International Committee of the Red Cross

Acceptance Speech

Mr. Léopold Boissier delivered the Acceptance Speech in the name of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Auditorium of the University of Oslo on December 10, 1963,

Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is my great privilege to express, to the Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Parliament, the deep gratitude of the International Committee of the Red Cross, in Geneva, for the high distinction it has received.

All my colleagues, on the International Committee, have asked me to tell you that the award of the Nobel Peace Prize is for them, and for all those who work with them, a powerful incentive to pursue their difficult, though stimulating, task.

Allow me to add that, since my youth I have been a witness to the support given, by the Nobel Foundation, to the cause of peace. Having entered the service of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, in nineteen twenty-one already, I knew those unselfish, courageous, apostles of peace, who often braved the distrust of governments, and who were chosen for honour by your illustrous Committee: the Frenchman, Frederic Passy – who shared the Prize with Henri Dunant –, the Swiss Ducommun and Gobat; the Dane Frederick Bajer; the Swede Branting; the Norwegian Christian Lange and others also. Behind these leaders, the great masses of the people were also encouraged to pursue the same path and the same ideal.

Did Alfred Nobel foresee, in his generosity, that his admirable gesture would have such remarkable results? I cannot say! But in any case we can now pay to his memory a proper tribute of admiration and gratitude. I wish to associate – in this tribute – the Nobel Institute, whose publications are of the very greatest historical, social and legal value. I shall only mention one of these numerous publications: “The History of Internationalism”, the first volume of which was written by my predecessor, at the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Christian Lange, an outstanding representative of Norwegian democracy.

That the International Committee of the Red Cross – already twice distinguished by your Committee – has been called upon to share, with its sister organization, the League of Red Cross Societies, the Nobel Peace Prize for the year nineteen sixty-three, is highly significant. Indeed, in nineteen seventeen and nineteen forty-four, the immense task accomplished by the International Committee of the Red Cross and – let us not forget it – by the National Societies also, during the two Great Wars, was known throughout the world. The Nobel Peace Prize symbolized the gratitude of untold millions.

Now, the Prize awarded this year, in nineteen sixty three, comes as a reward for the tasks accomplished by the International Committee since the end of the last World War. It is a task of which the public is hardly aware, its significance is, however, considerable. Indeed, the International Committee has been called upon to help the victims, no longer of major international conflicts, but of civil wars which are often crueller still. In order to carry out this activity, the International Committee had to intervene between the legitimate governments – or those who considered themselves such – and those who had rebelled against the established order. No government opposed the International Committee on the ground of the sovereignty of the State, none contested the Red Cross the right to go to the relief of the victims of armed conflicts.

Thus, the principles of our movement have penetrated into fresh fields, where previously only might was right. New barriers have been erected against the resort to violence and new prospects opened to the mission for peace.

I venture to say, without false modesty, that in awarding the Nobel Peace Prize, for nineteen sixty three, to the International Committee and to the League, the Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Parliament, is well deserving of peace.

From Les Prix Nobel en 1963, Editor Göran Liljestrand, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1964

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1963

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