OSLO, Norway, Oct. 15 -- Doctors without Borders, an international humanitarian aid organization, has been awarded the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel committee cited the organization's pioneering humanitarian work on several continents in making the announcement Friday morning. The prize is worth about $960,000. The 1999 Nobel prizes will be handed out Dec. 10 in Stockholm, Sweden. The Nobel Peace Prize committee said, 'Doctors without Borders has adhered to the fundamental principle that all disaster victims, whether the disaster is natural or human in origin, have the right to professional assistance given as quickly and efficiently as possible. National boundaries and political circumstances or sympathies must have no influence on who is to receive humanitarian help. 'By maintaining a high degree of independence, the organization has succeeded to living up to these ideals.' In an interview aired on CNN, Doctors without Borders communications director Barbara Kancelbaum, said: 'The organization is literally thousands of international and local aid workers who have put their lives and skills to work for millions without health care around the world for the last 28 years. 'We certainly believe the right to health care is a universal human right and a humanitarian right.' Asked if the group's high-profile work in the Balkans, both during the NATO-led bombing of the region and afterward, played a part in the Nobel committee's decision, Kancelbaum said, 'Kosovo is certainly one the of key places in the last year where our aid workers have not only provided health care but (also) been witnesses to atrocities against populations (and brought them) to light...and encouraged the international community to take some sort of action.'
Doctors without Borders -- also known as Medecins sans Frontieres -- was founded in 1971 and currently is providing emergency medical assistance in more than 80 countries. The group said that in addition to the medical aid it delivers, Doctors without Borders tries to raise awareness of crisis situations by its presence. Doctors without Borders 'sets out to alleviate human suffering, to protect life ands health and to restore and ensure respect for the human beings and their fundamental human rights.' This year's award, decided from among a reported 136 nominees, is the first time since 1988, when the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces were honored, that an organization was named the sole winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines shared the 1997 honor with Jody Williams, a landmines activist. Last year's Nobel Peace Prize was won by John Hume and David Trimble for their work in trying to bring an end to sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. German-born men won the first two Nobel prizes announced this year. The prize for literature, announced last week, went to Guenter Grass. On Monday, Gunter Blobel, a microbiologist at the Rockefeller University in New York, was named the winner of the prize in physiology or medicine. In Nobel honors announced Tuesday, Dutch scientists Gerardus 't Hooft and Martinus J.G. Veltman were named the winners of the prize in physics for their work in particle physics theory; and Ahmed H. Zewail of the California Institute of Technology won the prize in chemistry for using rapid laser technique to see how atoms in a molecule move during chemical reactions. On Wednesday, Canadian-born Robert Mundell won the prize in economic sciences. Mundell's work on monetary and fiscal policies under different exchange rate regimes are credited with the European Union bringing out a common currency. ---
Copyright 1999 by United Press International. All rights reserved. ---