The Peace Prize: Nobel or Ignoble?

EDITORIAL, 18 Oct 2012

#242 | Johan Galtung, 18 Oct 2012 - TRANSCEND Media Service

Both, of course.  Well deserved for EU’s past and for relations within, in the tradition of West rewarding West. But critics are right about relations without and the present; like debt bondage of GIPSI–Greece-Italy-Portugal-Spain-Ireland/EU periphery–to Germany.

But first the arguments in favor.

Two French politicians, Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman, declared that Germany had been so atrocious that it had to become member of the family, and then created the family: Genius, peace genius.   On 1 Jan, 1958 the European Community embodied the Treaty of Rome, which was signed in 1957 by a horde of men.  It certainly fulfilled Nobel’s testament for reducing standing armies against each other and increasing understanding.   The prize did not live up to the condition of the preceding year though.  But events need some time to prove themselves, like Obama’s rhetoric–and, more importantly: a major omission; but better late than never.

Look at the TRANSCEND formula for peace, highly compatible:

                                                           EQUITY x HARMONY

                                    PEACE = —————-

                                                          TRAUMA x CONFLICT

The EC-EU satisfied all four.  One state one vote, no veto; ahead of the Big-Power, feudal UN.  Both territorial and functional integration; territorial equity for power, functional efforts to cooperate for mutual and equal benefit.  Much empathy across borders, also with the nazi-fascist countries; much harmony, reflected today in the efforts to help the victims of hypercapitalism (even the delinquent Greece).  The integration of Germany in the family released the German textbook acknowledging and rejecting the past, setting a new course.  Furthermore, the EU machinery handled the running and growing agenda of conflicts.

In addition, the regional, sub-state approach of the EC-EU softened the many contradictions between the states and the nations in the UK, in the Basque two-state region, and others.

An act of omission corrected.  There are many of them. Here is a list from a decade ago, topped by Gandhi, so priceless, not merely reducing but negating violence and improving understanding across conflict borders. Gandhi, however, died prizeless.  The Nobel Prize consultant, Jacob Worm Müller, told this author in 1953 that Gandhi was not a real pacifist. He fought the British Empire, “a gift to civilization.”

The following is a short list of some other non-laureates:

[1] Jose Figueres, president of Costa Rica, for abolishing the army.

[2] Jean Monnet & Robert Schuman for creating peace by making former Nazi Germany a “member of the family” in the European Community.

[3] Soekarno-Nasser-Tito for the first Asian-African Conference in Bandung, Indonesia in 1955 and then again in Beograd, Yugoslavia in 1961; for the Nonaligned Movement and its members’ refusal to be part of two blocs on a potentially disastrous collision course.

[4] Nehru & Zhou Enlai for the Panch Sheela Treaty with its five pillars of peaceful coexistence, maintaining peace between the world’s largest countries.

[5] Urho Kekkonen, president of Finland, for the creation of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe-CSCE (Helsinki Accords), 1972-1975.

[6] Olof Palme, prime minister of Sweden, for the Five Countries Initiative for denuclearization.

[7] The churches in Leipzig, particularly Nikolai-kirche, for the Montags-Demonstrationen of 1989, which ended the Cold War on 9/11 1989.

[8] Pope John Paul II for his untiring work on reconciliation through apology and dialogue across religious borders–also in history.

[9] Hans Küng for his work on a global ethic to bridge all religions.

Like Gandhi, they compare favorably with most of the 94 persons and 19 organizations that received the prize at the time of this list.

What do Gandhi and the names on this short list have in common? Answer: An incompatibility with Norway’s foreign policy. Aligned with the USA, that most violent country in modern history, three US presidents and five US secretaries of state were awarded the prize.  The European Community was something that the Norwegian government wanted to join but which was defeated by referenda in 1972 and 1994 with the ambiguity of being a potential competitor to USA-NATO.

Nobel’s criteria for peace are still relevant. Candidates are numerous.  Human rights, environment and development should also be praised, but not at the expense of peace prizes in Nobel’s spirit.

Take another look at the formula and compare it with the way the West, including the now prized EU, relates to the rest of the world.

Of equity and cooperation for equal and mutual benefit there is almost nothing.  The West always wants an edge, something extra; and their capitalism gives them mutual and highly unequal benefits.  So does their peace theory: rule of law, human rights and democracy, with no reflection on Western rule of law being so weak on acts of omission, the human rights so weak on collective rights, and democracy so weak on dialogue and consensus.  Western individualism writ large but it is blind to we-cultures so prevalent all over the world.

Of empathy there is little or nothing; whatever stands in the way is not understood but stamped out as terrorist, fundamentalist, or what not.  Of course, the still leader of the West, the USA, is No. 1 in this lack of empathy; but the others seem not to dare challenge the USA publicly in its myopia.  Take the prize to Liu Xiaobo, the Charter less problematic than a man so enthused with Western colonialism that he wanted 300 years for China and praised US-led warfare all over.  No understanding among nations from that one, nor reduction of armies.

Of reconciliation after the countless traumas that the West has inflicted on the world there is little or nothing; rather, the West walks out of conferences (with Israel, the latecomer in settler colonialism) denying the victims their dignity.

And of handling conflicts, creatively?  Next to nothing; look at the scandals, soon dubbed “tragedies” like Vietnam, in Iraq and Afghanistan.  For the capacity of Western diplomacy to bridge the gap and handle conflicts creatively, consult WikiLeaks.

Yet, the EU has a model character instead of the quartet-good-for-nothing propagating a Middle East Community along EU lines for Israel with the five Arab neighbors; a Central Asian community around Afghanistan; an East Asian Community. With that we would be in peace business.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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7 Responses to “The Peace Prize: Nobel or Ignoble?”

  1. satoshi says:

    Less than one year of his inauguration, President Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize. This time, the EU? Congratulations, the European Union! But for what? Well, the EU has been working more years than President Obama.

    There are more international organizations, apart from individuals, that have been working for peace, human rights, justice, development, social welfare, etc., if there is an argument that the European Union deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. Why not, for instance, the African Union that decided to make Africa a nuclear weapon free zone? Why not, for instance, the Organization of American States that has been promoting democracy and human rights? And other regional international organizations? How about various UN agencies, for instance?

    What happened (or what is happening) to the “value” of the Nobel Peace Prize? The decline and fall of the “old value” of the Nobel Peace Prize? Or a rise of a “new value” of the Nobel Peace Prize? Or what else? Does the Nobel Peace Prize Committee say that nothing has happened to the “value” of the Nobel Peace Prize?

  2. You are right Johan, there is a kind of fatal attraction between Nobel’s Norwegian committee and USA: I commented at the time of Obama’s awarding that, by his acceptance speech, it sounded more like a prize for “just war” (can there be any?!) than for “peace”.
    But the committee is deaf to all criticism and you, as a Norwegian citizen, must know the whys more than anybody else.
    I feel we have to shrug about this prize, take it for what it is worth (even Kissinger got one, come on!), value some other prizes and, most of all, take what’s good in Alfred Nobel’s peace principles, roll up our sleeves and go on building peace in our communities according, each one of us in proportion, to our ability to influence.
    Go on, my friend, and we of Neotopia will go along with you!

  3. alejandro bendaña says:

    Johan Saludos from Nicaragua!

    Good list but JP2??? He reversed the work of the Vatican Council and did his best to root out all the Latin American priests, bishops and theology of liberation which sustained many social and political struggles. There was no dialogue let alone empathy with the progressive priesthood just thought repression.

    Un abrazo, Alejandro

  4. Nasir Khan says:

    Alfred Nobel had intended the peace prize for those who advance the cause of peace. But in the hands of Norwegian political comedians like Jagland it has become more of a joke. He was instrumental in awarding this prize to Obama who in his lecture at the peace award ceremony justified imperial wars! And now the EU!!

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