Nobel Peace Prize - the controversial winners

Society

A longstanding discussion

When the first Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Henry Dunant of Switzerland (left) and Frederic Passy of France (right) in 1901, the Nobel Commission was divided. Dunant had founded the International Red Cross and, together with Passy, initiated the Geneva Conventions. The commission's members feared that by making war more humane, the Geneva Conventions could make it more acceptable.

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Warrior and peacekeeper

US President Theodore Roosevelt was never seen as a pacifist – he had urged war against Spain. After that, he helped Cubans to free themselves from colonialism, but US troops soon arrived in Cuba, ensuring the island remained under de facto US control. Roosevelt received the prize for another commitment: his peace efforts in the Russo-Japanese war.

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The racist peacemaker

The 28th US President, Woodrow Wilson, also received a prize "for his contributions to the end of World War I and the founding of the League of Nations," the precursor to the UN. But he also believed in the superiority of whites and was a supporter of segregation who praised the Ku Klux Klan.

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Peace prize without peace

US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Vietnamese politburo member Le Duc Tho played a decisive role in the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, aimed at ending the conflict. However, Tho refused to accept the prize. While the US largely withdrew after the accords, the conflict in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia would last another two years.

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From putsch to Peace Prize

Egypt's President Anwar al-Sadat (left) joined Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin (right) to agree to peace between the two countries. In 1978, they were honored for the Camp David Agreement. But the prize for Sadat caused a stir: He was a senior member of the secret "Free Officers" who had overthrown King Farouk in 1952.

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Peacekeeping and dirty business

The blue Helmets are the peacekeeing forces of the United Nations. They were awarded the Nobel Prize for their work in 1988. However, they came under massive criticism in subsequent years: the troops were accused of sexually abusing women and children and forced them into prostitution. In the genocide in Rwanda, and in the massacre at Srebrenica, they were blamed for standing idly by.

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The man with two faces

Although he was regarded as an advocate of apartheid before his time as a South African president, F.W. de Klerk played a key role in the abolition of racial separation in South Africa. He freed Nelson Mandela and other African National Congress politicians from prison, championed the freedom of the press, and abolished the apartheid laws. In 1993 he and Mandela shared the Nobel Peace Prize.

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A terrorist with a Nobel Peace Prize

There was uproar in 1994, when Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat along with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres received the award for their peace efforts in the Middle East. A Norwegian politician resigned in protest from the Nobel Committee, calling Arafat an "unworthy winner."

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A 'better and more peaceful world' thanks to the UN?

Both the UN and its Secretary General, Kofi Annan, received the 2001 Nobel Prize – "for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world." But critics accuse the UN of not upholding these ideals and of frequent failure. Individual states are able to block resolutions and joint action in the UN Security Council.

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Advance laurels for Barack Obama

Barack Obama had only been US president for nine months when he received the award for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." Critics thought it came much too early. Later, Obama ordered military intervention – including the mission to kill terrorist Osama bin Laden, which was highly controversial under international law.

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'Nonviolent struggle' and a war criminal

Liberia's former President Charles Taylor was convicted of war crimes tied to thousands of cases of murder, rape and torture. Critics accuse his successor Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, once Taylor's finance minister, of supporting his violence and corruption. Nevertheless, in 2011 she was honored for her "nonviolent struggle for the safety of women." She claimed the prize during her re-election campaign.

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Questionable treatment of asylum seekers

Barbed-wire fences, detention, inhumane conditions in refugee camps: Human rights activists have been criticizing the EU's refugee policies for years. Even so, the European Union was honored in 2012 for its "advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe."

From Yasser Arafat to the UN: Why did they receive a Nobel Peace Prize? It's a question asked almost every year in Oslo. Criticism of the award is as old as the prize itself.