Open Letter to UNSG Antonio Guterres: The 2022 Nobel War Prize

NOBEL LAUREATES, 10 Oct 2022

Fredrik S. Heffermehl | Nobel Peace Prize Watch – TRANSCEND Media Service

Your Excellency,

6 Oct 2022 – The Norwegian Nobel Committee in an interview Wednesday 5 October made it clear that the committee will continue to award a Norwegian peace prize in Nobel´s name, but entirely disconnected from Alfred Nobel´s vision of a world liberated from weapons, warriors and wars. Unrealistic it may seem, but how realistic is the present escalation of big power rivalry in a world that is facing so many urgent and very real dangers, including in the last year a common fear that the nuclear threat will wipe out all life on the planet. Thanks for your warning that humanity is only one small mistake away from extinction.

The article below will appear in a leading Oslo daily tomorrow [7 Oct] morning 6 hours before the 2022 prize is announced at 11 a.m. Nobel´s prize should each year serve to remind the nations of the world of the urgent need for demilitarization and for taking the UN Charter obligations very seriously. Unfortunately, the Norwegian award committee is betraying Nobel´s trust, breaking the law and deliberately acting in bad faith. 

I hope you will recognize the potential and that a Nobel Prize loyal to his original intention will be most helpful to a reinvigoration of the United Nations.

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The 2022 Peace Prize – Once Again Betraying Alfred Nobel

No one in the Nobel committee must say anything about the internal discussions, and yet Berit Reiss-Andersen, the committee chairperson, revealed a lot in an interview on NRK this Wednesday when she proclaimed that the prizes must be faithful to Nobel’s will. At the same time showed that the prize will fail Nobel once again this year. One must know the linguistic nuances well to discover the import of her words that the award (as usual) will be given to the one who, to the greatest benefit of humanity, “has made a contribution to peace”.

“A contribution to peace”, this is the core error. The word “peace” does not appear in the testament, but so do words about deep cooperation (the community of peoples) and disarmament. “Contribution to peace” opens up for much, indeed everything. By interpreting this word, peace, the committee ignores Nobel’s intention and his own, clear words about how the world can achieve peace, namely through global cooperation on the demilitarization of the international relations.

The price should have challenged the most profitable and politically most powerful business in the world. The Norwegian trustees instead chose to develop their own prize in Nobel’s name. No wonder my criticism has been unpopular. In the book “The reverse of the medal”, I have come to the conclusion that the prize was disconnected from Nobel’s own formulations and intentions right from the start, as early as in 1897 when the presidency of Norway´s parliament accepted the assignment as selection committee for the peace prize.

Everyone can have an opinion about the meaning of the words in Nobel’s will, but the committee’s responsibility is to find out what the words meant to Alfred Nobel. It has a legal obligation to follow up on what he wanted the peace prize to achieve. Reiss-Andersen is an attorney-at-law. She knows, but has an impossible dilemma. The committee’s practice is in a so fundamental disregard for the law that it would be an insult to her expertise and intelligence to suggest that she does not realize it. But the alternative is also unsavoury, namely that she acts against her better judgment. Based on the evidence in my books, she commits a deliberate violation of Norwegian (and Swedish) law.

Asle Toje, another of the five committee members, has also revealed that he deliberately acts against his better judgment. As a newly appointed committee member, he enthusiastically defended the committee’s “dynamic interpretation” of the will, but was unable to defend this view when, in a newspaper debate in 2019, I asked him whether the committee is free to be dynamic without first checking the original intention of Nobel.

This is not about the award winners. Many of them have made contributions to peace, but the vast majority has obviously been far from serving Nobel’s vision of peace. His intention was to support one of the sides in the great dispute about militarism at the time. Two positions stood against each other: could peace be secured by military force or did the nations have to work together to create a demilitarized rule of law at the global level?

It was the successful novel “Down with arms” (1889) by Nobel’s friend Bertha von Suttner, that made him take a stand. The novel, along with the urgent pleas in her letters, inspired Nobel to create the prize for the “champions of peace”. He intended to support the emerging anti-militarist movement. It was in 2007 that I rediscovered the completely forgotten testament and, in several books, presented the first legally sound interpretations of what Nobel had wanted to support. This was highly unpopular, not only for the Nobel Committee and the political parties that have become “owners” of the seats in the committee, but the entire Norwegian establishment, diplomacy, military, business interests, media, and academics, including peace researchers, and the peace movement. There was no change of course on the part of the Nobel Committee, but instead a major camouflage operation. where everyone at all costs avoided discussing my arguments, and kick me instead of the ball.

The committee´s first line of defense against my criticism was that it was perfectly fine to use the award for anything. The committee leader at the time, Ole Danbolt Mjøs, said that “brotherhood between nations is a broad category”. After my book “Nobel’s will” in 2008, the tactics had to be changed. It now became a new established practice to claim to respect Nobel. This means to throw out a word or two from the will, combined with a claim that this shows the year’s prize fully in line with Nobel’s will. Reiss Andersen knows very well that this is not legally tenable, but she will surely have such language as the ending in her manuscript for the media release she will read at 11 o’clock today (Friday 7).

I am not very interested in Nobel´s prize, but infinitely interested in the vision he wished to support. Experience should tell us that Nobel obviously was right, the military arms races cost a lot, but can never provide stable and reliable peace and security. On the contrary, Nobel, fifty years before the first atomic bomb, foresaw the coming of such an enormously powerful weapon of annihilation. This means that the award’s history provides a powerful insight into the military’s political power, so great that it also controls the Nobel Committee. In my latest book, I have come to the conclusion that the committee should not just pick the best candidate from the pile of nominations; it has a duty under the will to actively use the prize to fight for a demilitarized world on the basis of international law.

I also explain the USA’s responsibility for nurturing global militarism and for ensuring that in the military issue we lack the democratic corrective that is considered necessary in all other areas. Norway continues to serve NATO and the USA until the Dovre mountain massive falls.

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The Nobel chair´s interview in the NRK Evening News is here for those who understand Norwegian: https://tv.nrk.no/serie/dagsrevyen/202210/NNFA19100522/avspiller – from minute 19:27 to 19:33. My quote is from the final remarks.

More on my new book–the problem of militarism and war illuminated by the Nobel Peace Prize with access to the committee’s internal archives since 1901–is found here: https://booksfromnorway.com/books/2151-fame-or-shame

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Fredrik S. Heffermehl, cand. jur, LLM NYU, is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and ex-Vice President of the International Peace Bureau. He is the author of The Nobel Peace Prize, What Nobel Really Wanted (Praeger, 2010 – expanded versions in Chinese, Swedish, Finnish, Spanish and [2014] Russian). fredpax@online.nohttp://www.nobelwill.org.


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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 10 Oct 2022.

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