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April 11, 2015

Moment of Truth for the Nobel Peace Prize

By Fredrik S. Heffermehl and Tomas Magnusson

Source:  Inter Press Service

In this column, Norwegian lawyer Fredrik S. Heffermehl* and Swedish civil servant
Tomas Magnusson* argue that in recent years the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize
have not reflected the hope of the award’s founder – Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) – that
the world be freed of weapons, warriors and war, or promoted the vision of preventing
future war by what Nobel called “creating the brotherhood of nations”.

OSLO, Apr 10 2015 (IPS) - The Nobel Peace Prize is about to bow out to critics. As of
Jan. 1, the Oslo-based Norwegian Nobel Committee that selects the winners has a
new secretary, Olav Njølstad, who announced that “changes loom” in a recent

However, Njølstad added, the changes “will not be dramatic”, making it unlikely that
they will satisfy the full makeover demanded by The Nobel Peace Prize Watch, a
newly-formed advocacy group wishing to reverse and undo international militarism.

In a letter sent in February to the Nobel Prize awarders, the group pointed to the
purpose Alfred Nobel actually had in mind and presented a selection of candidates
among the 276 nominated for the 2015 prize who are actually qualified to win. The
Nobel Prize awarders have promised to respond to the letter, which, along with the
valid candidates, is posted on the group´s website.

The group has chosen to ignore the wishes of the Nobel Committee that has a policy
of strict secrecy around candidates and the selection process. By publishing, for the
first time, the full nominations of the 25 “valid candidates”, the group has made it
possible for everyone to see what types of peace work Nobel actually intended the
prize to promote and its “imperative urgency” in the current period.

For over one hundred years, the secrecy rule has shielded the awarders from being
held responsible for its neglect of the true Nobel “champions of peace” and they have
been able to get away with assertions that the winners Nobel had in mind no longer

According to the group this is untrue. It says that the committee ignores the simple,
indisputable – and never disputed – evidence showing that when he designated his
prize to the “champions of peace”, Nobel “meant the movement and the persons who
work for a demilitarised world, for law to replace power in international politics, and for
all nations to commit to cooperating on the elimination of all weapons instead of
competing for military superiority.”

To make the prize comply with its actual purpose will require a dramatic change of the
award policy. The Nobel Peace Prize Watch therefore doubts that the impending
changes, described as “undramatic”, will be sufficient to satisfy the legislation on wills
and foundations and the decisions of two public agencies in Sweden tasked with
overseeing that foundations spend their funds in accordance with the law.

Even if the nominations are secret, The Nobel Peace Prize Watch was able to identify
24 names properly nominated for the 2015 prize. The list of valid candidates for 2015
is dominated by Americans and by people involved is nuclear disarmament, with
nominees like Japanese hibakusha (nuclear survivors) Samiteru Taniguchi and
Setsuko Thurlow; U.S. lawyer Peter Weiss and the International Association of
Lawyers against Nuclear Arms (IALANA), David Krieger and the Nuclear Age Peace

Further candidates are David Swanson, the U.S. activist for full disarmament;
whistleblowers Kathryn Bolkovac, Daniel Ellsberg, Chelsea Manning and Edward
Snowden, all from the United States; veteran organisers of a law-based world order,
such as lawyers Benjamin Ferencz and Richard Falk, also from the United States; and
the Womens´ International League for Peace and Freedom, formed during the First
World War.
Related IPS Articles

  The Nobel for Peace – an Expanding Scandal – Column by Fredrik S. Heffermehl
  Why Isn’t the Nobel Peace Prize For the Champions of Peace?
  Norwegians Rebuked for Straying from Nobel Founder’s Peace Vision – Column by
Fredrik S. Heffermehl

It seems as if Norwegian politicians, imbued in Western militarism and loyalty to the
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), are unable to understand Nobel´s idea of
peace: to liberate the nations of the world from weapons, warriors and war. The idea
to be supported by his will was that all nations must cooperate on disarmament.

Laureates like U.S. President Barack Obama in 2009 and the European Union in 2012
both believe in military means and clearly are not the type of winners to whom Nobel
dedicated his award.

If the world succeeded in realising the Nobel peace plan, this would release enormous
funds to cater to human needs. It would cost only a tiny fraction of the world´s military
expenditure to secure everyone access to food, clean water, housing, education,
health care. It would become possible to secure decent circumstances for all people,
all over the globe, poor and rich, East and West, North and South – and make them
more secure in the bargain.

To a realist it must be obvious that a world filled with weapons and warriors, even
nuclear weapons, is inherently an unsafe world.

In the letter requesting changes, The Nobel Peace Prize Watch refers to basic rules of
law regarding wills and foundations and furthermore invokes decisions passed by two
Swedish public agencies during the last few years.

The authorities expect the purpose of the Nobel testament to be respected and also
that the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm will keep its Norwegian sub-committee for the
peace prize under strict and effective supervision and also refrain from paying the
prize amount to a winner outside the purpose Nobel actually had in mind.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee, elected by the Parliament of Norway, now has until
Apr. 17 to decide whether it will serve the great mandate that Nobel entrusted to it, to
illuminate and promote the vision of preventing future war by what Nobel in his will
called “creating the brotherhood of nations”.

Governments and citizens all over the world should unite in demanding that
Norwegian parliamentarians respect Nobel and help liberate us all from the very
dangerous common enemy called militarism. (END/IPS COLUMNIST SERVICE)

Edited by Phil Harris    

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily
represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

* Fredrik S. Heffermehl is a Norwegian lawyer, author of books on the Nobel Peace
Prize and former vice-president of the International Peace Bureau (IPB). Tomas
Magnusson is a Swedish civil servant in immigration and integration issues, and
former president of the International Peace Bureau (IPB). The two are founding
members of the Lay Down Your Arms Association and organisers of The Nobel Peace
Prize Watch)