Vaccine for chaos
In the chaos of the pandemic, the recent presentation of the Nobel Prize offers the ever-continuing hope that the ingenuity of man may carry us through the direst of crises. Even though the awards ceremonies have moved online, what they represent for the future of the world remains unchanged. Even amongst the many vital advancements made by its luminaries, the work done by the World Food Programme stands the brightest, especially in these times. One of the many organisations under the banner of the UN, WFP concern is to tackle the age-old problem of hunger. In doing so, it improves the conditions for peace in areas of conflict. Thus, the organisation being presented a Nobel Peace Prize this year makes perfect sense. Indeed, in the midst of a pandemic that is threatening to ignite devastating food shortages across the world, it can be considered only natural.
While presenting the award, the Nobel Committee emphasised that hunger is a devastating tool to induce war and conflict if it is weaponised. WFP's work is helping tackle this issue at a time when some estimates say that hunger could double across the world. WFP's own research shows that there may be as many as 265 million people who reach a point of starvation within a year. As such, "Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos," are the words which have been used by the Committee in its citation.
As per their own numbers, WFP helps feed around 97 million people in about 88 countries every year. An impress number but not enough to truly start turning the tide of global hunger Asas WFP itself has stated that one in every nine people worldwide don't get enough to eat. And this was before the behemoth engines of the world economy screeched to a halt during the lockdown phase. While most other organisations, humanitarian or not, were shuttering operations, WFP continued undaunted. Indeed, its logistic service helped dispatch medical cargo to 120 countries across the world. With airlines shut down worldwide, the WFP was running the largest operational airline in the world during that time. It made use of its air fleet to ferry humanitarian and health workers across the world.
As both, the WFP leadership and the Nobel Committee noted, this Nobel Peace Prize should be seen as a symbol and a reminder. A symbol of what human cooperation can achieve and a reminder that little can be achieved without it. At a time when multilateralism is being attacked from all sides and the relevance of bodies like the UN is being questioned, the age-old fight against the most fundamental of issues gripping society is also at risk. And regardless of how a nation and its leadership frame the situation, it is simply not possible or efficient to go it alone. Dan Smith, Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute was quoted by Reuters as saying "Hunger, like climate change, the pandemic and other issues, is a world problem that can only be properly addressed through cooperation."
As ample examples show. the issues he listed are ones where global commitments and goodwill are often completely undercut by efforts to insert nationalism into the equation. The successive failure of climate accords and now the many exclusive vaccine deals being inked worldwide are proof of this. They are proof of the fact that multilateralism as a thought process and system has not permeated deep enough into the world community even in the 21st century. Politics continue to impede the way of human progress and the combined upliftment of all of humanity is not a real priority for most nations. Regardless of whether we want it or not, climate change, global pandemics, hunger, etc., will unify humanity with indiscriminate carnage. Yes, the disadvantaged will disproportionately suffer first but the rest of the world will not emerge unscathed.
The Nobel Committee commented that the Nobel Prize being presented to the WFP is a gentle reminder to the nations of the world to not be tempted to underfund the programme in an effort to cut costs in lean times. World hunger has been on the rise since 2016 after decades of decline. Now, on the occasion of the UN turning 75 this year, the bonds of multilateralism must be strengthened to safeguard the future of the human race.