Insult of the Nobel Peace Prize

(China Daily)
Updated: 2010-12-10 08:00
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Hege Ulstein, a commentator, wrote in a Norwegian newspaper on Dec 4 that the Norwegian Nobel Committee has insulted the Noble Peace Prize. Excerpts, translated from the Norwegian, follow:

Alfred Bernhard Nobel invented dynamite and the Chinese invented gunpowder, but what did the Norwegian Nobel Committee invent?

This week, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) disclosed that the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus misappropriated foreign aid funds, and some of the people who got loans from Grameen Bank, which he set up, were forced to become indentured laborers and live in penury.

The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation and the Norwegian Foreign Ministry knew that as early as 1998 and informed the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which gives the Nobel Peace Prize, about the fact.

But Ole Danbolt Mjos, then chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, and Geir Lundestad, then director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, adamantly defended their decision of choosing Yunus. This is a worrying development.

Lundestad said that during the two decades he worked for the Nobel Institute no other nominee was as recognized as Yunus by experts in Norway and abroad. This indicates the Nobel Committee was reluctant to even glance at the information provided by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, or that it had not been checking nominees' backgrounds thoroughly to determine whether they really deserved the peace prize. Both possibilities are scary.

Looking back at the past few winners, we can say that the Nobel Committee did not carry out thorough analyses, even disregarded facts, before awarding the prize. It is not important to find out the reasons for the committee's action or inaction, because the results were the same. The basis for awarding the prize has not been solid in recent years, including this year.

Mjos defended himself saying the committee felt it (not checking facts on and backgrounds of nominees) is a good thing. He used the word "feel", instead of "believe". While awarding the peace prize, does the Nobel committee always "do what it feels is right" rather than "what is right"? Considerable facts prove that it does what it feels is right.

The 2009 and 2010 peace prize winners reflect the partisanship of the Nobel Committee - it cheers politicians from the West and opposes leaders from the East. It praises the United States and blames China.

Therefore, we can conclude that the Nobel Committee does not consider the difference in situations in different countries and different parts of the world even when it checked the background of those nominated for the prize.

Its own words and actions reveal certain defects in its analyses. In fact, it has discovered certain problems in that process but has chosen to ignore them.

Severe partisanship has already made the Nobel Peace Prize a prize of the West, although countries in the East are playing an increasingly important role in today's world.

One example of this partisanship is the selection of Hollywood's Anne Hathaway as hostess for the Nobel Concert. Why has there never been a hostess from Bollywood in India? Does the committee still consider India a peripheral country? Does it still believe the center of the world is somewhere in the Atlantic? Let's not forget there are more than 1 billion people in India, more than that in Europe and the US combined.

Of course, the Nobel Committee has many a time chosen the right people for the peace prize, people who deserved the honor. But the present chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, is an ambitious man. He hopes to change the world by influencing certain events. But he has always failed.

By granting the 2009 prize to US President Barack Obama, the Nobel Committee had already created some negative effects. Jagland may have wanted to award this year's prize to a Chinese, but why did he choose Liu Xiaobo?

If Jagland wanted to simply cheer up China's "reformists" with the prize, Liu was by no means a wise choice, for he criticizes Chinese culture and wants to mold China into a Western-style society.

Any reform in China has to take place in line with the changing times in the country.

The committee must have been full aware of the negative effects of giving the prize to Liu, who is behind bars, but it still went ahead because it simply intended to promote Western values in China.

If the Nobel Committee wants to remodel history, it should have a clear idea about the changing world. All the five members of the committee are aged politicians. They hope to change the world but lack the basic knowledge about the global situation. This will make the Nobel Peace Prize lose its importance and glory some day.

Sadly, there is little we can do to stop the Nobel Committee from making decisions that violate the original purpose the Nobel Peace Prize.

After the US president was given the prize last year, a columnist wrote in The New York Times that Obama had been "thorbjorned". We could now say that Alfred Bernhard Nobel has been "thorbjorned", too.