Combating Poverty Through Food Security
| Pooran Chandra Pandey, Founding CEO, DOC RI, Germany - 16 Nov 2020

UN-WFP is winner of the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize for its dedicated work in combatting poverty through food security

by Pooran Chandra Pandey

The United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) is winner of the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize for its dedicated work in combatting poverty through food security and improved nutrition programs around the world through UN mandate. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by a committee elected by the Norwegian Parliament (Stortinget).

The Nobel Peace Prize for this year was bestowed upon the WFP “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”.

WFP international mandate 

WFP became an official UN agency in 1965 with an aim to alleviate hunger and provide food security across the globe, especially in conflict areas where more than two thirds of its work is concentrated. By 2019, the agency had assisted 97 million people in 88 countries. Today, it distributes more than 15 billion rations of food every year to various parts of the world.

Aiming to achieve food security and improved nutrition by 2030, says one in nine people in the world still don’t have enough food to eat. Apart from alleviating hunger and poverty, the WFP also provides aid for development, emergency assistance, relief and rehabilitation in conflict areas. This UN sister agency by its very mandate has been in a leading role cutting across poverty, food security, nutrition, peace and well-being of the people and by definition been at the forefront of full filling its responsibilities in achieving UN led sustainable development goals, which was ratified by 193 nations including India. 

India operations 

The UN sister agency has been present in India since 1963 and worked towards improving the government’s midday meal scheme, a national flagship scheme to ensure universal primary education, improve learning and lead to better health and welfare of good going children through community participation.  During the UN general assembly of 1 September 1960, then US President Dwight D. Eisenhower had made a proposal for a “workable scheme” to provide food aid through the global body.

Given India’s self sufficiency in food grains, country no longer accepts any food assistance from WFP. However, the agency continues to provide technical assistance and knowledge support to Indian government under multilateral agreement besides working closely with private sector, state governments, think tanks, nongovernmental organisations and academic institutions in the country. 

Brief history 

By April 1961, then Director of the US Food for Peace Programme George McGovern put the gears in motion by providing a fund of $100 million to start WFP on a three-year experimental basis.

 In 1962, the WFP played a critical role in sending wheat, sugar and tea to northern Iran after it was hit by an earthquake. By 1963, the organization established its first school meals project in West Africa’s Togo.

In 1989, it was also part of the ‘Operation Lifeline Sudan’ that was launched by the UN when parts of South Sudan were affected by famine and other humanitarian crises due to an ongoing civil war. The WFP had airdropped 1.5 million tons of food.

My association 

I have had a first-hand privilege in being a privy to all the comprehensive work of this agency from very close quarters ranging right from its food distribution work in South Sudan to its Innovation Centre in Munich to its global plans and strategies at its headquarters in Rome. I was also instrumental in hosting the agency's executive director, Ms. Ertharin Cousin, in New Delhi during my stint at the UNGC in Delhi in 2015 including my support to preparation of its national strategic plan (2019-2023) for India to being a Board Member on its Trust. 

The dawn-to-dusk, 20-aircraft, three-sorties-a-day airdrop remains, to this day, the largest in history. WFP has over the years done a yeoman service in having saved hundreds of thousands of lives around the world, especially in conflict areas and fragile nations, finally winning a so well-deserved Nobel Peace Prize for the ground work that it does in sustaining precious human lives through food support program leading to international cooperation and establishment of rule of law in anticipation of a zero-poverty world in our lifetimes. 

A catalyst to achieving universal goals 

Achieving success and fulfilment of UN led sustainable development goals by 2030 and beyond, to a substantive extent, is estimated to hinge on WFP’s commitment to build peace through food security. 

As long as there is poverty in our world, there is less likelihood of a peaceful world within our striking sight and conceivable range. 

File Image courtesy - WFP-FAO Website Pic 

Pooran Chandra Pandey specializes in international relations, public policy and international development and has worked with the United Nations and the Times of India, in senior leadership roles, among others. Currently, a Board Member, World Food Programme Trust and a policy author for Climate Scorecard, US, he was a founding CEO of a Berlin based international think tank. He holds an M.Phil degree in International Relations from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and also serves as visiting fellow to international think tanks in Cameroon, Sydney, Berlin, New Zealand and Washington DC. He is also a Chevening Scholar at the London School of Economics and Political Science, London. 


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