“Efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict” have earned the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize for the World Food Programme, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced on Friday.
The organization was chosen because of its efforts to provide food assistance to millions in need, but also with an eye on the current coronavirus pandemic, which the committee noted is increasing poverty and the risk of hunger.
“The world is in danger of experiencing a hunger crisis of inconceivable proportions,” read a statement.
“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.”
“This is a proud moment” for the World Food Programme (WFP), says Tomson Phiri, a spokesman for the UN agency, after the organization won the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize.
“This year we have gone over and above the call of duty,” as the WFP kept international aid flowing despite pandemic lockdowns and transportation curbs, he tells a press briefing in Geneva.
“The WFP stepped up to the plate,” Phiri says. “At one point we were the biggest airline in the world, when most if not all commercial airlines were ground to a halt.”
Global humanitarian needs to alleviate hunger are expected to grow because of the Covid-19 crisis, he adds.
Food – and lack of food – is also used as a weapon and can drive conflict.
“I think it’s one of the oldest conflict weapons in the world, that you can starve out populations to enter a territory,” said Berit Reiss-Andersen, head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
She noted that “food insecurity” has been used “as a method to chase populations away from their territory, burning down farms, etc.”
“The pandemic shows that we are facing a major crisis, we are all in the same boat,” Reiss-Andersen added.