In the first week of this month, the Nobel Prizes were announced.
Us, when they make a Nobel Prize category for journalism and we win it 😉
We’ve all heard of the prize, and probably associate it with names like Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein and Malala Yousafzai. But where did it come from and how does it work really?
The Nobel Prize has been awarded to people from around the world for over a hundred years. It began when a Swedish scientist, Alfred Nobel (fun fact: he also invented dynamite), included in his will the money to pay for a prize awarded to those who “have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind”. In other words, a prize given to a small number of people who have made really significant contribution to the world. These recipients were to become "Nobel Laureates".
Prizes were originally awarded in five categories: physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace. In the 1960s, a prize in economic science was added to the list.
The Peace Prize
Let’s hone in on the Nobel Peace Prize for a minute, since that's the one that often attracts the most attention and controversy.
Arguably the most prestigious political prize in the world, winners of the prize are selected by a committee of five people chosen by the Norwegian Parliament, and Laureates are awarded with a cash prize of over a million dollars.
This year, the prize was awarded to Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege. They were recognised for their work in trying to end sexual violence in war, which has unfortunately been a very real problem during the civil wars in Congo and Sudan, as well as in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan.
As you’d expect, there are a number of controversies surrounding the award. Since an individual’s contribution to peace can’t really be measured objectively, some people believe that the general opinion of the public has too much of an influence on the outcome. Other people see a great contradiction in the fact that the most highly-regarded political prize in the world was created by the inventor of dynamite. Still other critics say that the Prize has deep political motivations that don’t truly reward those who deserve it. One nominee, Vietnamese Le Duc Tho, even declined the award, saying that it was nothing but “bourgeois sentimentality”.
Le Duc Tho @ the Nobel Prize
Another question that arises is, what happens if a person who is awarded the prize one year later does something that goes against world peace? For example, the current leader of Myanmar and 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Aung San Suu Kyi. Her failure to do anything about the extreme violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority in her country is causing frustration within the international community.
Despite these problems, the Nobel Peace Prize has given a profile and platform for individuals who represent important social and political causes. The prize has the potential to play an important role in raising global awareness about issues that affect the world.