How to Win a Nobel Peace Prize

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When Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work in microfinance, it was the climax of thirty years of developing his brilliant objective, all the while gaining enough recognition to even register on the Nobel Prize radar. Sound like a lot of work? It is. But, it’s pretty amazing to have the title Nobel Prize Laureate follow your name every time it shows up in print. Yunus was the 87th recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and one of many brilliant minds who have been recognized for their contributions to the global peace effort.

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded eighty-nine times since 1901 by the Norwegian Nobel Committee to honor men and women for their outstanding achievements in peace. The establishment of the Prize came after the death of Alfred Nobel who left most of his wealth to the establishment of such an award. It was kind of big deal, since Nobel was also the guy who invented dynamite. Not exactly what comes to mind when you think about “peace.” But Nobel saw his development of dynamite as a means of eventually eliminating the need for war. Beyond his adventures in experimenting with nitroglycerine, Nobel was also an activist, a writer, and an entrepreneur. Kind of a Jack of all Trades.

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded every year, minus a few years in the early part of the last century (it’s tough to give out a “Peace” prize when most of the world is at war with each other). The week-long ceremonies are held in Stockholm, Sweden where the laureate receives the Nobel Prize Medal, Nobel Prize Diploma and a handsome sum of cash. They give a nice long speech, their Nobel lecture, thanking the committee for finally recognizing their accomplishments and from that day forward, any book they write or article they publish or paper they sign is accompanied by the words “Nobel Peace Prize Winner.” Sounds like a pretty good deal—especially considering the lifetime of achievement that comes before winning such an award. Before you go out and try to win your own Nobel Peace Prize there are a few things to consider that might help your odds.

Step One: Do Something Big
The first step to winning the peace prize is to identify a particular problem, and come up with a solution. Nothing to it, right? The long list of prize winners are peace activists, former presidents, inventors, world leaders, nonprofit organizations, even spiritual leaders. All laureates have made a significant contribution to the struggle for peace around the globe. To make the list you have do something really important. Like, end the Cold War, for example. Recent wins have shown significant contribution in the form of great ideas as opposed to widespread recognition. Muhammad Yunus’s road to a Nobel nomination began with forty-two loans, sixty-two cents each, an experiment that has paved the way for millions to find a release from extreme poverty. Wangari Muta Maathai, Kenyan political activist, won the 2004 award for her efforts in saving Africa’s rainforests. What did she do? She planted trees. Lots and lots of trees.

The common thread that binds all laureates together is their ability to see a need for change and a contribution they can make to a solution. Under the scrutiny and skepticism of many, they press forward until a tipping point is reached and necessary change is made. It’s a matter of asking the right questions What if? What if we could end this war? What if we could find equality? What if we could prevent climate change? What if we could eradicate poverty? That’s big.

Step Two: Make Friends With a Qualified Nominator
The second leg of your journey towards the ultimate peace recognition is to schmooze with the top dogs. Not just anyone can make a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. Compared to the general population, there is a pretty short list of people who can actually nominate an individual or an organization, Al Gore being one of them. Unfortunately, you can’t nominate yourself; if you want to be nominated, try making friends with the former vice president. That would definitely help your chances.

Can’t get a hold of him? Here’s a list of others whose votes count:

Members of national assemblies and governments of states

Members of international courts

University rectors; professors of social sciences, history, philosophy, law and theology; director of peace research institutes and foreign policy institutes

Persons who have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

Board members of organizations who have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

Active and former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee; (proposals by members of the Committee to be submitted no later than at the first meeting of the Committee after February 1)

Former advisers appointed by the Norwegian Nobel Institute.

So put on a smile, and start schmoozing!

Step Three: Be Better Than Gandhi
Trumping Gandhi? Is that even ethical? Mahatma Gandhi is an international symbol of non-violence. He is the epitome of peace—this little man with perfectly round glasses quietly refusing to eat until all Indians are granted equal rights. Sounds pretty peaceful. Ultimately, it was effective. Yet Gandhi never won the Nobel Peace Prize even though he was nominated five times. The final nomination came days before Gandhi’s assassination in 1948. The Nobel committee refused to award the prize because no living suitable candidate was available to receive the reward. Gandhi had no possessions and no will, so even if he had won, there was no one to accept it. While a posthumous award was considered, it was never granted because the committee determined that the winner should at least be living when the decision was made.

Don’t let Gandhi’s fate discourage you. His nomination came in the 1930s and 40s, right at the end of British colonization. It wasn’t exactly a good time for an Eastern man to be nominated for an award generally given to Europeans until that point. If anything, there was major political drama that surrounded the nomination. If Gandhi won, what would that do to Norway’s relations with Great Britain? It’s not generally a good idea to anger a world power- especially during a world war.

If you’re going to win a Nobel Peace Prize:

Make sure your contribution in securing peace doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s geopolitical relations.

Get a really good security team and try to not get assassinated before your nomination is confirmed.

Make sure your non-violent protest doesn’t lead to actual violence.

If there is a chance you may not survive to receive your award, leave a will. That way someone gets it.

Things may have been different for Gandhi had his peaceful protest taken place a generation or two later. Regardless, it wasn’t the prize he was after- it was the change, and he got that. Give (something other than) Peace A Chance.

While the Nobel Peace Prize is the oldest award given by the Nobel Foundation, it is not the only prize given. There are six awards, including: Physics, Chemistry, Economics, Literature, and Medicine. Since its inception, the Nobel Prize has been awarded to more than 800 individuals and organizations in the six categories. Other recipients include Milton Friedman who won in 1976 for his work in Economics, and Albert Einstein, who won in 1921 for his work in theoretical physics. Chances are, had Alfred Nobel been nominated for a prize, he would have likely won a prize in chemistry, not necessarily Peace—especially with dynamite playing a major role in the World Wars.

Step Four: Be Part of Something Bigger Than Yourself
Let’s face it. Chances are, unless you’re on a lengthy hunger strike that could secure political independence for an entire country, the odds of winning a Nobel Peace Prize are not in your favor. The best way to make lasting impact in the way of world peace is to join a cause. Be part of a cause that is greater than you could ever be on your own. One voice is often difficult to hear, but many voices with the same message are hard to ignore. Invisible Children is trying to end a war in Uganda. charity:water is finding new ways to make sure water is available to everyone regardless of where they live. Peace One Day is bringing global attention to the need to end war one day at a time. Free the Slaves is liberating those oppressed in human trafficking around the world. You could be part of a movement that one day could be recognized by the global community for their impact in affirming peace.

And that is how you will win a Nobel Peace Prize. We hear Obama has a four-step program as well, only his involves gaining international attention by winning the presidency. While this may make you a guaranteed shoo-in, our plan promises success without having your name on a presidential ballot.

Just know, 2010 could be your year.

By Sarah Nelson for


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