The Irish Times view on world hunger: food as a peace project
Control of food too often then becomes a weapon of war, the starving of trapped populations seen as legitimate means of coercing surrender. It is not; it is a war crime.
Afghan families receive food aid distributed by the World Food Programme (WFP) in Herat, Afghanistan, last December. Photograph: Jalil Rezayee/EPA
The relationship between hunger and war is a self-reinforcing and vicious cycle – while war and conflict may plunge civilians caught up by them into food insecurity, hunger can cause latent conflicts to flare up and trigger violence. Control of food too often then becomes a weapon of war, the starving of trapped populations seen as legitimate means of coercing surrender. It is not; it is a war crime.
Explicitly recognising it as such for the first time, the UN Security Council in 2018 belatedly passed the landmark Resolution 2417, which also demanded belligerents guarantee safe humanitarian access to vulnerable communities.
Yesterday’s award of the Nobel Prize for Peace to the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) is a welcome reaffirmation of the work of the group, the world’s largest humanitarian organisation in addressing hunger and food security, as a peace project. Its mission countering the use of food as a weapon of war and sponsoring Resolution 2417 is specifically cited, with the Norwegian Nobel Committee pointing to its vital work in danger zones like Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and Burkina Faso.
In 2019, 135 million people suffered from acute hunger, the highest figure in many years, and some 100 million in 88 countries were reached in some way by the WFP. Most of the increase was caused by war and armed conflict.
The recognition of food security as a key priority for international aid also chimes with an important emphasis in Ireland’s diplomacy at the UN and the EU, where it has been pushing for initiatives at global level for targeted measures to assist agricultural sustainability and markets in Africa.
The award committee made no overt comment on the 317 unsuccessful 2020 nominees whose names are notionally shrouded in secrecy. One of those who trumpeted his own, for his role in brokering a peace deal between Israel and the UAE, will have noted, however, the implicit rebuke in the committee’s insistence that now is a time above all for international solidarity and multilateralism. No prizes for guessing their target.