The head of the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) has accepted the Nobel Peace Prize at the agency’s headquarters in Rome.
WFP executive director David Beasley received the medal, which had been sent in a diplomatic pouch to Rome. He said the prize acknowledges “our work of using food to combat hunger, to mitigate against destabilisation of nations” and create stability and peace.
Before Mr Beasley received the medal and diploma from a gloved presenter, there were brief words from the head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, from Oslo, Norway.
Berit Reiss-Andersen said: “We are together, despite the distance forced upon us by the pandemic.”
Mr Beasley said the prize is “more than a thank you. It is a call to action”.
He said: “Because of so many wars, climate change, the widespread use of hunger as a political and military weapon, and a global health pandemic that makes all of that exponentially worse – 270 million people are marching toward starvation.”
Of those people, he said, “30 million depend on us 100% for survival”.
Mr Beasley noted the irony that after a century of “massive strides in eliminating extreme poverty” so many are on the brink of starvation.
He said: “I don’t go to bed at night thinking about the children we saved. I go to bed weeping over the children we could not save.
“And when we don’t have enough money, nor the access we need, we have to decide which children eat and which children do not eat, which children live, which children die.”
Mr Beasley added a plea: “Please don’t ask us to choose who lives and who dies,” but, rather, “let’s feed them all.”
This year, 12 Nobel laureates were named across the six categories. All but the Peace Prize had been awarded over the past days at low-key ceremonies across Europe and the United States where the winners live.
A Nobel prize comes with a 10 million krona (£830,000) cash award – to be shared in some cases – diplomas and gold medals.
Traditionally, the Nobel ceremonies are all held on December 10, the anniversary of the death of prize founder Albert Nobel in Stockholm, except for the Peace Prize that is held in Oslo, in neighbouring Norway. Nobel wanted it that way, for reasons that he kept to himself.
Lars Heikensten, executive director of the Nobel Foundation, said: “The pandemic has subjected us all to difficult obstacles. We have been reminded of the importance of cross-border co-operation in resolving humanitarian crises and that, with the help of science, we can find solutions to the challenges we face.”