On Friday, 9th October 2020, the Nobel Peace Prize 2020 was announced by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. The award is handed over to the United Nation’s World Food Programme considering the efforts the organization has to out to battle global hunger and the peace bringing initiatives taken by it in conflicted affected areas. The group also set paradigms in making sure that hunger is not weaponized in situations of war and conflict.
What is special about the Nobel Peace Prize?
It was November 27, 1985, when the legend ingenious scientist, Alfred Nobel, signed his will. In the document, he mentioned that a considerable share of his fortune would be kept safe for the distribution of the Nobel Prizes.
The peace award would be given to the people who shall have made impressive and commendable contributions (both in quantity and quality) for fraternity between nations, promotion of tranquillity, or reduction of standing armies. The laurel is presented to change-makers every year since 1901 except on 19 occasions including 1914-1916, 1918, 1939-1943 among some other years. This is because in his will, Alfred has clearly mentioned that if no one single person or organization could be identified in the awarding category mentioned in the first paragraph, the prize shall be left unawarded in that particular year, saving the prize money for the next one. However, if the prize is not awarded the next year as well, the monetary sum shall be contributed to the restricted funds of the foundation. As a result, only a few peace prizes have been handed over the World war periods.
Cumulatively, the peace laurel has been given to 135 laureates comprising of 28 organizations and 107 individuals. One special mention here is “The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees” which has been awarded the prize twice so far. The youngest one to receive the laurel was a 17-year-old girl, Malala Yousafzai, in 2014 while the oldest one was 87-year-old Joseph Rotblat in 1995.
What is the United Nations World Food Programme?
The US president Dwight Eisenhower issued a personal decree to establish the World Food Programme or the WFP in the year 1961. On 1 September 1960, the President proposed a workable scheme, to provide food aid through the system of the United Nations, to the UN General Assembly.
Eradication of hunger from the world was one of the sustainable Development Goals or SDGs of the United Nations in the year 2015. The WFP is the primary instrument via which the UN aims to achieve this SDG. It operates entirely with the support of public funding and was able to raise more than $8 billion in 2019, with its major donors being governments, corporations, and individuals as well.
Other UN groups or organizations that work towards the same goal are:
- World Bank
- The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
- The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
The UN also has a list of other crucial sustainable development goals or SDGs. A few of them are gender equality, eradication of poverty, provision of clean water and sanitation, affordable and sustainable energy distribution as well as quality education.
This time, it has been awarded the Peace Prize as an appreciation and acknowledgment of its efforts in contributing to the improvement of peace conditions in conflict-driven regions and for acting as a mediator in the prevention of weaponization of hunger in war and conflicts, apart from its contribution to combating hunger.
How does WFP help those in need? And how efficient it has been till now?
The group ensures that the assistance or help is provided to every needy in two ways:
- By providing food directly to the hungry
- By providing cash-based transfers to ensure their food supply. These were practiced for the first time in 2005 in response to the tsunami in Sri Lanka.
The records of 2019 show that the group has provided help to nearly 100 million living in 88 countries. WFP supplied over 4.2 million metric tonnes of food and $1.2 billion in cash and vouchers.
The first emergency operation conducted by the WFP was in 1962 after an earthquake in Iran which took nearly 120,000 lives. It launched its first development program in 1963 in Sudan. WFP also staged the world’s largest airdrop in humanitarian history which involved 20 cargo aircraft under “Operation Lifeline Sudan” to assist millions displaced by the civil war.
Adding another point to its list of achievements, the group has supplied food to more than 4.5 million people affected by the Earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, the Syrian civil war in 2011, the Ebola outbreak in 2015, and then finally Nepal Earthquake in 2015.
How is hunger measured by WFP?
The measurement of hunger is done by the persistence of undernourishment. According to the United Nations regulations, people are called undernourished or food-deprived when their food intake falls below the minimum level of dietary energy requirements, which are set by sex and age groups in consultation among the UN, WHO, and FAO. The energy requirement is the quantum of energy which is required to balance the energy expenditure which is consumed for the maintenance of body weight, body composition as well as for carrying out the necessary and desirable physical activities in consistency with long-term good health.
Currently, the estimates reveal that nearly 8.9% of the total global population, which is approximately 690 million people, fall under the “hungry” category as per the WFP trends. And if this trend continues then there will be nearly 840 million hungry people by 2030.
Moreover, nearly 135 million people are boxed under the “acute hunger spectrum”. Most of them are put into this category owing to the conditions created by man-made conflicts, economic disasters, and climate change. It is estimated by WFP that the situations posed by the COVID-19 pandemic could possibly deteriorate the conditions further.