Tomorrow, the winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize will be revealed, the 129th laureate since the award was founded in 1901. While we wait to hear of this year’s winner, it’s worth pausing to reflect on who tends to receive it and what it can achieve.
Past winners have ranged from entire organisations such Médecins Sans Frontières, to famous figures like Nelson Mandela, to little-known grassroots activists like last year’s joint-winner, the Indian education campaigner, Kailash Satyarthi. In each case, the award is intended not only to recognise achievement but also to assist in the cause, to cast light on an underreported issue, or strengthen a particular campaign.
Last year’s Nobel for Malala Yousafzai, the schoolgirl activist shot by the Taliban, revitalised global efforts to improve the rights of women in the most dangerous parts of the world. This community activist from a village in northern Pakistan now has a foundation based in New York, and a major film about her life on release this autumn.
It’s the kind of recognition that grassroots activists need, and the Peace Prize can help by recognising grassroots peacebuilders – the kind of local heroes who we are dedicated to support. Hundreds of them are listed on our website Insight on Conflict, almost the only platform in the world to do so. Recognition for them and their causes can make a huge difference to peace in the conflict zones of the world.
So it’s good to see that this year some lesser known Nobel nominees sit just behind favourites Angela Merkel and Pope Francis on the pundits’ lists of potential winners. Some of them, such as an Eritrean priest who set up a hotline for refugees stranded in the Mediterranean, are responding to sudden crises. Others have been working quietly in the background for years to transform lives: like the Congolese gynaecologist who assists female rape victims back to a normal life in DR Congo, or the Ugandan activist who started helping young victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army after seeing his own brother abducted by them.
Peacebuilding of this sort, that is rooted in a community and specific to a cause – the sort that tends to go unnoticed by the wider public – is essential for creating lasting peace. It needs far greater recognition and funding. The Nobel Peace Prize could help to achieve it.