strong upsurge in the number of victims of hunger in the world," Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chairperson of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said on Friday morning. "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 [...] This is also a call to the international community not to underfund the World Food Programme. This is an obligation, in our mind, of all states of the world to ensure that people are not starving."

WFP Executive Director David Beasley posted a video statement on Twitter shortly after the prize was awarded. "This is the first time in my life I’ve been speechless. This is unbelievable," he said. "It’s because of the WFP family. They're out there in the most difficult, complex places in the world, where there’s war, conflict, climate extremes—it doesn’t matter. They are out there and they deserve this award. Wow."

WFP spokesperson Tomson Phiri told reporters that when the pandemic forced commercial air carriers to ground flights, the WFP effectively became the largest operational airline in the world. "When everything went into shutdown mode, the World Food Programme was there," he said, according to Reuters. "When everyone was leaving and we were going into lockdowns, the World Food Programme had to provide the logistical support that the world deserved, that the world needed.”

The WFP prides itself on its "unparalleled reputation" as an emergency responder. Every day, it says that it relies on a network of more than 5,600 trucks, 30 ships, and almost 100 planes to deliver food to those who are most in need, in some of the most dangerous places on the planet.

"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," the Norwegian Nobel Committee said. "We will never achieve the goal of zero hunger unless we also put an end to war and armed conflict [...] The work of the World Food Programme to the benefit of humankind is an endeavour that all the nations of the world should be able to endorse and support."

Surely that's something we can all agree on—even in 2020.

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