The Award is given once every three years to the advocates of human rights understood according to the teachings of John Paul II. The Award is honorary in its character. The prizewinner receives a diploma and a sculpture made of silver, depicting a reed. The award is presented by Pope Benedict XVI in person.
The contest is organized by the Board of Trustees of the Oświęcim Award for Human Rights of John Paul II, consisting of: the Rector of the Jagiellonian University, Prof. Karol Musioł (the Head of the Board), the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kraków, Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, the former Human Rights Defender, Prof. Andrzej Zoll and the President of Pro Publico Bono Foundation, Mr. Waldemar Rataj.
The Award's Board of Trustees appoints the Selection Committee, which consists of several people engaged in the struggle for human rights. Each member of the Selection Committee is entitled to propose a maximum of two candidates for the award, providing a short written justification of the choice. In 2011, the following people have been invited to sit on the Committee: Witold Dzielski, Prof. antoni Kamiński, Mario Mauro, Rev. Prelate Paweł Ptasznik, Prof. Grażyna Skąpska, Prof. Władysław Stróżewski, Prof. Henryk Szlajfer, Konrad Szymański, Jérôme Vignon, Prof. Włodzimierz Wróbel and Leopold Zgoda, PhD.
The list of the candidates is then presented to the Chapter of the Award, which consists of internationally distinguished eminent public figures. Each member of the Chapter is entitled to vote for only one candidate from the list. At the third stage the Board makes the final decision on the basis of the result of the voting within the Chapter. The Board reserves the right to choose more than one candidate.
In 2005, the Chapter of the Award consisted of: Władysław Bartoszewski (Poland), Juan De Dios Vial Correa (Chile), Imre Kertesz (Hungary), Siergiej Kowaliow (Russia), Mary Robinson (Ireland), Abp. Desmond Tutu (South Africa), and Card. Miloslav Vlk (Czech Republic).
In 2008, the Chapter of the Award consisted of: Aharon Barak (Israel), Zbigniew Brzeziński (USA), Juan De Dios Vial Correa (Chile), Chantal Delsol (France), Péter Kard. Erdö (Hungary), Siergiej Kowaliow (Russia), Marek Safjan (Poland), Robert Spaemann (Germany) and Szewach Weiss (Israel).
In 2011, the following people have been invited to become the members of the Chapter: Prof. Rocco Buttiglione (Italy), Prof. Jerzy Buzek (Poland), Prof. Zbigniew Brzeziński (USA), Prof. Juan De Dios Vial Correa (Chile), Prof. Joaquín Navarro-Valls (Spain), Prof. Camillo Ruini (Italy), Prof. Dagmar Schipanski (Germany), Prof. Joseph H. H. Weiler (USA), and Prof. Szewach Weiss (Israel).