Thursday, October 7, 2010

Nobel Peace Prize: The Controversy

The countdown clock at is ticking away the final hours (14 and some change) until the announcement of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. You can watch the live webcast here from the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway, on Friday, October, 8, at 11:00 a.m. CET, 9:00 a.m. GMT.

On November 27, 1895, Alfred Nobel signed his last will and testament, giving the largest share of his fortune to a series of prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace. In 1901, these became known as the Nobel Prizes. (In 1968, Economic Sciences was added to the list.)

Since 1901, 97 individuals have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Most recently in 2009, President Barack Obama was bestowed the honor. But the Nobel Prize announcements do not come sans controversy. 

In Nobel's will, the Peace recipients are characterized as "the champions of peace". Further, he or she is "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". Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, Henry Kissinger, Yitzhak Rabin, Yasser Arafat, and even President Barack Obama have been scrutinized and their being worthy of the honor contested for a number of reasons. [You can read about all the past winners here.] Kissinger was awarded the Prize in 1973 for his work on the Vietnam Peace Accords, despite playing a central role in the bombing of Cambodia. The words "Yasser Arafat" and "modern terrorism" find themselves paired often. And many wonder if President Obama was awarded the Prize much too early in his presidential career (only 9 months into his term), being lauded for his ambitions for peace rather than end results. More shocking, Mahatma Ghandi, a symbol of nonviolence and peace for years, never was recognized with this honor. Though, in Ghandi's words, "Peace is its own reward."

This begs the questions, and I'd love to hear your thoughts: Is the Nobel Peace Prize Committee selecting recipients to promote their own political and personal interests, rather than adhering to Nobel's original definition of a Peace Prize candidate? Should the definition change as the times have changed? Is the Prize losing its renown? Or has it already lost it? Is the process corrupt?

---Rachel Neal, ABC-CLIO Publicity Assistant and strong advocate of "giving peace a chance"



By Fredrik S. Heffermehl
Praeger, 8/2010

In this groundbreaking and controversial critique of the selections of Nobel Peace Prize winners, an eminent Norwegian lawyer and peace activist calls for its return to legal and moral compliance with the will of Alfred Nobel who wished to support disarmament to prevent war.

"The prize was important in Nobel's day, today disarmament has become a matter of life and death, of whether humanity's future in a world threatened with nuclear extinction. Nobel was visionary, he gave, in 1895, a key response to many of the pressing global emergencies we are facing today, where military means are not the answer, but instead severely aggravate the problems" - Fredrik Heffermehl on the Nobel Prizes, October 7, 2010.

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