The five-member Nobel committee lauded Carter’s efforts to improve the quality of health and human rights for people all over the world since leaving the White House. The award is worth $1 million.
“In a situation currently marked by threats of the use of power, Carter has stood by the principles that conflicts must as far as possible be resolved through mediation and international co-operation based on international law, respect for human rights, and economic development,” the Nobel committee said.
Carter served as president from 1977 to 1981. After losing the 1980 presidential election to Republican candidate Ronald Reagan, Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, returned to his native Georgia and founded the non-profit Carter Center in Atlanta to continue his work towards human rights, and to “wage peace and fight disease.”
“This honor serves as an inspiration not only to us but also to suffering people around the world and I accept it on their behalf,” the 78-year-old former president said in a statement released by the Atlanta-based Carter Center.
“My concept of human rights has grown to include not only the rights to live in peace, but also to adequate health care, shelter, food, and to economic opportunity. I hope this award reflects a universal acceptance and even embrace of this broad-based concept of human rights,” the 39th U.S. president said in his statement.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee also praised Carter’s “vital contribution” to the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt in 1978, for which Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli Premier Menachem Begin shared the Nobel Peace Prize. Carter did not share in the prize because he was not nominated in time, the Nobel committee said.
The chairman of the Nobel committee noted that Carter’s use of diplomacy in the Middle East stood in stark contrast to President George W. Bush’s pursuit to possibly take military action against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
“It should be interpreted as a criticism of the line that the current administration has taken,” Gunnar Berge, chairman of the Nobel committee, said. Other committee members demurred from issuing similar remarks.
In recent interviews, Carter has refrained from commenting on the Bush administration’s policies toward Iraq or the Middle East.
Carter is the third U.S. president to receive the Nobel Peace prize. The previous two were Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt.
Last year’s peace award was shared by the United Nations and its secretary-general, Kofi Annan.