The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes created by the Swedish industrialist, inventor, and armaments manufacturer Alfred Nobel, along with the prizes in Chemistry, Physics, Physiology or Medicine, and Literature.
At the age of 17, Swedish Alfred Nobel spoke five languages fluently. Nobel became an inventor and businessman, and at the time of his death on 10 December 1896, he had 355 patents worldwide – one of them was the patent on dynamite. He also had started 87 companies all over the world. According to his will, Alfred Nobel's enormous fortune was to be used to establish prizes to award those who had done their best to benefit mankind in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace. The first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901, five years after Nobel's death. In 1969, another prize was added "The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel".
A person or organization awarded the Nobel Prize is called Nobel Laureate. The word "laureate" refers to being signified by the laurel wreath. In ancient Greece, laurel wreaths were awarded to victors as a sign of honor.
The Nobel Laureates are announced at the beginning of October each year. A couple of months later, on 10 December, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death, they receive their prizes from the Swedish King – a Nobel diploma, a medal, and 10 million Swedish crowns per prize (approximately £1 million). All Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, except for the Nobel Peace Prize, which is awarded in Oslo, Norway. When Alfred Nobel was alive, Norway and Sweden were united under one monarch, until 1905 when Norway became an independent kingdom with its own king.
Since 1901, Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded annually (with some exceptions) to those who have "done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses". The recipient of the award is selected by a 5-member committee appointed by the Parliament of Norway. Since 1990, the prize is awarded in Oslo City Hall each year.
On 13 October 2006 the Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Ole Danbolt Mjøs, announced in Oslo that they decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize jointly to Dr. Muhammad Yunus and Grammen Bank "for their efforts create economic and social development from below".
There had been many who questioned awarding the prize to Dr Yunus and Grameen. After all what had micro-credit to do with peace?
The Norwegian Nobel Committee responded to such queries by pointing out that the three criteria specified by Albert Nobel for the peace prize (namely fraternity between nations, abolition of standing armies, and holding peace congresses) "only provide limited guidance". It was left to the Committee to "interpret and concretize the concept of peace". By awarding the prize to Henri Dunant (founder of Red Cross), who was the joint recipient of the first prize back in 1901, and later to Mother Teresa, John Boyd Orr (founder of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO), Norman Borlaug (responsible for the green revolution in agriculture), and other such figures, the Committee has shown that the "distinction between humanitarian work and the struggle against poverty is of course not clear". Therefore, awarding Dr Yunus and Grameen Bank was "less of novelty than many appear to believe, even granting that micro-credit as a tool for overcoming poverty is completely new in the context of the Peace Prize".
The Committee also believed that there was some direct relationship between poverty and peace. It citied the Human Security Report 2005 which found that most wars took place in poor countries, and when the per capita income increased, the risk of war declined. One possible reason for this is perhaps as the country becomes more prosperous, it has more resources to resolve the problems that can give rise to conflict.
The Committee pointed to Bangladesh as a prime example of this. Over the past few decades the country had recorded considerable economic growth, thanks in parts to the operation of Grameen Bank and other such institutions. Therefore, by awarding the prize to Dr Yunus and Grameen Bank the Committee wanted to "draw attention especially to micro-credit" and show how it could be used as an "instrument" to "produce good results".
Lasting peace can not be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Micro-credit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights.
Muhammad Yunus has shown himself to be a leader who has managed to translate visions into practical action for the benefit of millions of people, not only in Bangladesh, but also in many other countries.
...Every single individual on earth has both the potential and the right to live a decent life. Across cultures and civilizations, Yunus and Grameen Bank have shown that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development.
Micro-credit has proved to be an important liberating force in societies where women in particular have to struggle against repressive social and economic conditions. Economic growth and political democracy can not achieve their full potential unless the female half of humanity participates on an equal footing with the male.
Yunus's long-term vision is to eliminate poverty in the world. That vision can not be realised by means of micro-credit alone. But Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank have shown that, in the continuing efforts to achieve it, micro-credit must play a major part.
The Nobel Peace Prize Committee declared that by awarding Dr Muhammad Yunus and Grameen the Nobel Peace Prize they had hoped to facilitate and "focus attention on dialogue with the Muslim world, on the women's perspective, and on the fight against poverty". They had hoped to reach out to the global Muslim population, especially in the aftermath of 11 September 2001 attack on the Twin Towers in New York USA. The Committee had hoped to "try to narrow the gap between the West and Islam" and prevent the "widespread tendency to demonize Islam" http://www.muhammadyunus.org/index.php/professor-yunus/nobel-peace-prize.
Secondly, since over 95% of Grameen borrowers were women, the Committee praised the organisation for playing a pivotal role in empowering women, breaking many taboos, and bringing about "a social revolution in Bangladesh".
Thirdly, the Committee praised Dr Yunus for introducing micro-credit and helping fight against poverty and for social and economic development. Dr Yunus's innovation has reached beyond Bangladesh to all corners of the world and has influenced countless such organisations to "sprung up around the world".
The Peace Prize to Yunus and Grameen Bank is also support for the Muslim country Bangladesh and for the Muslim environments in the world that are working for dialogue and collaboration. All too often we speak one-sidedly about how much the Muslim part of the world has to learn from the West. Where micro-credit is concerned, the opposite is true: the West has learned from Yunus, from Bangladesh, and from the Muslim part of the world.
...In today's terminology, micro-credit is indeed "female empowerment". Micro-credit has proved itself to be a liberating force in societies where women in particular have to struggle against repressive social and economic conditions. Economic growth and political democracy can not achieve their full potential unless the female half of humanity on earth contributes on an equal footing with the male.
...Numbers soon multiply and swell. But behind each number there is an individual human being. Every single person on earth has both the potential and the right to live a decent life. Across cultures and civilizations, Yunus and Grameen Bank have shown that the poor can work to bring about their own development. In Yunus's words, "Micro-credit is a well-tried and well-founded method that can bring financial services to the poorest of the poor. Micro-credit promotes entrepreneurship, and puts each individual poor person, especially women, in the driving-seat in their own lives". Even beggars have become borrowers in the bank. Yunus believes firmly that alms destroy the initiative and creativity of poor people.
A poet, playwright, painter, actor, singer, musician and modern philosopher, Rabindranath Tagore was the first Bengali to win a Nobel Prize. In 1913 Rabindranath won the Nobel Prize in Literature for Geetanjali (Song Offerings), a collection of poem, "because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West". The 52-year-old became the first non-European person ever to receive such an accolade.
Rabindranath's contribution to Indian literature and art is colossal. Among many other things, Rabindranath is also the author of the national anthems of two different countries - India and Bangladesh.
The next Bengali to win a nobel prize came 85 years later. In 1998 eminent economist Amartya Sen was awarded 'The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel' "for his contributions to welfare economics". A profound scholar, Sen has written numerous books on Economics and Philosophy which have been translated into more than 35 languages in a course of 40 years. He is also a distinguished fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, All Souls College, Oxford, and of Trinity College in Cambridge.
Another Bengali won an award which bears the sanction of the Alfred Nobel Society. In 2007 scientist Anirban Banerjee received the Nobel Laureate Signature Award for Chemistry, which is considered one of the most acclaimed in the world of science, for his groundbreaking research on the human DNA. The award is given by the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the winner is chosen by six Nobel laureates in chemistry.
The winner, chosen for their pathbreaking research that would be of immediate use for the betterment of human society, receives $3,000 and a plaque that is signed by all the resident Nobel laureates. By winning the award, Anirban Banerjee became the first Indian to do so.
The phenomenal growth of microcredit and Grameen Bank attracted worldwide attention. In 2001, US First Lady, Hilary Clinton, visited a Grameen village with Dr Yunus. Her husband Bill Clinton, a former President of USA, started one of the first micro credit groups outside Bangladesh while he was governor of Arkansas.
Like many people who knew about Dr Yunus and Grameen Bank, Bill Clinton felt that Dr. Yunus should've received the nobel prize long time ago.
Dr. Yunus is a man who long ago should have won the Nobel Prize and I'll keep saying that until they finally give it to him.
Another prominent person who lent his support to Dr Yunus publicly was Mexican president Vicente Fox. He believed a micro credit loan, which can come with higher than average interest, is better than a handout.
It [microcredit] dignifies because it promotes people's responsibility and people's will to work and to improve their own condition.
On 10 December 2006, six days before Bangladesh's 35th Bijoy Dibosh (Victory Day), Dr Yunus and Grameen Bank took centre stage at Oslo Town Hall. They were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize by Ole Danbolt Mjøs in presence of King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway. They received the Nobel Medal, Nobel Diploma and a document confirming the Nobel Prize amount.
In addition to Yunus's wife Afrozi Begum, youngest daughter Deena, and long-term prodigy Dipal Chandra Barua, the prestigious ceremony were attended by royalty, previous nobel laureates and other dignitaries. Among the elite crowd were Their Royal Highnesses Crown Princess Mette-Marit and Crown Prince Haakon of Norway.
Mosammat Taslima Begum, a receipient of micro credit, accepted the award on behalf of Grameen Bank's investors and borrowers. Mosammat used her first $20 loan from the bank in 1992 to buy a goat and subsequently became a successful entrepreneur. Now she owns land with an income-producing mango patch. She later became one of the elected board members of the bank.
Not all the journalists covering the announcement of the award at the Nobel Institute knew who Yunus and Grameen Bank were. Some thought Grameen Bank was a person. Let that be the reporters' problem.
The award ceremony began with a performance by Nrityanchal Dance Company, a dance troupe from Bangladesh. Nrityanchal was founded in 2000 by Shamim Ara Nipa and Shibli Mohammad, Bangladesh's leading exponents of Indian kathak (classical) dance and folk dance. The legendary pair formed the group in conjunction with Dr. Yunus's younger brother Muhammad Yunus, the co-ordinator of the company's activities who has a long career in the fields of media and culture.
The group was invited to perform by the Nobel Committee upon the request of Prize Winner Dr Yunus. It was a golden opportunity to display the beauty and grace of Bangladeshi dance to a worldwide audience for the first time, especially at such a historic occassion. A 15-member dance troupe accompanied Dr Yunus to Oslo on 8 December 2006. The group performed two dance numbers at the programme. The first dance was based on the Rabindranath Tagore song Rangiye diye jao go abar. It seemed apt to start the introductory session with a Rabindra Sangeet (Rabindranath Song) since Tagore was the first Bengali to win a nobel prize. The second performance was titled Janmabhumi (Motherland). A memorable part of their energetic and colourful act involved a lady dancer holding a shapla ful (lotus flower) - Bangladesh's national flower - and appearing in the middle of the flag of Bangladesh at the end of a dance routine.
Many there weren't aware of Bangladeshi culture. We were lucky to get an opportunity to showcase our culture in front of the whole world.
It is not the first time we have performed at Dr Yunus' request. However, we knew that it was an uncommon practice to dance at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. When the call did come we knew we had a huge responsibility.
As an artiste this was the highest point in my career. I have performed in over 50 countries, but to be able to perform at the Oslo City Hall at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony was exhilarating.
The previous day we had a full rehearsal, complete with costume and makeup. Everyone had to go through a rigorous routine. Yet on the day as I got on stage I felt numb. The gratification that it was a Bangladeshi collecting the prize, the exhilaration of being the first dance troupe to be performing there, and knowing that the whole world was watching us, it was just surreal.
Nrityanchal also performed in the Nobel Peace Prize Concert which took place the next day.
In 2011 Bangladesh hosted the ICC Cricket World Cup competition along with India and Sri Lanka. Shibli and Nipa were responsible for co-ordinating and choreographing 200 Nrityanchal dancers and 45 indigenous dancers for the spectacular opening ceremony in the Bangabanghu National Stadium, Dhaka, in February. Shibli and Nipa themselves made brief but dramatic personal appearances in the arena at key moments of the ceremony.
Bangladesh has inherited a living dance tradition which reflects the evolution of South Asian dance through the ages, from classical times down to the present day. It is characterised by variety, versatility and richness of form and content. Transcending linguistic and political barriers, it is part of the world’s cultural heritage.
Shibli Mohammad and Shamim Ara Nipa have been performing together for many years. As leading exponents of Indian classical dance, they are well known for their exquisite performances of Kathak, but are equally proficient in folk and creative (contemporary) dance. Their professional partnership is legendary – no other dance duo in Bangladesh has approached them in popularity and no major cultural event is complete without them. With their seemingly effortless co-ordination of movement, the chemistry between them is clear for all to see.
Dance is an integral part of not only Bangladeshi culture but also cultures throughout the world. It is an art form that transcends language and cultural barriers.
Professor Ole Danbolt Mjøs introduced Dr. Yunus and Grameen Bank. He praised both for their positive contribution, especially "narrowing the gap between the West and Islam", women empowerment, and "fight against poverty and for social and economic development" - three issues which was the focus of the award for that year.
By means of this year's Peace Prize award, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to focus attention on dialogue with the Muslim world, on the women's perspective, and on the fight against poverty.
...The Norwegian Nobel Committee underlines that "lasting peace can not be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty". Peace with justice must be built from below, by means to which Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank have contributed.
Today the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to express its admiration for the work Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank have done for thousands upon thousands of ordinary people in Bangladesh and in many other countries. We hope the Peace Prize will be a source of inspiration in the continuing work for a world without poverty. That is not a goal we shall reach in the next few decades. But we are on the way. Today we congratulate and celebrate the two of you, Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank. [In Bangla] Apnader Shobaikay Ushno Obhhindon (Warmest congratulations to you all!) Tomorrow we shall hurry on together towards the goal of a world without poverty.
Every single individual on earth has both the potential and the right to live a decent life. Across cultures and civilizations, Yunus and Grameen Bank have shown that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development.
Once Professor Mjøs had finished, it was the turn of Dr Yunus to give his Nobel Lecture. The Nobel Lectures by the Nobel Laureates is an important part of the presentation. In Stockholm, the lectures are presented days before the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony, whereas in Oslo the Nobel Laureates deliver their lectures during the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony.
The Nobel Peace Prize concert took place at the Oslo Spektrum, Norway, the day after the award ceremony. Approximately 8,000 people attended the event which was hosted by Hollywood actress Sharon Stone and Angelica Huston among others. It featured live performances from global popstars and singers such as Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens), Lionel Richie, John Legend, Rihanna, Paulina Rubio, Wynonna, Simply Red, Hakim, opera singer Renee Fleming, and Morten Abel.
There were also two Bengali performing artists: Dr Yunus's eldest daughter Monica Yunus, and the Nrityanchal Music and Dance Company from Bangladesh. Monica sang solo opera to honour her father and his Grameen Bank, while Nrityanchal chose the Mayur Nritya (peacock dance) for the occasion.
Nrityanchal Music and Dance Company (NMDC) was established in 2000 with the goal to train and promote dance artistes and give them a platform. The institution's broader vision was to develop professionalism among local dancers by proving that dance can be a financially viable career option.
We got congratulatory mails from the organisers of the Nobel Peace Committee branding us as an international dance troupe. Through Oslo we believe we have left a positive mark about our dance troupe as well as Bangladesh.
It almost defies comprehension that when, as chairman of the Nobel Committee, I walk up to a microphone at the Nobel Institute in Oslo and announce that this year's Peace Prize is going to Yunus and Grameen Bank, politicians and papers in large parts of the world begin to comment on, and to a large extent to applaud, the Norwegian Nobel Committee's choice. And what is even harder to believe: there is an outbreak of joyful demonstrations in Bangladesh. For several days one could almost have described the country as closed because of happiness. Many said that this was the greatest thing to have happened to the country since independence in 1971.
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