‘Nobel’ Politics

Hisyam Takiudin  (UWCAC, Malaysia’12-’14)

“I think that somehow the Nobel Committee had lost their ‘touch’. It seems like their decisions have been made on certain agendas that we could not possibly know what or why. This is the age of ‘Nobel’ politics.”

Credibility of the Nobel Committee

And the winner of the 2013 Nobel Peace prize is…

NOT Malala Yousafzai.

On the 11th October 2013, Thorbjørn Jagland, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, announced that the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize goes to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

As expected, many people were not quite as happy with this announcement. According to a survey by the Telegraph, leading up to the announcement, Malala, among the 259 candidates nominated for the prize, proved to be a fan favourite as she led the pack with 60.3% of the votes.  Malala was nominated after she was shot in the head by Taliban militants in 2012 as punishment for her high-profile campaign to encourage girls to go to school. She was flown all the way to the UK for treatments and is now pursuing her GCSEs at a school in Birmingham.

There are quite a lot of reasons to think of when it comes to why many people think Malala should have won. A prominent figure in the past year, one of them would have been the fact that she still is out there continuing her campaign for equality in education, spending the past year travelling to different places to voice out her opinions, notably her speech at the United Nations. Her story is unique, compelling and relatable to undoubtedly millions of young women like her; she is their voice, and serves as a reminder to all of us of how “no” is never the final answer to anything.

When you actually think about it though, Malala seems the perfect fit for what Alfred Nobel wrote in his will when he established the Nobel Prizes, that only “champions of peace” should be rewarded with the prestigious prize. Advocating for girls’ education seems like one of the most important stepping-stones to achieving peace as how Secretary of State John Kerry said that “gender equality is critical to our shared goals of prosperity, stability, and peace.  Malala’s effort was and still is something that should not be overseen.

So why didn’t Malala win? Malala faced death and triumphed. OPCW is merely doing its job. Not that I would be glad if there was never such thing like OPCW. The organization had a long list of contributions that deserved recognition, like its implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, the first international treaty “to outlaw an entire class of weapons” and its brave stint back in 2003 when it defied Bush by offering an alternative to the Iraq war. Many would agree that OPCW should have won the 2003 Nobel Prize, instead of well-deserved contender Shirin Ebadi, for this but well, here we go again, same story appears, the Nobel Committee does not pick your favourites.

This raised question as to whether the so-called prestigious Nobel Prize can any longer be considered credible. Flipping back through history books, we can see that OPCW’s recent win is not the only controversial win that has ever happened. Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace after only 12 days in office, reason being, for not being Bush. Henry Kissinger, President Nixon’s Secretary of State, won the 1973 prize for breaking a ceasefire in the Vietnam war, and took up the prize while the US is still carpet-bombing Cambodia. Interestingly enough, he was later accused of war crimes, for America’s provision of arms and support to the South American dictators who carried out Operation Condor, an anti-communist campaign of repression and terror that claimed the lives of thousands of people. Doesn’t sound like a “champion of peace”, does he?

The most controversial win of all is perhaps European Union’s win back in 2012; which according to the Nobel Prize Committee, deserved the win “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”. This statement is true to some extent, the EU had certainly brought peace and to think of a war between France and Germany now would be unthinkable and as the Committee said, “through well-aimed efforts and by building up mutual confidence, historical enemies can become close partners.” Such thing is a remarkable feat, but to say anything about peace in Europe for sixty years disregards the conflict that have occurred (remember the savage wars which affected the former Yugoslavia for ten years after 1990?).

Ironically enough, the day EU was announced the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Europe was still in the midst of a chaotic social unrest, thanks largely to its financial instability and a time when there are deep rifts between its major member states. I’m not sure as to whether the announcement was a well-deserved celebration or simply a ‘walk of shame’ for the EU. I bet people on the streets of Athens and Madrid have a lot to say about this.

In my humble opinion, I think that somehow the Nobel Committee had lost their ‘touch’. It seems like their decisions have been made on certain agendas that we could not possibly know what or why. This is the age of ‘Nobel’ politics. It seems obvious that there are hidden ideals behind the prize itself. For example, consider the case when Al Gore won the prize back in 2007. Among other nominees includes Irena Sendler, dubbed the ‘angel of Warsaw’, who saved 2500 Jewish children from Nazi concentration camps. She saved twice as many Jews as Oskar Schindler, the man who inspired Spielberg’s epic Schindler’s List, but was never given the recognition she so much deserved. She was up for the Nobel Peace Prize back in 2007 but was beaten by Al Gore, for a slide show on global warming which we now all know is totally inaccurate.

Perhaps a much reasonable reason for the win was recognising the efforts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which Al Gore worked closely with, over the years to raise awareness about climate change, notably their reports that led towards the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. But, if we can even begin compare this to Irene Sendler’s contributions, let alone recognising it over hers, there must be something wrong with the system.

Of course, there had been vocal critics who had been speculating this decision and many thought the Nobel Committee gave an answer that silenced them. According to the committee, Irene did not win because the prize is only awarded for “significant activities during the past two years”, which in her case, made her ineligible since her brave actions happened more than 60 years ago. But, if that is the case, how can the committee explain OPCW’s and the EU’s win of their prizes. It is explicitly stated on their website that the EU was awarded the prize for their sixty years of peace efforts in Europe. Why is there such inconsistency?

The OPCW did not contribute anything as significant as Malala did over the course of the previous two years. If we were to consider its contributions in Syria, it would seem a bit odd as the investigation is still under its way, with no assured results. It’s like putting a farmer on national television for starting to grow his own vegetables. Similarly is the case with the European Union which had been hitting its lows in the recent years, especially its shaky financial state which defeats the significance of it being awarded the prize in the first place, with regards to Irene’s case.

It seems evident enough that the Committee no longer work in lines with Alfred Nobel’s ideals. They may have evolved into a politically driven body, for all we know, and work under underlying motives that we may or never know. Hopefully, the Nobel Committee would endeavour to restore the prestige to the Nobel distinction and award the Peace Prize to those who truly exemplify its ideals.

-The United Words Team-

One thought on “‘Nobel’ Politics

  1. 1. Malala has done nothing. She wrote a blog for the BBC and is now being used by the UN, the west and her father to push their agenda (its not necessarily a bad one, but an agenda nonetheless).
    If she becomes a world leader or actually makes a difference, then fine. Give it to her. But as yet, she’s done nothing meaningful other than being shot at. There are hundreds (maybe thousands) like Malala who have achieved much more and who aren’t being used by the west as a mouthpiece for their agenda.
    2. The work of the EU and the OPCW has been going on for a while but is also still going on now.
    3. Most (if not all?) of the countries involved in the Yugoslavia conflict where not in the EU at the time.

    I agree that there are issues that the nobel committee need to consider, but giving the nobel peace prize to Malala would have (in my eyes anyway) ripped to shreds any credibility they have left.

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