2020 Nobel Peace Prize Awarded to U.N. World Food Program

The World Food Program, a United Nations agency, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, with the committee recognizing its efforts to combat a surge in hunger as the coronavirus pandemic has swept around the world with devastating impact.

The committee noted that the organization’s work addressing hunger had also laid the foundations for peace in war-torn nations.

The United Nations body — the largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security internationally — last year provided assistance to nearly one million people in 88 countries. But in many countries, particularly those wracked by war, the combination of conflict and the pandemic has sharply increased the numbers of people on the brink of starvation.

“In the face of the pandemic, the World Food Program has demonstrated an impressive ability to intensify its efforts,” the Nobel committee said.

The World Food Program, established in 1961 after a proposal by President Dwight Eisenhower, has been a major behind-the-scenes player helping people affected by some of the world’s most devastating humanitarian disasters, including famine in Ethiopia in the 1980s, wars in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the 2004 Asian tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

While the organization still responds to natural disasters, helping people in areas of armed conflict occupies the bulk of its relief effort, and those crises have been made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

The choice of a United Nations agency as the Peace Prize recipient is also significant amid a continued pullback from the United States under the Trump administration in its support for the global body. Since Mr. Trump took up office, the United States has withdrawn from several United Nations bodies and slashed funding for others, including those involved in humanitarian relief work. President Trump halted funded to the World Health Organization, a U.N. agency that coordinates the global response to the pandemic, this spring.

In a post on Twitter, the World Food Program responded to the award, calling it a “powerful reminder” that peace and #ZeroHunger go hand-in-hand.”

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia was awarded the 2019 prize for his work restarting peace talks with neighboring Eritrea that eventually led to a gradual normalizing of relations and the end of years of war between the two countries.

He was also recognized for his work ushering in a new era of diplomatic and trade relations. By the end of the year, however, Mr. Abiy faced accusations of a heavy-handed crackdown on political protests in his country and skipped a news conference after his acceptance speech amid the controversy.

Michael Schwirtz contributed reporting.

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