According to the Nobelprize.Org; 92 Nobel Peace Prizes have been awarded since 1901. It was not awarded on 19 occasions: in 1914-1918, 1923, 1924, 1928, 1932, 1939- 1943, 1948, 1955-1956, 1966-1967 and 1972. Why were the Peace Prizes not awarded in those years? In the statutes of the Nobel Foundation it says: “If none of the works under consideration is found to be of the importance indicated in the first paragraph, the prize money shall be reserved until the following year. If, even then, the prize cannot be awarded, the amount shall be added to the Foundation’s restricted funds.” During World War I and II, fewer Nobel Prizes were awarded.”The Vietnamese politician Le DucTho, awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, is the only person who has declined the Nobel Peace Prize. They were both awarded the Prize for negotiating the Vietnam peace accord. Le Doc Tho said that he was not in a position to accept the Nobel Prize, citing the situation in Vietnam as his reason. (Nobelprize.org)
Norwegian lawyer and activist Fredrik Heffermehl released a book Nobelsvilje (Nobel’s Will). He critically assesses the prize’s history and the political committee and process which now awards the Nobel Peace Prize. According to Heffermehl, prior to World War II about 85% of recipients were awarded in accordance with the will, but since the end of the war only 45% of the recipients fit the criteria. Recipients Al Gore and the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change do not suit the requirements, according to the author. Neither do Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank, nor Wangari Maathai. “Disarmament and anti-militarism was what Nobel wanted to promote,” says Heffermehl to Aftenposten.
Talking of at least one notable Peace Prize recipient; President Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize after being in office for 12 days as President in 2009. The Norwegian Nobel Committee said Obama had been awarded the prize for his calls to reduce the world’s stockpiles of nuclear weapons and work towards restarting the stalled Middle East peace process. The committee praised Obama for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” It was said, “Very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future.” (Ross Chainey: Reuters October 9, 2009) He further stated; despite his ambitious international agenda, Obama is yet to make a significant breakthrough in the Middle East or effectively deal with the threat of Iran’s nuclear programme and his country is currently fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
There were 259 candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2013 and 50 of them were organizations. The winner for 2013 was the chemical weapons watchdog OPCW. Set up in 1997 to implement the Chemical Weapons Convention, it employs around 500 people and is an autonomous organization with a working relationship with the United Nations. According to a BBC report (Published October 11, 2013) the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) was adopted by the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva in September 1992. Under its terms the OPCW stringently verifies whether member nations are complying with the CWC. Part of the OPCW’s mission is to prevent the re-emergence of chemical weapons in a country which has signed up. The OPCW says Albania, India and a third country – widely believed to be South Korea – have completed the destruction of their declared chemical weapons. In Libya and Iraq, as well as Syria, Russia and the US, the destruction is ongoing, states the report.
If one views the spirit of Alfred Nobel’s will relating to the Peace Prize, awarding OPCW with the prestigious award makes more sense than many awarded earlier, although even this Peace Prize by many is being viewed as being one indirectly awarded to Assad and Putin. Inspectors were allowed in Syria only after the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry the US secretary of state, came to an agreement aimed to circumvent American military intervention. The prize, without question highlights the Syrian crisis, says Aryn Baker the Middle East Bureau Chief for TIME. While announcing the award, the Norwegian Nobel committee criticized US and Russia both committed to destroy their arsenals of chemical weapons under the terms of the CWC, but missed a 2012 deadline to accomplish the objective. According to the Committee, disarmament figures prominently in Alfred Nobel’s will.
“The Norwegian Nobel Committee has through numerous prizes underlined the need to do away with nuclear weapons. By means of the present award to the OPCW, the Committee is seeking to contribute to the elimination of chemical weapons,” the citation said. The Committee however made it clear that the nomination of OPCW was made before April 1 and “came into the picture before the impasse in Syria”. (Kounteya Sinha, October 11, 2013 in Times of India)
In Pakistan, there is a feeling of let-down by some for Malala Yusufzai not having won the coveted award after the hype created by certain sections of the media on her “leading the race.” The 16 year old shot in the head by the Taliban spiritedly said, “They only shot a body but they cannot shoot my dreams,” revealing ambitiously that she wanted to become Pakistan’s Prime Minister as news broke that she missed out on the Nobel Peace Prize. Giving credit where credit is due for bravery in her case, the spirit for a Nobel Peace Prize winner as outlined in Alfred Nobel’s will is demanding of different achievements. A friend wrote, “While not taking the credit away from Malala for having the courage to speak up, there’s a long way for Malala to go, in order to achieve the status of anyone like Abdul Sattar Eidhi for one or Mother Teresa!” Some feel her cause has been hijacked, “Her intelligence is not the issue; it’s the manipulation. Also, people like Edhi, Dr. Adeeb Rizvi (of SIUT) directly touched and changed the lives of hundreds of thousands or millions,” writes another.
I cannot but be reminded here of a very tongue-in-cheek quote by the Canadian-born experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, linguist, and popular science author Steven Pinker, “Some people believe that the nuclear bomb should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, since it scared the major powers away from war by equating it with doomsday.”
The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @yasmeen_9