Last week, I wrote about the awarding of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, the UN World Food Programme (WFP). Most commentators and people I have spoken with, or exchanged emails with, have generally been positive to the recognition of the important United Nations organisation, which helps in food distribution when people face hunger, starvation and nutrition issues, and in long-term food issues. The majority of those who suffer and need help are in and after conflict situations. That is also the case for most other major problems in the world, such as lack of literacy, education and skills training, as well as access to health services, housing, and jobs—which are again caused by the lack of regulation of capitalism, the world’s unfair economic system, and the shortcomings of people and politicians to put systems in place that can offer everyone a good life and security.

Let us notice that it is never a person’s or group’s own fault that they starve, as it is also rarely one’s own fault if he or she falls outside mainstream society, suffering from alcoholism, drug abuse, cigarette smoking and diseases. True, each of us has a responsibility for contributing to our own good health, but to blame someone for the situation is usually wrong as there are many factors behind it.

In our time, it is not only too little and wrong food that causes problems, for no less than poor 800 million people in the world, mostly in developing countries. There is also a more luxury problem, notably that overeating and being overweight; well, to the person suffering from being overweight, it is a real problem, not a luxury problem. It mostly falls outside WFP’s mandate. Nevertheless, it is a problem for a growing number of people, especially in the West. In my home country Norway, about twenty percent of school children are overweight or obese, and in most cases it can be corrected through better nutrition, eating habits and exercise.

I believe that the United Nations and other organisations are important in contributing to peace, including WFP and many others. They should be honoured for the good work they do. But there are other organisations that more visibly and directly contribute to peace, such as the International Campaign to Abolish of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2017. That organisation and others may play an even more important role than the formal UN agencies, whose activities may often be quite rigid and expensive, although doing important work on behalf of its members. In future, I hope that the UN encourages and monitors other organisations, including the private sector, rather than implement work itself, again, because it gets very costly if they do. They should rather give policy and other support to other organisations, not compete with them, and certainly advise recipient countries.

Because the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize is political, it is almost always controversial. This year, WFP is seen as a more ‘neutral’ recipient. In my article last week, I mentioned some key reasons for this, and I have added some aspects in today’s article. Also, it is a fact that most developing countries, including Pakistan, have poor social sector indicators. The health and education scores score low.

We can agree that drawing attention to food and health, and also other social sectors, in general, and in and after conflicts, is essential. Through this year’s prize to WFP, these areas are given focus, and if we look deeper we will see the importance of reducing class and other differences in the world. We know that low differences between classes give more security and peaceful development. However, to measure and weigh to what extent WFP contributes to peace in a broader sense is more difficult. It does contribute to peace when there are ongoing conflicts. But in other fields, other organisations, within and outside the UN, are more important in peace creation. Hence, there should be a debate about that this year.

Referring directly to the statutes of the Nobel Peace Prize, and who it is that should be honoured for outstanding work, is not straightforward. One can argue that there are tens, maybe hundreds of individuals, groups and organizations that would be worthy winners of the prize in any given year. Again, it becomes a political choice whom to recognise with the Nobel Peace Prize, also being politically correct at the time. The prize also encourages continuation of good work, which is certainly essential. We should remember the power of the Nobel Peace Prize since it, without much doubt, remains the world’s most prestigious prize.

According to the will of the Swedish industrialist and inventor of dynamite, Alfred Nobel, who left no children to inherit his huge wealth, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to those who in the preceding year “have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”.

The Nobel Peace Prize was for the first time awarded in 1901 by a committee set up by the Norwegian Parliament, at a time when Norway was in a union with Sweden (until 1905). The four other Nobel prizes, in chemistry, physics, physiology or medicine, and literature, and since 1969, an economics prize to Alfred Nobel’s memory, are awarded by committees established by the Swedish Nobel Foundation and the Swedish Central Bank.

If one wants to be critical, including to this year’s prize, and earlier winners, that is easy. For example, some have criticised that Malala Yousafzai received the prize in 2014, for her extraordinary efforts at a very young age in education for all, especially girls’ education; others have criticised that the Kenyan Professor Wangari Mathaai received the prize in 2004, for her tremendous efforts regarding tree planting and environmental protection. Some have argued that those prizes were more for good work in general, not directly for peace in a limited interpretation of Alfred Nobel’s will. I believe that broader efforts, with structural impact, of unique people and organisations are certainly good enough to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. When former President Barack Obama received the prize in 2000, he represented the Zeitgeist and spirit of a ‘whole world’ for less racial and other inequality. Again, I believe that was good enough. And if we disagree, let us not be petty; we can establish alternative prizes for peace and other things. There is room for many prizes, and it is better to honour good work than to criticise. Yet, as for the Nobel peace Prize, I would still argue that it must be kept in mind that it is meant to be a prize for issues directly related to reduction of wars and conflicts, including lower military expenditure and disarmament, and for promotion of dialogue and cooperation between countries and people. We must always honour good work and have positive attitudes; that is also in line with peace-creation.