United Nations and the Nobel Peace Prize

The will Alfred Nobel made in 1895 was inspired by belief in the community of man. The Peace Prize was to be awarded to the person who had done most for "fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses".

In 75 years, the United Nations, its specialised agencies, related agencies, funds, programmes and staff were awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize twelve times. One agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) received the famous prize in both 1954 and 1981.

Two Secretaries-General, Kofi Annan and Dag Hammarskjöld, were also honoured for their work by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. After being awarded the prize jointly with the world body, Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2001 told UN staff he hoped that winning the prize "will urge us forward and encourage all of us to tackle our tasks with even greater determination".

"For one hundred years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to strengthen organized cooperation between states. The end of the cold war has at last made it possible for the U.N. to perform more fully the part it was originally intended to play. Today the organization is at the forefront of efforts to achieve peace and security in the world, and of the international mobilization aimed at meeting the world's economic, social and environmental challenges....[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 Norwegian Nobel Institute

Oslo, 12 October, 2001

UN Nobel Laureates

Three women carry a bag of grain

The Nobel Peace Prize 2020 was awarded to United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) "for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict."

 

OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü

The Nobel Peace Prize 2013 was awarded to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons "for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons". OPCW's Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü said the award will only spur the organisation's efforts, commitment and dedication.

 

Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change." 

 

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei

The Nobel Committee selected the IAEA and its Director General Mohamed ElBaradei as the recipients of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way”.

 

Secretary-General Kofi Annan among staff

The United Nations and its Secretary-General Kofi Annan have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world”. 

 

Person holding blue helmet in front of row of people in uniform

The Nobel Committee awarded the prize because “The peacekeeping forces of the United Nations have, under extremely difficult conditions, contributed to reducing tensions where an armistice has been negotiated but a peace treaty has yet to be established”.

 

Men on cargo truck

“The Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees has, in the opinion of the [Nobel] Committee, carried out work of major importance to assist refugees, despite the many political difficulties with which it has had to contend."

 

Men working in the forging shop

The International Labour Organization was awarded the Peace Prize since it has done most to promote fraternity among nations by ensuring social justice, the Nobel Committee said. "Beneath the foundation stone of the ILO's main office in Geneva lies a document on which is written: 'Si vis pacem, cole justitiam. If you desire peace, cultivate justice'."

 

A young Afghan girl writes on chalkboard

Upon giving the prize, the Nobel Committee declared that “everyone has understood the language of UNICEF, and even the most reluctant person is bound to admit that in action UNICEF has proved that compassion knows no national boundaries".

 

Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary-General of the United Nations

"Dag Hammarskjöld was exposed to criticism and violent, unrestrained attacks" explained the Nobel Committee "but he never departed from the path he had chosen from the very first: the path that was to result in the UN's developing into an effective and constructive international organization."

Refugee pulls cart on the street

The UNHCR "shows us that the unfortunate foreigner is one of us; it teaches us to understand that sympathy with other human beings, even if they are separated from us by national frontiers, is the foundation upon which a lasting peace must be built”.

 

U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld (left) and Mr. Ralph Bunche

Ralph Bunche received the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his late 1940s work as a United Nations mediator in the Palestine conflict. He called himself  'an incurable optimist'. Bunche was the first African American and person of color to be so honored in the history of the prize.