In some cases, according to gradinmath, the Nobel Peace Prize has helped to put conflicts higher on the international agenda . The People’s Republic of China’s oppression of minorities came into focus when the Tibetan religious leader, the Dalai Lama, received the Peace Prize in 1989. Three years later, the Nobel Committee gave its support to the struggle for the rights of the world’s indigenous peoples, when Rigoberta Menchú from Guatemala came to Oslo to receive the Peace Prize.
In 1996, Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor was dragged out of oblivion by the fall of the Nobel Committee’s election to East Timorese liberation leaders José Ramos-Horta and Carlos Belo. According to Ramos-Horta, these prices were a significant contribution to East Timor achieving full national independence around the turn of the century.
7: Also to heads of state
On a number of occasions, the Nobel Committee has appreciated peace work carried out by heads of state. In the 1920s, politicians from Germany, France, Britain and the United States were honored for concluding reconciliation agreements after the First World War. Later, the Cold War provided a framework for more statesman awards. Former United States Secretary of State George Marshall received the Peace Prize in 1953 for organizing Marshall Aid for the reconstruction of Western Europe.
German Chancellor Willy Brandt was awarded the prize in 1971, after opening a dialogue with the Soviet Union, recognizing East Germany and accepting Poland’s borders. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was credited with ending the main conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1990, while South Korean President Kim Dae-jung received the Peace Prize ten years later for trying to end the Cold War on the Korean Peninsula.
Influence peace negotiations
In several cases, the Nobel Committee has wanted to stimulate ongoing peace negotiations with the hope that the prestige of the Peace Prize can bring old enemies closer together and make them more willing to compromise and respect concluded peace agreements. Distributions of this type have created the greatest contradictions in the committee. In 1973, two members resigned for the first time in protest. They refused to be responsible for the peace prize to US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who had signed a ceasefire agreement in Vietnam. The last announcement came in 1994. Then a member withdrew because PLO leader Yasser Arafat shared the peace prize with the Israelis Yitzak Rabin and Shimon Peres. In the opinion of the committee member, it was scandalous to choose Arafat, who he thought was a terrorist.
Among the most successful reconciliation awards were the awards of President Willem de Klerk and Liberation leader Nelson Mandela (1993) and of Northern Ireland politicians David Trimble and John Hume (1998). The first two abolished the hated racist apartheid regime in southern Africa, while the last two signed a peace treaty that ended the bitter conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.
8: Environment and safety
The Nobel Committee has repeatedly pointed out the need to protect humanity’s access to resources and the living environment in order to ensure peaceful development. In 1949, the British John Boyd Orr received the Peace Prize as the first Director-General of the FAO, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. In 1970, the American Norman Borlaug won for growing a new type of wheat that provided food for more people. “The Green Revolution” became a term.
With the awards of the Tibetan Dalai Lama (1989) and Kenyan Wangari Maathai (2004), the Nobel Committee gave the Peace Prize an ecological dimension. This was emphasized once again in 2007, when the American Al Gore and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shared the Peace Prize for their efforts against global warming. But the 2007 award was also a signal that politicians must take greater account of scientific results when making their decisions.
9: Bridge building and the strength of the Peace Prize
Following the terrorist attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, the Nobel Committee wanted to build a bridge between the West and the Islamic world. The Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi (2003), the Egyptian Secretary General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (2005) Muhammad El Baradei and the “father of microcredit” Muhammad Yunus from Bangladesh were all Western-minded Muslims engaged in dialogue and cooperation.
The strength of the Peace Prize
One of the main reasons why the Nobel Peace Prize has gained such a large international reputation is that it belongs to a family of other Nobel Prizes awarded by Swedish institutions (the other prizes: physics, chemistry, medicine and literature). They all have high prestige. In addition, the Nobel Committee has expanded the concept of peace in line with international developments and has mainly made wise choices. The growing focus on human rights is one example of this development. Another is found in the award to Muhammad Yunus. In its explanatory memorandum, the Committee emphasizes the fight against poverty as conflict-reducing and peace-promoting: “Lasting peace cannot be created without large ethnic groups finding ways to break out of poverty.” The women’s orientation behind this award (microcredit to women) is another aspect of an expanded concept of peace.
Furthermore, the feature of more and more prize winners from other continents than Europe has given the prize a clearer global character. Because several awards have been controversial and have provoked undemocratic rulers, media attention has risen; an interest that has been maintained by good marketing. Throughout the 1990s, the Nobel Peace Prize concert in particular has meant a great deal to consolidating the award’s international position.
In the years to come, the reputation of the Peace Prize will depend on whether the Nobel Committee is able to find new categories of winners who are widely accepted. Maybe it’s time for the Storting to elect members of the Nobel Committee who are not Norwegian? It can add new perspectives and impulses to the committee and help prevent it from being perceived as a tool for Norwegian foreign and security policy.