Almost everything revolves around politics, directly or indirectly.’ Nobel Peace Award’, indeed the most prestigious and illustrative award of the time, space and dimension in our history, is also not free from such politics. This politics may rightly to be named ‘Politics inside Noble Award’. It is played in such an invisible and sophisticated manner and mode that can rarely be detected with open eyes. Even in-depth and close studies may not cope with such clandestine reality and truth. Since it is now the number one internationally recognized award, all the techniques and devices of politics are necessarily touched and marked with highly international standard and gravity. There prevails a kind of belief and understanding in the minds of many that getting a Noble Peace Award means making a room in the galaxy of immortals dividends of which are double in nature i.e. one relates to name and fame and money and honour during the period of the recipient’s longevity and the other relates to the post-death legacy and immortality. Thus, Nobel peace prize has uniquely become ‘noble and novel’ in words and spirit.
Many are behind it while there is an instance to say ‘no’ to it. Available records show that the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded 92 times to 124 Nobel Laureates between 1901 and 2011 – 99 times to individuals and 23 times to organizations. With the award to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman in 2011, a total of 101 individuals and 23 organizations have been awarded the Peace Prize. Since International Committee of the Red Cross was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1917, 1944 and 1963, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1954 and 1981, that means 101 individuals and 23 organizations have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. With due respect to the Norwegian Nobel Committee and to the recipients it can safely be said that it has over the period of time inevitably become an object of severe criticism as politics ranging from national to regional to international compacts made its distinct presence even in choosing and selecting such Nobel laureate(s) starting from 1901 to 2011. Few cases may fittingly be illustrative here.
In recognition of his efforts for peace and understanding in the Western Hemisphere, his trade agreements and his work to establish United Nations Cordell Hull was honoured with Nobel Peace Prize 1945. But the public documents show that in 1939, the ship SS St Louis sailed out of Hamburg into the Atlantic Ocean carrying over 950 Jewish refugees, mostly wealthy, seeking asylum from Nazi persecution just before World War II. Roosevelt showed modest willingness to allow the ship in, but Hull, his Secretary of State threatens to withhold their support of Roosevelt in the 1940 Presidential election if this occurred. Roosevelt denied entry to the ship. The ship was forced to return to Germany and many of the passengers ultimately ended up dying in Concentration Camps.
Nobel Peace Prize 1992 was won by Rigoberta Menchú. Facts came to light that there had been some evidence pointing to her as a fraud in her purported autobiography of her life in Guatemala in the late 1950s, portrayed in her 1987 book I, Rigoberta Menchu—where some facts regarding her family history and circumstances were specifically altered by her to supposedly better. Who shall take care of it? Should it be Noble Committee or the people outside the Nobel Committee?
Nobel peace prize 1994 went jointly to Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO, and President of the Palestinian National Authority, Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister of Israel. and Yitzhak Robin, Prime Minister of Israel, for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East and Nobel peace prize 1978 moved jointly to Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat, then President of the Arab Republic of Egypt and Menachem Begin, Prime Minister of Israel, for negotiating peace between Egypt and Israel, were considered by many during that time as ‘carrying no significance from the point of view of the end product of the agreement in reality’ and today the world knows very well what the truth is. The Camp David Accords were, in effect, two accords that provided the basis for the continuation of the peace negotiations: a ‘Framework for Peace in the Middle East’ and a ‘Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel.’ All these are now merely valuable documents in history, although desired successes are far away. Awarded the prize jointly with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, Peres was responsible for developing Israel’s nuclear weapons arsenal, and was later blamed for the Qana Massacre in 1996.
Interestingly enough, President Jimmy Carter was not included in the list of winners. Later, the Nobel Peace Prize 2002 was awarded to Jimmy Carter “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development’. It had from the start wrought controversy that was exacerbated further by politically-tinted statements offered by the chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize committee (seconded and affirmed by Gunnar Staalsett, another member of the 5-member, secretive Nobel Committee It is not clear to many whether it should be viewed as consolation or evaluation or mere encouragement.!!
Professor Dr. Mohammad Yunus of Bangladesh is beyond question a global name and fame but awarding him Nobel peace Prize 2006 ‘for his efforts to create economic and social development from below” is not very much convincing in its entirety. Here peace has ironically been tagged with efforts to create economic and social development from below. This new definition or redefinition or extended definition of peace is not only bewildering but also embarrassing readily. He could have been weighed and honoured in his own discipline other than in the field of peace. Because of his oscillating vision and mission taking all from politics to NGO to social business enterprise he has been faced with series of criticisms at home in particular. His attempt and failure to build a political party during the period of army-backed CTG (2007-2008) in Bangladesh under the blessing of it made him an object of political assaults by the political parties especially by the AL and BNP, two leading parties, in Bangladesh. A Noble peace laureate like him is also widely held responsible for coining the idea of ‘Minus Two Theory’ (meaning forced departure of Sheikh Hasina and Begum Khaleda Zia for foreign land) during this time. Losing his chair of MD of Grameen Bank in a legal battle with the government, he is faced now with Himalayan tussle with the incumbent alliance government headed by Hasina. In fact, his political ambition caused him havoc in the true sense of the term. Being away from Grameen Bank, he is at present moving from heaven to earth with his new enterprise ‘social businesses’, which he claims and believes, shall stand as an alternative to the rapidly deteriorating capitalism. Here he grossly shifted from the bases of micro-credits to new bases of social businesses where the level and standard of capital are not definitely in line with micro-credits. That’s why, he is sometimes called a man of oscillation in his vision and mission.
Al Gore, former Vice-President of USA, got the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work on raising public awareness of Global Warming. There has been some disagreement on whether the work was related to the stated purpose of the prize or not. In addition, there is much controversy cantering his work in the area of Global Warming and, in fact, even controversy over whether Global Warming poses a real threat to mankind. Of late a UK High Court judge decreed that the government could only send a copy of “An Inconvenient Truth” to every school if it was accompanied by guidelines to point out “nine scientific errors” and to counter his “one-sided views”. In his film, Al Gore called on Americans to conserve energy by reducing electricity consumption at home. In August 2006, Gore’s electricity bills revealed that in one month he burned through 22,619 kilowatts – more than twice what the average family uses in an entire year. It was widely reported that Irena Sendler had been nominated for the 2007 prize, which was jointly won by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Al Gore Therefore, question is, who did play roles to make the issue global and what for?
Reasons for awarding ‘Nobel peace prize 2009’ to US President Barak Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples(In fact, In expectation of his grand successes in the desired fields, which does not match much with the very intent and spirit of Alfred Nobel) itself still remains shrouded in mystery. Needless to say twice that US President is always the key figure in moulding, shaping and directing global politics and economics in its own perspectives. Then what are the end products of such ‘extraordinary efforts’ in the desired areas in the context of time, space and dimension? To what extent can a US President be away from its perception of national interests and dominance over the world? Is it not the reality that here question of Republican president or of Democratic president seems to be less important from the standpoint of national interests coupled with American dominance over the world? How can a person, after becoming a Nobel Laureate for peace be allowed to voice and play in favour of a group or state at the denial of truth, justice and fairness to others? How much is it logical to award Nobel peace prize to a person who has every possibility to do otherwise for the sake of politics, national interests and dominance over other state(s)? In fact, Nobel peace award should never be decided and accorded in expectation of success in future. It is a story like that Judges cannot tell a player ‘take this award of the race and be serious to win the race’. It is not only folly and mistake but also a clear manifestation of opportunistic strategy to gain something otherwise under the cover of award. Let Nobel peace award get rid of such trap.
Realities unfold the truth that the other side of the coin carries the load of facts and documents about the omissions. ‘Foreign Policy Magazine’ has listed Mahatma Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Václav Havel, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Sari Nusseibeh and Corazon Aquino as people who “never won the prize, but should have”. Other notable omissions that have drawn criticism include Pope John Paul II and Dorothy Day.
The case of Mahatma Gandhi, pioneer of non-violence movement in British-ruled India, In spite of his having been nominated for Nobel peace prize for five times is more interesting indeed. But he was not finally chosen by the Norwegian Nobel Committee at Oslo simply because of the politics of the age. It was not possible for the Nobel Committee (then it was composed of the members of Storting i.e. Norwegian Parliament. In 1977, out of regard for the Committee’s independence, a restriction was imposed whereby current members of the Sorting cannot be elected to the Nobel Committee. At the same time, the Committee changed its name from the Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Storting to the Norwegian Nobel Committee) to take any decision annoying or bypassing the British will (for more visit page 47 in the web publication of the author’s book ‘O United Nations’ at www.sinha-ounitednations.com). Plaintive expressions of subsequent Nobel Committees for such mistakes and follies have been being heard pointedly since 1989 when 14th Dali Lama (Tenzin Gyatso), Tibet Religious and political leader of the Tibetan people, was awarded Noble peace prize 1989 for his non-violent struggle in Tibet.
Frankly speaking, the omission of Mohandas Gandhi has been particularly widely discussed, including in public statements by various members of the Nobel Committee. The Committee has confirmed that Gandhi was nominated in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 and, finally, a few days before his death in January 1948. The omission has been publicly regretted by later members of the Nobel Committee. Geir Lundestad, Secretary of Norwegian Nobel Committee in 2006 said, “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”. Later, when the Dalai Lama was awarded the Peace Prize in 1989, the chairman of the committee uttered that this was “in part a tribute to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi”
It is said and heard that had Gandhi survived he would have been awarded Nobel peace prize 1948 and this is understandable from the declaration of the Nobel Committee when it decided not to award Nobel peace prize 1948 to anybody citing “there was no suitable living candidate.” It was, in fact, a mark of respect to the recently-assassinated Gandhi since the prize cannot be awarded posthumously. Consequently, one-third of the prize money was transferred to the Main Fund and two-thirds to the Nobel Institute’s Special Fund. Now comes the asking why is it not possible to bring about reform to the rigid concept of ‘living candidate’ by adding ‘posthumous” also since reform, re-definition or extended definition are essentially a natural and scientific course and method that happens in the context of time, space and dimension? Had Alfred Nobel been alive these days, he could possibly not have avoided such reality. Sooner Nobel Committee understands it, better it is for all.
Therefore, there is no denying the fact that the UN’s Declaration of Gandhi’s birthday as the ‘International day of non-violence’ may rightly be viewed also, among others, as a by-product of ongoing regional and international politics in the context of India’s visible appearance there.
Dr. Sinha M. A. Sayeed, Chairman of Leadership Studies Foundation, LSF
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