Nobel Peace Prize: Who deserves it ?
In the Norwegian capital of Oslo, Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann, President of the independent World Security Network Foundation, had the privilege of an exclusive interview with Geir Lundestad, Executive Director of the Norske Nobelkomite (Norwegian Nobel Committee), in the old building and the meeting room of "Det Norske Nobelinstitutt" (www.nobel.no). They discussed both the nomination of U.S. President Barack Obama and the structure of this icon of a peacemaking organization.
The World Security Network Foundation promotes the soft factors of peacemaking through a "Global Elite Network for a Safer World" - for more information see www.worldsecuritynetwork.com and www.codesoftolerance.com.
What is the purpose of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize? Is it for life-long achievement or one-off achievements?
Geir Lundestad: The prize always needs a base of achievement. In Obama's case we believe he had already achieved the setting of a new temperature and tone. Obama has said on various occasions that he sees the prize as a call to action, and we wanted to support this call to action. As in other cases, the Nobel Peace Prize for President Obama was a combination of what has been achieved and hopes for more in the future.
Who is behind "Det Norske Nobelinstitutt"?
Geir Lundestad: We are funded largely by the original Nobel legacy. We follow the last will of Alfred Nobel, who died in 1896. He donated a great fortune which has been invested very conservatively for many years, now on a more ordinary commercial basis.
How are you organized?
Geir Lundestad: The Nobel Prize Committee has five members elected by the Norwegian Parliament. I am the Permanent Secretary. We try to operate as a group. Nominations come in from the outside, and members may also nominate. I try to encourage this group to work together as closely as possible and not to make any decisions before listening to each other.
We are supported by top international experts who write reports for us. But ultimately, the decision depends on what the five committee members think. We have five to seven meetings per year, here in this building in the meeting room. There, we slowly go over things and ultimately reach a decision at the end of this process.
Nobody stands behind the committee. Most members do not discuss the candidates with outsiders.
Do you have a short-list and how many candidates do you consider?
Geir Lundestad: The deadline for nominations is February 1st of each year. In 2009 we had 205 candidates, and now in 2010 we have 237 candidates, which is the highest number so far. I compile the list for the first meeting at the end of February and tell the committee members what all these men, women and organizations have done and what they have not done. The committee then produces the first short list. Each member can put a candidate on this first short list if he thinks they should be included.
This first short list usually contains 25-35 names. The four Norwegian advisers and I then write reports on these candidates. The committee then reduces the list to five or six. Then we spend very substantial time on these few remaining candidates. We may ask for additional reports, clarifications, and information on certain issues. On the second Friday of October we announce the result after a vote one or two weeks before by the committee. The ceremony here in Oslo is always on December 10th, the day on which Alfred Nobel died in 1896.
What is the main purpose of the prize?
Geir Lundestad: The ultimate purpose is to help produce a more peaceful world, but we are well aware of its limitations. The Nobel Peace Prize is no magic potion. We cannot produce peace. We see the prize primarily as a high honor that can be given to any individual or organization. If this honor subsequently has additional political effects, which it has only in certain cases, then this is fine and welcomed.
Do you have a focus on which kind of peacemaking you honor?
Geir Lundestad: We allow a wide definition of peace, fraternity between nations and peace congresses and believe there are many different roads to peace and therefore different kind of laureates.
Alfred Nobel mentioned three criteria in his will: the best work for fraternity between the nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses. They have been spelled out in certain ways. We think that great humanitarians can contribute to peace as well as human rights activists, those who work for arms control and disarmament, or peace activists of various kinds. In recent years we have included even the environment.
So a broad approach but not including all good things.