Nobel Prize 2018 – Peace

If you want to know about this year’s Nobel Peace winner, just jump around my preamble by scrolling down.

What does it even mean?

Unlike the science based award, the Nobel Peace prize is highly political. Sometimes they get it right, and sometimes very very wrong. Let’s mull over this for a bit.

The “Peace” prize was stipulated within Nobel’s will as follows …

“to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”

… and goes on to specify that the prize is to be awarded by a committee of five people chosen by the Norwegian Parliament. The other Prizes, are (as he also stipulated) decided by the Swedish science academies, and so involve a great deal more rigour. (Hint: Members of science academies tend to know a bit about science and thus can make good choices, which they usually do). Because “Peace” is chosen by politicians it is deeply subjective and also highly politicised.

So why did Nobel create a Peace prize?

His decision to do so is perhaps partially explained by the observation that Mr Nobel had a life long “friendship” (cough cough) with peace activist Bertha von Suttner, who then later went on to win the peace prize herself in 1905.

Let’s talk specifics

To illustrate what I’m getting at, let’s look back and see how it has all played out …

  • 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. The fact that Kissinger accepted says a great deal about his personal lack of any integrity. Two Norwegian Nobel Committee members resigned to protest this one.
  • 1979 Mother Teresa :
    • It very much played to the prevailing Mother Teresa PR machinery, but was not actually fact based. She claimed to have the interests of the poor in mind, but actually 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 rather bizarrely announced during her acceptance speech that the number one cause of a lack of peace in the world was “abortion”. Indeed yes, it clearly has been all those abortions in Syria and Iraq that has challenged the region.
  • 1989 Dalai Lama :
  • 1992 Rigoberta Menchú:
    • She won for “her work for social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples“. Unfortunately, her memoirs, which had brought her to fame and this prize, turned out to be partly fictitious.
  • 1994 Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin for making peace between Israel and Palestine :
    • Granting them the award at the time was within the remit, and the observation that they actually were striving to build a solution does merit them the award. However, we can look back now and see that it has not exactly gone all that well. Even at the time one of the five Norwegian Nobel Committee members could see how it would play out, so denounced Arafat as a terrorist and not a peacemaker, then quit in disgust.
  • 2009  Barack Obama :
    • This was another rather blatant political choice. Obama himself was a bit mystified about it. The closing date for nominations was 1st Feb 2009, just 12 days after he took office, so at best can only have been a decision based upon those 12 days.
  • 2013 The entire European Union :
    • In one respect, I do get this one because the various European states have a long history of going to war with each other, and have ceased doing so since the formation of the EU. 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. Remember that their stipulated remit for peace is “to the person“, so who exactly is the person here?

What perhaps makes the award even weirder is that Mahatma Gandhi never won. He was nominated in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947, but never received it. That specific non-award has been publicly regretted. Geir Lundestad, Secretary of Norwegian Nobel Committee, said in 2006 …

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

The primary problem here is that  (as argued by Norwegian historian Øivind Stenersen) the committee members utilise the granting of the award as a means of furthering Norwegian nation building and also promoting Norway’s foreign policy and economic interests. Since the committee is (as stipulated in Nobel’s will) composed of individuals chosen by the Norwegian Parliament, then this outcome is not exactly a huge shock.

Given the constraints, it is perhaps almost impossible for this to not be a political award.

Having said all that, it is not all bad because sometimes they do get it right by spotlighting somebody truly inspirational. For example Nelson Mandela, or Martin Luther King Jr. (You can find a full list of past winners here). There is however no ducking the observation that it all screams out for Parody and mockery.

The Onion Delivers – Top Candidates For The 2018 Nobel Peace Prize

Kim Jong-Un & Moon Jae-In:

No two other people on Earth gave a more impressive handshake in the past year.

Edward Snowden:

Perhaps no one has made a greater impact on global peace than Snowden, who’s famous for doing something with computers a few years ago.

Malala Yousafzai:

This shameless attention addict just can’t bear letting anyone else share the spotlight, can she?

Pope Francis:

It’s not like he personally molested anyone.

John McCain:

The hawkish longtime U.S. senator has ceased advocating for widespread U.S. military intervention.

Emmanuel Macron:

He’s the democratically elected leader of a Western European country, so it just seems to make sense, right?

Arctic Council:

Might as well throw them a bone now since they’ll have nothing to advocate for in a couple years.

Donald Trump:

Just to own the libs.

The, Like, Concept Of Love:

It’s all out of this world, man, you dig?

So who actually won in 2018?

This year I believe they actually got it right.

nobelThe Nobel Peace Prize 2018 was awarded jointly to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.”


The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2018 to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. Both laureates have made a crucial contribution to focusing attention on, and combating, such war crimes. Denis Mukwege is the helper who has devoted his life to defending these victims. Nadia Murad is the witness who tells of the abuses perpetrated against herself and others. Each of them in their own way has helped to give greater visibility to war-time sexual violence, so that the perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions.

The physician Denis Mukwege has spent large parts of his adult life helping the victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since the Panzi Hospital was established in Bukavu in 1999, Dr. Mukwege and his staff have treated thousands of patients who have fallen victim to such assaults. Most of the abuses have been committed in the context of a long-lasting civil war that has cost the lives of more than six million Congolese.

Denis Mukwege is the foremost, most unifying symbol, both nationally and internationally, of the struggle to end sexual violence in war and armed conflicts. His basic principle is that “justice is everyone’s business”. Men and women, officers and soldiers, and local, national and international authorities alike all have a shared responsibility for reporting, and combating, this type of war crime. The importance of Dr. Mukwege’s enduring, dedicated and selfless efforts in this field cannot be overstated. He has repeatedly condemned impunity for mass rape and criticised the Congolese government and other countries for not doing enough to stop the use of sexual violence against women as a strategy and weapon of war.

Nadia Murad is herself a victim of war crimes. She refused to accept the social codes that require women to remain silent and ashamed of the abuses to which they have been subjected. She has shown uncommon courage in recounting her own sufferings and speaking up on behalf of other victims.

Nadia Murad is a member of the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq, where she lived with her family in the remote village of Kocho. In August 2014 the Islamic State (IS) launched a brutal, systematic attack on the villages of the Sinjar district, aimed at exterminating the Yazidi population. In Nadia Murad’s village, several hundred people were massacred. The younger women, including underage children, were abducted and held as sex slaves. While a captive of the IS, Nadia Murad was repeatedly subjected to rape and other abuses. Her assaulters threatened to execute her if she did not convert to their hateful, inhuman version of Islam.

Nadia Murad is just one of an estimated 3 000 Yazidi girls and women who were victims of rape and other abuses by the IS army. The abuses were systematic, and part of a military strategy. Thus they served as a weapon in the fight against Yazidis and other religious minorities.

After a three-month nightmare Nadia Murad managed to flee. Following her escape, she chose to speak openly about what she had suffered. In 2016, at the age of just 23, she was named the UN’s first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking.

This year marks a decade since the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1820 (2008), which determined that the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict constitutes both a war crime and a threat to international peace and security. This is also set out in the Rome Statute of 1998, which governs the work of the International Criminal Court. The Statute establishes that sexual violence in war and armed conflict is a grave violation of international law.  A more peaceful world can only be achieved if women and their fundamental rights and security are recognised and protected in war.

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize is firmly embedded in the criteria spelled out in Alfred Nobel’s will. Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad have both put their personal security at risk by courageously combating war crimes and seeking justice for the victims. They have thereby promoted the fraternity of nations through the application of principles of international law.

Oslo, 5 October 2018


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