How Nobel Peace Prize Winners Are Nominated and Chosen

Nobel Prize Awards Ceremony 2014, Stockholm
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Since 1901, over 100 people have been honored with the Nobel Peace Prize, an honor awarded to people who have "done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." Alfred Nobel funded the prize and determined who be eligible to win in his will.

The ​​Nobel Peace Prize gives attention, encouragement, and much-needed funding to people and organizations who work toward making Earth more peaceful. The money helps those people expand their work and have greater success. Although there are dozens of other peace prizes awarded throughout the world, the Nobel prize is among the most famous.

The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize receives a medal, the title of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, a personal diploma, and 10 million Swedish crowns (which works out to around $1 million US dollars, depending on the exchange rate).

Popular Nobel Peace Prize winners include such worthies as Henri Dunant (the founder of the Red Cross), Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Malala Yousafzai.

But who gets to decide which people have made the greatest steps toward peace in any given year?

Who Chooses the Nobel Peace Prize Winners?

The Nobel Peace Prize winner is chosen by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which consists of five members appointed by the Norwegian parliament.

These members are fiercely independent. For example, since 1936, Norwegian government officials have been prohibited from sitting on the committee to avoid any hint that the committee's choice is influenced by the current political climate.

There are other Nobel prizes for advancements in science, literature, and other areas, but the Peace Prize is the only one to be awarded by this committee. All of the other prize winners are chosen by a Swedish committee.

How Do You Get Nominated as a Nobel Peace Prize Winner?

The Norwegian Nobel Committee considers people who have been nominated for their work toward peace and chooses one among them to be the winner. But how do you get nominated?

According to the Nobel Peace Prize website, nominees are only accepted from a few select people, including members of national governments, members of the Permanent Court of Arbitration and of the International Court of Justice at the Hague, former Nobel Peace Prize winners, university professors in certain fields, and so on. Both organizations and individuals can be nominated.

You can't nominate yourself for the prize, nor can you campaign to be chosen as the winner. In fact, you won't even know if you've been nominated! Records of nominees are kept secret for up to 50 years.

How Are Nobel Peace Prize Winners Chosen?

To pick the winners, the Norwegian Nobel Committee considers all nominees, and can even add their own nominees to the list. The committee then selects a "shortlist" of five to 20 people for further review.

The Committee's permanent advisors and other experts gather information about the short-listed candidates into reports that help the committee make their decision.

The Committee attempts to reach a unanimous vote through discussions and debates. If a unanimous decision can't be reached by the deadline at the beginning of October, they hold a vote. The nominee with the most votes wins. There is no way to object to the winner or to force the committee to reconsider.

The prize is then awarded to the chosen winner in December of that year, and the process begins over again.

Controversy Over Nobel Peace Prize Winners

Of course, no prestigious prize can be awarded to so many people without inviting some controversy over who was chosen.

The goal of the Nobel Peace Prize is to reward people who have made major steps toward bringing peace to the world in the year before the nomination. Oftentimes, the Nobel Peace Prize winners have not completed their work toward peace, but are at a critical juncture in their work and need the support that winning brings.

That's why sometimes, people are surprised by winners who don't seem to have accomplished enough to merit such a prestigious prize. Also, there have been times when people have won the award but have not gone on to make the kind of changes that people have expected from a peace prize winner.

Some controversial Nobel peace prize winners include:

  • Henry Kissinger
  • Bob Dylan
  • Yasser Arafat
  • Barack Obama