In an episode of The Simpsons aired this week Homer gets a phone call notifying him that he has won the Nobel Prize. Of course the call is a mistake. But if it was the Nobel Peace Prize, why not?
Henry Kissinger and Yasser Arafat have both been awarded the Peace Prize and they have done no more for world peace than Homer has - possibly less.
This year’s recipient of the Peace Prize will be announced today, 7 October. Very few people know who is nominated for the prize, just the five members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. And the list of nominees is kept secret for 50 years.
Naturally this doesn’t stop anyone from speculating on who is in the running. Centrebet has posted the former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari as 4-1 favourite for his work in bringing peace to the strife-torn Indonesian province of Aceh. At the other end of the tote board are George W. Bush and John Howard at 1000-1.
United States Senator Richard Lugar and former senator Sam Nunn are joint second favourites at 7-1 for their work on dismantling former Soviet nuclear weapons.
Joining them at 7-1 is ambassador-at-large and advocate of all good causes, Bono. The rock star is possibly the first person in the running for the prize to have T-shirts, stickers and a book bearing his name preceded by the word “Kill”. A popular choice for many, perhaps, but one has to wonder whether Bono being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize would do for its reputation and credibility what Milli Vanilli’s 1990 Best New Artist award did for the Grammy’s.
That Sir Bob Geldof’s name is mentioned at all, let alone sharing second favouritism at 7-1, is also cause for concern.
Viktor Yushenko, the poisoned face of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution is in the running at 15-1. But he is up against it given that the tide of support that swept him to power is already beginning to turn against him amid allegations of corruption and nepotism.
Other notable names on the list are Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and General Colin Powell, the former US Secretary of State. Powell may have been the most dovish senior member of the first Bush administration, but his performance before the UN Security Council on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction program must surely count against him. If he was to get the gong he would not be the first to receive the prize for seeking peace through war. As for Sharon, surely the committee can no longer seriously consider another recipient from Israel-Palestine until there is peace, not just talk of it.
Clearly, the list of favourites for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize is less impressive than the shortlist for this year's Booker Prize (and the longlist for that matter).
Over the years there have been some very worthy recipients of the peace prize, people such as Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi and organisations like Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross. But Joseph Stalin was also nominated, twice, in 1945 and 1948. The list of laureates is also notable for absentees. Mahatma Gandhi was nominated a handful of times between 1937 and 1948 but never received the nod.
In his last will of 1895 in which he established the Nobel Prizes, Alfred Nobel allotted “one part 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”.
Two years earlier in a letter to Bertha von Suttner (the peace laureate for 1905), Nobel wrote: ‘I should like to allot part of my fortune to the formation of a prize fund to be distributed in every period of five years (we may say six times, for if we have failed at the end of thirty years to reform the present system we shall inevitably revert to barbarism)’.
Needless to say Nobel would be truly disappointed with the present state of peace in the world. Maybe this is why the committee has quietly moved its thinking over the past few years to also focus on the environment.
For the sake of justice and peace, let’s hope that the committee sees fit to award the prize to a truly deserving recipient who will put the accompanying $1.7 million in prize money to good use.
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