Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
The Nobel Peace Prize 1981
Prize motivation: “for promoting the fundamental rights of refugees”
Prize share: 1/1
Also awarded: The Nobel Peace Prize 1954
Twice winner of the Peace Prize
When the Nobel Committee rewarded the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) with the Nobel Prize a second time in 1981, the world’s refugee problem was still greater than ever before. Having been chiefly a European concern early in the 1950s, the issue had now become important to the third world, particularly Africa. That was where about half of the ten million refugees were for whom the UNHCR had a responsibility at the time.
Once again, the Nobel Committee adhered to the tradition going back to Fridtjof Nansen by which aid to refugees was defined as fundamental work for peace. The 1981 Prize recognized the UNHCR’s great efforts to repatriate refugees in Asia, Africa and Latin America in the 1970s. At the same time, it was an expression of support for the United Nations and for the principles laid down in the international Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention). Its provisions gained special currency in the early 1980s owing to the harsh fate suffered by thousands of Vietnamese refugees in the South China Sea.
The UNHCR resolved to place the prize money in a fund for the benefit of functionally disabled refugees.
Nobel Prizes and laureates
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