On December 10 every year – on the day of the death of the Swedish industrial magnate Alfred Nobel (1833–1896) – the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo City Hall. The award is considered one of the world’s most prestigious awards. From 1901 to 2007, a total of 118 prize winners have been chosen – 83 men and 12 women. 23 awards have gone to organizations. The selection of peace prize winners is made by five people appointed by the Storting. According to Alfred Nobel’s will, the Norwegian Nobel Committee will award the prize to the one who has done the most to create brotherhood between the peoples, reduce or abolish standing armies or has managed to hold peace congresses.
- Which main categories can the prize winners be divided into?
- How can we explain the unique position of the Peace Prize?
- Who can nominate candidates for the award?
Until the First World War, many peace prize winners came from the international peace movement . It had emerged in Western Europe and the United States in the latter half of the 19th century and was founded on Christian and humanist values characteristic of the Western middle class. Most of the members of the peace movement were progressive and liberal; a few were socialists. They wanted to organize the peace forces within the International Peace Bureau and the Interparliamentary Union. Both of these organizations organized meetings and congresses with peace issues on the agenda. The most important peace congresses were held in The Hague in 1899 and 1907.
According to gradchem, the main goal of the peace movement was to replace secret diplomacy with binding agreements . At the same time, it believed that free trade and economic integration would create cooperation and harmony between states. Many friends of peace also dreamed of a united Europe after the pattern of the United States. Others worked to strengthen international legal rules, and especially through the Institute of International Law, founded in 1873. The institute received the Peace Prize as the first organization in 1904.
The following year, the award went to one of the foremost figures in the peace movement, the Austrian baroness Bertha von Suttner. She had become world famous through the anti-war novel “Down with the Weapons” and had close contact with Alfred Nobel. There is much to suggest that von Suttner influenced Nobel to create the Peace Prize.
Humanitarian activities have been highly valued by the Nobel Committee. By supporting work that alleviated the horrors of war, it has sought to reduce some of the bitterness and vengeance that can create new wars. The founder of the Red Cross, Henry Dunant, received half of the first Peace Prize in 1901, and later the International Committee of the Red Cross received the award three times.
2: Encourage peace efforts
Time and time again, the Peace Prize has gone to people who can be role models and encourage people to make an effort for vulnerable groups affected by war, distress and hunger; especially refugees and prisoners of war. The League of Nations’ first High Commissioner for Refugees, Fridtjof Nansen, received the award in 1923, and after World War II, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) received the Nobel Peace Prize twice.
Several of the humanitarian peace prize winners were motivated by Christian charity. The Quakers’ British and American aid organizations shared the Peace Prize in 1947, and in 1958 the Belgian Dominican priest Georges Pire was awarded the prize for his efforts among European refugees. The theologian and physician Albert Schweitzer (1952) and the Albanian nun Mor Teresa (1979) were hailed for helping the poor and sick in Africa and India.
But the Nobel Committee has also had faith in other aspects of the Christian brotherhood ideal. In 1930, the Swedish archbishop Nathan Söderblom received the Peace Prize for promoting cooperation between different faiths within Christianity, and in 1946 the American John Mott received the award for having strengthened the connection between young people from different countries within the Christian youth organization YMCA.
3: Disarmament work
It is only in the post-war period that we find the most prize winners who were rewarded for disarmament work . The main reason for this is the nuclear race and the understanding of the destructive effect of nuclear weapons. Philip Noel Baker (1959), Linus Pauling (1962), Alva Myrdal (1982), Alfonso Robles (1982), Doctors Against Nuclear War (1985), Joseph Rotblat and Pugwash (1995) all warned against the nuclear danger . Several of them were also in favor of reaching agreements on nuclear-free zones that could help prevent more and more states from acquiring modern weapons of mass destruction.
The shared goal of the International Peace Bureau (IAEA) and the organization’s secretary general Mohamed ElBaradei shared the same goal in 2005. But the struggle to eradicate “everyday weapons” has also been seen as peace-building. In 1997, the Nobel Peace Prize went to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and campaign leader Jody Williams.
4: International intergovernmental cooperation
The desire to promote organized co-operation between states has been a main motive behind many decisions in the Nobel Committee. This has been particularly evident through all the awards to individuals and organizations that can be linked to the League of Nations and the United Nations (UN). Two Americans who were central to the creation of the two world organizations were prize winners: President Woodrow Wilson (1919) and former Secretary of State Cordell Hull (1945). At the Peace Prize’s centenary in 2001, the award was shared between the UN and the organization’s Secretary General Kofi Annan.
5: Human rights
The German socialist and pacifist Carl von Ossietzky was the first Peace Prize winner to be rewarded for his struggle for freedom of speech , the rule of law and tolerance . Although the 1936 allotment could not save Ossietzky from the Nazi iron grip, it was a bold move aimed at a dictatorship. It was not until 1961 that the Nobel Committee spoke unequivocally in favor of strengthening human rights, and it began to take a serious stand for oppositionists who used non-violent means. Albert Lutuli then won the Peace Prize for leading the fight against the racist apartheid regime in South Africa. Three years later, the black Baptist priest Martin Luther King jr. praised for campaigning for the civil rights of the black population in the United States.
The main man behind the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the Frenchman René Cassin, received the Nobel Committee’s recognition at the declaration’s twentieth anniversary in 1968, and in 1974 it gathered around the Irishman Sean MacBride. He had been instrumental in the drafting of the European Convention on Human Rights and was one of the founders of Amnesty International, the prisoner of conscience organization, which received the 1977 Peace Prize.
Pressure against authoritarian regimes
In several cases, human rights awards have contributed to increasing international pressure on authoritarian regimes . The Soviet-dominated communist regime in Eastern Europe was strongly challenged by the peace prize of the outspoken Russian nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov in 1975. The same thing happened in 1983, when trade union leader Lech Walesa was praised by the Nobel Committee for bringing together Polish workers to fight for economic and democratic reform. Prior to this, the military junta that ruled Argentina in the late 1970s had faced sharp criticism for killing more than 20,000 opposition figures. These abuses were condemned when the Christian non-violent activist Pérez Esquivel won the Peace Prize in 1980.
The leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi, also received help from the 1991 Peace Prize in his unarmed fight against the brutal military rule in his home country. But the struggle became protracted. The corrupt Burmese generals are still in power, Suu Kui is being held captive and her party is banned.