The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize
As sure as autumn brings cool weather and colourful leaves, so it brings the announcement of one of the most prestigious prizes in the world: the Nobel Peace Prize. This year, the prize has been divided between three African women: the Yemeni journalist, Tawakkol Karman, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and the Liberian peace activist, Leymah Gbowee.
Alfred Bernhard Nobel – a Man with a Vision
Besides being a renowned inventor, a shrewd businessman and a great lover of literature, Alfred Bernhard Nobel was also very much interested in the social issues of his times. When he died, in 1896, his will stated that the bulk of his vast wealth should be used to establish an annual prize to be awarded to people who had done something in the course of the year that would benefit mankind. The prizes were to be awarded within the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace, thereby encompassing all of his passions.
Alfred Nobel was drawn to the peace movement, and eventually became convinced that it was both possible – and necessary - to solve conflicts peacefully. According to his will, the peace prize was to be awarded to someone "who shall 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." ( )
A Recognition of the Struggle for Women’s Human Rights
Unfortunately, many countries in the world still suppress the rights of their women in various ways and to different degrees. Many women in these countries work actively towards achieving human rights for all women, bravely defying threats of violence – and even of death. This year’s Nobel Peace Prize went to three of these women: Tawakkol Karman, a journalist from Yemen, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Liberian peace activist, Leymah Gbowee. They received this coveted award for their “non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” )
The Nobel Peace Prize represents a recognition of both the laureates themselves and of their cause: women’s human rights. On hearing that she had won the prize, Tarwakkol Karman said to Al Jazeera, “I dedicate the prize to the Yemeni revolution and to all Arab revolutions.” Perhaps the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize will be an encouragement to people all over the world to participate in the struggle for global human rights.
- Why might it be considered a paradox that Alfred Nobel became a pacifist?
- The original intention of the Nobel Peace Prize was to award someone who had “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." Explain how, in recent years, the Nobel Committee has expanded their concept of what constitutes peace work.
- Discuss whether the awarding of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize is in accordance with the intention of the prize.
- How have each of this year’s recipients worked for peace?
- Some people believe that the Nobel Peace Prize should only be awarded to someone who has actually achieved peace through their work. What are your thoughts about awarding it to someone who is still working towards the goal of peace, but who has not actually achieved it yet?
- In the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize winners, Thorbjørn Jagland said, “We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society.” Discuss what he meant by this.