Comments on the Nobel Peace Prize

Interview with Fredrik Heffermehl

Fredrik Heffermehl, Norwegian lawyer and author of the book “The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel really wanted” has founded with friends the committee “The Nobel Peace Prize Watch” (NPPW). This year’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is a success of its ten years of work. The Geneva-based organisation received the prestigious prize for its worldwide nuclear disarmament effort.

Current Concerns: How would you evaluate this year’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize to ICAN?

Fredrik Heffermehl: Excellent, a great move signalling a new will to promote the great peace vision of Nobel – that the road to durable peace and preventing new wars is to liberate all nations from all weapons and all warriors. We have worked for this for over ten years and many credit us with having had an influence this year.
The peace by disarmament vision of Nobel may seem like an undoable dream, totally unrealistic, and it is – as long as we fail to realize it as mandatory necessity and essential to prosperity and security for humankind. Yes, unrealistic today, inside present thinking and the present system, but it requires just one essential leap in thinking. What is impossible as a step by step, piecemal, approach becomes an easier task if you just decide that we have to liberate ourselves from this utterly dystopic system, see the gains and advantages, and start from there.

In 2013, you proposed the recently deceased Soviet Colonel Stanislav Petrov for the Nobel Peace Prize (see the obituary on this page).

Yes, after the awarding of the Dresden Peace Prize to Stanislaw Petrov, I learned from the organisers that he wanted to visit Norway. Ideally, he should come to Norway to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2013, the committee had not yet taken up my suggestion. In 2017, we were successful.

You have now demanded that the Norwegian Parliament comply with Swedish law. What do you associate with this requirement?

While Nobel, with his last invention, the five prizes for science, medicine, literature and “the champions of peace”, raised a unique and dynamic gravestone that has served to improve the plight of the citizens of the world, his choice of committee for the peace prize was not fortunate. [Anm. der Redaktion] Norway was eager to play a role in the world and Parliament happily accepted to appoint the five-member Nobel committee for the peace prize. It is, however, not a natural situation for a national parliament to be in subordinate service to a private foundation. Even less one in a foreign country. This has been clarified through decisions by Swedish authorities in the last couple of years. Boards that have responsibility must also have authority over all its subordinate bodies. Norwegian politicians love to have the peace prize to play with, but there are some fundamental difficulties here that have to be addressed. Norway even hoped to get an exception from Swedish law that would place the final decision on the legitimacy of the peace prizes in Norway, but the view of Swedish authorities prevailed – there even was an appeal to the Swedish government, but it was dropped.

For the new Nobel Peace Prize Committee to be elected, you proposed five candidates. What criticism do you practice in previous selection practice and which criteria have you been guided by?

From the very beginning, over ten years ago, I have emphasised that the purpose Nobel had in mind is the starting point. Everything must start with an evaluation of the intention, his intention, not our guesses and wishes. Nobel’s purpose must guide the selection of winners and the committee that appoints the winners. To find out what went on in the head of a man on the evening of 27 November 1895, requires a lot of work. But neither Parliament nor the Nobel Committee ever did that job. – It did not help that I discovered the need and called for it in 2007. Nobody else picked it up and I wrote my first analysis in 2008. This is still not allayed [or rebutted) by anyone. Based on this interpretation I have this year asked Parliament to pick qualified members for the committee and also suggested names [see www.nobelwill.org]. These are from the NGO communities, the people in today’s world who pursue Nobel’s ideas – seeking what will be best for humankind as a whole and working across all divisions, national boundaries, religion, race, political or economic system. By suggesting five concrete names I hoped to facilitate results.

We wish you every success in the project “What Nobel really wanted” and thank you for your perseverance and confidence.     •

cc. Note: Against the tradition, the diplomatic missions of the US, UK and France have announced their non-appearance on the occasion of the Nobel Peace Prize 2017 being awarded to the International Organization for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons ICAN. 122 UN states have signed the treaty to ban nuclear weapons – the five veto powers have not signed yet ...

Stanislav Petrov – an obituary

by Rainer Schopf

He was a great philanthropist and a quiet hero. Presumably he saved the life of all of us and prevented a nuclear catastrophe for the whole world. In the middle of the Cold War during the night of 26 November 1983 Petrov worked as head of the Soviet missile alarm system. Suddenly, all sirens and warning lights indicated that the US had launched a nuclear war and shot nuclear missiles towards the Soviet Union. Petrov kept a clear head and reported false alarms to the supreme commanders five times. It was fortunate that, as an engineer, he helped develop the warning system and wrote the satellite surveillance manual. While keeping his peace out of the way, his inner tension tore in the next 15 minutes of waiting. He felt as if he was being led to his “execution“, he later said in interviews.
Petrov should be right in his heroic deed. It was a false alarm. One could not entrust such a decision about life and death on whole continents to a machine, was his message. Nevertheless, Petrov was reprimanded for an inaccuracy in the night shift‘s protocol. In the West his courage only became known 10 years later, after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He was awarded the World Citizen Award for services to mankind at the United Nations in New York in 2006, received the German Media Prize in 2012 and the Dresden Peace Prize in 2013 (see Current Concerns No 9/2013).
In his last years, Petrov lived in a small apartment building in Fryazino, 70 km from Moscow. His pension was 1,000 rubles. In Moskau you pay 100 rubles for a cup of coffee. His wife had died long since. As it is now known, Stanislav Petrov died on 19 May 2017 and was buried in a circle of his closest family. We have lost a wonderful person.