Video: Chinese prisoner awarded Nobel Peace Prize
Explainer: Nobel Peace Prize winners: Past and present
Mother Teresa. Nelson Mandela. Barack Obama.
They're just a few of the peacemakers chosen for the world's most coveted award, given out yearly since 1901.
The prerequisite for winning the Nobel Peace Prize: making a difference.
The prize lauds people for their work in a wide range of fields including human rights, mediation of international conflicts, arms control and the world's environment.
Each laureate takes home a shiny gold medal and at least $1 million. They use the money to further their cause, whether it's building new hospitals or schools for the poor or funding research.
Here's a brief look at some laureates.
Sources: The Associated Press and Reuters
Who were the contenders?
The other contenders for the 2010 prize, won by Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, above, were:
* The European Union and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl
* Afghan women's rights campaigner Sima Samar
* Chinese Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer
* Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai
* The International Criminal Court
* The Democratic Voice of Burma, an Oslo-based radio and television station that beams in news to military-ruled Myanmar
* Argentine rights group Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo
'Call to action'
Name: Barack Obama, president of the United States
Reason: Efforts to heal the divide between the West and the Muslim world and scale down a Bush-era proposal for an anti-missile shield in Europe.
Obama expressed surprise at the prize, saying he was humbled and would accept it as a "call to action" to work with other nations to solve the problems of the 21st century.
Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee said their choice could be seen as an early vote of confidence in Obama intended to build global support for his policies. They lauded the change in global mood wrought by Obama's calls for peace and cooperation, and praised his pledges to reduce the world stock of nuclear arms, ease American conflicts with Muslim nations and strengthen the U.S. role in combating climate change.
Obama donated his prize to charity, White House officials said.
Name: Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland
Reason: Efforts to build a lasting peace in places as diverse as East Timor and the Balkans in Europe.
"He is a world champion when it comes to peace and he never gives up," Ole Danbolt Mjoes, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel awards committee, told The Associated Press.
The honor was in line with recent Nobels to other peace mediators, notably Jimmy Carter in 2002 and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2001, he said.
Name: Environmental activist and former Vice President Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Reason: Awarded for sounding the alarm over global warming and spreading awareness on how to counteract it.
"His strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change," the Nobel citation said. "He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted."
It cited Gore's awareness at an early stage "of the climatic challenges the world is facing."
Making a difference
Name: Muhammad Yunus, Bangladeshi economist and founder of Grameen Bank.
Reason: Lauded for their pioneering use of tiny, seemingly insignificant loans — microcredit — to lift millions out of poverty.
Through his efforts and those of the bank he founded, poor people around the world, especially women, have been able to buy cows, a few chickens or the cell phone they desperately need to get ahead.
Name: The International Atomic Energy Agency and its director, Mohamed ElBaradei
Reason: Their drive to curb the spread of atomic weapons by using diplomacy to resolve standoffs with Iran and North Korea.
The Nobel Committee’s decision backed negotiations and inspections, not military action, as the best way to handle volatile nations. It also was seen as a message to the Bush administration, which invaded Iraq after claiming U.N. efforts to eradicate Saddam Hussein’s nuclear ambitions had failed and which opposed ElBaradei’s appointment to another term.
Name: Wangari Maathai
Reason: Selected for her role in founding the Green Belt Movement, which has sought to empower women, improve the environment and fight corruption in Africa for nearly 30 years.
Maathai was the first African woman and first Kenyan to win. Maathi, who also was the 12th woman to be honored, warned that the world remained under attack from disease, deforestation and war, and she urged new approaches to solving those problems.
Name: Shirin Ebadi
Reason: Received the honor for her efforts in democracy and human rights.
Iran's first female judge led the country's struggle for women's and children's rights. She is best known for defending persecuted Iranians and has braved reprisals for her work and beliefs.
Name: Jimmy Carter, former U.S. president
Reason: Honored for his pursuit of peace, health and human rights.
The Nobel Committee applauded Carter's "untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development."
His peace work started with the 1978 Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt.
Name: United Nations and Kofi Annan
Reason: Praised the international organization and its secretary general for working for human rights, fighting HIV/AIDS and terrorism, and attempting to defuse global conflicts.
Among other famous winners:
1906: President Theodore Roosevelt for his treaty between Russia and Japan.
1919: Woodrow Wilson, U.S. president and founder of the League of Nations.
1964: Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, campaigner for civil rights.
1973: Henry Kissinger, U.S. secretary of state, and Le Duc Tho, North Vietnam, who declined the prize. Jointly negotiated the Vietnam peace accord in 1973.
1979: Mother Teresa, leader of the Order of the Missionaries of Charity.
1983: Lech Walesa, Poland, founder of Solidarity, campaigner for human rights.
1989: The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, for his religious and political leadership of the Tibetan people.
1990: Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union, helped to bring the Cold War to an end.
1991: Aung San Suu Kyi, opposition leader and human rights advocate in Myanmar.
1993: Nelson Mandela, former South African president.
1994: Yasser Arafat, Palestine, PLO leader; Shimon Peres, Israeli foreign minister; and Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli prime minister. The three were lauded for efforts to settle the conflict in the Middle East.
• No Gandhi? Why?: Mohandas Gandhi was nominated in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 and, finally, a few days before he was assassinated in January 1948.
The omission has been publicly regretted by the Nobel Committee; when the Dalai Lama was awarded the Peace Prize in 1989, the chairman of the committee said that this was "in part a tribute to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi." However, the committee has never commented on the speculation as to why Gandhi was not awarded the prize.
• Embarrassing moments: How about a few candidates the Nobel committee has managed to avoid: Adolf Hitler, nominated in 1939 by a Swedish legislator and withdrawn the same year; Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, nominated in 1945 by a Norwegian former foreign minister and in 1948 by a Czech professor; Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who got two nominations in 1935, by a French law professor and a German college law faculty member.
• The first ones: Henry Dunant, founder of the Red Cross, shared the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901 with Frédéric Passy, a leading international pacifist of the time.
• America brings one home: Twenty-two Americans have won the Nobel Prize for Peace since its introduction in 1901, including two standing presidents - Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson - and one former president, Jimmy Carter.
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