In 1895, Alfred Nobel signed his last will and testament, which stipulated that the majority of his riches would fund a series of prizes that recognized excellence in literature and the sciences. He also created a prize to acknowledge “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
In October, the Nobel Committee announced that Chinese poet Liu Xiaobo would be the recipient of the 2010 Peace award. Liu, a veteran of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, is currently serving an 11-year jail sentence for co-writing Chapter 08, a petition calling for greater freedom of speech, a separation of powers and human rights reforms in China. The Chinese government believes Liu’s actions incite violence and disrupt social harmony, and it is outraged that the Nobel Committee would honor a “common criminal.” The Chinese have called for other states to boycott the award ceremony. To date, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Russia, Serbia, Venezuela, Cuba, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka have confirmed that representatives of their nations will not attend the celebrations.
In a rebuff against the Nobel Peace Prize, the Chinese have coined their own award, the Confucius Peace Prize. The first winner is Taiwan’s former vice-president Lien Chan for his role in brokering closer relations between Beijing and Taipei.
It’s not the first time that the Nobel Peace Prize has been steeped in controversy. In 2009, President Barack Obama won the award, to the dismay of many people who thought that his victory belittled the efforts of people around the world who risk their lives on a daily basis to achieve peace and human rights. As crazy as this sounds today, Henry Kissinger won the award in 1973 for his role in the Vietnam Accord, despite his actions in numerous political storms: the 1969-1975 bombing campaign on Cambodia, the invasion of Cyprus and the overthrow of Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president of Chile, to name but a few. Mahatma Gandhi never received the award, despite being nominated five times.
To learn about some worthy winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, check out the following links: