According to Nobel’s will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to the person who in the preceding year “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.”
Alfred Nobel’s will further specified that the prize be awarded by a committee of five people chosen by the Norwegian Parliament.
Nobel died in 1896 and he did not leave an explanation for choosing peace as a prize category. As he was a trained chemical engineer, the categories for chemistry and physics were obvious choices. The reasoning behind the peace prize is less clear. According to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, his friendship with Bertha von Suttner, a peace activist and later recipient of the prize, profoundly influenced his decision to include peace as a category. Some Nobel scholars suggest it was Nobel’s way to compensate for developing destructive forces. His inventions included dynamite and ballistite, both of which were used violently during his lifetime. Ballistite was used in war and the Irish Republican Brotherhood, an Irish nationalist organization, carried out dynamite attacks in the 1880s. Nobel was also instrumental in turning Bofors from an iron and steel producer into an armaments company.
The paradox is that the man who invented the weapon of war, dynamite and explosives is the man who funded the peace prize.
People who have won include: The awards given to Mikhail Gorbachev, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Menachem Begin and Yasser Arafat, Lê Đức Thọ, Henry Kissinger, Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, IPCC, Liu Xiaobo, Barack Obama, and the European Union have all been the subject of controversy.
Questions abound. Why are some people on the list and others not?
Here is the current list of who decides:
- Kaci Kullmann Five (chair since March 2015, born 1951), former member of Parliament and cabinet minister for the Conservative Party. Member of the Committee since 2003.
- Berit Reiss-Andersen (deputy chair, born 1954), advocate (barrister) and President of the Norwegian Bar Association, former state secretary for the Minister of Justice and the Police (representing the Labour Party). Member of the Committee since 2011.
- Inger-Marie Ytterhorn (born 1941), former member of Parliament for the Progress Party. Member of the Committee since 2000.
- Thorbjørn Jagland (born 1950), former Member of Parliament and President of the Storting and former Prime Minister for the Labour Party, current Secretary General of the Council of Europe. Chair of the Committee from 2009 to March 2015.
- Henrik Syse (born 1966), Senior Researcher at the Peace Research Institute Oslo. Member of the Committee since 2015.
“for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which shows that neutrinos have mass”
“for mechanistic studies of DNA repair”
“for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites”
“for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria”
“for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time”
“for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011”
“for his analysis of consumption, poverty, and welfare”
I note that Americans have no imput into the decision although some Americans have won the prize.