The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1981 to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The Prize for 1954, too, was awarded to this institution, in appreciation of its work in bringing relief and aid to the countless refugees and displaced persons to be found in Europe during the immediate post-war years.
Today, in many parts of the world, we witness tremendous and increasing numbers of refugees, estimated at between fourteen and eighteen million in all.
In recent years we have, among other tragedies, watched the mass exodus of people fleeing by land and sea from Vietnam. Today we have, in addition, two million refugees from Afghanistan and an equal number from Ethiopia. But the problem of refugees is one we encounter in every part of the world. We are face to face with a veritable flood of human catastrophe and suffering, both physical and psychological.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees has, in the opinion of the Committee, carried out work of major importance to assist refugees, despite the many political difficulties with which it has had to contend. This work is supported and supplemented by the large-scale contributions made by other international organisations, state-sponsored as well as private. ln particular the Committee would emphasize the assistance given by organisations and public authorities in those developing countries of Asia and Africa that have borne the strain of receiving and accommodating huge streams of refugees.
The establishment of the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees was based on respect for human rights. It is on this basis that we must seek to find the answers to the refugee problems of our age, both on the national and international plane. Refugees who dare not return to their native land must be given the opportunity to start a fresh life in their host country. Still more important in the long run is the work of ensuring that people are not compelled to save their lives by escaping from their native land, with no prospect of ever returning. The stream of refugees, moreover, creates serious problems in relations between states, and for this reason the activities of the Office of the High Commissioner serve the interest of humanity and peace as well.
Oslo, October 14, 1981
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