The 2020 Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to the World Food Programme (WFP) of the United Nations, which is one of the largest humanitarian organizations fighting hunger and working for the promotion of food security globally. The Norwegian Nobel Committee in its citation has mentioned that this award is given to the WFP “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”.
The award has drawn our attention towards the gravity of the global hunger crisis and the importance of food security. According to Swati Parashar and Camilla Orjuela (both associated with Peace and Development Research at the School of Global Studies, Gothenburg University, Sweden) have said that the “ the price draws attention to the sustained efforts to fight hunger and famine from the grassroots to the highest levels of global governance.” Moreover, this award becomes more significant considering the current pandemic which has aggravated the conditions of hunger, poverty and caused a global food shortage. It is estimated that around 270 million people will suffer from starvation and hunger due to the pandemic.
WHAT IS WFP?
The 34th President of the US, Dwight Eisenhower had suggested the idea of giving food aid through the UN system, and accordingly, in 1961, the World Food Programme was established. A couple of months after the WFP was established, it faced a grave humanitarian crisis when more than 12, 000 people die in an earthquake in Boeing Zahra in northern Iran. During this crisis, the WFP came ahead and sent tonnes of wheat, sugar, and tea to the affected area. Since then, the organization is playing an instrumental role in providing food aid in the affected areas.
According to its official website, the WFP launched its first developmental program for Nubians in Sudan in 1963. Also, in the same year, the WFP organized the first school meals project in Togo. After two years, in 1965, the WFP became a full-fledged program. It’s headquartered in Rome and is governed by the Executive Board, which consists of 36 member states.
THE SCALE OF WORK DONE BY WPF
At present, the WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency which is fighting against hunger. In 2019, it assisted 97 million people in 88 countries and delivered around 4.4 million tonnes of food and purchased $1.7 billion worth of food from 91 countries and $762 million worth of goods and services from 156 countries. On any given day, WFP has 5,600 trucks, 30 ships, and nearly 100 planes on the move, delivering food and other assistance to those in most need, it says. According to WFP “Every year, we distribute more than 15 billion rations at an estimated average cost per ration of US$ 0.61. These numbers lie at the roots of WFP’s unparalleled reputation as an emergency responder, one that gets the job done quickly at scale in the most difficult environments,”.
WHY DOES THE WORLD NEED A FOOD PROGRAMME
Eradicating hunger is one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals that all countries have to achieve by 2030. Therefore, the WFP is working towards this goal as the UN’s primary agency. According to the WFP “there are 690 million hungry people around the world and around 60% of them live in countries affected by conflict.” And the number of hungry people is estimated to be increased further due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Also, according to WFP by 2030, around half of the global poor will be living in fragile and conflict-affected situations
WAR AND HUNGER
The Nobel peace prize usually recognizes the organizations and people who endeavor to ban nuclear weapons, restrict arms production and trade, and prevent conflict through diplomacy. However this time by choosing an organization that is working for hunger, a predominant consequence of war, it has been highlighted that working for the amelioration of consequences of war is also a major step toward fostering peace and the well-being of the people.
The Nobel Committee has put stress on the nexus between armed conflict and hunger. This is because around 80 % of all the chronic malnourished children belong to the countries that are affected by armed conflict. Wars and armed conflict create black markets, restraint people’s mobility, and restrict people’s access to food. Further, the displacement caused by people wars removes people from their cultivable land due to which they can’t grow food. Apart from the significant linkage between war and hunger, we have to understand hunger is a grave problem that doesn’t only exist as a consequence of war. It has many other human-made reasons and it’s not inevitable and therefore, it can be eradicated. Hunger has been India’s bane in colonial times and also since Independence. While debates about the Bengal and other British-era famines are getting some attention now, we need to focus on the hunger threats and food insecurity that independent India continues to face, the state.
ROLE OF WFP IN INDIA
Hunger is one of the major menaces that India is facing since colonial times and that independent India continues to face. According to the Global Hunger Index 2019, India was ranked 102nd out of 117 countries. India is home to the largest number of hungry people where around 200 million people are food insecure.The WFP has been working in India since 1963. It provides policy inputs, advocacy, and technical assistance for improving access to food and also focuses on reforms in the Targeted Public Distribution System (TDPS). For the effective implementation of TPDS, the WFP has proposed some unique initiatives like Automatic Grain Dispensing Machine (Annapurti) that allows the beneficiaries to withdraw their food grain quota accurately and, Mobile Storage Units. During the pandemic, the WFP has been working with the central and state government.
WHAT HAS THE NOBEL COMMITTEE SAID WHILE GIVING THE AWARD
While underlining the role played by the WFP to eradicating hunger and its role during Covid-19, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said “The Coronavirus pandemic has contributed to a strong upsurge in the number of victims of hunger in the world. In countries such as Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and Burkina Faso, the combination of violent conflict and the pandemic has led to a dramatic rise in the number of people living on the brink of starvation,” The committee also mentioned that “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 medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos”.