How refreshing to see the Nobel Peace Prize going to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). The Norwegian Nobel Committee said WFP was declared the winner "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." This sort of recognition was long overdue for an organisation whose workers risk their lives every day in some of the harshest environments on earth just so they can do their bit in reducing overall hunger, starvation and suffering in the world. Their work takes them regularly not just to places with overwhelming poverty that suffer outrageous levels of food insecurity, but also to war zones, emergency zones, areas devastated by natural disasters, etc. When people see images of those less-privileged than themselves on social media it is the WFP that marshals necessary resources and makes a difference on the ground. As such, WFP employees do more than most people in the world to advance the cause of peace everywhere. WFP head David Beasely, while "deeply humbled" on behalf of his organisation at having won, also very rightly hoped that "this is a signal and a message that the World Food Program is a role model and that we all have got to do more."
It ought to really shame much of the more developed world that here we are, well into the 21st century and more advanced than at any point in history, yet it is still such a struggle to provide even the most basic necessities of life to so much of the world's population. And the situation would surely have been much worse if it hadn't been for the United Nations (UN) and its outfits just like the food programme. The agency was developed in 1961, after former US President Dwight Eisenhower called for a "workable scheme" for providing food aid through the United Nations. Since then it has delivered food assistance to countries across the world, expanding its outreach all the time. Just last year it provided assistance to about 100 million people in 88 countries who were 'victims of acute food insecurity and hunger'. The coronavirus pandemic makes its work a lot harder, of course, as shutdowns in all countries have already pushed millions upon millions back into extreme poverty; undoing much of the good done in the last few decades. And it's not just that the pandemic increases poverty and therefore WFP's scope work, it's also that its workers expose themselves to the virus wherever they are active in this situation. And since WFP itself warned just a few months ago that the world was at risk of widespread famines "of biblical proportions" from the pandemic, you can be sure that it is aware of the magnitude of the task ahead of it.
It is true that both the United Nations and the Nobel Committee have skirted with controversy in their time but it must also be admitted that both are very useful organisations whose work is needed and must be appreciated. The UN is hardly the model of efficiency and it is pretty toothless at times, but it is nonetheless very important simply because of the fact that it is irreplaceable if nothing else. For all its faults it is the only organisation in the world with agencies like WFP, and many others, that do a lot of good work that would just not get done otherwise. Similarly, the peace prize has had its share of completely undeserving recipients, especially the likes of former Israeli prime minister Yitzak Rabin, former Israeli president Shimon Peres and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, but for the most part the committee's selections are pretty justifiable and bring a lot of prestige, more often than not very well deserved, to the winner.
The best way to follow this award is for the UN to make sure that the WFP is more forward in order to cater to the rising number of poor and hungry people across the world. The only problem is that the UN is able to function only because of the generous funding it receives from a good part of the world. Therefore, in order to give outfits like WFP more teeth, everybody will have to lay a part. If this Nobel prize can achieve that much, it would play a significant part in spreading peace in the world.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020