David Beasley, head of the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), didn’t get a chance to deliver an acceptance speech when WFP won the Nobel Peace Prize last year. Corona restrictions at the time forced postponement of the entire ceremony, but on Friday he was in Oslo and able to finally deliver his own Nobel Lecture.
The leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, lawyer Berit Reiss-Andersen, reminded a still scaled-down audience at Friday’s prize ceremony that WFP won the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to combat hunger. She noted how hunger causes conflicts, and food distribution can help ward off both war and conflict, before turning over the Nobel podium to Beasley, “who was finally able to come to Oslo.”
He delivered a passionate appeal to feed the world. He spoke first at Friday’s awards ceremony, traditionally held on the December 10, the anniversary of prize benefactor Alfred Nobel’s death. Like this year’s co-winners, he also lashed out at “billionaires” in the world, and big companies, that seem to have “lost their moral compass” and aren’t doing enough to share their wealth with the poorest on the planet.
“We are saving lives and changing lives” at the World Food Programme, Beasley said, yet more than 800 million people “go to bed hungry every night.” He noted that the world has experienced famine for centuries, “but why is it so widespread now?” With so much wealth in the world, he can see no reason why so many people don’t have enough food.
He thinks, however, that “conflicts, climate and Covid” have created “an unprecedented perfect storm.” Ripple effects of Covid alone have priced many of the world’s poorest out of the market, or disrupted food distribution systems.
Most of all, Beasley urged, is the need “to restore our moral compass” and remember the old saying to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” He firmly believes it’s “within our power” to save everyone dying from hunger.
The WFP is making “an emergency appeal for USD 6.6 billion,” a large amount but not, he maintains, when compared to the huge wealth in the hands of few, or to how many millionaires and billionaires actually saw their fortunes grow during the Corona crisis.
“And if you won’t donate more out of the goodness of your hearts,” he said in his direct appeal broadcast internationally, “do it out of national security interests.” Hunger, he said, can only lead to more conflicts and more wars.