Food, an instrument of peace

Food, an instrument of peace

October 30, 2020

Food, an instrument of peace

The 2020 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the World Food Programme, demonstrating the cross-cutting role of food and food security in maintaining human physical and social health.

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.” With this motivation, the Norwegian Nobel Committee presented the prestigious award for 2020 to the World Food Programme (WFP), defined by the committee as “the largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security.” 

The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) is a humbling, moving recognition of the work of WFP staff who lay their lives on the line every day to bring food and assistance for close to 100 million hungry children, women and men across the world.  People whose lives are often brutally torn apart by instability, insecurity and conflict” commented the WFP’s Executive Director David Beasley.


Hunger and war, a vicious circle

As the official press release on the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize states: today 135 million people are suffering from acute hunger, the highest number for many years, and in most cases the increase is caused by war and armed conflict. WFP operates in this context, which in 2019 provided aid to around 100 million victims of hunger and conflict in almost 90 countries. A critical situation made even more complex by the coronavirus pandemic, which in countries like Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burkina Faso, Southern Sudan and Nigeria has added to bloody conflicts, dramatically increasing the number of people living on the verge of starvation. 

The link between hunger and war is now recognized globally “Today's award reminds us that food security, peace and stability go together” explained Beasley “Without peace, we cannot achieve our global goal of zero hunger; and while there is hunger, we will never have a peaceful world” he added. It is no coincidence that the WFP played an active role in the process that led to the UN Security Council Resolution 2417 (May 2018) which for the first time explicitly addressed the link between hunger and conflicts.

WFP's work for the benefit of humanity is a commitment that all nations should support” said the members of the Nobel Committee.


“Zero hunger” goal

As Beasley said, “the Nobel Peace Prize is not WFP’s alone.” Commenting on the award just received, the WFP executive director was keen to mention the many organizations that work with the WFP, from governments to many partners in the private sector. “We could not possibly help anyone without them” he added.

In practical terms, the WFP works every day to achieve the second of the 17 sustainable development goals: “zero hunger, a commitment to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” 

And in order to do this it has identified 5 fundamental steps. The first is to put the furthest behind first, because “investing in inclusive development is not only right, but also productive”;  the second looks at a broad scenario – from farms to markets – to guarantee nutritious and affordable food for all, particularly through investments aimed at innovation and infrastructure. The third step is to reduce food waste, which currently affects one third of the food produced and occurs both in the early stages of the supply chain (production and storage) in the poorest countries and in the final stages (sales and household waste) in the richest ones. Encouraging a sustainable variety of crops is the fourth step identified by WFP, which points out how 4 crops currently account for 60% of all calories consumed and that, in order to cope with climate change, and ensure the availability of and access to food, this number needs to be expanded. The last step is to make nutrition a priority, starting with a child’s first 1000 days, a necessary tool to promote healthy development. 

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