10:03 pm
28 May 2017

The awkward facts about the Nobel peace prize

This week a little-known quartet of groups from Tunisia were awarded the 96th Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in transitioning the North African country to democracy.

Cited as the “only success story of the Arab Spring” by the Financial Times, Tunisia has now become a “pluralistic democracy”, according to the Nobel committee, thanks to the work of the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet – comprised of groups representing workers, lawyers, human rights activists and industry – which was set up in 2013.

The quartet paved the way for a peaceful dialogue between the citizens, the political parties and the authorities and helped to find consensus-based solutions to a wide range of challenges across political and religious divides.

  • Nobel committee

But the prize, which has been awarded since 1901 has come under increased scrutiny for supposedly failing to live up to the wishes of founder Alfred Nobel – the inventor of dynamite who made his fortune as an arms manufacturer.

According to Fredrik Heffermehl, an international peace activist and author of a biography on Nobel, who was interviewed by CBC this week: “It’s clear Nobel wanted the prize to go to people working for disarmament and against militarism, and who were building a peace movement.”

Heffermehl believes that not only are the quartet awarded this year unworthy, because they do not fit the model of “a great visionary idea of peace”, but only 50 of the winners since 1901 have been justified according to Nobel’s wishes.

Nobel Peace Prize Watch, a pressure group, also says the quartet “is clearly outside the circle of recipients Nobel had in mind.”

To add to this, as Independent on Sunday columnist Cole Moreton points out: “Should you have to give it back if you start blowing up other Nobel Peace Prize winners?”

Moreton points to the recent US bombing in Afghanistan, of which Barack Obama – a Nobel winner in 2009 – is ultimately responsible. That attack in Kunduz province led to the deaths of 22 people at a hospital run by Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) – which also happened to win the prize in 1999 for its “pioneering humanitarian work on several continents”. Not only that, but:

Weirdly, the aircraft was almost certainly using a 40mm cannon made by Bofors, a company that was once owned by Alfred Nobel, the founder of the peace prize.

The secretive Nobel committee has also awarded the prize to Henry Kissinger in 1973 for his efforts in bringing the Vietnam war to a close, depsite the fact the war went on for another two years and the fact that, as Moreton points out, he was “implicated in propping up violent right-wing regimes in South America as well as bombing Cambodia”.

Hitler was also nominated in 1939 and Stalin in 1945 and 1948. As Moreton ponders, “just how noble is the Nobel Peace Prize?” One has to wonder.