Four years ago, Zeit-Fragen has reported about the work of the Norwegian Fredrik Heffermehl. Heffermehl has written a book (“The Nobel Peace Price. What Nobel really wanted»), in which he looked back on the history of the Nobel Prize and critically reappraised the awarding practices of the past years. Now the Austrian journalist Emil Bobi has revisited Heffermehl’s criticism in a new book, “The Nobel Peace Prize. The Truth behind the Honor” (2015, ISBN 978-3-7110-5147-9) and added new facts, in particular about the wastage of the endowment money. But there is also a silver lining on the horizon, showing that the criticism is making an impact. This year’s award ceremony is showing this.
Emil Bobi requotes the historical origin of the testament of Alfred Nobel in detail and shows how the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize has been manipulated by the Nobel Prize Committee in the last seventy years. In addition bibliographic notes about Alfred Nobel’s friendship with Bertha von Suttner and his struggle for worldwide peace are to be found.
The Nobel prizes shall be awarded to those people “who have provided the greatest benefit to mankind in the past year” (p. 22). The Nobel prizes (in medicine, literature, physics and chemistry) are awarded by the Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and handed over by the King of Sweden. They are awarded with quite a few exceptions without controversy and have a high prestige and reputation throughout the world.
The Nobel Peace Prize is something special. In his third and final testament dated 27.11.1895 Alfred Nobel contrived, inspired by Bertha von Suttner, a prize for the champions of peace in three sections:
1. Fraternisation of Nations, establishment of politics of trust,
2. reduction or abolishment of standing armies as a result of a policy of reliance and
3. further development and discussion of his ideas in the frame of peace congresses.
It is awarded by a committee of five people “who are to be elected by the Norwegian Storting (Parliament)” (p. 22). The Nobel Peace Prize is handed over by the Norwegian King in Oslo. In the view of Emil Bobi the peace prize is “not awarding peace, but abolition of war” (p. 23). According to Fredrik Heffermehl Alfred Nobel was therefore ahead of his time. Fredrik Heffermehl saw the concept of common security and of a general and complete disarmament as an important component of the diplomatic discourse, as found in Olof Palmes politics and in the Charter of the United Nations three or four decades ago. In 1905 the prize was awarded Bertha von Suttner. Since the Second World War its allocation is increasingly controversial, as for example to the EU, to Arafat, Rabin, Peres and Obama. He at least hinted in his award speech in 2009 that awarding to him might not really be justified. “But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars.” (p. 59) Thereby Obama disqualifies himself for the Nobel Peace Prize. How could there be such mistakes?
A retrospective glance at the history: Never in history Norway was a great power. In the Peace of Kiel in 1814 Denmark had to cede his province of Norway as war reparation to Sweden, because it had lost the war on the side of Napoleon. Now Norway became a colony of Sweden and remained so up until 1904. At the time of Nobel Norway was well known for its competence in matters of peace, conflict resolution and its financial support of the peace movement of Bertha von Suttner. Therefore, he has entrusted the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Norwegian Parliament. In 1948, this Parliament fatally decided to delegate the power of decision over the deployment of the members of the Nobel Committee to the political parties. Since there are not anymore experts but the political parties are represented according to their proportional representation. The peace-loving mood in Norway changed after the painful experiences with Nazi Germany. Fredrik Heffermehl: “Friends of peace are replaced now by friends of defense” (p. 175). Only strong allies, like the United States or Great Britain should now ensure security to Norway. Neutral Norway became a founding member of NATO. It developed to something Alfred Nobel wanted to get rid of: “a strongly armed, standing army in alliance with other heavily armed, standing armies” (p. 176). According to Fredrik Heffermehl the Committee members are “not only far less qualified, but also unwilling to follow Nobel’s intentions” (p. 176). The price lenders “should leave the Award Committee of the Nobel Peace Prize, as they are the wrong ones” (p. 186), Emil Bobi postulates.
Just a few figures describing the wastage of the endowment: Before the award ceremony the 60 best head chefs in Sweden discuss the menu with the local culinary art professors, planning it for six months, prepare it in five days and get it served by 260 selected waiters. The administration and the party makers consume two-thirds of the endowment-money. And the planned Nobel-Centre in Stockholm asks for a budget of 130 million euros by 2019, with rising tendency. Emil Bobi: “There is rise to a scandal bit it is not yet surfacing in the Nobel Foundation [...]. Politicians are already pulling their fingers out, in the executive authority the accusations have long been known – but they are ignored unanimously.”
(p. 35) Oslo has become vulnerable long since. The innermost core of the company Nobel Prize is in danger to lose its worldwide reputation.
But the criticism has an effect and in my view it has left marks. The Oslo Committee has become more cautious in awarding this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Not another NATO member, but Tunisian Democrats were awarded. A Quartet of Trade Union, League of Human Rights, Law Society and Employer’s Association was honoured for its development of a pluralistic democracy. At a time when Tunisia was on the brink of a civil war, a peaceful political process resulted from a crisis, it says in the explanatory statement of the award ceremony. The negotiations lead by the Quartet since summer 2013 showed that dialogue is the only way to peace. This could be a model for the (civil) wars in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Israel and around the world. Fredrik Heffermehl will now argue in the frame of the Nobel Peace Prize Watch further to consider Nobel’s intentions in the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize. And all people are called upon to actively support the parties in conflict around the world in their peaceful dialogue and to promote the ideas of Nobel within the framework of peace conferences. •
(Translation Current Concern)
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