The Nobel Peace Prize is an award presented to either an individual or an organization in accordance with Alfred Nobel’s living will. Alfred Nobel, creator of the five Nobel Prizes, was a Swedish inventor and industrialist. He disposed the prize in his will to be awarded to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." The Nobel Peace Prize differs from the Nobel Prizes in literature, physics, chemistry, and medicine or physiology in that it may be presented not only to individuals, but also to organizations that are actively engaged in a process or effort that intends to promote world peace. The prize can be awarded for current efforts, rather than for having accomplished a goal or resolved an issue.
Having been awarded since 1901, the Nobel Peace Prize is considered a very astute recognition, but some past nominees and recipients have created controversy. Adolf Hitler was nominated in 1939, but the nomination was retracted. Other nominees include Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, and Yasser Arafat. Arafat received the award, as did Henry Kissinger and Mikhail Gorbachev. Due to the practice of awarding the prize based on a work in progress, it stands to reason that some recipients may seem like poor choices in hindsight; however, many recipients have been life-long promoters of peace and human rights, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, and the Dalai Lama.
An individual or organization may be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by any qualifying individual, including former recipients, university professors, international leaders, and members of national assemblies. The list of nominees is kept private each year, and though a group or individual may later be referred to as a nominee, this title bears no official merit. Nominees and recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize between 1901 and 1951 are currently compiled into a database. There are those who publicly criticize the award as being politically slanted to the left and failing to recognize true merit, but even with past controversy, it continues to be an astute recognition that few would decline to accept.