Skip to content

Prize peace pretty please

February 22, 2012

Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet* reports that there are voices arguing that the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize should be approved in Sweden, rather than Norway**. The background to this is a Swedish law from 1996, regulating how foundations operate. The not-so-new-any-more law forbids the board of a foundation to delegate responsibility to various committees, making the board of the Nobel Foundation personally responsible for all awards. Judge Henning Izoz argues that this means that the board has to approve all suggestions of prize winners. Geir Lundestad, secretary of the Norwegian Nobel committee, claims that this would be a clear violation of Nobel’s intentions, as the testament explicitly states that the peace prize is to be awarded in Norway. And what competence does the board have for approving prize winners anyway? Lundestad asks.

One wonders why this question isn’t raised for the other prizes. At least anybody with a political interest can have opinions and suggestions about the Peace Prize. The Literature Prize, on the other hand, requires a higher-than-usual amount of literature read. And the scientific prizes – Chemistry, Physics and Medicine – require ten or fifteen years of specialized education to even understand what’s so great about the discoveries rewarded. (I really hope this opinion of mine is not a result of the Dunning-Kruger effect! I’m a trained scientist and prolific reader, but have only a fleeting interest in politics.)

One thing I wish that the Peace Prize committee would take from their Swedish colleagues is when to award a Nobel Prize to somebody. The various Swedish Nobel committees all tend to award the prize to discoveries made twenty or thirty years ago, when the consequences have shown themselves, or to the collected lifetime work of an author. The Peace Prize committee seems to want to be current. Sometimes it works out, as the 1998 prize to John Hume and David Trimble for the peace process in Northern Ireland (which actually has calmed down). Sometimes it doesn’t, as with the 1994 prize to Yassir Arafat, Shimon Perez and Yitzhak Rabin for the peace process in Israel/Palestine (which… errm… hasn’t). And then you get atrocities like giving the prize to Barack Obama in 2009. As if the committee thought that the most important thing he could possibly do was to get elected, and that nothing else he would achieve as a politician could ever amount to that. Pretty respectless against both Obama and the prize, if you ask me. I wish the committee would switch to giving the prize for things where we know how it worked out. And yes, that would mean awarding it to older people. So what. Changing the world for the better is usually the work of a lifetime.

* “Aftonbladet” = “The Evening Paper”. And look, I found a proper English translation for the Swedish expression “evening newspaper”!

** When Nobel lived and died, Sweden and Norway were in a union. While the other four Nobel prizes are awarded in Stockholm by various academies, the Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo by the Norwegian parliament.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: