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U.N.'s World Food Program wins Nobel Peace Prize

World Food Program leader on Peace Prize
World Food Program leader reacts to winning Nobel Peace Prize 07:31

Oslo, Norway — The United Nations' World Food Program on Friday won the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to combat hunger and food insecurity around the globe.

The announcement was made in Oslo by Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chair of the Nobel Committee.

The committee said the coronavirus pandemic has added to the hunger faced by millions of people around the world and called on governments to ensure that WFP and other aid organizations receive the financial support necessary to feed them.

"With this year's award, the (committee) wishes to turn the eyes of the world to the millions of people who suffer from or face the threat of hunger," said Reiss-Andersen. "The World Food Program plays a key role in multilateral cooperation in making food security an instrument of peace."

"The World Food Program contributes daily to advancing the fraternity of nations mentioned in Alfred Nobel's will," she said.

The Rome-based program was quick to tweet that, "This is a powerful reminder to the world that peace and #ZeroHunger go hand-in-hand."

"I think this is the first time in my life I've been without words," WFP's head David Beasley told The Associated Press from Niger. "I was just so shocked and surprised." In an interview with CBSN Friday, he called it an "honor and a blessing."

Beasley said he found out about the award from a WFP media officer who'd just been informed by the AP.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres congratulated the food agency, calling it "the world's first responder on the frontlines of food insecurity." 

"In a world of plenty, it is unconscionable that hundreds of millions go to bed each night hungry," Guterres said. 

FILE PHOTO: Displaced Congolese civilians walk past a truck carrying food for distribution at Kibati, just outside the eastern Congolese city of Goma
Displaced Congolese civilians walk past a truck carrying food for distribution at Kibati, just outside the eastern Congolese city of Goma, on July 25, 2012. Alissa Everett / REUTERS

The food program provided assistance to almost 100 million people in 88 countries around the world last year.

It was created in 1962 at the request of President Eisenhower as an experiment to provide food aid via the U.N. A few months later, the WFP rushed to assist after an earthquake hit northern Iran, Agence France-Press notes. More than 12,000 people were killed. But the WFP sent survivors 1,500 metric tons of wheat, 270 tons of sugar and 27 tons of tea.

There was no shortage of causes or candidates on this year's list, with 211 individuals and 107 organizations nominated ahead of the Feb. 1 deadline.

However, the Nobel Committee maintains absolute secrecy about whom it favors for arguably the world's most prestigious prize.

The panel's announcement made a point of underscoring that, in the big picture, the U.N. and multilateral cooperation seem to be experiencing "a lack of respect these days." That's being seen as a not-so-subtle critique of the Trump administration, CBS News' Pam Falk points out. 

The prize is likely to be met with widespread approval in the U.S. as well as around the world — the WFP is run by a former Republican Governor of South Carolina, David Beasley, and the U.S. is its biggest contributor. 

Beasley recently recovered from coronavirus.  

The award comes with a 10-milion krona ($1.1 million) cash prize and a gold medal to be handed out at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway, on Dec. 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel's death. This year's ceremony will be scaled down due to the pandemic.

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