As Nobel Committee Lurches Rightward, Concerns Mount Over Invisibility of True Peace Champions

EU leaders accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. (From left to right: Mr Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, Mr Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission and Mr Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament. Photo: President of the European Council/flickr/cc)

As Nobel Committee Lurches Rightward, Concerns Mount Over Invisibility of True Peace Champions

'The prize has changed towards near total disregard of the purpose in the last decade.'

The Nobel Peace Prize is failing to reflect the work Alfred Nobel intended to honor, while legitimate recipients have been rendered invisible, a watchdog group has charged.

The Nobel Peace Prize Watch, a project of the Sweden based Lay Down Your Arms Association, outlined its concerns in a letter (pdf) to the Nobel Foundation, Norwegian Nobel Committee and Parliament of Norway, stating that it was necessary "to ensure that the prize will really, as Nobel intended, 'confer the greatest benefit' on all citizens of the world."

The letter was sent less than two weeks ahead of Tuesday's announcement that the Norwegian Nobel Committee was demoting its head, Thorbjorn Jagland, whose six-year tenure included controversial awardings of the prize to President Barack Obama and the European Union.

That committee selects the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, and is made up of five members appointed by the Norwegian Parliament (Storting).

Agence France-Pressereports that the change "means the committee will be steered by a majority of right-wing politicians."

But Nobel Peace Prize Watch states that the selection process was already fundamentally flawed.

From their letter:

in an ever more militarized world the two Norwegian institutions bearing responsibility in the matter, the Nobel Committee and the Storting, have increasingly disconnected the prize from the idea that concerned Nobel when he established it and entrusted the Storting with appointing the committee to select the winners : a prize for the work for a new international system, a demilitarized global peace order enabled by "peace congresses," "creating the brotherhood of nations" and "the abolition or reduction of standing armies."

The letter goes on to state that recent history has shown an "unfortunate development" in the prize, citing Obama's win in 2009 despite his engaging military interventions and failing to reduce the nuclear weapons stockpile, and the 2012 awarding of the prize to EU leaders, who followed up their win with further investment in militarism. The letter also calls out the 2014 prize to Malala Yousafzai, stating that the committee championed her education activism while ignoring her speaking out against militarism and drone warfare.

Such wins stand in stark contrast to what Alfred Nobel wanted the prize to honor, the group states. "The prize has changed towards near total disregard of the purpose in the last decade," they write. "Nobel wished to support the movement and the persons who work for a demilitarized world, for law to replace power in international politics, and for all nations to commit to cooperating on the elimination of all weapons instead of competing for military superiority."

If Committee members fails to honor the real intention of the prize, "they should resign" the letter states.

But true peace champions--legitimate recipients--do exist, the letter states; the problem is that the "Committee keeps them invisible by not giving them the prize."

The group urges the Committee to scrap the undemocratic secrecy surrounding the nominee process, adding: "It is unlikely that the prize could have strayed so far from its purpose if the process had been transparent."

The letter recommends the Parliament of Norway fully evaluate whether it has given seats to Committee members who truly believe in a weapons-fee world.

Nobel Peace Prize Watch offers a tentative list of what is says are "true Nobel candidates" for 2015, including NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and David Krieger, co-founder of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

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