Traditionally, the most controversial and debated nomination is the Peace Prize. It used to be an award given to politicians who succeeded in preventing or stopping armed conflicts around the globe, but in recent years the selection policy of the Nobel Committee seemed to have changed.
Now mainly human rights activists win the prestigious award – Chinese writer and dissident Liu Xiaobo, women's rights advocates Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leyamh Gbowee from Liberia and Tawakel Karman from Yemen. But even though a certain trend has started to emerge, the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize created a real sensation. It was awarded jointly to 60-year-old Indian children’s right activist Kailash Satyarthi and 17-year-old Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai. By choosing nominees from two countries that are engaged in a decades-long rivalry over Kashmir, Oslo has shown diplomatic initiative that politicians often lack, says Mikhail Fedotov, the head of the Russian presidential human rights council.
"I think that this is a very good choice. First of all, this is an example of attention being paid toward human rights advocacy. Secondly, it's an example of wisdom and tolerance. They awarded a Nobel prize to human rights activists from two countries that do not get along very well, as everybody knows."
The dual prize was meant to be symbolic but at the same time brought recognition to people who truly deserved it. Kailash Satyarthi started raising money to provide education to kids from poor families when he himself was only 11 years old. For the last three decades, he has been running the Save Childhood Movement, which has freed over 80,000 Indian children from slavery and labor. However, before the Nobel Prize nomination, Satyarthi wasn’t as well-known abroad as his co-winner Malala Yousafzai.
The youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate began advocating women’s education rights when she was 12 when she started an internet blog, where Malala described the horrors of her life under the Taliban rule. Her efforts to promote literacy and education for girls and women didn’t go unnoticed by the regime. At the age of 15, Malala was shot in the head by Taliban attackers on her way home from school. The girl managed to survive and moved to Great Britain with her parents, where she continued campaigning for education prospects for females.
Despite the worldwide recognition of her work, Malala admitted she didn’t believe she would win such a high award. Speaking at the Nobel Prize ceremony, Yousafzai underlined that in modern times, ordinary people are capable of achieving more than politicians.
“Through my story I want to tell other children all around the world that they should stand up for their rights. They should not wait for someone else and their voices are more powerful. Their voices – It would seem they are weak but at a time when no one speaks, your voice gets so loud and everyone has to listen to it. Everyone has to hear. So it’s my message to children all around the world that they should stand up for their rights."
So the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize sent two important messages. On the one hand, it was awarded with the hope that leaders of India and Pakistan will stop fighting over Kashmir and concentrate on improving cultural, geographic, and economic ties between the countries. But apart from that, the Nobel Committee once again demonstrated that human rights activists are the people who stand behind the real life-changing movements in the modern world. Something for politicians to think about in 2015.