Nobel Peace Prize Loses Nobility
IN FOCUS, 9 Aug 2010
Another scandal broke out in Oslo, Norway, regarding the objectivity of the Nobel Committee’s while choosing candidates for the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. The initiator was Fredrik Heffermehl, an honorary member of the Norwegian Peace Committee, a famous lawyer and fighter for peace [member of the TRANSCEND network]. He accused the Nobel Committee of abusing the trust.
According to Heffermehl, committee members, while selecting the most worthy candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, are guided not so much by the testament of Alfred Nobel, but rather, political situation. This is not the first attack of the Norwegian lawyer who intends to defend his point of view in the Stockholm court. In his book “Nobel’s Will” published in 2008, he accused the Nobel committee of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences of not fulfilling the conditions set by the founder of this prestigious award while awarding the Nobel Peace Prize.
Even back then, Heffermehl questioned the legality of prizes awarded to Mother Teresa, former U.S. Vice President Albert Gore, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The head of the Nobel Committee, Geir Lundestad, in turn, completely rejected the criticism, saying that the breach of the Nobel will would be the ”original sin” for the committee members. Meanwhile, Heffermehl’s position is not groundless.
In his will, Nobel wrote: “The whole of my remaining realizable estate shall be dealt with in the following way: the capital, invested in safe securities by my executors, shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.
The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows: one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics; one part to the person who shall have made the most important chemical discovery or improvement; one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine; one part to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction; and one part 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.”
Let us leave aside the first four nominations, although there were plenty of scandals around them, especially the literary prize. The Norwegian lawyer believes that such Nobel Peace Laureates of different years as Mother Teresa, Lech Walesa, Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin, Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Al Gore, Martti Ahtisaari, and Barack Obama do not meet the criteria specified by Alfred Nobel Peace Prize.
“What do the people who assisted wars, or engaged in honorable deeds that have nothing to do with peacekeeping, such as planting trees, organizing banks for the poor or helping the environment, have to do with the struggle for peace?” Heffermehl questions.
You cannot help but agree with him. Had Arafat, Peres and Rabin brought peace to Israel and Palestine? The bloodshed in this region remains a sad reality of our days.
And what “significant contribution to the unity of peoples” was made by another Nobel Peace Prize winner, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari? His plan to grant independence to the autonomous province of Kosovo not only caused a split in the UN Security Council, but in fact virtually cancelled out the Helsinki agreement that provides for post-war status of the European continent. Ahtisaari’s plan for Kosovo has become a dangerous precedent for the further spread of separatism in Europe.
Another winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, Lech Walesa, was strongly opposed to awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for 2003 to the famous Iranian human rights activist, lawyer Shirin Ebadi. He stressed that he personally had nothing against Shirin Ebadi, but “if someone from the living people deserved this award, it was John Paul II.”
It is worth mentioning that Lech Walesa and Shirin Ebadi received the Peace Prize not so much for peacekeeping efforts, but rather, for dissident activity, which, however, was equated with the Nobel criterion “the abolition of slavery.” As we can see, the Nobel Committee chose to follow the political situation at that time.
However, as stated by the head of the Nobel Committee Geir Lundestad, “Nobel’s will should be interpreted as the rest of the laws. We also read the texts of the Bible and the Koran. It is important to follow the spirit of Nobel’s wishes, rather than specific words.”
It is not surprising that such an expanded interpretation of the criteria for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize allows for nominating the most exotic competitors for this award. In 2005, U.S. Sen. John McCain and Hillary Clinton suggested candidates Viktor Yushchenko and Mikhail Saakashvili for the Nobel Peace Prize.
When last year, to the great surprise of the world community, the prestigious award went to U.S. President Barack Obama, members of the Nobel Committee had to choose the winner from a list of 205 persons and organizations. They chose the most worthy one, the president of the country that has been leading two bloody wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for several years. However, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said that Obama was a worthy winner, since he was making efforts to achieve global peace.
This year, a record number of candidates have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. “The final number of nominees is 237, including 38 organizations. This is the largest number of candidates that we have ever had,” said Geir Lundestad.
Who will be the next winner? It is unlikely that the criticism of Fredrik Heffermehl will have any influence on the selection of the Nobel Committee members. After all, as former member of the Nobel Committee, Ole Danbolt Mjos, once said: “Nobel was a dynamic personality who was changing with the outside world, and I’m sure he would not mind to know that we have somewhat broadened the concept of peace achievements.”
It is possible that Hamid Karzai could become the new winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, according to the criteria listed by Alfred Nobel.
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