The World Food Programme has been awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize
Oct 09, 2020

The World Food Programme has been awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Problem:

• The world is moving in the wrong direction: hunger is on the rise. 690 million people are hungry and nearly all the world’s major food crises (10 out of 13 of them) are driven by conflict.

• Conflict and insecurity – along with climate shocks and economic turmoil – are the main drivers of hunger. Many of the people we help are fleeing conflict, and have been forced to abandon their land, homes and jobs.

• In 2018, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2417, which WFP and other UN agencies were instrumental in promoting. The Resolution breaks new ground: it is the first time the global community has explicitly recognized the formal link between hunger and conflict and that the world will never be able to eliminate hunger unless there is peace.

The Solution:

• Food assistance saves lives for those caught in conflict and natural disasters, and it is a vital tool for promoting longer term development and stability;

• WFP works where the world’s poorest, most vulnerable people live – providing food as a building block of life and a cornerstone for peace.

• WFP is supporting the prospects for peace by improving access to contested natural resources, bolstering social cohesion between communities and strengthening livelihood opportunities.

• WFP has been working on the frontlines of conflicts and natural disasters for more than 50 years, saving lives in emergencies and bringing hope to millions caught in conflict.

• WFP is ever-present for the victims of conflict. From the rebuilding of post-war South Korea in the late 1960s, through the emergency response after genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda, the long-running conflict in South Sudan and the more recent wars in Yemen and Syria, WFP has been a constant presence for the poor and the destitute, refugees and the dispossessed.

• When conflict ends, WFP stays to help communities build back better with programmes that strengthen resilience and help people back onto their feet.

• Although conflict and insecurity remain the main drivers of hunger, the added dimension of COVID-19 is exacerbating the ability of affected communities to cope. WFP estimates that the number of acutely food insecure people could jump by 80% to 270 million by the end of 2020.

• Despite the enormous challenges, in the first 6 months of 2020, WFP was able to continue its lifesaving operations and reach 85 million people, expanding to meet emerging humanitarian needs, while responding to the longer term socio-economic impact of the crisis on food security.

• Through the delivery of common logistics services to the humanitarian and health response, WFP served as the backbone of the global response to COVID-19, enabling organizations to stay and deliver through a network of hubs, passenger and cargo airlinks and medevac services that enable a steady flow of humanitarian and health cargo and workers to the frontlines of the pandemic.

The Takeaway:

• There can be no lasting peace when children are hungry.

• By saving lives during times of crisis and changing lives in times of peace, WFP is delivering an invaluable service to humanity.

WFP uses food to build peace – BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER conflict:
1. BEFORE conflict – WFP supports preventative action through food assistance that helps to build more resilient and stable communities. When children receive regular meals in school to supplement their drive for education, when women and men receive food as they work on community asset projects, when social safety nets ensure that the poor and elderly know where their next meal is coming from.

Example: Afghanistan Country Office programmes related to income generation and climate change adaptation create employment opportunities and support economic growth at the community level that can function as a brake on recruitment of young men to armed groups. Specific examples include:

FOOD FOR TRAINING: To improve employment opportunities in urban areas, WFP provides food-insecure people, and especially women and unemployed young men, with training to acquire new, marketable skills and improve literacy so they can earn a better living;

DISASTER RISK REDUCTION: WFP helps to build resilience at the community level by supporting the construction or rehabilitation of key infrastructure, including roads, canals, flood protection walls and terracing.

2. DURING conflict – WFP saves lives by bringing food to people who might otherwise starve. When governments are weak or corrupt, when people are at the mercy of armed groups, WFP’s presence provides hope and is one of the building blocks of peace.


3. DURING conflict – WFP assistance can support peacebuilding initiatives of other groups. By providing food at a community level, WFP’s assistance removes one of the major sources of friction among the hungry, building bridges and helping communities to build peace.

[Example: Niger, situation of recurrent conflict between farmers and herders. WFP linked economic fate of both sides by setting up a system where herders would bring cattle to fertilize the farmers’ fields, and farmers could sell hay to herders.]

4. AFTER conflict: WFP helps to build stability. 40-60% of countries coming out of conflict will relapse into fighting within ten years. WFP works with governments to strengthen systems of stability and supports people as they reconstruct their communities. This is the humanitarian-development-peace nexus.

Example: Iraq, FOOD ASSISTANCE and PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM: WFP provides food assistance through family food rations – which include basic food items such as wheat flour, rice, beans, bulgur and oil – or cash transfers for people to buy food where it is available. After the war, WFP helped the Iraqi government re-establish its massive Public Distribution System, an invaluable safety net that reaches the most needy with food rations and other assistance. Syrian refugees and displaced Iraqis receive cash every month through e-vouchers or WFP’s electronic SCOPE card.

WFP Data/ Messages

• There are 690 million hungry people around the world and around 60% of them live in countries affected by conflict.

• In 2017 WFP helped four countries move back from the brink of famine (South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and north-east Nigeria). In all cases, conflict and instability was a major cause of hunger.

• In 2019, WFP provided food assistance to nearly 100 million people in the more than 80 countrieswhere it works.

• By 2030, it is estimated that nearly half of the global poor will be living in fragile and conflict-affected situations

• 80% of WFP resources were allocated to people living in conflict environments.

• An estimated 122 million out of 155 million stunted children in the world live in countries affected by conflict.

• People living in countries with long-running crises are more than twice as likely to be undernourished than people elsewhere (2.5 times as much).

• The so-called “conflict trap” suggests that more than half of all countries that have experienced war are likely to relapse into conflict.

Aid worker security:

• There is a human cost to our work with staff members putting their lives on the line in their efforts to change the face of hunger. Aid workers – not just WFP – but our friends and partners around the world – continue to be shot at, kidnapped, bombed and assaulted. Almost every single day, an aid worker is victim of an attack.
• 2019 surpassed all previous recorded years for aid worker security, with 483 aid workers killed, kidnapped, or wounded in 277 separate incidents of violence.
(Source: Humanitarian Outcomes – Aid Worker Security Report 2020)

Conflict recurrence/relapse:

• 60% of all conflicts recur.

• On average, post-conflict peace lasts only seven years.

• Since the mid 1990s, most conflict onsets have been recurrences.

(Source: Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), Conflict Recurrence, 2016)

Nobel Prize Background

The Swedish scientist and industrialist Alfred Nobel, famous as the inventor of dynamite, established six prizes in his will in 1895. Prizewinners in Chemistry, Literature, Physics, and Medicine are chosen by Swedish institutions whereas the Peace Prize is awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. One of the criteria for the peace prize is “work aimed at creating a better organized and more peaceful world.”
Previous UN winners:
• 2013 - OPCW
• 2007 - IPCC and Al Gore Jr.
• 2005 - IAEA and Mohamed ElBaradei
• 2001 - UN and Kofi Annan
• 1988 - UN Peacekeeping Forces
• 1981 - UNHCR
• 1969 - ILO
• 1965 - UNICEF
• 1961 - Dag Hammarskjöld
• 1954 - UNHCR

Q and A

Q. What will you do with the prize money (9 million Swedish Kroner or around US$1 million)?
A. It’s far too soon to say – we’ve only just got the news. But I’m sure we can put the money to good use – for example if it’s around a million dollars we could give 4 million schoolchildren a school meal for a day.


James Whiting

Communications Consultant
Communications Unit,
Regional Bureau for Asia & Pacific
Bangkok, Thailand