Some people might think that the Sydney Peace Prize is a pretentiously wanky imitation of the Nobel Peace Prize, with a small clique of cultural elites arbiting moral standards. However, most people - in fact probably everybody on the planet outside Australia - have never heard of the Sydney Peace Prize.

The Sydney Peace Foundation is an NGO run through the University of Sydney, funded through donations and sponsorship (including from Kerry Packer's PBL media conglomerate, and Sydney ratepayers). It acts as a partnership between ' corporate, media, public service, community groups and academic communities'. Aside from determining who wins the annual Sydney Peace Prize, the foundation provides training packages, launches peace initatives, funds scholarships, and even runs corporate courses in removing conflict in the workplace (Practicing peace and justice in the workplace provides companies with a competitive edge through a happier and healthier workforce and a significant increase in productivity.)

More famously, since 1998 the Sydney Peace Foundation has been awarding the Sydney Peace Prize. The prize can be awarded to an individual or organisation:

  • who has made significant contributions to global peace including improvements in personal security and steps towards eradicating poverty, and other forms of structural violence;
  • whose role and responsibilities enable the recipient to use the prize to further the cause of peace with justice;
  • whose work illustrates the philosophy and principles of non-violence;
  • Past recipients include:

    1998: Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, a bank that provides innovative microcredit schemes for peasants.

    1999: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former anti-apartheid activist and Chairman of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

    2000: Xanana Gusmão, President of Timor Leste.

    2001: Sir William Deane, Governor General of Australia, with strong credentials in fighting for the cause of indigenous and disadvantaged Australians.

    2002: Mary Robinson, the Irish United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

    2003: Dr Hanan Ashrawi, founder of the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy. Her award was particuarly controversial - the mayor, Lucy Turnbull, boycotted the award ceremony because she claimed Ashrawi had rejected peace overtures by Israel and had failed to condemn Palestinian suicide bombings.

    2004: Arundhati Roy, Booker Prize-winning Indian author of The God of Small Things and other novels. Another controversial candidate, she urged Australians to vote against their Prime Minister in the 2004 Australian federal election, on account of his Iraq policies. She gave her $50,000 prize money to a drug rehabilitation programme targetting Aboriginal youth.