This contribution of Trump is not much talked about

World Food Programme and Nobel Peace Prize

Politics

November 2, 2020

/ By / New Delhi

This contribution of Trump is not much talked about

Since Trump’s election as President of USA, over last 4 years, USA’s contribution to WFP has increased by 58 pc

Strange as it may sound, winner of Nobel Peace Prize 2020 World Food Programme owes a lot to United States President Donald Trump who has made United Nations a constant target of his attacks.

When 2007 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Al Gore, former vice President of USA, there was a global appreciation of the work done by the winners in bringing climate change issue at the centre of the current and future decision-making by governments, business and even individuals.

Al Gore is among the world’s leading environmentalist-politicians and the single individual who has done the most to create greater understanding worldwide of the measures that need to be adopted to mitigate climate change.

The  IPCC, a panel convened by two of the UN’s leading environmental agencies, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), was able to create broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming. Thousands of scientists and officials from over 100 countries collaborated to achieve greater certainty as to the scale of the warming and what are the possible remedies.

However, there was a restive qualm and a nagging marvel about how their work on global warming is at all related to ‘peace’ and why the Nobel prize related to ‘peace’ was given to two winners.

The answer was smartly embedded with convincing clarity in the press release of Norwegian Nobel committee as well as the symbolic visits of the then United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Indeed, the decision by Nobel Committee in awarding the Nobel Prize to IPCC and Al Gore was uniquely futuristic. “Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind. They may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth’s resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world’s most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states,” is how the committee choosing the award winners put it.

Immediately after the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 2007, the then newly elected  United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Antarctica. After taking the world’s topmost job, UNSGs are known to be visiting the refugee camps and countries that are in conflicts to signify UN’s work-priority which is enshrined in its charter, ‘maintain international peace and security’.

Ban Ki-moon became the first United Nations Secretary-General to make an official visit to Antarctica which is not a zone of conflicts and war. As he travelled to the frozen continent to see at first-hand the effects of climate change that included its thawing glaciers, melting sheets of ice, for the first time in thousands of years, he very effectively sent a message to the world. That message was about consequences of climate change like sea-level rise, the massive thaw of drifting icebergs, droughts in tropics, floods in the rivers and seemingly unstoppable land-slides. They were already triggering massive migration, hunger and extreme poverty which together made a  perfect recipe for conflicts, unrest and war. Peace is in peril due to climate change. That was Ban Ki-moon’s pointer, standing in Antarctica.

On October 9, 2020, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to combat hunger and improve conditions for peace. The link between food, hunger and threat to peace is now more evident than the link between climate change and peace in 2007. The world is living with the threat as it is learning to live with COVID19. In fact, the United Nations Security Council – the highest global body for maintaining international peace and security – passed a historic resolution in 2018 clearly delineating the link between hunger and conflict. The spiralling disaster caused by the conflicts that cause food crises which in turn cause the greater food insecurity that then drives unrest and violence is now evident. Arab Spring, Syrian and Yemeni, Democratic Republic of Congolese and South Sudanese wars are now perennial threats to people there. The life-threatening situation caused due to migration from Latin America, Africa and South Asian countries, mainly Myanmar, Afghanistan and Bangladesh makes the work of WFP in supplying life-saving food has become so essential.

Nobel Peace Prize to WFP was clearly well-deserved recognition. It combats hunger to create an ecosystem for peace and more importantly it acts as a driving force in the efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon for war. Out of 700 million hungry, and they are growing faster than expected due to COVID pandemic, more than 60 per cent are from countries affected by conflicts. What more, nearly 80 million people representing more than 50 per cent of the population that face acute hunger are in 22 countries affected by conflict and insecurity as per Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC) 2020.

WFP rushes the help where famines and other natural and man-made disasters affect the daily life

WFP, however,  does not serve only in the conflict-ridden area. It also rushes the help where famines and other natural and man-made disasters affect daily life, like in North Korea, Burkina Faso and North-East Nigeria. It is the world’s largest humanitarian agency, assisting totally 100 million people including school children in 88 countries. Fight against malnutrition is the important dimension of the WFP work. Majority of the food that WFP distributes is purchased from developing countries and from small farmers. It also helps the farmers in preventing the degradation of the land and use of sustainable and climate-friendly practices in agriculture as part of adaptation.

It may appear rather strange, unexpected and perplexing to many that USA President Donald Trump has supported the work of WFP to his hilt. Since Trump’s election as President of the USA,  over last 4 years, the USA’s contribution to WFP has increased by 58 pc to USD 3.36 billion in 2019. That constitutes nearly 40 pc of WFP’s total budget. The idea of WFP, interestingly, was floated in the 1960s by President Eisenhower, a Republican. Present Executive Director of WFP is a former Republican Governor of South Carolina,  David Beasley. USA’s former Ambassador to United Nations Nicky Haley, also a former South Carolina governor, had nominated Beasley for  WFP’s Executive Director’s post in 2017 and was subsequently elected in the same year from among more than 20 candidates.

All such credits do not seem to matter in USA-election which is dominated by COVID and state of the economy. That is not surprising because the Nobel Peace Prize itself is the epitome of its strange origin.

Alfred Nobel who made his enormous wealth in developing nitro-glycerine-related explosives that were later deployed in mines and conflicts wrote in his one-page will about giving annual Nobel Peace Prize from his wealth.

(Rajendra Shende, an IIT Bombay alumni,  is former director of UNEP and currently chairman of Terre Policy Centre and advisor to Media India Group. The views expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Media India Group.)

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