The Nobel Prize is one of the most coveted international awards in modern history. Of the different types of awards, the Peace Prize is one of the most significant, and controversial. Remember a few years ago when Obama won the award, and everyone hated him? Well, that wasn’t the first time the committee has been scrutinized for someone they’ve awarded, although sometimes it’s about someone they didn’t award.
10. Eleanor Roosevelt
Most of us only remember Eleanor Roosevelt for being the First Lady to FDR. But in reality, Eleanor Roosevelt was as great as, or maybe even greater than her husband. Most people complain the US doesn’t really give the UN any respect and, while that is partially true today, it was entirely true when FDR was president. Eleanor Roosevelt started the first US mission to the UN, basically making the US recognize that the UN is a thing that existed. Once there, she wasted no time establishing the UN Commission on Human Rights and writing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She all but looked superpowers like the Soviet Union in the eye and told them to back the Hell away, cuz they’re dealing with Mega-Eleanor now. He husband even nicknamed her, “First Lady of the World” for her activeness. She did no less as First Lady either, being one of the most powerful supporters of the civil rights movement. Yet, for all her work, she never once received the Nobel Prize.
9. Vaclav Havel
Vaclav Havel was the last President of Czechoslovakia, and the first President of the Czech Republic. While being president of two countries at once should merit him all the Nobel Prizes, he is also very well known in Eastern Europe for his human rights work. Havel started his political life by being an instrumental factor in the Prague Spring (that’s the Arab Spring of Eastern Europe, for all you 12-year-olds). Afterwards, he was unanimously voted in as President of the new country that had broken off of the Soviet Union, despite not really wanting the job. In addition to standing up to Mother Russia, he also prevented civil war between the Czechs and Solvaks, and converted his country into a proper republic with free elections.
8. Dorothy Day
Dorothy Day is known for her outstanding work during the Great Depression. After her conversion to Catholicism, she started the Catholic Worker, which was basically a pacifist movement against the World War II climate, that sought to rebuild families and homes, sometimes literally. Her system was of communal living, where families would live together, either on a farm or in a large building, instead of in the slums. Her movement spread to Canada and Europe. Today, there is an open case with the Pope to canonize her. But no Nobel Prize.
7. Fazle Hasan Abed
After the Indo-Pakistani Wars of Separation, Bangladesh declared itself its own country. So, naturally happy to hear the news, Abed rushed home from England, only to find his country in shambles. With some of his modest savings, he created a development organization to build infrastructure and homes. In just a few years, it became one of the largest development organizations in the world. Today, it encompasses 8 different countries, and aids more than 110 million people. And, while Abed has received numerous awards, he was snubbed of the most important of them all.
6. Sari Nusseibeh
Sari Nusseibeh is a Palestinian academic, and outspoken critic of Israel. To be fair, literally every Palestinian is a critic of Israel. But Nusseibeh didn’t lash out violently; instead, he reacted by helping form the Palestinian authority, AKA the only party working with Israel, instead of fighting them. He created over 200 committees to address the various humanitarian needs of his people. Eventually, he was arrested and made a Prisoner of Conscience (Amnesty International’s term for someone arrested purely for their beliefs.) After he was released, he began working with Israel to make a Palestinian state, and was harshly opposed to the militarization of Hamas. In many ways, Nusseibeh was like Yasser Arafat, who did win the Nobel Peace Prize, making it even more confusing that he didn’t.
5. Corazon Aquino
Corazon Aquino was the first female President in Asia. Let that sink in. Ready? Cool. As President of the Philippines, she instituted a number of democratic and humanitarian reforms. You see, she was taking the Presidency after a time of unrest and martial law unleashed by the United States of America, who really didn’t want to lose their territories. So, when she took office, she ended the authoritarian rule, and instituted a new constitution with democratic reforms. As part of shaping her country, she also increased the economic prosperity and made the country more independent. She is considered one of the the most influential women to have ever shaped the world, and has no trophy to symbolize that.
4. Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II was widely known in the religious world for his religious tolerance. He once stated he wanted his papacy to bring Islam, Judaism, and Christianity into one large religious armada. He was one of the most outspoken Christian religious critics of the Iraq War, and the first Pope to assert that gay people have the “same dignity and rights as everybody else.” He was also a huge factor in the collapse of three different dictatorships (Haiti, Paraguay, and Chile,) as his visits to those countries came with direct criticism of their governments. He was admired in the Middle East after he kissed a Holy Koran during a visit to Syria. He is also the first Pope to enter and pray in a mosque there, and the first Pope to visit Auschwitz. Pope John Paul II’s tolerance was unprecedented (how have his two successors been with the whole gay rights thing?) His snub is embarrassing.
3. Ken Saro-Wiwa
Saro-Wiwa was basically the Gandhi of Nigeria. As a member of a minority race in the country, he often spoke out against the country for displacing his people and using their land for oil, as well as dumping petroleum in the water. He established an organization, and made it their purpose to better the rights of his people. At his peak, he organized nonviolent protests of hundreds of thousands of persecuted minorities, drawing international attention to his cause. Because of that, the military formally occupied his homeland and declared him an enemy of the state. A few years later, he was found, arrested, and hanged. His death caused international criticism against Nigeria, and caused other countries to take economic action.
2. Irena Sendler
Irena Sendler was a Polish social worker who was active during the Holocaust. She was an active member of the Polish Underground, a secret society devoted to getting Jewish people out of the country and into safe hands. In her lifetime, it is estimated that Irena was able to get something like 2,500 Jewish children to safety. For her uncanny ability to save someone from persecution, especially children, the Nazis arrested and tortured her. Then to top it off, they sentenced her to death. But like the end of a movie, Irena managed to escape, and even survived the war. In hindsight, maybe the Nazi regime should have thought twice before trying to lock up someone who helped thousands of kids get to safety.
Eventually, she received multiple awards from Poland and Israel and died not by Nazi hands, but of natural causes. The crazy thing is, she was actually nominated for the Peace Prize, and that nomination was publicly endorsed by the President of Poland. But, unfortunately, that’s one award she never won.
1. Mahatma Gandhi
If you need an introduction for Mahatma Gandhi, the mac daddy of nonviolent protest, then get off this site and get to a damned library. This is the man who led India to freedom and inspired dozens of similar movements around the world, including the entire civil rights movement in the United States. Gandhi is to India what Washington is to the States; they even have a national holiday on his birthday. Even his oppressors, the British, acknowledge how instrumental he was in shaping things like sit-ins, hunger strikes, and public protests.
And he has never won the Nobel Peace Prize. Like, ever. Sure he was nominated, more than anyone else actually – a record breaking five times. Alas, Gandhi will have to be content with everlasting fame, and international appreciation. Poor guy.
Mohammed Shariff deserves to win a Nobel Prize in List Writing. Nominate him on Twitter.