International Committee of the Red Cross

Acceptance Speech

Acceptance by Max Huber, Honorary President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, on the occasion of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, December 10, 1945.

After receiving the prize from Mr. Jahn, Mr. Huber (1874-1960), Swiss jurist, a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross since 1923, and its president for many years (1928-1944), responded in the Committee’s behalf. That part of his acceptance speech1 which refers to the difference between the two types of contributors to peace chosen to receive the Peace Prize – a difference that had often evoked comment and sometimes criticism – is given here.

When Alfred Nobel instituted the Peace Prize, he was thinking particularly of constructive peace, of an international order that makes armed conflict impossible. That is why the Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Parliament has awarded a large share of its prizes to men who were champions of pacifism, of arbitration, and of international conciliation; to statesmen who have restored peace and acted for a better understanding among peoples. But from the beginning you have also awarded some prizes to men and institutions that have helped the victims of war and the victims of the evils that result from war. It is significant that the first Nobel Prize was given to Henri Dunant who, through his Souvenir de Solférino [Memory of Solférino], drew the world’s attention to the terrible lot of the military wounded and sick in the field; who, because of his intense desire to serve the unfortunate, was one of the founders of that Committee which we have the honor to represent here today; and who in 1863 provided the impetus for starting the universal work of the Red Cross and for establishing the first Geneva Convention of 1864.

And it was within this same concept that the Nobel Peace Prize for 1922 was awarded to one of Norway’s most distinguished sons, Fridtjof Nansen, whose name is forever attached to the great work of reconstruction in the aftermath of the War of 1914-1918.

Although there seems to be a big difference between constructive peace and aid to war victims – indeed, in the eyes of some, an antagonism – there is this implicit and fundamental bond. Helping the victims of war is not the only objective set by the Red Cross; in giving aid, it serves another purpose no less important, that of rescuing in the dark storm of war the idea of human solidarity and respect for the dignity of every human being – precisely at a time when the real or alleged necessities of war push moral values into the background.

No organization intended to secure the peace of nations can last unless it takes its inspiration from the idea of active fellowship or solidarity among men, the idea which the Red Cross is determined to protect even in humanity’s darkest hours.

1. Translated from the French text in Les Prix Nobel en 1945.

From Nobel Lectures, Peace 1926-1950, Editor Frederick W. Haberman, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1972

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1944

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