The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which presented the award in Oslo on Friday, also described the organization as “a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.”
In awarding the prize, committee chair Berit Reiss-Andersen noted the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on global food supplies and criticized the politics of populism.
The WFP, a United Nations entity, was created in 1961 and today provides food to over 90 million people a year.
The organization tweeted its “deepest thanks” after for the honor, adding: “This is a powerful reminder to the world that peace and #ZeroHunger go hand-in-hand.”
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said the need for international solidarity and multilateral cooperation was more conspicuous than ever. It said it wanted to turn the eyes of the world towards the millions of people who suffer from or face the threat of hunger.
“The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to a strong upsurge in the number of victims of hunger in the world,” said Reiss-Andersen.
“In the face of the pandemic, the World Food Programme has demonstrated an impressive ability to intensify its efforts.
“As the organization itself has stated: until the day we have a vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos,” Reiss-Andersen added.
The combination of conflict and the pandemic has led to a dramatic rise in the number of people living on the brink of starvation in countries including Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and Burkina Faso. The WFP has combined humanitarian work with peace efforts in South America, Africa and Asia.
Reiss-Andersen also made a pointed rebuke of populism as she answered questions from journalists about the award of the prize.
“When you follow international debate and discourse, it’s definitely a tendency that international institutions seem to be discredited more than, let’s say, 20 years ago,” she said.
“It is part of populism that it has nationalistic flavor … everybody, every nation, supporting their own interests.”
“When the UN was founded, it was exactly on a great emphasis on the universalism of the world,” Reiss-Andersen added. “There also is a universal responsibility for the conditions of human mankind.”
“If you ask anybody within the UN system, they will claim that it is harder these days to get the necessary financial support for the different activities of the different agencies,” she said.
The WFP has suffered from a drop in contributions in recent years, as countries including the United States lower funding for global organizations.
In 2017, WFP Executive Director David Beasley wrote: “This is my message to President Trump and his friends and allies. Proposed massive cuts to food assistance would do long-term harm to our national security interests.”
Previous winners of the peace prize include former US Presidents Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter, Malala Yousafzai, Kofi Annan, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. and the European Union.
This breaking story has been updated with additional reporting.