What do Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela have in common? They are all Nobel Peace Prize laureates. These three luminaries are among the 130 recipients of the prize since its institution in 1901.
Most recently, the Norwegian Nobel Committee (NNC) presented the award to Juan Manuel Santos, the president of Colombia. Here is a brief overview of his efforts as well as those of his fellow laureates from the previous decade.
Juan Manuel Santos – 2016
In his role as president, Juan Manuel Santos has guided positive discourse toward resolving the ongoing civil war in Colombia. He held a peace accord referendum that gauged the nation’s sentiment on a proposed solution. The peace process continues in Colombia, but the efforts of President Santos have generated optimistic momentum.
Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet – 2015
The National Dialogue Quartet (NDQ), formed in 2013, has assisted with implementing the constitutional process and protecting the newfound democracy in Tunisia. In addition, NDQ helped the population of Tunisia discuss compromises between religious and secular movements. The NNC hopes the award will help sustain the current political trajectory.
Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai – 2014
On occasion, the NNC will award the Nobel Peace Prize to multiple recipients. Kailash Satyarthi organized multiple peaceful protests against child labor exploitation (which has reduced since 2000 but remains a major issue), while Malala Yousafzai has spoken out for improved educational opportunities for children around the world.
Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) – 2013
Disarmament was one of the key focuses of Alfred Nobel, for whom the Nobel Prize is named. OPCW has made great strides in this area by striving to implement and uphold the prohibition of chemical weapons across the globe. The group enlists compliant nations and states and aims to persuade those who still develop and possess such weapons.
European Union – 2012
The European Union received the Nobel Peace Prize for its longstanding tradition of supporting peace, human rights, and democracy, among other principles. Entry into the EU was conditional upon the institution of democracy, and the growth of the union has represented fraternity from nation to nation. This reach may extend beyond Europe in the coming years, with such countries as Turkey in consideration of joining.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkol Karman – 2011
The NNC selected Sirleaf, Gbowee, and Karman for their peaceful approach to securing greater safety and rights for women. Sirleaf, the first female president of Liberia elected democratically, and Gbowee, a former social worker, have led multiple peace efforts in Liberia, while journalist Karman has endeavored for democracy in Yemen. Each of these recipients has faced significant odds as they have pursued equal opportunity and protection for women.
Liu Xiaobo – 2010
A human rights activist in China, Liu Xiaobo is one of three laureates to receive the Nobel Peace Prize while under arrest. He has participated in various protests and the writing of a manifesto, all of which called for the establishment of basic and universal human rights. In 2009, he was given an 11-year prison sentence for “inciting subversion of state power.”
Barack H. Obama – 2009
The 44th president of the United States, Barack H. Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in strengthening relationships among nations, with a particular focus on eliminating nuclear weapons. In addition, he has encouraged countries around the world to live up to their responsibilities to positively influence the global climate.
Martti Ahtisaari – 2008
Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland and the founder of the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI), won the Nobel Peace Prize for his dedication to resolving conflict, both at the national and international levels. As a mediator, he has influenced positive change in Namibia, Indonesia, Russia, and several other countries. In choosing Ahtisaari as a recipient, the NNC intended to bring his achievements to light to help inspire similar efforts from more people.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) and Albert (Al) Arnold Gore, Jr. – 2007
The IPPC and Al Gore have endeavored to educate the world’s public about the issue of climate change through scientific papers, books, films, and lectures. Their efforts have inspired many others to continue to study the issue and its potential implications, as well as to formulate plans of action for the future.
Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank – 2006
In collaboration, Grameen Bank and its founder, Muhammad Yunus, have developed new ways to assist individuals living in poverty in Bangladesh. Micro-credit and other options are now in practice in other countries, following the model set by Yunus and the bank. These systems allow people to improve their standard of living by opening up opportunities previously denied to them.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Mohamed ElBaradei – 2005
Another proponent for reducing the world’s armament, the IAEA and its former general director Mohamed ElBaradei were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of its efforts in ensuring that nuclear energy be used only for non-military purposes. ElBaradei lead efforts to monitor the safety of nuclear energy and to prevent these resources from landing in the wrong hands.