Explained: The Nobel Peace Prize 2020

Context: The Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize 2020 to the United Nation’s (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) for its efforts to combat hunger and for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for preventing the use of hunger being weaponised in war and conflict.


About the Nobel Peace Prize

  • The Nobel Peace Prizes have been awarded since 1901 and was not awarded on 19 occasions including 1914-1916, 1918, 1939-1943 among some other years.
  • This is because the statutes of the Nobel Foundation mention, “If none of the works under consideration is found to be of the importance indicated in the first paragraph, the prize money shall be reserved until the following year. If, even then, the prize cannot be awarded, the amount shall be added to the Foundation’s restricted funds.” Therefore, fewer awards were given during the two World Wars.

Process of nomination and selection

  • The Norwegian Nobel Committee is responsible for selecting the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates.
  • A nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize may be submitted by any persons who are qualified to nominate.
  • According to the statutes of the Nobel Foundation, a nomination is considered valid if it is submitted by a person who falls within one of the following categories:
  1. Members of national assemblies and national governments (cabinet members/ministers) of sovereign states as well as current heads of states
  2. Members of The International Court of Justice in The Hague and The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague Members of l’Institut de Droit International.
  3. Members of the international board of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
  4. University professors, professors emeriti and associate professors of history, social sciences, law, philosophy, theology, and religion; university rectors and university directors (or their equivalents); directors of peace research institutes and foreign policy institutes
  5. Persons who have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
  6. Members of the main board of directors or its equivalent of organizations that have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
  7. Current and former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee
  8. Former advisers to the Norwegian Nobel Committee

Candidacy criteria

  • The candidates eligible for the Nobel Peace Prize are those persons or organizations nominated by qualified individuals, see above.
  • A nomination for yourself will not be taken into consideration.

Selection of Nobel Laureates

  • The Norwegian Nobel Committee is responsible for the selection of eligible candidates and the choice of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates.
  • The Committee is composed of five members appointed by the Storting (Norwegian parliament).
  • The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway, not in Stockholm, Sweden, where the Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and the Economics Prize are awarded.

50 year secrecy rule

  • The Committee does not itself announce the names of nominees, neither to the media nor to the candidates themselves.
  • In so far as certain names crop up in the advance speculations as to who will be awarded any given year’s Prize, this is either sheer guesswork or information put out by the person or persons behind the nomination.
  • Information in the Nobel Committee’s nomination database is not made public until after fifty years.

The Nobel Peace Prize 2019

  • Abiy Ahmed Ali “for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.”

Nobel Prize awarded organizations

  • The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded 28 times to organizations between 1901 and 2020.
  • 25 individual organizations have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, as UNHCR, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has received the Nobel Peace Prize twice, in 1954 and 1981, and the work of Comité international de la Croix Rouge (International Committee of the Red Cross) (ICRC) has been honoured three times, in 1917, 1944 and 1963.
  • The Nobel Peace Prize 2020: World Food Programme (WFP)
  • The Nobel Peace Prize 2017: International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)
  • “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”
  • The Nobel Peace Prize 2015: National Dialogue Quartet
  • “for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011”
  • The Nobel Peace Prize 2013: Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
  • The Nobel Peace Prize 2012: European Union (EU)
  • “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”
  • The Nobel Peace Prize 2007: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
  • The Nobel Peace Prize 2006: Grameen Bank
  • “for their efforts to create economic and social development from below”
  • The Nobel Peace Prize 2005: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
  • The Nobel Peace Prize 2001: United Nations (U.N.)
  • “for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world”

Do you know?

  • So far, the youngest laureate is Malala Yousafzai, who was 17 years old when she won in 2014 and the oldest recipient was Joseph Rotblat who was given the award at the age of 87 in 1995.

Mother Teresa 

  • The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Mother Teresa in 1979.
  • Having become an Indian citizen, Mother Teresa served the cause of dying destitutes, lepers and drug addicts, through Nirmal Hriday (meaning Pure Heart), the main centre of her activity.
  • Her selfless service and unique devotion, not only to helpless fellow-Indians but also to the cause of world peace, earned her and India the first Nobel Peace Prize.

Kailash Satyarthi

  • He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for his struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.         

Mahatma Gandhi and Nobel Prize

  • Despite being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize on five occasions – 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 and a few days before he was assassinated in 1948 – Mahatma Gandhi was never awarded the prize.

So, what is the UN WFP and why did it win the prize?

  • The WFP, headquartered in Rome, was established in 1961 at the behest of the US president Dwight Eisenhower, and is the world’s largest humanitarian organisation (certified as the largest by the Guinness World Records in 2002) committed towards its global goal of ending hunger by the year 2030.
  • The World Food Programme (WFP) is the leading humanitarian organization saving lives and changing lives, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience.
  • WFP’s efforts focus on emergency assistancerelief and rehabilitationdevelopment aid and special operations
  • In 2015, eradication of world hunger became one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and WFP is the UN’s primary instrument in achieving that goal.
  • Other UN agencies that work towards providing food security include the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
  • Other UN SDGs include ending poverty, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, providing quality education and affordable and clean energy among others.
  • WFP runs entirely on public donations and was able to raise over $8 billion last year. Its donors include governments, corporations and individuals.

How does WFP help people?

  • WFP provides food assistance in two ways, either by way of providing food or by meeting people’s food-needs by providing cash-based transfers.

How does WFP measure hunger?

  • The organisation estimates hunger by the prevalence of undernourishment.
  • The UN defines undernourished or food-deprived people as those individuals whose food intake falls below the minimum level of dietary energy requirements.
  • These dietary energy requirements are set by sex and age groups in consultation between the FAO, UN and WHO.

Does WFP work in India?

  • WFP has been working in India since 1963, two years after its establishment, with work transitioning from food distribution to technical assistance since the country achieved self-sufficiency in cereal production.
  • With the Government now providing its own food distribution systems, WFP work focuses on supporting the strengthening of these systems to ensure they become more efficient and reach the people who need the most.
  • One-fourth of the world’s undernourished population is in India and about 21 percent of the population live on less than $1.90 a day.
  • At the moment, WFP is working to improve the government’s targeted public distribution system (TPDS) to ensure that food reaches those that need it the most.
  • The WFP has proposed some unique initiatives like Automatic Grain Dispensing Machine (Annapurti) — ATMs for rice— that are aimed at checking malpractices in the distribution system, and Mobile Storage Units, a “cost-effective solution for foodgrain storage”, for the effective implementation of TPDS.
  • Annapurna allows beneficiaries to withdraw their foodgrain quota accurately and at a time of their choice.
  • It can dispense two commodities at a speed of 25 kg per 1.3 minutes.
  • It has a storage capacity of 200 kg to 500 kg.
  • It is also working with the government to improve the nutritional value of the Midday Meal programme and is using its own software called the Vulnerability and Analysis Mapping to identify the most food insecure groups in the country.
  • Recently, WFP has partnered with the government of Uttar Pradesh to set up over 200 supplementary nutrition production units to support distribution under the government’s Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme that provides nutrition services to children below the age of six.
  • Recently, the United Nations World Food Programme India and IIT-Delhi announced that they will collaborate to combine forces to develop solutions for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of the government’s food safety nets through operations research.

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