Our Nobel Peace Prize win is an honor and a tragedy

Being selected to receive the Nobel Peace Prize is an honor and a humbling recognition of the critical work the World Food Program (WFP) is doing. But it is also impossible to celebrate. 

My colleagues and I are well aware that we are receiving this award only because hundreds of millions of people are at the brink of starvation, and we are striving to keep them alive. This will not change until we commit to finding political solutions to conflicts so people can rebuild their lives and livelihoods. 

While our world has been focused on the health aspects of COVID-19, hunger is the silent killer ravaging communities in the farthest corners of the globe. We don’t see these victims on the nightly news. We don’t keep a real-time tally of the lives lost. But this doesn’t make these mothers and fathers and children any less important, and it doesn’t minimize the grief of their families.

Despite our resolve to achieve zero hunger by 2030, the sad truth is that hunger has been rising over the past several years, and there is no end in sight. COVID-19 has only exacerbated an already bad situation. This Nobel Prize is a call to action at a critical time. COVID-19 is threatening to create a hunger crisis of biblical proportions—worse than anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes—unless we do something about it. This is not hyperbole; this is the blunt reality.

The impact of the coronavirus on world hunger is twofold. First, the virus is disrupting economies and supply chains, preventing access to food and limiting people’s ability to work. It is increasing conflict and violence, forcing many to abandon their land, homes, and jobs.

Second, COVID-19 is demanding government resources that might otherwise have gone toward fighting long-term global challenges related to nutrition, health, and education. Without immediate intervention, the number of chronically hungry people will continue to rise. COVID-19 is poised to set back the progress we have made against hunger by 15 years, according to WFP calculations.

The roughly $1 million that comes with the Nobel Prize will feed about 1.6 million people for a day. That’s far from enough. Despite the generosity of our current and past donors, we are well short of the resources we need to feed the growing number of people who need us. 

It is time for the private sector to join the fight. We need to raise $5.1 billion more now to feed the people affected by the ripple effects of the coronavirus crisis for the next six months. I’m asking the wealthiest individuals and corporations among us to answer the moral call to promote global peace and prosperity by putting their resources into the fight against hunger.

This is not someone else’s responsibility just because the worst of it is occurring on someone else’s soil. It is our collective responsibility. 

This is a pivotal moment in history, and it will either be one of our worst, or it will be one of our greatest. Despite the racial, political, religious, economic, and cultural divisions facing the U.S., we have an opportunity to come together in pursuit of an extraordinary goal. Food has long been one of the greatest peacebuilders in history. Maybe the peace and reconciliation we have been seeking starts with this. 

In December, I will accept this award in recognition of the staff—at the World Food Program and related NGOs—who put their lives on the line every day to bring food and assistance to hundreds of millions of hungry children, women, and men across the world. This is not an easy task. They serve in the most dangerous and desperate regions of the world and count on the integrity of their mission to keep them safe. Some of them have not made it back. 

We’re humbled by this incredible recognition, but we are cognizant of the enormous challenges that lie ahead. The job is far from over—but this, right now, can also be our finest hour. 

David Beasley is the executive director of the World Food Program.

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Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson Win Nobel Prize In Economics

Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson Win Nobel Prize In Economics

They won for their work on Auction theory

Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson Courtessy Stanford University

This year’s Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences has been awarded to Stanford University economists Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson. They won the award for their work in auction market design, pricing, negotiations and other topics concerning industrial organization and information economics.

The duo’s work changed the modern telecommunications industry. The auction format which they developed, along with American economist Preston McAfee, was used by the Federal Communications Commission for the 1994 radio spectrum auctions.

These auctions were for the frequencies ultimately used by mobile phone providers throughout the United States.

Paul Milgram said, “There are times that I have ideas and people think, ‘That’s too novel, that’s crazy, we’re not going to try that,’ ” said Milgrom, who holds the Shirley R. and Leonard W. Ely, Jr. Professorship in the School of Humanities and Sciences. “But I think that one of the effects of a prize like this is that people will pause before rejecting. They’ll take things more seriously, and that will help me make novel things happen.”

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said of the two, “They have also used their insights to design new auction formats for goods and services that are difficult to sell in a traditional way, such as radio frequencies. Their discoveries have benefited sellers, buyers and taxpayers around the world.”

Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said, “Bob Wilson and Paul Milgrom’s path-breaking discoveries in auction theory opened up new possibilities in real-world transactions.

“Their insights into bidding and pricing have become integral to our modern economy. Their work is a shining example of the ways in which both fundamental discovery and its application to practical solutions make enormous contributions to modern society. All of us at Stanford are tremendously proud of their accomplishments.”

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This year’s Nobel Prize in economics celebrates an idea that has failed India

By Mihir Sharma

Economists like to think of themselves as mathematicians — or, if feeling momentarily humbler, as physicists. This year’s winners of the Nobel Prize in economics, however, seem to conceive of themselves more as engineers. Like Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley, who won the prize in 2012, Paul Milgrom and Robert B. Wilson are specialists in “market design,” a field which, as Roth wrote in a famous paper, calls for “an engineering approach.”

Roth argued that market designers should take bridge-builders as their exemplars: “Engineering is often less elegant than the simple underlying physics, but it allows bridges designed on the same basic model to be built longer and stronger over time, as the complexities and how to deal with them become better understood.”

The bridge that Milgrom and Wilson built was the 1994 auction of telecommunications spectrum by the Federal Communications Commission, later called “the greatest auction in history.” In its 50th anniversary volume, the National Science Foundation used the $7 billion in revenue the auction generated as a justification for its years of support of game theorists. Since then, auctions have become the gold standard for the distribution of all sorts of natural resources, from exploration permits to mining leases to railway franchises. It is almost taken for granted that, if properly designed, auctions will find the ideal balance between efficiency and revenue generation.

But, it turns out, economists don’t actually work like engineers. The example set by the FCC auction has in many ways turned out to be very unhelpful, particularly in emerging markets.

There are lots of reasons for this. One is built into the notion of auction design itself. In much of the early academic literature on auctions, economists tried to maximize the sum of state revenue and consumer surplus. But setting goals is the task of regulators and politicians, not economists.

Policy makers may have multiple other considerations, complicating market design considerably. South Africa had three failed auctions between 2010 and 2017, for instance, because regulators sought to design them to further the government’s broader economic inclusion agenda. To general amusement, the government announced last month that it was trying again.

It’s even worse when countries try to maximize just one variable, because for bureaucrats and politicians that variable is usually government revenue. Economists generally don’t object because revenue is easier to measure than consumer utility, making their job simpler. In India, for example, the government has grown addicted to using telecom spectrum revenue to help finance its deficits.

But the more a company pays for spectrum, the lower its profits and the less it has left to invest in new infrastructure. In India, high fees have led to high levels of debt. Constant demands from the government for cash have caused telecom providers to look for the exit. And spectrum scarcity leads to low quality service: In 2019, India had 50 times as many subscribers per MHz of spectrum as did Germany.

Indians at least should have known this would happen. The country’s telecom revolution — which drove its years of high growth in the 2000s — only took off after the government moved away from auctions and started assigning spectrum to licensees in return for a share of their revenue.

Worse, for those who imagine that auctions designed to maximize government revenue would at least maximize government revenue: The new system brought in twice as much in fees as the auction bids would have.

And suppose that, in order to ensure government revenue was robust, auctions set their reserve price too high, as has happened in Ghana and Bangladesh? Would consumers be served well by a poor-quality oligopoly or even a monopoly? Would that benefit the broader economy? Can Milgrom, Wilson or their successors design an auction model that takes into account the effect on overall economic growth of vibrant and cutting-edge telecom infrastructure? Maybe they can. All I can say for certain is nobody has.

That doesn’t mean they should not try. This is a well-deserved Nobel prize not because the bridge these economists built can be erected over any kind of river, but because it got built in the first place. The true miracle was the transparent, inclusive, academically informed process that led to its design. It ensured that the specific complexities of that market at that time were clearly reflected in the eventual auction design.

Market designers can’t give up because they haven’t been able to replicate that Nobel-worthy success. They need to work harder and think bigger.

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Stanford duo awarded Nobel Prize in economics

People walk by Hoover Tower on the Stanford University campus on March 12, 2019, in Stanford, California.

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Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson, professors at Stanford University, were awarded on Monday the Nobel Prize in Economics for their work on auction theory.

  • “Over time, societies have allocated ever more complex objects among users, such as landing slots and radio frequencies. In response, Milgrom and Wilson invented new formats for auctioning off many interrelated objects simultaneously, on behalf of a seller motivated by broad societal benefit rather than maximal revenue,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in its release.

  • “Their discoveries have benefited sellers, buyers and taxpayers around the world,” the Academy noted.

  • The laureates’ findings allowed them to design auction formats for goods and services hard to sell in a traditional way, such as radio frequencies.

A screen shows pictures of U.S. economists Paul Milgrom (L) and Robert Wilson during the announcement of the winners of the “2020 Nobel Prize Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel” in Stockholm on October 12, 2020.

anders wiklund/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

U.S. universities confirm their dominance in the economics field with 57 of the 91 Nobel laureates since the prize was founded in 1969. The U.K. comes second with nine winners.

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2020 Nobel Peace Prize: World Food Program Wins

The World Food Program, a United Nations agency that battles hunger and food insecurity around the world, has won the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize.

The WFP, which feeds more than 90 million people a year, earned the highly coveted award “for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict,” the Nobel Committee’s chair, Berit Reiss-Andersen, said Friday.

“The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to a strong upsurge in the number of victims of hunger in the world,” she said.

“In the face of the pandemic, the World Food Program has demonstrated an impressive ability to intensify its efforts.”

Reiss-Andersen cited the WFP’s work during the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused millions around the world to go hungry. “As the organization itself has stated: Until the day we have a vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos,” Reiss-Andersen said.

The WFP, which is funded entirely by voluntary donations, will receive a cash prize of $1.1 million. “This is a powerful reminder to the world that peace and #ZeroHunger go hand-in-hand,” the WFP said in a statement Friday morning thanking the committee for the award.

One of the world’s most famous — and at times controversial — awards, the Nobel Peace Prize has been handed out more than 100 times, going back to 1901. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won last year for helping to “achieve peace and international cooperation” with neighbor Eritrea. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who won in 2016, has said that the accolade had helped him achieve the “impossible dream” of ending his country’s decadeslong civil war.

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Head of World Food Programme Left ‘Speechless’ and ‘Humbled’ by Nobel Peace Prize

David Beasley, the executive director of the World Food Programme, said he was “deeply humbled” on October 9 to learn the organization had won the Nobel Peace Prize. “This is the first time in my life I’ve been speechless,” he said in a video posted on Twitter. “This is unbelievable.” Beasley added on Twitter that the prize was an “incredible recognition of the dedication of the @WFP family, working to end hunger every day in 80+ countries.” The Norwegian Nobel Committee said it had decided to award the WFP the prize for “its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.” Credit: David Beasley via Storyful

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U.N. World Food Programme wins the Nobel Peace Prize 2020, beating Donald Trump

After a tumultuous week of coronavirus diagnoses and Twitter outbursts, Donald Trump has once again missed out on the Nobel Peace Prize.

The prestigious accolade arrived in a year dominated by a global pandemic, conflict and uncertainty, with the World Health Organisation (WHO), teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern among the favourites to take out the award.

RELATED: Intervention called for ‘unstable’ President

The US President was nominated for the third time since entering office, over the “historic” deal his administration brokered between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

“For his merit, I think he has done more trying to create peace between nations than most other Peace Prize nominees,” Norwegian politician Christian Tybring-Gjedde, who nominated Mr Trump, told Fox News.

“The committee should look at the facts and judge him on the facts, not the way he behaves sometimes. The people who have received the Peace Prize in recent years have done much less than Donald Trump.”

Alas, it wasn’t mean to be.

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) “for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict”.

The WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian organisation addressing hunger and promoting food security – last year providing assistance to almost 100 million people across 88 countries, who are victims of acute food insecurity and hunger.

Chair of the Norwegian Nobel committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, noted the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on global food supplies during the winner’s announcement.

“The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to a strong upsurge in the number of victims of hunger in the world,” she said.

“In the face of the pandemic, the World Food Programme has demonstrated an impressive ability to intensify its efforts.

“As the organisation itself has stated: until the day we have a vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos.”

In a post on Twitter, the WFP said it was “deeply humbled” to receive the accolade.

“This is in recognition of the work of WFP staff who put their lives on the line every day to bring food and assistance to more than 100 million hungry children, women and men across the world,” they wrote.

Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Dan Smith, said the Nobel Committee wanted to send a message of both hope and “support for international co-operation”.

“Hunger, like climate change, the pandemic and other issues, is a world problem that can only be properly addressed through co-operation. The World Food Programme is an institute of global co-operation,” he said.

“Unfortunately, in too many quarters, especially among the great powers, there is a declining appetite for co-operation.”

RELATED: ‘All over the place’: Trump’s 55-minute rant

media_cameraDonald Trump “hasn’t done anything that is deserving” of the Nobel Peace Prize. Picture: Mandel Ngan/AFP

As always, the contenders for the award are not revealed by the Committee – with 318 candidates this year, of which 211 were individuals and 107 were organisations.

So while Mr Trump was nominated, it doesn’t necessarily mean he was made a candidate.

“Trump is more likely to get the Nobel prize in literature for his tweets than to get the Nobel Peace Prize,” director of the Peace Research Institute of Oslo, Henrik Urdal, said earlier this week.

“And that’s not because he is Donald Trump, that’s because he hasn’t done anything that is deserving of the prize.”

RELATED: Shock bid to remove Trump from office

It’s been a rollercoaster week for the President, who just last Friday announced that he – along with wife Melania and a slate of other White House staff – had tested positive to coronavirus, having likely contracted it from one of his closest advisers, Hope Hicks.

In the days following his diagnosis, Mr Trump went on to suggest that he might be “immune” to COVID-19 and urged people not to let the disease – which has killed some 215,000 Americans – “dominate you”.

“Don’t let it take over your lives. Don’t let that happen. We have the greatest country in the world. We’re going back, we’re going back to work. We’re going to be out front,” he said.

“As your leader, I had to do that. I knew there’s danger to it, but I had to do it. I stood out front, I led. Nobody that’s a leader would not do what I did. And I know there’s a risk, there’s a danger, but that’s OK.”

After a bizarre overnight Twitter spree on Tuesday, Mr Trump gave his first public interview since he tested positive to the virus today, with Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo.

It was a rambling, 55-minute affair that involved – but wasn’t limited to – mentions of “mentally (in) capable” Joe Biden, his “Obamagate” conspiracy theory and Kamala Harris being a “communist”.

Originally published as Donald Trump loses Nobel Peace Prize

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2020 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to United Nations World Food Program

The United Nations’ World Food Program has 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 Nobel Committee said that 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 organisations receive the financial support necessary to feed them.

The UN World Food Program’s logo at the agency’s headquarters in New York. (AP)

“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.

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

David Beasley, the executive director of the World Food Programme. (AP)

However, the Norwegian Nobel Committee maintains absolute secrecy about whom it favours for arguably the world’s most prestigious prize.

The award comes with a 10-million krona ($1.57 million) cash prize and a gold medal to be handed out at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway, on December 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s death. This year’s ceremony will be scaled down due to the pandemic.

On Monday, the Nobel Committee awarded the prize for physiology and medicine for discovering the liver-ravaging hepatitis C virus.

A national library employee shows a gold Nobel Prize medal. (AP)

Still to come next week is the prize for outstanding work in the field of economics.

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Nobel Prize in Literature won by American poet Louise Gluck

The Nobel Prize in Literature has been won by American poet Louise Gluck “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal”.

The prize was announced in Stockholm on Thursday by Mats Malm, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy.

New York-born Gluck, 77, who is a professor of English at Yale University, made her debut in 1968 with Firstborn, and “was soon acclaimed as one of the most prominent poets in American contemporary literature,” the Nobel Academy said.

Anders Olsson, chairman of the Nobel literature committee, said Gluck’s 12 collections of poetry often focused on childhood and family life, and close relationships with parents and siblings and were “characterised by striving for clarity”.

The collections include Descending Figure, The Triumph of Achilles and Ararat.

Mr Olsson said her verses, which often draw on classical influences, were marked by an “austere but also playful intelligence and a refined sense of composition”.

He said her voice was “candid and uncompromising” and often marked by biting wit.

The Academy noted her 2006 collection Averno, calling it “masterly” and “a visionary interpretation of the myth of Persephone’s descent into hell in the captivity of Hades, the god of death”.

Gluck is the recipient of many awards, including Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal in Poetry and the National Humanities Medal.

Award follows scandals, mass resignation of members

The winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature takes home a gold medal and $1.5 million.(AP: Fernando Vergara/File)

The 2020 award comes after several years of controversy and scandal for the world’s top literary accolade.

In 2018, the award was postponed after sex abuse allegations rocked the Swedish Academy, the secretive body that chooses the winners of the literature prize, and sparked a mass exodus of members.

After the academy revamped itself in a bid to regain the trust of the Nobel Foundation, two laureates were named last year, with the 2018 prize going to Poland’s Olga Tokarczuk and the 2019 award to Austria’s Peter Handke.

But Handke’s prize caused a storm of protest.

As a strong supporter of the Serbs during the Bosnian War of the 1990s, Handke has been called an apologist for Serbian war crimes.

Several countries including Albania, Bosnia and Turkey boycotted the Nobel awards ceremony in protest, and a member of the committee that nominates candidates for the literature prize resigned.

On Monday, the Nobel Committee awarded the prize for physiology and medicine for the discovery of the liver-ravaging hepatitis C virus.

Tuesday’s prize for physics honoured breakthroughs in understanding the mysteries of cosmic black holes, and the chemistry prize on Wednesday went to scientists behind a powerful gene-editing tool.

Still to come are prizes for outstanding work in the fields of peace and economics.

The 10 million Swedish crown ($1.5 million) prize is named after dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel and has been awarded since 1901 for achievements in science, literature and peace in accordance with his will.


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Louise Glück Is Awarded Nobel Prize in Literature

The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Louise Glück, the American poet, “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.”

The award was announced on Thursday at a news conference in Stockholm.

Glück is the first female poet to win the prize since Wislawa Szymborska, a Polish writer, in 1996. Other poets to have received the award include Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet, who won in 1995. She is the first American to win since Bob Dylan in 2016.

Her 12 collections include “The Wild Iris” for which she won a Pulitzer Prize in 1993, and “Faithful and Virtuous Night” from 2014. She was named the United States’ poet laureate in 2003.

Last year, the academy was criticized after it awarded the prize to Peter Handke, an Austrian author and playwright who has been accused of genocide denial for questioning events during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s — including the Srebrenica massacre, in which about 8,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered.

That furor came a year after the academy postponed the 2018 prize because of a scandal involving the husband of an academy member who was accused of sexual misconduct and of leaking information to bookmakers. That man, Jean-Claude Arnault, was later sentenced to two years in prison for rape.

Those events marked a low point for the prize, which dates to 1901 and has been awarded to some of the world’s most influential and revered novelists, poets and playwrights. Prominent past laureates include Toni Morrison, Kazuo Ishiguro, Alice Munro, Gabriel García Márquez, Saul Bellow and Albert Camus. In 1964, the academy chose Jean-Paul Sartre, who refused the honor, saying that writers should not accept awards.

Given the recent controversies, many observers expected this year’s award to go to an uncontroversial choice. “The Swedish Academy knows they can’t afford another scandal,” Bjorn Wiman, the culture editor of the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, said in a telephone interview before the announcement.

But an adviser to the prize-giving committee denied this in an email on Wednesday. “We haven’t focused on making a ‘safe’ pick or discussed the choice in such terms,” said Rebecka Karde, a journalist and one of three external experts who helped choose this year’s winner. “It’s all about the quality of the output of the writer who gets it.”

The Nobel Prize in Literature, which is given for a writer’s entire body of work and is regarded as perhaps the most prestigious literary award in the world, comes with a prize of 10 million Swedish krona, or about $1.1 million.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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