Nobel Peace Prize: World Food Program

Friday, 9th October 2020

This is a worthy recipient. I’ve seen them work up close, when I was in Kenya and later in Rwanda. Food insecurity is a huge issue that can drive violence, topple governments, and divide people against each other. It’s sometimes forgotten in the West, where all we have to do is go to the grocery store, but it’s not so simple here either. There are food deserts in some neighborhoods, and nutritional availability problems for some groups. But the scale of it in countries with infrastructure problems and unrest is often much greater.

And of course, all this gets worse with climate change. I remember when everyone rallied to help Ethiopia in their famine in the 1980s. Pictures of emaciated children drove lots of support. Not sure that would happen today, even though there is still famine in parts of Ethiopia and elsewhere in Africa.

The other thing that makes me happy about this awardee is that it goes to an organization rather than an individual. I sometimes get the sense with the other prizes, and with this one at times too, that it’s all about the heroic individual effort, the lone genius or the small group of geniuses that overcome all odds and make or do something remarkable. Sure that happens, but remarkable things also happen when people cooperate and work towards a common goal. And food insecurity will never go away, so this is also not an award in recognition of a problem that was fixed (i.e., like a treaty signed and a war ended). This is the recognition of collective action, not based in a corporate or business or even philanthropic environment, that materially improves places in the world, even though it is largely invisible to the Western media.

So, yeah, these folks deserve the recognition and the congratulations. I hope those field workers driving trucks with bags of rice, and the people establishing community networks so that food security can happen locally instead of as an emergency action, and the people flying the planes and doing the budgets and setting up the local liaisons and coordinating with UNHCR and Doctors Without Borders and everyone else, and all the rest of that mundane work, feel good about this today and feel like this is about them. Because it is.

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