Monday, October 13, 2008

Nobel Peace Prize Announced

This past week, the Nobel committee has been busy doling out its annual prizes in chemistry, literature, physics, medicine, economics and, of course, peace. I can’t help but feel like this prize perhaps more than any other, lends legitimacy to peace as a serious and respected discipline. Unlike the other prizes, however, the peace prize is generally awarded to individuals or organizations for their ongoing work or overall contributions to peace rather than a single past achievement.

In recent years, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to former President Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, Mohammed Yunus, and former Vice President Al Gore, among others.

This year’s prize went to former President of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari, for his work as a widely respected international mediator in places such as Namibia, Kosovo, Indonesia and Northern Ireland, among others. Some of his most important accomplishments include helping to bring independence to Namibia and a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the Aceh province of Indonesia. See the New York Times article on his nomination for more.

According to Time, by awarding this year’s prize to President Ahtisaari, “the Norwegian prize committee is returning to its original mandate of honoring those who help in the resolution of conventional armed conflicts.”

While I agree that it is important to recognize the largely “behind the scenes” peacemaking through mediation, I also believe that awarding the prize to figures like Al Gore and Mohammed Yunus was an important step in broadening our understanding of peacemaking. By awarding the prize to environmental and economic peacemakers, the committee recognized the less traditional components of peace. Building peace is not just about addressing ongoing conflicts and bringing them to an end, it is also about recognizing the root causes of conflict and attempting to draw attention to them and prevent them before they cause more widespread conflict.

By drawing attention to global climate change, Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were contributing to peace through enhanced understanding of a significant threat to environmental stability. Through this prize, the committee recognized that significant environmental change has enormous potential to cause widespread conflict though massive population movements, depletion of resources, and competition for remaining scarce resources.

Similarly, by awarding the prize to Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank, the Nobel committee recognized that providing microcredit loans to the world’s poor is an enormously important way to address global poverty and reduce the economic causes of conflict.

So, while I applaud the Nobel committee for this years choice because it draws attention to the highly important role of conflict mediation, I disagree that the committee should stick to these “traditional” forms of peacemaking in future prizes. As a practical peacenik, I think it is invaluable to draw attention to less traditional forms of peacemaking and, perhaps even more importantly, to advancements that have the potential to prevent future conflict rather than focusing just on conflict resolution.

2 comments:

Brian Barker said...

I regret that the much neglected language, Esperanto did not receive the Nobel Peace Prize. At least nine British MP's nominated this global language, for the Prize.

Within a short period of 121 years Esperanto is now placed within the top 100 languages, out of 6,000 worldwide according to the CIA factbook. It is the 17th most used language by Wikipedia, and it is in active use by Facebook and Skype.

Solid arguments for Esperanto can be seen on the Youtube video, by Professor Piron, a former translator at the United Nations.

If you have time please check http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LV9XU

geovani said...

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2008 to Martti Ahtisaari for his important efforts, on several continents and over more than three decades, to resolve international conflicts. These efforts have contributed to a more peaceful world and to “fraternity between nations” in Alfred Nobel’s spirit.
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geovani

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