Ralph Bunche, United Nations mediator in Palestine during the 1948 conflict between the Arabs and Jews

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. 

Ambassador Nasrollah Entezam (right); elected President of the fifth session of UN General Assembly congratulates Dr. Ralph J. Bunche, principal Director of the UN Department of Trusteeship who was recently awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.

The Nobel Peace Prize for 1950

Ralph Bunche believed in the work of mediation in Palestine. The Nobel Committee referred to one of his lectures, in which Bunche "speaks of the qualities mediators should possess: 'They should be biased against war and for peace. They should have a bias which would lead them to believe in the essential goodness of their fellowman and that no problem of human relations is insoluble. They should be biased against suspicion, intolerance, hate, religious and racial bigotry'."

When the Nobel Committee presented the Nobel Peace Prize to Ralph Bunche, Chairman Gunnar Jahn said: “You have said yourself that you are an incurable optimist. You said that you were convinced that the mediation in Palestine would be successful. You have a long day's work ahead of you. May you succeed in bringing victory to the ideals of peace, the foundation upon which we must build the future of mankind.”

Ralph Bunche: "The objective of any who sincerely believe in peace clearly must be to exhaust every honourable recourse in the effort to save the peace"

Ralph Bunche explained his philosophy in his Nobel Lecture: “There are some in the world who are prematurely resigned to the inevitability of war. Among them are the advocates of ‘preventive war’, who in their resignation to war, wish merely to select their own time initiating it. To suggest that war can prevent war is a base play on words and a despicable form of warmongering. The objective of any who sincerely believe in peace clearly must be to exhaust every honourable recourse in the effort to save the peace.”



Selected shots from the 367th & 381st Meetings of the Security Council on the Palestine Question - Speech by Ralph Bunche and others. Vote on resolution.

16 November 1948





Celeste Holm interviews Ralph Bunche, Nobel laureate and Under Secretary for Special Political Affairs. He speaks with humour and humility about earlier career and educational experiences, race and how he "fell into" teaching, marriage and the United Nations.

01 January 1962


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