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

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.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.