1 Comment

Internationally there has been much fuss about Barack Obama being awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

Before passing your judgement, though, it may help to remember that the award committee aren’t dumb and that it might be useful to first read what the Peace Prize is awarded for to try understand their thinking.

My reading of many reactions is that many people are thinking in terms of the aims of the science prizes, which are strictly for past achievement.

The aims for the Peace Prize, by contrast, are interpreted as including encouragement of efforts started that are on-going.

The last lines of the article by Matt Spetalnick and Wojcieh Moskwa on Reuters make this point in their summary of the procedures of the Nobel Peace Prize:

“The prize is awarded to encourage those who receive it to see the effort through, sometimes at critical moments, not only to recognise efforts for peace, human rights and democracy after they have proven successful.”

Also relevant is that “Among the reasons for adding this as a criterion is the obvious point that Nobel wanted the Prize to have political effects”, another bone of contention to some. (Quote from the translation of an article about the Nobel Peace Prize by Francis Sejersted, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, 1991-1999.)

Everyone’s opinion on who should win will naturally differ, opinions are like that. But even if he’s not your choice that Obama should be considered by the committee is understandable given the criteria used.

The formal citation for Obama’s award can be found on the Nobel Prize website.

My personal opinion, thus far? (Opinions are always moving targets as we learn more, hence “thus far”.) Encouraging his efforts towards peace is worthwhile and well within the scope of the prize, but I’m a timid soul who’d have asked that he play his hand a little longer first.

Perhaps the Nobel Committee simply have more balls than I and many others do?

© Grant Jacobs, all rights reserved.