‘The best vaccine against chaos.’ Why this year’s Nobel Peace Prize went to the U.N.’s World Food Programme

October 9, 2020, 9:55 AM UTC

“The need for international solidarity and multilateral cooperation is more conspicuous than ever.” So began Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, as she announced this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner: the World Food Programme (WFP).

The WFP is the largest specialized United Nations agency, with a focus on addressing hunger and promoting food security—a task that frequently involves peacemaking efforts in countries such as Yemen and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Its work is always important, but the committee decided that its role was even more crucial given the coronavirus pandemic.

“The pandemic strengthens the reasons for the prize,” said Reiss-Andersen, who added that there had been a rise in the number of people living on the brink of starvation. “The pandemic has increased the need for food aid.”

Reiss-Andersen, who described hunger as “one of the oldest conflict weapons in the world,” was also clear that the committee’s decision was intended as “a call to the international community not underfund the World Food Programme [and to] ensure that people are not starving.”

With the program’s current funding, she warned, around 265 million people will be starving within a year.

“In the face of the pandemic, the WFP has demonstrated an impressive ability to intensify its efforts,” Reiss-Andersen said. “Food is the best vaccine against chaos.”

The committee considered 318 candidates when deciding who should receive the world’s most prestigious award. The list is confidential, though this year it is known that submissions were made for climate activist Greta Thunberg, the World Health Organization, Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, and U.S. President Donald Trump.

“Multilateralism seems to have a lack of respect these days and the Nobel Committee wants to emphasize this aspect,” Reiss-Andersen said.