For Nobel Peace Prize Winner Dr Denis Mukwege, His Patients Motivate and Inspire

October 5 was just like any other Friday for Denis Mukwege, MD, PhD,—until it wasn’t.

Mukwege, founder of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, usually spends Fridays in the operating room (OR), repairing the catastrophic injuries of women who’d been raped by soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He was in the OR when his staff unexpectedly crowded in and started hugging him.

That was how the 63-year-old Mukwege learned he had just won the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, which he shared with activist Nadia Murad, a young Iraqi woman who had been repeatedly beaten and raped while held prisoner by ISIS.

“For me, this prize was really the recognition of the suffering of women of Congo and women who are suffering in conflict everywhere,” said Mukwege, a gynecological surgeon whose efforts to help survivors of rape in his country made him the target of an assassination attempt in 2012. “It gives us hope that maybe the world will really start to think about reparation, that we can draw the red line against the use of rape as a weapon of conflict.”

JAMA spoke with Mukwege a few weeks after he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which he accepted December 10 in Oslo. The following is an edited version of that conversation.

Denis Mukwege, MD

Denis Mukwege, MD

JAMA:Why did you become a physician?

Dr Mukwege:My story as a medical doctor starts with my father. He was a pastor. I got my inspiration when I was 8 years old. I contracted malaria in a country where malaria is common. He would not only pray for me but also give me medicines. When I went with him to visit a child who was very sick with fever, he just prayed and said goodbye. I was a little bit shocked by this. I saw it like an injustice. I asked him, “Why did you just pray and not give medicine?” He said he’s praying for patients, but he can’t give medicine, because he’s not a medical doctor. And I tell him, “Dad, I will be a medical doctor, so you can pray and I will give medicine so the patient can get better very fast.” And he said, “Okay, Denis.”

JAMA:You first trained in pediatrics. Was there a specific encounter that made you switch to obstetrics and gynecology?

Dr Mukwege:When I started to work, I was in the missionary hospital in Lemera [DRC]. Women from around the hospital were coming in bleeding. Each day at least two women were dying because they didn’t get good obstetrical care. I felt okay, it’s good to be a pediatrician, but I think it’s better to be an obstetrician, so you can save mothers and help babies. I went to Angers, in France, where I had done 5 years in obstetrics, and came back to the same hospital in Lemera, not only taking care of women in the hospital but also training nurses and training women who like to support me in the fight against maternal mortality.

JAMA:The New York Times, reporting on a study published in 2011, wrote that a woman was raped nearly every minute in the Congo. Is that still true?

Dr Mukwege:Maybe the number decreased a little bit, but we’re still facing the same problem. At the hospital in 2006, 2008, the number was more than 3600 women per year, but today we are treating around half of this number. It’s always a catastrophe, because even to rape 1 woman is enough.

JAMA:Could you explain how rape is being used in the fighting in the Congo?

Dr Mukwege:When I treated the first patient at the hospital, I got the impression that it was unique, committed by someone who lost his mind, because it was a woman who was raped by 7 men. They shot her genitals. They were completely destroyed. The bladder was open, the vagina completely exploded. I was in the region for many years working as an ob-gyn, and I had never seen something like that. We treated the fistula between the bladder and vagina, and after we treated the rectal-vaginal fistula, we did a colostomy. I asked myself how a human could do something like that to another human.

That was in September 1999. In the 3 months at the end of the year, I treated 45 victims, and then I really started to ask myself: What is this? And I could see after 1 year that women were coming with the same problem. After they were raped, many kinds of torture were done: introducing the bayonet, burning the genitals, introducing stakes and things like that in the vagina. And there I really lost all my sense of humanity in the community.

I started to take all the information about women who were coming to the hospital. You could find in 1 village 50, 100 women who were raped in 1 night by the army, each man using different kinds of torture. And all this torture was on the genitals of women. We even treated women who had their breast cut after the rape. Women were raped in front of their family, children, husband, all the community. You could see that it was not sexual, because I treated even babies and very old women. Around 1% of our patients are men. It’s a way to show power. You can reduce the capacity of the population to reproduce, and this can reduce population the same as you can with shooting people.

If you contaminate them with AIDS, you give victims the capacity to destroy people around them by contaminating them with AIDS. This is how the population can be destroyed by rape as a weapon of war. The economy of many places is on the shoulders of women, and when you destroy them, they can’t produce, so economically you also destroy the community. They can’t walk normally, they can’t go to market normally, and so on. In destroying women, you can get the same consequences that you can get with classic weapons. But also, these consequences affect another generation, because when they have AIDS, for example, they can also transmit the AIDS to the next generation.

JAMA:Your hospital provides more than medical care to patients. Could you describe the One-Stop Centre Model of Care that you use?

Dr Mukwege:When we started the hospital, we were just treating women on the medical side. We didn’t really get to experience the psychological trauma. But very quickly we discovered the medical care was not enough. After being raped in public, raped in front of the children and husband and the community, women were not ready to go back in the community.

So we created a team of a psychologist and a psychosocial assistant. After 2 years, we found that women were better psychology and physically. But the big question was “How do I go back in my community when no one will accept me, I’m stigmatized, I’m rejected by the family?” and so on. The only one way to get them to go back was to give them the economic autonomy and try to talk with the community, so they can accept them. It was not their fault they were raped; it’s because the society didn’t protect them. So we started the third pillar of our model of care: socioeconomic support.

After a few years, some women, when they became strong enough physically, psychologically, and economically, they needed to try to get the perpetrators to go to court. We have some lawyers who can support them. We can see that the healing of victims of sexual violence is a process. And this process is not only medical, but it’s also psychological, economic, social, and legal.

JAMA:How does winning the Peace Prize affect your work and your relationship with your government?

Mukwege:Now we have many people in the country and outside of the country who are aware of what is happening in Congo. They are also aware of Panzi Hospital, they are aware of this One-Stop Centre, the holistic model of Panzi. To get awareness of what we are doing here at Panzi is one the first consequences that I can see with the Nobel Peace Prize.

We’re still getting calls from the countryside where women are raped. But the government is denying that this is happening. Not supporting women but also denying that it’s happening—I think that it’s a really big problem with the government. I don’t see how they can fight against rape if they don’t accept that it exists.

We can’t develop this country if women are not secure to go to lug water, to go to the market, or to do their business without fearing they’ll be raped again. But today we are still waiting for the government to not only pay reparation but also to protect and recognize all the women who went through this terrible thing. The government should also apologize.

JAMA:After the assassination attempt on your life, you and your family left the country. At that time did you think you might never go back to the Congo?

Dr Mukwege:I was so sad to feel that I would never come back. I thought more about the responsibility I have toward my family, my children, and I just said, “Okay, I did my best, but if this can happen in my house in front of my children …” My friend Jeff, who was taking care of us, was killed in front of my children and myself. I was unable to help. I felt, okay, this is enough. I have to leave the country forever. I will never come back if the situation doesn’t change. So that was my feeling when I left Congo.

JAMA:Did your patients convince you to come back? What motivates you to continue your work?

Dr Mukwege:My patients started to ask me to come back, and I didn’t respond. They wrote to the president of Congo, and the president didn’t answer. They wrote to the Secretary General of the UN [United Nations], and they didn’t get [an] answer. And what they did was so touching for me: “No one wants to help us, so we’ll do it ourselves. We’ll organize ourselves to get Dr Mukwege back because we need him and we will protect him.” They started to sell fruits and vegetables, and each Friday came with $50 to the hospital until they got the ticket for me to come back.

These women don’t have $1 per day for their own life, but they could get $50 per week for me? It was so touching. I felt, “How can I protect my life, only my life? It’s just a single life and thousands of women want me to come back to treat them.” They said, “We’ll protect you. Come back! We’ll take care of you.” It was clear that I would be selfish to not think about thousands of people who are in need and just think about myself. I discussed it with my wife and my children. We thought it was so emotional to talk about all these women who are fighting every day to protect their lives with nothing. I can say nothing, because less than $1 per day, it’s nothing.

I felt that I was very, very small compared to their big heart and big will to protect me. So I decided to come back, and when I arrived at Bukavu, there were a thousand waiting for me. They came with many kinds of food to say, “Don’t worry we’ll take care of you.” And 25 will spend the night around my house, and if someone comes to attack me, they’ll have to kill 25 women.

When you have women that are so strong, you feel just like you are nothing, especially when you think about the sufferings they went through, and they’re still protecting life and not their own life and the life of their children but also the life of a medical doctor. For me, doing what I’m doing, I think the big motivation is the women because I think they have something special inside them. They have love. They love life and are protectors of life. And I think that the duty of service to women, for me, it’s an honor.

Nadia Murad: from jihadist slave to Nobel laureate

Yazidi human rights activist Nadia Murad speaks as she attends 'The Fight against Impunity for Atrocities: Bringing Da'esh to Justice'  at the United Nations Headaquarters on March 9, 2017 in New York
Yazidi human rights activist Nadia Murad speaks as she attends ‘The Fight against Impunity for Atrocities: Bringing Da’esh to Justice’ at the United Nations Headaquarters on March 9, 2017 in New York.

Nadia Murad survived the worst cruelties ever inflicted on her people, the Yazidis of Iraq, before becoming a global champion of their cause and winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

On Friday, Murad and Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege were jointly awarded the prize for their “efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war,” Nobel committee chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen said in unveiling the winners in Oslo.

The 25-year-old Murad, her thin, pale face framed by her long brown hair, once lived a quiet life in her village near the mountainous Yazidi stronghold of Sinjar in northern Iraq, close to the border with Syria.

But when the so-called Islamic State jihadist group stormed across swathes of the two countries in 2014, her fate changed forever and her nightmare began.

One day in August that year, pick-up trucks bearing the black flag of the jihadists swept into her village, Kocho.

IS fighters set about killing the men, taking children captive to train them as fighters and condemning thousands of women to a life of forced labour and sexual slavery.

Today, Murad and her friend Lamia Haji Bashar, joint recipients of the EU’s 2016 Sakharov human rights prize, continue the fight for the 3,000 Yazidis who remain missing, presumed still in captivity.

IS fighters wanted “to take our honour, but they lost their honour,” said Murad, now a United Nations goodwill ambassador for survivors of human trafficking.

It is an evil she personally experienced during a harrowing three months.

After being captured by IS fighters, Murad was taken by force to Mosul, the de facto “capital” of the IS’s self-declared caliphate.

During her ordeal she was held captive and repeatedly gang-raped, tortured and beaten.

The jihadists organised slave markets for selling off the women and girls, and Yazidi women were forced to renounce their religion.

– Seen as heretics –

For the jihadists, with their ultra-strict interpretation of Islam, the Yazidis are seen as heretics.

The Kurdish-speaking community follows an ancient religion, revering a single God and the “leader of the angels”, represented by a peacock.

Like thousands of Yazidis, Murad was forcibly married to a jihadist, beaten and forced to wear makeup and tight clothes — an experience she later related in front of the United Nations Security Council.

“The first thing they did was they forced us to covert to Islam”, Murad told AFP in 2016.

Shocked by the violence, Murad set about trying to escape, and managed to flee with the help of a Muslim family from Mosul.

Armed with false identity papers, she managed to cross the few dozen kilometres (miles) to Iraqi Kurdistan, joining crowds of other displaced Yazidis in camps.

There, she learnt that six of her brothers and her mother had been killed.

With the help of an organisation that assists Yazidis, she joined her sister in Germany, where she lives today.

She has since dedicated herself to what she calls “our peoples’ fight”, before a well-known spokeswoman even before the #MeToo movement swept the world.

The Yezidis numbered around 550,000 in Iraq before 2014, but some 100,000 have since left the country.

Many others have fled and remain in Iraqi Kurdistan, reluctant to return to their traditional lands.

Slight, and softly-spoken Murad has now become a global voice, campaigning for justice for her people and for the acts committed by the jihadists to be recognised internationally as genocide.

And she and the Yazidis have won a high-profile supporter — Lebanese-British lawyer and rights activist Amal Clooney, who also penned the foreword to Murad’s book, “The Last Girl”, published in 2017.

The same year, the UN Security Council committed to helping Iraq gather evidence of IS crimes.

Yet in contrast to all the tragedies that have befallen her, recent pictures on Murad’s Twitter feed show happier times.

In August, she announced her engagement to fellow Yazidi activist Abid Shamdeen.

“The struggle of our people brought us together & we will continue this path together,” she wrote.

Underneath, a photo showed her next to a young man in a bow tie, her face still framed by her long brown hair, but this time, bearing a broad smile.

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2018

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2018 to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. Both laureates have made a crucial contribution to focusing attention on, and combating, such war crimes. Denis Mukwege is the helper who has devoted his life to defending these victims. Nadia Murad is the witness who tells of the abuses perpetrated against herself and others. Each of them in their own way has helped to give greater visibility to war-time sexual violence, so that the perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions.

The physician Denis Mukwege has spent large parts of his adult life helping the victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since the Panzi Hospital was established in Bukavu in 1999, Dr. Mukwege and his staff have treated thousands of patients who have fallen victim to such assaults. Most of the abuses have been committed in the context of a long-lasting civil war that has cost the lives of more than six million Congolese.

Denis Mukwege is the foremost, most unifying symbol, both nationally and internationally, of the struggle to end sexual violence in war and armed conflicts. His basic principle is that “justice is everyone’s business”. Men and women, officers and soldiers, and local, national and international authorities alike all have a shared responsibility for reporting, and combating, this type of war crime. The importance of Dr. Mukwege’s enduring, dedicated and selfless efforts in this field cannot be overstated. He has repeatedly condemned impunity for mass rape and criticised the Congolese government and other countries for not doing enough to stop the use of sexual violence against women as a strategy and weapon of war.

Nadia Murad is herself a victim of war crimes. She refused to accept the social codes that require women to remain silent and ashamed of the abuses to which they have been subjected. She has shown uncommon courage in recounting her own sufferings and speaking up on behalf of other victims.

Nadia Murad is a member of the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq, where she lived with her family in the remote village of Kocho. In August 2014 the Islamic State (IS) launched a brutal, systematic attack on the villages of the Sinjar district, aimed at exterminating the Yazidi population. In Nadia Murad’s village, several hundred people were massacred. The younger women, including underage children, were abducted and held as sex slaves. While a captive of the IS, Nadia Murad was repeatedly subjected to rape and other abuses. Her assaulters threatened to execute her if she did not convert to their hateful, inhuman version of Islam.

Nadia Murad is just one of an estimated 3 000 Yazidi girls and women who were victims of rape and other abuses by the IS army. The abuses were systematic, and part of a military strategy. Thus they served as a weapon in the fight against Yazidis and other religious minorities.

After a three-month nightmare Nadia Murad managed to flee. Following her escape, she chose to speak openly about what she had suffered. In 2016, at the age of just 23, she was named the UN’s first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking.

This year marks a decade since the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1820 (2008), which determined that the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict constitutes both a war crime and a threat to international peace and security. This is also set out in the Rome Statute of 1998, which governs the work of the International Criminal Court. The Statute establishes that sexual violence in war and armed conflict is a grave violation of international law.  A more peaceful world can only be achieved if women and their fundamental rights and security are recognised and protected in war.

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize is firmly embedded in the criteria spelled out in Alfred Nobel’s will. Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad have both put their personal security at risk by courageously combating war crimes and seeking justice for the victims. They have thereby promoted the fraternity of nations through the application of principles of international law.

Oslo, 5 October 2018


OPCW Syria chemical weapons watchdog win Nobel Peace Prize 2013.

Nobel committee reveals official winner one hour after the result was leaked by Norweigan public broadcaster NRK.

The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize 2013 has been announced, with the award and $1.25 million prize going to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The OPCW is charged with overseeing the destruction of Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons, following the atrocity – widely blamed on the regime of Bashar al-Assad – committed in Damascus on 21 August this year.

Experts from the Hague-based global watchdog are leading the programme which will see Syria’s chemical weapons production facilities demolished by 1 November, with a view to safely destroying Assad’s complete stockpile by the middle of 2014.

The Norwegian Nobel committee hailed the global chemical watchdog for creating “the chance to eliminate a whole category of deadly weapons”.

The statement announcing the winner read: “The conventions and the work of the OPCW have defined the use of chemical weapons as a taboo under international law.

“Recent events in Syria, where chemical weapons have again been put to use, have underlined the need to enhance the efforts to do away with such weapons. Some states are still not members of the OPCW. Certain states have not observed the deadline, which was April 2012, for destroying their chemical weapons. This applies especially to the USA and Russia.

“Disarmament figures prominently in Alfred Nobel’s will. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has through numerous prizes underlined the need to do away with nuclear weapons. By means of the present award to the OPCW, the Committee is seeking to contribute to the elimination of chemical weapons.”

The identity of the this year’s winner was leaked an hour ahead of the official announcement by Norweigan public broadcaster NRK – which confirmed the winner would not to be hotly-tipped favourite 16-year-old girls’ education activist Malala Yousafzai.

NRK also correctly anticipated the winner of last year’s award an hour early – taken by the EU.

Malala had been favourite to win, having already been honoured as Harvard University’s humanitarian of the year and named the winner of the EU’s annual Sakharov human rights award.

The 16-year-old came to global attention, campaigning for female education in the country, in the face of violent fundamentalism. Her efforts led to her being shot in the head on a school bus a year ago.

The Red Cross: Three-Time Recipient of the Peace Prize.

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The International Committee of the Red Cross was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 19171944 and 1963 – on the third occasion jointly with the League of Red Cross Societies. This makes the Red Cross unique: no recipient has been awarded the Peace Prize as often as this organisation. The very first time the Peace Prize was awarded, in 1901, the Norwegian Nobel Committee chose to pay tribute to the founder of the Red Cross, Henry Dunant from Switzerland. Thus his story is a natural point of departure when examining the role of the Red Cross in the history of the Peace Prize.

It all Began in Solferino

On 24 June 1859, two armies stood poised to fight outside the village of Solferino in Northern Italy. Emperor Napoleon III of France was backing Sardinia against Austria-Hungary during the second War of Italian Independence. When the Battle of Solferino was over, more than 30,000 soldiers had lost their lives, and thousands more had been wounded and maimed. A young Swiss businessman named Henry Dunant happened to witness the battle, and the sufferings and lack of medical treatment he observed, made a profound and lasting impression on him. He swiftly mobilised the local people into action, setting up crude infirmaries in churches, monasteries and makeshift tents. All the wounded soldiers, regardless of which side they were fighting on, were given care. “Tutti fratelli” – they are all our brothers, said the women who helped Dunant at Solferino. The germ had been sown.

The Founding of the Red Cross and the Geneva Convention

After Solferino, Dunant returned to Switzerland. His experiences from witnessing the battle and the relief efforts he had organised inspired him to write A Memory of Solferino (1862), where he launched his plan: in times of peace, all nations should establish voluntary relief societies to aid sick and wounded soldiers during times of war. The objective was that all soldiers – whether friend or foe – should receive medical care. The book was printed at Dunant’s expense, and with a preface written by the Swiss general Guillaume-Henri Dufour it was spread to national leaders and influential politicians throughout Europe.

Dunant’s book was translated into a number of languages, and his simple yet realistic idea had great appeal. In the autumn of 1862 he was approached by Gustave Moynier, a lawyer who was president of the Geneva Society for Public Welfare. On their initiative a committee was formed in February the following year, with Dunant, Moynier, General Dufour and two physicians as its members. Thanks to the committee’s efforts and Dunant’s skills of persuasion, an international conference was held in Geneva in the autumn of 1863 with delegates from 17 countries. At the end of this conference, on 29 October 1863, the International Committee for the Relief of the Wounded was founded (now the International Committee of the Red Cross), composed of the five Swiss members that had convened in February. A red cross on a field of white was adopted as the emblem of the organisation, and national Red Cross societies were to be set up in each of the countries represented at the conference.

The newly established committee wasted no time. Delegates from a number of countries convened in 1864 to adopt the first Geneva Convention. Under this convention, all medical installations in the field in time of war are to be granted immunity as long as they provide shelter for the wounded, and medical personnel are to treat all wounded persons impartially, under the protection of badges and flags displaying the Red Cross emblem. In the course of the following two years, twenty states had ratified the convention. Dunant’s idea had taken hold.

Henry Dunant – Winner of the First Nobel Peace Prize, 1901

The newly founded organisation and his humanitarian efforts, brought Dunant prominence and acclaim, but his business affairs had been neglected and failed miserably. When Dunant was forced into bankruptcy, many fellow Genevans also lost their investments. In 1867 he resigned as secretary of the International Red Cross and left Geneva, never to return. In the ensuing decades, he lived a destitute life, forgotten by the world. It is intriguing then to trace how Henry Dunant came to be awarded the very first Peace Prize in 1901 (an honour he shared with Frédéric Passy, founder and president of the first French society for peace).

During the history of the Peace Prize, which stretches over more than a century, campaigns for particular candidates have often been conducted by individuals and organisations. Their intention is to sway the Norwegian Nobel Committee in its choice of laureate. The first such campaign took place in 1901 for the benefit of Henry Dunant. The 1901 award is particularly important because the Nobel Committee chose a course it would often follow later on. Dunant’s co-laureate, Frédéric Passy, was chosen for his traditional peace efforts, fully in line with Alfred Nobel’s will. The grounds for his candidacy were so evident, that a campaign was unnecessary. Most observers assumed that he would receive the first Peace Prize alone because he stood out as the eldest and foremost representative of the international peace movement. Dunant, on the other hand, was primarily honoured for his humanitarian efforts. Thus, two main categories of laureates were created in 1901.

Henry Dunant was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by an impressive array of individuals and organisations. Among them were ten professors from Amsterdam and Brussels, 92 Swedish parliamentarians and 62 parliamentarians in Württemberg, along with the board of the International Peace Bureau. In Norway, the Norwegian Women’s Public Health Association had prevailed upon the chairman of the Nobel Committee to nominate Dunant. In addition, two Norwegian cabinet members had nominated him on behalf of the Norwegian Women’s Voting Rights Association. But it was primarily the efforts of the Norwegian military physician, Hans Daae, that would be decisive. Daae had become well acquainted with Dunant’s work through an article by the Swiss editor, Georg Baumberger, on the founder of the Red Cross in 1895, and the work of the German teacher Rudolf Müller. Dunant emerged from obscurity as a result of this, and in the late 1890s he received a number of honours and awards. Moreover, Bertha von Suttner, 1905 Peace Prize laureate, published Dunant’s article “A small arsenal against militarism” in her periodical Die Waffen Nieder! (Lay Down Your Arms!). Hans Daae advocated with success Dunant’s candidacy, and the Nobel Committee was convinced. Dunant was awarded the 1901 Peace Prize jointly with Frédéric Passy.

The announcement that the founder of the Red Cross had been chosen as Peace Prize laureate met with mixed reactions. Dunant had been awarded the prize for ameliorating the suffering of wounded soldiers, not for organising peace congresses or reducing standing forces, as stipulated in Alfred Nobel’s will. The Nobel Committee had chosen a broad interpretation of the provision that a laureate should “further fraternity between nations”. Critics of the award maintained that humanising war made it less destructive in most people’s awareness. Bertha von Suttner proclaimed that improving the laws of war was like regulating the temperature when boiling someone in oil. And the organisation Weltverein für obligatorische internationale Friedensjustitz in Berlin, in a letter to the president of the Storting (the Norwegian national assembly) dated 20 December 1901, wrote that the Nobel Committee had seriously violated Alfred Nobel’s will by awarding the Peace Prize to Dunant, who had merely made war better (qui a perfectioné la guerre).

After receiving the Peace Prize, Dunant continued to live a frugal life in a nursing home in the Swiss town of Heiden. Hans Daae saw to it that the prize money eluded the grasp of Dunant’s creditors; it remained untouched in a Norwegian bank at the time of Dunant’s death in 1910. His will bequeathed half of the prize money to the Norwegian Red Cross and the Norwegian Women’s Public Health Association. The other half was donated for humanitarian purposes in Switzerland. The Peace Prize helped Dunant regain his dignity, and the favourable attention received by the Red Cross organisation bolstered its work in the years that followed.

The 1917 Peace Prize: The Decision-Making Process

The Norwegian Nobel Committee decided not to award a Peace Prize after the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. The official explanation was that no worthy candidates had been nominated. But in 1917, the Nobel Committee chose a particularly deserving candidate: the International Committee of the Red Cross. Let us examine how key persons played a part in this award.

An influential French lawyer, Professor Louis Renault, was the driving force in extending the Geneva Convention to apply to maritime warfare. The revised convention was adopted in 1906. Renault was awarded the 1907 Peace Prize, and in 1916 he was elected president of the French Red Cross. In January of the next year, he drew up his nomination for the International Committee of the Red Cross.** The nomination was backed by such leading French authorities as the 1909 laureate, Baron d’Estournelles de Constant, professor of law Charles Lyon-Caen and representatives from the Institute of International Law, which as 1904 laureate had been the first organisation to receive the Peace Prize. In addition the Swiss Government nominated ICRC with a strong motivation.

The 1917 Peace Prize: The Nomination and Its Motivation

In its nomination, the Swiss Government highlighted the efforts of the Red Cross before the war broke out, drawing special attention to the International Prisoner-of-War Agency, which had been set up in August 1914. The Red Cross had also helped transport soldiers who were ill or wounded to their home countries via Switzerland. The Swiss Government pointed out as well how the International Committee of the Red Cross unceasingly reminds the world that “the people who are now killing each other are brothers after all, and only peace can bring them the happiness they all yearn for.”

The French nomination declared: “We believe that few men (…) have done mankind so many services, and to such an extent contributed to the improvement of relations between peoples, as the zealous men who comprise the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva.” To which Louis Renault added: “As President of the French Red Cross I bear personal witness to this”.

There can be little doubt that the Red Cross relief work for prisoners of war weighed most heavily when the Nobel Committee reached its decision in 1917. In his report on the Red Cross to the members of the Nobel Committee, Secretary Moe placed great emphasis on these achievements. He drew attention to the international Red Cross conference in Washington in 1912, which had resolved that while peace prevailed, the national Red Cross societies should set up commissions to deal with the issue of prisoners of war. The ICRC in Geneva was to coordinate this activity and, in times of war, distribute collected funds to the benefit of prisoners of war.

The main task of the International Prisoner-of-War Agency was to procure information on prisoners of war and relay this information to their next of kin. From 1915 the Agency was granted permission to direct enquiries to camp commandants and the heads of hospitals and field hospitals. Hundreds of people – many of them volunteers – worked in Geneva to obtain information on prisoners of war. By June 1917 the office had sent nearly 800,000 communiqués to families in warring countries. The Geneva office delegated authority for prisoners from the Eastern Front to the Danish Red Cross.

The reactions to the 1917 award were favourable. Granted, there were references to the paradox that the Red Cross nursed wounded soldiers back to health so that they could be sent to their death once more, but the Red Cross could not be held responsible for this. And the experiences of the First World War had consequences for the Geneva Convention. It was revised in 1929 to include provisions on the treatment of prisoners of war and the protection of civilian aircraft in times of war.

The 1944 Peace Prize: Humanitarian Activities and Services to Prisoners of War

As in 1914, the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided not to award the Peace Prize when the Second World War broke out in 1939. The next award was in 1945, when two Peace Prizes were conferred on 10 December, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death. The reserved 1944 prize was awarded to the International Committee of the Red Cross, while the 1945 Peace Prize was bestowed on former US Secretary of State Cordell Hull.

The International Committee of the Red Cross had been nominated for the Peace Prize in 1940, and as the war drew to a close its candidacy gained impetus. In 1944 Hjalmar Hammarskjöld, chairman of the Swedish Nobel Foundation board, and Birger Ekeberg, president of the Court of Appeals in Stockholm, were among those who nominated the ICRC. They were joined by Martin Tranmæl, who was a member of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, a leader in the trade union movement and editor of the Labour party-affiliated newspaper, Frede Castberg, Norwegian professor of law, and British Member of Parliament Philip Noel-Baker, who would himself be the laureate in 1959.

Birger Ekeberg drew attention to the wartime contributions by the ICRC in the service of humanity and for reconciliation, emphasising its services to prisoners of war, its relief work in occupied countries and its appeals to the belligerents to observe international law. In his proposal, Noel-Baker wrote: “In their work for the wounded, for prisoners of war and for help to starving populations, the International Red Cross Committee’s delegates have not only upheld the great traditions which they built up in earlier times, but have far surpassed the record of achievements and services to mankind which they have previously established”. Frede Castberg was the only one to mention the ICRC’s support for political prisoners in Germany and in areas occupied by the Germans, a topic he would be able to develop further when he was asked to write the report on the ICRC for the Norwegian Nobel Committee. He submitted his report in the autumn of 1945. What did Castberg bring to the fore?

The 1944 Peace Prize: Aid to Political Prisoners

In his report on the ICRC’s work for prisoners of war, Castberg described the Red Cross inspections in the prisoner camps in detail. He also pointed out that the ICRC never directed a protest to the governments of the Axis powers, although there were certainly grounds for one. Castberg accounted for the ICRC policy as follows: “The Red Cross must be assumed to have found it wisest to exercise the utmost caution in order not to risk a breach of relations with Germany, which would have meant a complete halt to ICRC activities in Germany and German-occupied areas.”

Castberg used the same explanation in describing the role of the Red Cross in relation to civilian prisoners. Until mid-1942 the Germans denied the ICRC any intervention on behalf of this group, claiming that this was a police matter not subject to the provisions of the Geneva Convention of 1929. Not until the winter of 1942-43 did the Nazis allow civilian prisoners to receive Red Cross parcels containing food and medicine. These parcels brought succour to at least some of the concentration camp prisoners.

Research carried out in the 1980s has probed the ICRC’s relationship to Nazi Germany in light of the extermination of the Jews. Shortly after the Nazis had adopted their “final solution” to the “Jewish question” at the Wannsee Conference in 1942, the leaders of the International Red Cross were informed of their plans. That same autumn the leaders of the ICRC deliberated on whether they should publicly condemn the atrocities, but they chose to remain silent. The ICRC maintained its policy of caution in relation to the Nazis until the war was over, presumably because a public condemnation could result in reprisals against civilian and military prisoners. Moreover, cooperation between the Swiss government and Germany could be endangered. At worst it could have provoked military action against the neutral country of Switzerland.

When the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was commemorated in 1995, the President of the ICRC, Cornelio Sommaruga, said that the organisation was fully aware of the gravity of Holocaust and the necessity of keeping its memory alive, in order to prevent its recurrence. He apologised for the errors and shortcomings that the Red Cross could be blamed for with regard to the victims of the concentration camps.

The Peace Prize 1963: A Centenary Celebration and a New Daae Campaign

The year 1963 marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of the International Committee of the Red Cross; and as that year approached, Anders Daae, son of the military physician Hans Daae, decided to replicate his father’s successes from 1901 and 1917. Anders Daae had been active in the Norwegian resistance movement during the Second World War, which resulted in his arrest and deportation to Germany. There he experienced the heaviest Allied bombing raids on Berlin. As a prisoner he learned to appreciate the work of the Red Cross, often witnessing that the organisation’s work saved the lives of fellow prisoners.

A year and a half before the 1963 Peace Prize was to be awarded, Anders Daae initiated his campaign. He wrote articles about Henry Dunant and the Red Cross in Norwegian newspapers. He contacted fellow prisoners from the war years and succeeded in persuading all the incumbent members of the Norwegian Storting, who had been prisoners in Germany, to nominate the ICRC. He also enlisted four professors at the University of Oslo to nominate the organisation. Then he travelled to Stockholm and Copenhagen and convinced 91 Swedish and 15 Danish parliamentarians to back its candidacy. Finally, Anders Daae went to the Norwegian Nobel Institute, where he personally handed over the nominations and lists of signatures. This Daae campaign, like his father’s previous ones, was a success.

The 1963 Peace Prize: Two Branches of the Red Cross Family

In 1963 the International Committee of the Red Cross was awarded the Peace Prize jointly with the League of Red Cross Societies. The League, which was established in 1919 at the initiative of an American named Henry P. Davison, is a federation of all the national Red Cross societies. The task of the League is to coordinate humanitarian work carried out by the national Red Cross societies on an international basis during times of peace, such as relief aid for refugees and emergency assistance in response to natural disasters. In 1993 the League was renamed the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

When presenting the award on 10 December 1963, Carl Joachim Hambro, member of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, highlighted the humanitarian work of the two Red Cross organisations in times of war and peace and pointed out that the ICRC had spread awareness of the principles of the Red Cross and the provisions of the Geneva Conventions. Hambro also drew attention to the work of the ICRC in amending and extending the Geneva Conventions, most recently the revised conventions of 1949. For the first time, the conventions provided for the protection of “civilian persons in time of war”. Finally, Hambro mentioned the efforts of the ICRC at the time of the Hungarian uprising in 1956 and during conflicts in Algeria, Congo and Tibet. In describing the worldwide humanitarian work of the League, Hambro concluded that “the cooperation between the Red Cross Societies of ninety different countries of different races, creeds, and color is of very real importance for international understanding and peace.”


The Red Cross has a unique position in the history of the Nobel Peace Prize. The Norwegian Nobel Committee’s choice of Henry Dunant as 1901 laureate was a direct recognition of the role of the ICRC in promoting peace. In this light, it is nearly justifiable to call the Red Cross a “four-time recipient of the Peace Prize.”

From the very beginning, the Norwegian Nobel Committee interpreted Alfred Nobel’s will in a manner that made it possible to award the Peace Prize for humanitarian work. In light of the two world wars of the 20th century, it was natural for the Nobel Committee to choose the Red Cross as laureate in 1917 and 1944. By honouring the League of Red Cross Societies jointly with the ICRC in 1963, the Norwegian Nobel Committee made it clear that efforts to aid the needy also play an important role in building peace.


Source: Nobel

Campaign to nominate African midwife for Nobel Peace Prize.


  Dressed in a pink uniform, midwife Esther Madudu 130509105951-highest-infant-mortality-ssa-chart-entertain-features

shuffle past rows of beds to check on the five babies she delivered the night before inside a small health center in rural eastern Uganda.

Lying underneath a sky blue mosquito net, a newborn girl wrapped in a white sheet tries to stretch her tiny body as Madudu slowly approaches.

“Esther is there,” says the midwife, pointing to the baby girl resting next to her mother. “Esther Madudu — they gave the baby my names, all my names, because yesterday it was born on my birthday,” she continues, with a smile on her face.

“The mother was too excited because she never expected the baby to be alive so she said: ‘these are all your names.’ The pain was too much; she walked for a long distance and she thought the baby was dying.”

Midwife stands up for Africaers

Uganddwife: We lack resources

How midwife lost her own baby

Pain medication is a rare luxury in the small village of Atitiri so Madudu had to rely on one special treatment to help the woman bring her baby to life.

“I gave her ‘verbocain,'” says Madudu. “You know ‘verbocain’ is the only drug we can give them in Africa,” she explains ironically. “‘Verbocain’ — you verbally talk to the mother; giving her just consoling words and patting her, rubbing her back, until she gave birth.”

‘Stand Up For Mothers’

Madudu is well known here as a midwife who has a very good record of saving both mothers and babies during difficult deliveries.

But her reputation extends far beyond eastern Uganda. Since 2011, Madudu has become the poster girl for all of Africa’s midwives, fronting an international campaign to highlight the plights of mothers and babies on the continent.

Called “Stand Up For African Mothers,” the initiative by the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) aims to ensure that all pregnant women throughout Africa have access to trained midwives to ensure a reduction in high maternal mortality rates.

In sub-Saharan Africa, AMREF says 200,000 women die every year from complications during pregnancy or childbirth — that’s 60% of the global total.

In Africa, maternal mortality death is really unacceptably high,” says Abenet Berhanu, AMREF country director for Uganda.

The group, one of Africa’s top health and development research organizations, works together with local authorities to improve education and facilitation of care.

It also aims to train 15,000 midwives by 2015 to equip them with the necessary skills to maintain good health and has launched an online petition to symbolically nominate Madudu as a candidate for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize.

We hope to create a future where no baby is left alone, where no mother dies while giving birth.
Esther Madudu, Ugandan midwife


“She really has a passion for her work,” says Berhanu of Madudu. “She has been working extra hours; she is passionate in handling mothers,” he adds. “This [the nomination] is in recognition for all midwives who have been working under challenging circumstances.”

To support the “Stand Up For African Mothers” campaign, Madudu has visited different countries giving several speeches to draw attention to the issue of maternal mortality in Africa.

“This campaign is not a political campaign,” explains Madudu. “It is just a campaign which is creating awareness that there is death, maternal mortality rate which is high in Africa; mothers are dying; babies are dying. The solution should be, we train midwives,” she says.


Like many maternity clinics in rural parts of Africa, the health center in Atitiri is lacking several necessary resources — shortage of running water, electricity challenges, broken beds and scarcity of medicines all make Madudu’s job very difficult.

But despite the challenges, the midwife extraordinaire remains devoted to her patients.

A mother of two, Madudu has chosen to live hours away from her family to be able to cater to the women that need her.

“I opted to give my children to my mother, not because I don’t love them,” she says. “I love my children but because I could not have time for them, to cook for them, take care of them, because of my tight schedule of duties.”

Madudu can completely identify with the fears of the mothers she helps. Soon after becoming a midwife, she suffered herself the cruel experience of losing a child.

“I am a victim of mortality because I lost my baby during child birth,” recalls Madudu. “It was a terrible condition for me; it was psychological torture, because a midwife losing a baby? And yet I’m the one saving other babies,” she adds.

“It was terrible and I said ‘no mother should lose a baby; I’ll try my level best, I will improvise, whatever I can, so long as I have the knowledge to save that woman and her baby.'”

And that’s what she’s been doing ever since, working tirelessly to ensure that mothers get the right treatment during pregnancy and child birth.

She is optimistic that the “Stand Up For Afican Mothers” campaign will create much needed awareness of the plights of the people she’s helping.

“We hope to create a future where no baby is left alone, where no mother dies while giving birth,” she says. “That is my hope.”


Girls Rising: From Anne Frank to Malala Yousafzai.


“Stories can conquer fear,” Nigerian novelist Ben Okri once said. “They can make the heart bigger.”

There’s a world of truth to that statement. As someone who comes from a long line of storytellers, I’ve always felt that our lives are just long and rich stories, knit together over the years, that tell us not only about ourselves, but the human condition, as well.

Which is why, I believe, the Women in the World Summit, which opened on Thursday night in New York City, is such an important gathering — because it is dedicated to championing women and girls around the world, and not just through their compelling stories, but through the actions that those stories inspire.

This year, the summit was attended by no shortage of admirable women — from Hillary Rodham Clinton and Ambassador Susan Rice, to Meryl Streep and Somali human rights activist Dr. Hawa Abdi. But my eye was especially trained on the big opening night event, in which actress and activist Angelina Jolie honored 15-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, who has come to symbolize both the plight of young women around the world, and the courage to fight for justice.

Yousafzai was only 11 years old when, under a pseudonym on a BBC blog, she began to write about the life under the brutal Taliban regime in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, particularly the violently enforced edict banning girls from obtaining an education. Yousafzai’s undercover reporting was hard-hitting and painful; and once her identity became known, her bravery was no less boundless.

“I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school,” she told a TV audience. “All I want is education. And I am afraid of no one.”

Yet as her popularity grew, so, too, did her vulnerability — and last October, Taliban gunmen shot her in the head while she was riding on a school bus. She survived the assault and was sent to the United Kingdom for hospitalization, where she continues her rehabilitation today. But the world has taken up her cause. She has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and the U.N. has launched a petition in her name, calling on organizations worldwide to ensure education for all of the world’s children by 2015.

Most important, Yousafzai’s bold fight lives on in the hearts of her peers.

“Every girl in Swat is Malala,” a classmate commented through Twitter two days after the assassination attempt. “We will educate ourselves. We will win. They can’t defeat us.”

History has been replete with girls and young women whose stories, often of sacrifice, have driven others to reach for greater ideals. Anne Frank still stands as a shining testament to the unbreakable will — and unchecked optimism — of the human spirit. And Helen Keller came to exemplify the determination that is required to face down disability.

In my own life, I’ve personally witnessed how the seeds of goodness planted in children have blossomed into something beautiful and powerful. In 1972, I watched kids embrace, almost by instinct, the deeper lessons of Free to Be…You and Me, which taught them about their bottomless potential and the injustice of racial and gender discrimination. And today, I continue to be awed by the girls and boys of St. Jude Children’s Hospital, who remain the definition of inner-courage. These children truly inspire me.

Although most Americans weren’t in attendance at the Women in the World Summit, fortunately, we will all be given the opportunity to share in a similarly rousing event. This week, a 100-minute documentary entitled Girl Rising will debut in more than 500 screenings across the country — and it is an astonishing achievement. Executive produced by Holly Gordon, the film tells the stories of nine heroic girls from around the globe who, like Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai, overcame nearly insurmountable adversity to claim their right to an education.

Like Sokha, an orphaned Cambodian who rose from the filth of a garbage dump to become a prize pupil in a top school, where she also teaches younger students. Or Wadley from Haiti, who was just 7 when the 2010 earthquake devastated her home and school, but didn’t keep her from seizing an education that has made her a promising science student and budding photographer. Or Nepal’s Suma, who, forced into bonded labor at 6, found solace in writing music and learning to read, then forged a battle to win an education for other young girls.

And then there’s Azmera of Ethiopia, who defied the traditional demand that she be married at 13, and instead, remained in school where she continues to excel in English and mathematics. Azmera plans to become a teacher.

Girl after girl, each of these stories jolts us into a deeper awareness of the unconscionable injustices that still exist throughout the world, and the triumph of rising above them. I hope you’ll take a look at our slide show, which previews these young women’s remarkable journeys. And then I hope you’ll see the movie.

Meanwhile, to all the girls and women of the Women in the World Summit, we salute you. And to Malala Yousafzai, God’s speed for a safe and complete recovery. The world treasures your voice.


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  • S-100β protein concentrations have been shown to increase in blood and cerebrospinal fluid after a wide range of diseases or conditions leading to brain damage
  • S-100β protein serum concentrations correlate significantly with unfavourable prognosis in patients with moderate or severe traumatic brain injury, as defined by mortality, Glasgow outcome score ≤3, or brain stem death, with or without concomitant traumatic injuries
  • The association between serum concentrations of S-100β protein and prognosis was observed at discharge from intensive care and at one, three, and six months.
  • Serum threshold values ranging from 1.38 µg/L to 10.50 µg/L and from 2.16 µg/L to 14.00 µg/L were associated with 100% specificity for mortality and a Glasgow outcome score ≤3, respectively.
    • Source: BMJ

What this study adds


United Nations declares November 10 as ‘Malala Day’.

The United Nations has declared November 10 as ‘Malala Day’ in honour of Pakistani teeenage rights activist Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban last month for campaigning for girls’ education.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon‘s Special Envoy for Global Education, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, has said November 10 has been declared Malala Day.

“This Saturday (November 10th) will see Malala Day, a global event to show the world that people of all creeds; all sexes, all backgrounds and all countries stand behind Malala,” Brown said.

“We are Malala – This is Malala day. The world to walk in the footsteps of this girl of courage. Malala Yousafzai has become a global icon of hope, an international symbol of courage, a schoolgirl who has won the hearts of millions through her bravery.

“Malala’s dream is a Pakistan where she, her friends and future generations of girls could attend school, walk freely into a classroom, learn and reach their full potential.”

The UN chief said citizens from across the globe are speaking out for Yousafzai and on behalf of the 61 million children who do not go to school.

“I am adding my voice to the messages from over one million people across the globe. Education is a fundamental human right. It is a pathway to development, tolerance and global citizenship,” Ban said in a brief video message posted on the UN website.

He called the international community to join the UN campaign to put education first “for Malala and girls and boys throughout the world”.

Events have been planned in over 100 countries, from the UK and USA to Mexico, India, Australia and Sierra Leone to mark the day.

In the UK where there is a host of local events, the most poignant event will take place in Lozells, Birmingham only a few miles away from Malala’s hospital.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Britain’s Senior Minister of State at the Foreign Office and Minister for faith and communities, hailed Malala Yousufzai’s inspirational activism ahead of Malala Day today.

Baroness Warsi, said: “Through her inspirational activism Malala has bravely highlighted the need for education to be accessible to all children in Pakistan.

“Education is the single most important factor that can transform Pakistan’s future.”

Thousands of people from across the world have signed a global petition calling for her to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala is recovering in a British hospital from gun shot wounds and has received messages of support for her cause from global leaders, including US President Barack Obama.

Nobel Committee Gives Peace Prize to European Union.

By naming the European Union the recipient of the 2012 peace prize on Friday, the Norwegian Nobel CMembers of the Nobel committee lauded six decades of reconciliation among enemies who fought Europe’s bloodiest wars while simultaneously warning against the hazards of the present. The decision sounded at times like a plea to support the endangered institution at a difficult hour.

“We see already now an increase of extremism and nationalistic attitudes,” said Thorbjorn Jagland, the former Norwegian prime minister who is chairman of the panel awarding the prize, in an interview after announcing the award. “There is a real danger that Europe will start disintegrating. Therefore, we should focus again on the fundamental aims of the organization.”

Yet on the very day that the award was announced in Oslo, leading European policy makers again publicly bickered over how to deal with Greece’s bailout. Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, rejected calls from the French head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, to give Greece more time to make additional spending cuts to rein in deficits.

The intractable debt troubles in Greece have been at the heart of the financial crisis that has gone on for years and has taken a tremendous toll on Europe’s economy, breeding ill will between the suffering periphery and officials in Germany, who have called for painful austerity as the price of continued German support for the rising debt.

“The leader of the E.U. is Germany, which is in an economic war with southern Europe,” said Stavros Polychronopoulos, 60, a retired lawyer in Athens. “I consider this war equal to a real war. They don’t help peace.”

Mr. Polychronopoulos stood Friday in the central Syntagma Square in Athens, where residue from tear gas fired by the police during demonstrations on Tuesday to protest a visit by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, still clung to the sidewalks.

In light of the recent upheaval, the Nobel announcement was greeted with surprise, perplexity and, from some corners, even mockery. “The Nobel committee is a little late for an April Fool’s joke,” said Martin Callanan, a British member of the European Parliament and the leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group. “The E.U.’s policies have exacerbated the fallout of the financial crisis and led to social unrest that we haven’t seen for a generation.”

Before making its choice, the Norwegian panel — located, as it happens, in an oil-rich kingdom whose population of five million people has steadfastly resisted membership of the 27-nation European Union — weighed 231 nominations. One committee member, a Socialist critical of the union, had a stroke recently and was replaced by a more Europe-friendly moderate, ensuring the committee’s tradition of unanimous decisions.

The peace prize is associated with diplomats or heads of state who have ended wars, or individuals like Mother Teresa and Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu fighting poverty or injustice. Last year’s peace prize was shared by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia; a Liberian antiwar activist, Leymah Gbowee; and Tawakkol Karman, a democracy activist in Yemen. The 2010 peace prize winner was Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese human rights campaigner.

But as it has in the past, notably in bestowing the 2009 peace prize on President Obama less than one year after he took office, the selection by the highly politicized committee sometimes reflects hope as much as achievement, seeking to bolster good intentions with a prestigious accolade that provides an unparalleled, if often contentious, global imprimatur.

Ms. Merkel called the award “an inducement and an obligation at the same time.” The announcement was taken by the European Union elite in Brussels — and by its surviving founders — as a moment of profound vindication. José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, said the award proved that the European body was “something very precious.”

“It is justified recognition for a unique project that works for the benefit of its citizens and also for the benefit of the world,” he said. “The award today by the Nobel committee shows that even in these difficult times, the European Union remains an inspiration for countries and people all over the world and that the international community needs a strong European Union.”

For all the talk of unity, however, a variety of signals suggested the opposite. European officials immediately raised the question of who would accept the peace prize on behalf of the bloc’s often bickering members, divided by tensions between its more affluent north and its struggling south. They are also frequently at odds over personality differences and critical questions, like whether Turkey should be admitted and whether the euro zone should include more countries than its current 17.

At its headquarters in Brussels, several figureheads compete for prominence, including Mr. Barroso, the president of the European Commission, which enforces European treaties, and Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, which represents heads of European Union governments.

Additionally, the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, said in a statement that his institution expected to be part of the award ceremony.

The rivalries recalled a remark ascribed to Henry A. Kissinger, the former United States secretary of state: “Who do I call if I want to call Europe?”

The differences extend beyond the Continent’s many languages to broader questions of commitment to the European integration project. Some Europeans asked whether the bloc’s dismal track record in dealing with the Balkan wars of the 1990s and its performance in the current economic crisis justified a prize for spreading peace.

At the news conference in Oslo to announce the award, Mr. Jagland said the committee had “no ambitions” that the $1.2 million prize would solve the multibillion-euro crisis. “The stabilizing part played by the E.U. has helped to transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace,” he said. “The union and its forerunners have for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.”

He added: “The dreadful suffering in World War II demonstrated the need for a new Europe. Over a 70-year period, Germany and France had fought three wars. Today, war between Germany and France is unthinkable.”

He also cited the admission of Greece, Spain and Portugal in the 1980s after they emerged from dictatorships, with democracy as a condition for membership, as well as the ending of the divisions between east and west after the fall of the Berlin Wall, as successes for the European Union.

“The admission of Croatia as a member next year, the opening of membership negotiations with Montenegro, and the granting of candidate status to Serbia all strengthen the process of reconciliation in the Balkans,” he said.

Maurice Faure, the last living French signatory to the 1957 Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community, a precursor to the modern union, called the prize “the finest reward, the official recognition of what we developed, notably peace.”

“The European Union remains a work in progress,” he said.

Alan Cowell reported from Paris, and Nicholas Kulish from Berlin. Reporting was contributed by Walter Gibbs from Oslo, Stephen Castle from London, James Kanter from Brussels, Rachel Donadio from Athens, Victor Homola from Berlin, and Scott Sayare and Maïa de la Baume from Paris.

Committee made an unconventional choice that celebrated the bloc’s postwar integration even as a financial crisis and political infighting threaten to tear it apart.


Graduating from war culture to peace culture.

Peace culture – a novel concept introduced today at the IPPNW Student Congress. Not a culture of peace, a culture defined by peace. Inspiring words today from keynote speaker Steve Leeper, the chairman of the Hiroshima Peace foundation. His message was not that this is something we need to aspire to; rather it’s something we can no longer afford not to attain. We need to graduate from the war culture, the dominance hierarchy that we live in, to peace culture. We need to evolve as a global society.

This is possible, and history gives us the necessary proof. Concepts such as slavery, piracy and torture that were all widely practiced in previous centuries are now viewed as primitive and barbaric. With regard to weaponry, indiscriminate arms that were used in previous conflicts, such as land mines and chemical weapons, have been banned by international law. And none of these acts or armaments has the immediate, irrevocable destructive power of a nuclear bomb. It is time to continue our evolution.

Let us return to peace culture, specifically as it differs from war culture. When conflict arises it is perceived as an opportunity to win or lose, to move higher or lower in the power structure. Competitive culture requires others to be viewed as enemies that need to be protected against. And while individually many of us have learned tolerate, if not embrace our neighbors, many of our world leaders continue to see themselves as surrounded by enemies. They have abandoned in large part the role of problem solver for the role of warrior. We need to change this view; we need to help them evolve.

So how must we approach situations of conflict that are inevitable in a chaotic world? Do we use the war culture mindset, shoot first and ask later, kill them before they kill you? Or do we make a pact to reject violence, and follow the teachings of respected figures of various cultures throughout history- from Jesus and Buddha to Ghandi and Martin Luther King– and adopt civility, non-violence, a peace culture. We can and must evolve.

This evolution has been ongoing for thousands of years. Unfortunately, due to unprecedented threats to our world, we have reached a point in the process where we can no longer afford to wait passively for the next phase. Our increased capacity and efficiency for destruction, both of our fellow human beings and of our planet, dictate that we cannot afford to continue to make mistakes from which we may never recover as a species. For the sake of our children’s and our species’ survival, we need to evolve.

Source: IPPNW blog