On the 10th of December every year an award ceremony is held at the Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway, for the Nobel Peace Prize. The prize is awarded by the Nobel Committee and is given in the presence of the Norwegian King and other prominent world leaders.
The Nobel Peace Prize has always been shrouded in controversy. The fact that the Swedish Alfred Nobel assigned the Norwegian Parliament to be the awarding body of the Nobel Peace Prize was the start of a long list of conflicts. One reason Nobel chose Norway to be the administrator is because Norway was the only European country that hadn’t started a war since the industrial revolution – (since then Norway has joined with Nato in the Balkan and Afghanistan wars). The other reason that is known is that Norway and Sweden was in a union at the time and Nobel felt that there would be less political corruption if Norway handled the Peace Prize award. Some say the Nobel Peace prize was to make up for the destruction that he knew his invention of dynamite might cause the world. (He also turned his Bofors company into a successful Armament company.) Others say Nobel was the Bill Gates of his time and wanted to do something good with his money.
Alfred Nobel stated that the Peace Prize would be awarded by a committee appointed by the Norwegian parliament. Committee members are supposed to reflect the balance of the parliament at the time of appointment, but their decision on a Peace Prize winner is to be free of any government or parliamentary opinion or affect. Over the years this has put Norway in the hot seat as the members of the committee, Norwegian Politicians, have political interests that changes according to the make-up of the parliament. Parties entitled to choose members of the Nobel Committee are free to appoint who they like, as long as the person isn’t a current member of the parliament or the government. The Nobel Committee consists of only five people.
Photo: Alfred Nobel’s last will and testament
A person or organisation may be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by a prominent person, namely, former recipients, university professors, international leaders and members of national assemblies. In Nobel’s instructions the Peace Prize should be awarded ‘to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.’ This means that the Peace Prize isn’t just given to achievements only but also to ‘works in progress’ and current efforts.
The Nobel Committee has always been under fire because of their chosen recipients. Just last year Al Gore received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in work against global warming on the grounds that global warming and climate change can be a trigger for world conflicts. His Peace award is still fiercely discussed today world wide, including Norway. It is believed that Al Gore’s global warming ideas were not based on scientific fact and that his conclusions were a little premature in accordance with todays knowledge of global warming. As new technologies and science indicate that global warming is just a cycle of the earth, especially since scientists have been recording more solar flare activity by the sun in recent years and also the fact every planet of our solar system has gone through this cycle, many are wondering if Gore’s Nobel Prize can be retracted.
This year it was rumoured that Chinese human-rights activist Hu Jia was to win the Peace Prize. For the second time Chinese authorities warned against such a recognition to a ‘human-rights activist’. Two years ago Chinese authorities gave their first warning when Rebiya Kadeer of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region received the Rafto Prize in 2004, which is also awarded in Norway – they didn’t want to take any chances. Hu Jia has been harassed and imprisoned for years by the Chinese authorities, ‘for his ongoing efforts to further democracy, human rights, environmental protection and AIDS/HIV programs in China’. Chinese authorities stated in October this year that awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident will hurt relations between China and Norway, and will offend the Chinese people. The Nobel Committee responded saying that ‘the Norwegian Nobel Committee worked independently of the Norwegian government, and makes it own choices, free of any government control’.
There have been many other controversial nominees for the Prize. A Swedish Parliamentarian nominated Adolf Hilter in 1939 but withdrew his nomination a few days later. Stalin and Mussolini have also been nominated and Yasser Arafat is a recipient. During the World Wars the award was put on hold except for 1917 and 1944. In both these years the Red Cross was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for their wartime efforts. In 1919 U.S. President Woodrow Wilson received the Peace Prize for founding of The League of Nations, an organisation created from the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919–1920. In 1939 this organisation failed its primary objective – to prevent future world wars. However, after World War II the United Nations was set up to replace The League of Nations.
Photo: Ceremony for the 1963 Peace Nobel Prize on December 10, 1963; King Olav of Norway (left), Leopold Boissier, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (center) and John A. MacAulay, Chairman of the League of Red Cross Societies (right)
However, there have been many well deserving people/organisations which have been nominated year after year but have never been selected by the Nobel Committee for the Peace Prize – the Salvation Army, Irena Sendler (Poland) who saved 2,500 Jewish children during World War II, Thich Quang Do, a Buddhist monk in Vietnam, Pope John Paul II, Oscar Romero, Steve Bikko and Abdul Sattar Edhi, just to name a few. This year the Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize for 2008 to former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, ‘for his “important efforts” in helping solve international conflicts’. Ahtisaari is also believed to have been a candidate for several years.
One of the worlds most notable Peace activist has never been recognised. The failure to see the enormous efforts of Gandi in 1937, 1938, 1939 and 1947 is a great shame upon the Nobel Committee. In 1948, a few days before Gandi was murdered, he was nominated again. However, no Peace Prize was awarded that year as the Committee felt that there was ‘no suitable living candidate’. It is not clear as to why the Committee made this decision but lets hope that the Committee finally understood what Gandi meant to the peace of the world. In Nobel’s requirements the Prize must be given to a living person and so not awarding the Prize in 1948 would have been an honourable action to finally recognise the person who focused the world to peace.
Photo: Lech Wałęsa’s Nobel Prize for 1983
Anyone who has been offered the Nobel Peace Prize has never declined – it certainly is a great career builder. In the last months leading up to the 2008 award the focus of the Nobel Committee has been challenged in Norway. Fredrik S. Heffermehl, a Norwegian peace activist and honorary president of the Norwegian Peace Council and Vice-President of the International Peace Bureau, has said that most of the Nobel Peace Prizes that have been given are in conflict with Alfred Nobel’s ‘will and testament’. Al Gore and the Panel on Climate Change, Muhammad Yunus, Wangari Maathai, Shirin Ebadi, Mohamed El-Baradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency – IAEA are among the many awards which Heffermehl thinks conflict with Nobel’s wishes. Heffermehl believes that Nobel aimed to promote ‘disarmament and anti-militarism’ through the Peace Prize. He says that when the responsibility of the Peace Prize was given to Norway it was at a time when Norway was a world leader in peace and conflict resolution.
Heffermehl in an interview with the national newspaper Afterposten said:
Nobel didn’t start a peace prize but a prize for promoting peace in particular areas and ways. Nobel wanted the Prize to be given for promoting peaceful coexistence by reducing militarism and by building a framework of international law through peace congresses.
It goes without saying that the most important element of the Nobel Peace Prize award is not the prize itself but the focus on of peace. Even though the Nobel Committee selection has proven to be imperfect, the circus that is created around the nominees and recipients focuses the world on the issue at hand – who is working towards peace in the world, what countries and organisations are active in peace, what is the effect of this work, who is benefiting and how – and most importantly, what can we learn from the work so we can improve upon it and maybe one day have world peace.
Nobel Peace Prize goes to peace broker Ahtisaari 10.10.08
Peace Prize often controversial 10.10.08
Peace Prize misused claims activist 06.10.08
Norway’s Nobel Committee poised for renewal 02.10.08
China warns against Peace Prize to one of its dissidents 26.09.08
Russian or Chinese dissidents tipped for Nobel Peace Prize 25.09.08
Photos: Wikicommons: Nobel Peace Prize