Unit 12

 What are the UN's Nobel Peace Prizes?

In the year 2001, a momentous event occurred, a great international recognition of the United Nations' efforts to work for a more peaceful world; the United Nations Secretary-General and the United Nations Organization, itself, were joint recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize -- on the hundredth anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize, itself.

            A century before, in the year 1901, the altruist, Alfred Nobel  left funds in his will to award five prizes each year to those whose work, in his words, "conferred the greatest benefit on mankind". Alfred Nobel specified that one of the five prizes be given to the person who has "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" -- thus, he created the Nobel Peace Prize.

             In awarding the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize to the United Nations, the Nobel Prize Committee issued the following statement: "The U.N. has in its history achieved many successes, and suffered many setbacks. Through this first Peace Prize to the U.N. as such, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes in its centenary year to proclaim that the only negotiable route to global peace and cooperation goes by way of the United Nations."  The Nobel Committee wished to honour, encourage, and empower the work of the United Nations by giving the Organization the Nobel Peace Prize on the hundredth anniversary of the institution of the Nobel Prize, itself.  As the Peace Prize honours the Organization, it also honours its seventh Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, who has devoted nearly his entire adult working life to the service of  the United Nations and its agencies, beginning with the World Health Organization in Geneva in 1962, and subsequently, with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees.  

              Mr. Annan is the only Secretary-General who has risen through the ranks of the United Nations Organization and held senior posts in its diverse departments, such as Human Resources, Budget and Finance, and Peacekeeping, where he served as Under Secretary-General. Such experience has made this UN Secretary-General uniquely suited to understanding the Organization's potential and possibilities. He is also credited with bringing "new life" to the UN, particularly regarding  efforts in the areas of promoting human rights, fighting HIV-AIDS, and international terrorism. Mr. Annan is the second Secretary-General to receive the Nobel peace Prize; the first to receive it was Dag Hammarskjold, the second UN Secretary-General in 1961.  The year 2001 Prize is not the only time those working within the United Nations community were awarded prizes by the Nobel Prize Committee.  Seven previous Nobel Peace Prizes were given to officials or agencies of the UN. In 1988, the Peace Prize went to U.N. peacekeeping forces, for "reducing tensions" and making "a decisive contribution toward the initiation of actual peace negotiations."  In 1981, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees won the Nobel peace Prize for its work resettling refugees (UNHCR had also been awarded the Nobel Prize in 1954). In 1979, Abdus Salam of the International Atomic Energy Commission won the Nobel prize for physics; in 1969, the International Labour Organization won the Nobel Prize;  in 1965, the Peace Prize was awarded to Unicef for its efforts in promoting the quality of life of the world's children; in 1950, the Peace Prize went to Ralph Bunche, who was then the chief assistant to the United Nations' special envoy in Palestine. Bunche later successfully mediated an armistice agreement signed by the Arab states and Israel; in 1945, the Peace Prize was awarded to John Boyd Orr for his work as Director-General of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

            In their very diverse ways, all seven of the UN Nobel Prizewinners have fulfilled Alfred Nobel's wish to do "the most or the best work for fraternity between nations."