The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) its annual Peace Prize for 2020 on Friday, overlooking a history of corruption, mismanagement, and sexual assault among its ranks.
In its statement announcing the decision, the Committee expressed mounting concern about lack of access to food globally, particularly in light of repressive government lockdowns to prevent the spread of the Chinese coronavirus. The WFP, it said, won the award “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.”
According to the Nobel Committee, the WFP was responsible for aiding “100 million people in 88 countries” throughout 2019. It asserted that the Chinese coronavirus pandemic “has contributed to a strong upsurge in the number of victims of hunger in the world” and applauded the WFP’s “impressive ability to intensify its efforts” given the current situation.
“The world is in danger of experiencing a hunger crisis of inconceivable proportions if the World Food Programme and other food assistance organisations do not receive the financial support they have requested,” the committee insisted.
David Beasley, the executive director of the U.N. agency, described the award as a “humbling, moving recognition of the world of the WFP staff who lay their lives on the line every day to bring food and assistance for close to 100 million hungry children, women and men across the world.”
“Every one of the 690 million hungry people in the world today has the right to live peacefully and without hunger. Today, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has turned the global spotlight on them and on the devastating consequences of conflict,” Beasley said.
The international recognition for the world’s biggest aid organization bookends a decade otherwise marred by a variety of scandals, from concerns about corruption and theft of aid to struggles internally to contain sexual assault and rape, and at least one incident where WFP food aid poisoned and killed people.