Nobel Peace Prize for… But does it really matter?

Read few comments.

Questions:

1. When Nobel Peace Prize went to President Barack Obama in 2009 for many it was kind of an attempt to boost his position on the international scene to achieve something through diplomacy and similar means. Though definitively not only his fault (in fact, I am not sure what was really achievable), the result is probably mixed. So how relevant do you find the Nobel Peace Prize for the future, is is just a nice ceremony or you say it can make the difference?

2. How would you describe the “perfect” candidate for the Nobel Peace Price?

Answers:

Marilyn McMorrow, Visiting Assistant Professor, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

1. I do think the Nobel Peace Prize still confers some moral authority on the laureate. Nobel wanted his prizes to go to “those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind”–and the peace prize, specifically, “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.”

Even so, when we look at the history of the prize since 1901, the Committee often seems to have made the award based on “life-time achievement.” When the Norwegian Nobel Committee (Peace Prize) uses the award, in medias res, as the kind of catalyst I think Nobel intended, the Committee does run the risk of “making a mistake,” or undercutting the credibility of the prize. Perhaps the Obama Prize, in time, may have this undercutting effect. On the other hand, the Committee presumably saw an American President who represented in his own person, the accomplishments of previous laureates to work against racism, and who announced his focus would be ending US involvement in two wars, opening new dialogue with the world of Islam, working with the United Nations, restarting talks toward superpower nuclear disarmament. Maybe the Committee was “endorsing” that direction and hoped to bolster it?

It may well have been a premature prize. My hunch is no one was more surprised than Obama himself. And, in terms of US Politics, the Norwegian Nobel Committee did him no favor.

2. You ask my thoughts on the perfect laureate. Right now? My candidates would be Bill and Melinda [French] Gates. And I would write the announcement paralleling how they are using the profits from this era’s essential technology (IT) to how Nobel used the profits from his era’s essential technology (controlled explosive capacity in dynamite without which it is hard to imagine the infrastructure of industrialization, railroad beds, bridges, tunnel, skyscrapers etc.)

Daniel SerwerSenior Fellow, Center for Transatlantic Relations, Johns Hopkins School of Advance International Studies, John Hopkins University

1. I don’t think the Nobel Prizes have ever been particularly effective in promoting peace, as opposed to acknowledging achievements in that direction. The award to President Obama was unusual in trying to affect current events. It wasn’t terribly successful it seems to me.  The President is today pursuing diplomacy between Israel and Palestine, with Iran, with the Taliban and in Syria, but I doubt any of that has much to do with his Nobel Prize.

2. Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk.

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