This is part of a series of blog posts written by the 2014 Peace Scholars as they experience their summer program in Norway. This post was written by Erin Cowles from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.
I having a feeling that most of you reading this blog and visiting this website know that December 10th is the day the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded. While this day holds much significance for this reason, this date is also Human Rights Day in recognition of the UN General Assembly’s adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
December 10th of 1977 was a celebration for these two reasons when Amnesty International (AI), founded in 1961, received the Nobel Peace Prize. Undoubtedly the largest nonprofit network focusing on human rights in the world, AI brought attention to the fact that “people everywhere need to be continually reminded that violations of human rights, whether arbitrary arrest and detention, unjust imprisonment, torture, or political assassination, are threats to world peace” in their acceptance speech. I have been an active member of AI for about a decade and this organization holds to these ideals even fifty years after the organization’s foundation.
The “arbitrary arrest and detention” component has been an issue for several Nobel Peace Prize winners, including Aung San Suu Kyi and Liu Xiaobo. Amnesty International began advocating for Aung San Suu Kyi in 1989, two years before she was declared the winner of the 1991 Peace Prize. While it took several decades of writing campaigns by AI – their main method of creating change – she was released in 2010 and accepted her award in person in 2012. Lui Xiaobo is the most recent Peace Prize winner who is also a prisoner of conscious. Arrested in 2008, he was awarded the prize in 2010. His wife, Liu Xia, was to come to Norway to receive the prize in his stead, but was placed under house arrest. Despite international pressure, Chinese authorities have not released either of them. In solidarity, I took a picture of his empty chair. Without human rights, fraternity cannot be created between nations and peace congresses cannot be held. I hope in years to come that human rights continue to be an integral part to the awarding of the Peace Prize.