2014 Nobel Prize – Peace … rather a lot of upset often comes from this one


Nobel-PrizeThis is the one that they often get very very wrong. I don’t mean to imply that those within the selection process are either stupid or daft, but rather is an observation that it is perhaps a political decision, and so when the decision goes against the tide of my own personal politics, it becomes a bit of a “yikes” moment for me.

What is also generally not appreciated is that those that get to select the peace prize are not the same individuals who pick any of the other Nobel prizes, and I do not mean just a different group of individuals within a specific academy, but a completely different nation. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awards the Nobel Prize in Physics, Chemistry, and Economic Sciences; the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institutet awards the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; and finally the Swedish Academy grants the Nobel Prize in Literature. As a result, all the award are given out in Stockholm, Sweden. Peace is different, we switch to Norway, where the Norwegian Nobel Committee makes the choice quite independently of the others.

So how do they decide who gets peace?

Officially they invite “qualified” people to make nominations, and so right there once again this is clearly an award that is the opinion of specific individuals whose selection is also an opinion. The worthy are those you might indeed suspect, and includes members of various national assemblies and governments, the international court of justice, University professors of history, social sciences, philosophy, law, and theology, university presidents, and directors of peace research and international affairs institutes.

They get roughly 200-250 nominations by about February. The committee then makes a short list and so the process of whittling it all down to just one proceeds via a process that involves reports and debate, until finally by unanimous decision then select one in mid september.

Do they really get this very wrong?

Oh yes, memorable awards include …

  • 1973 Henry A. Kissinger and Lê Ðức Thọ for a Vietnam ceasefire : The problem was that when the award was announced, both sides were still carpet bombing each other. At least Lê Ðức Thọ had the decency to decline the award.
  • 1979 Mother Teresa : She who claimed to have the interests of the poor in mind, used all the money she gathered to promote fanatical Catholicism and simply dumped the poor she was supposed to help into some truly appalling conditions. She announced during her acceptance speech that the number one cause of a lack of peace in the world was “abortion”.
  • 1989 Dalai Lama : OK, criticism of him might be like trying to shoot Bambi, the issue here is that this appears to have simply been a way to annoy China and was given to score political points.
  • 1994 Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin for making peace between Israel and Palestine : Well that has really worked out well since then.
  • 2009  Barack Obama : Awarded perhaps because he was not as crazy as his predecessor. Even Obama himself was a bit mystified about it.
  • 2013 The entire European Union : In one respect, I get it because the various European states have a long history of going to war with each other, but have ceased doing so since the formation of the EU, and so now all they do is distribute a rather unequal form of  financial chaos. I still find giving an award to an entire economic block on the sole basis that they have not ripped out each others throats to be a tad odd.

What is also rather odd are the people they have skipped over

  • Mahatma Gandhi never won – This omission has been publicly regretted, Geir Lundestad, Secretary of Norwegian Nobel Committee in 2006 said, “The greatest omission in our 106-year history is undoubtedly that Mahatma Gandhi never received the Nobel Peace prize. Gandhi could do without the Nobel Peace prize, whether Nobel committee can do without Gandhi is the question

So given their past bloopers…

Who won this year?

Kailash Satyarthi Malala Yousafzai
Kailash Satyarthi Malala Yousafzai

The Nobel Peace Prize 2014 was awarded jointly to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”.

The announcement reads

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 is to be awarded to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzay for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.  Children must go to school and not be financially exploited.  In the poor countries of the world, 60% of the present population is under 25 years of age.  It is a prerequisite for peaceful global development that the rights of children and young people be respected.  In conflict-ridden areas in particular, the violation of children leads to the continuation of violence from generation to generation.

Showing great personal courage, Kailash Satyarthi, maintaining Gandhi’s tradition, has headed various forms of protests and demonstrations, all peaceful, focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain.  He has also contributed to the development of important international conventions on children’s rights.

Despite her youth, Malala Yousafzay has already fought for several years for the right of girls to education, and has shown by example that children and young people, too, can contribute to improving their own situations.  This she has done under the most dangerous circumstances.  Through her heroic struggle she has become a leading spokesperson for girls’ rights to education.

The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism.  Many other individuals and institutions in the international community have also contributed.  It has been calculated that there are 168 million child labourers around the world today.  In 2000 the figure was 78 million higher.  The world has come closer to the goal of eliminating child labour.

The struggle against suppression and for the rights of children and adolescents contributes to the realization of the “fraternity between nations” that Alfred Nobel mentions in his will as one of the criteria for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Oslo, 10 October 2014

Further Thoughts

Hey now that’s a great choice, and most agree, I think they got this one right. In fact the only objections I see popping up come from Pakistan itself where many consider it to have been a Black Friday because Malala got the award.

Perhaps the best response to that comes from a posting on the Ex-Muslims of North America blog here … “Why I hate Malala” (The author does not actually hate her, he is simply parroting what has been coming out of Pakistan) …

Here’s a girl, not old enough to have an ID card, siding with Pakistan’s biggest enemy to defame the nation without an iota of shame.  She pretends to take a bullet to her head helping the West propagate their jingoistic agenda under the garb of something as universally celebrated as education.

For her commendable theatrics she gets global acclaim, gets the chance to speak in front of a global audience at the UN, meets the American president and gets to act like the only positive thing coming out of this country in recent times.

He gives an insight into the prevailing mindset and explains why there is such hostility, it’s worth a read.

But then it is perhaps understandable because it appears to be a Pakistani tradition to behave in a truly obnoxious manner towards anybody from pakistan who wins the Nobel prize.  The only other Pakistani to win was the Physics Prize award to Abdus Salam in 1979. Sadly for him he also happened to have the wrong type of Islamic belief – he was a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. In 1974, the Pakistan parliament made a constitutional amendment that declared Ahmadi Muslims as non-Muslims, and so in protest, Salam left Pakistan for London.

So should we be worried that the peace prize will now further alienate some in Pakistan?

To be frank no, given that a December 2010 Pew poll found that 76 percent of Pakistanis think that apostates (those that leave Islam) should be killed, it is perhaps best to focus on nurturing and encouraging those that do strive for decency, equality and basic human rights – 76% might not embrace such ideals according to that poll, but flip that coin and you fine that perhaps 24% do, so let’s celebrate this award and by doing so encourage that 24%.

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