It is popularly said that Alfred Nobel initiated and constituted the Nobel Prize using all his wealth after reading the newspaper obituary headline in 1988. The newspaper had published “The merchant of death is dead” mistaking his brother Ludvig Nobel’s Death as Alfred Nobel’s death. Nobel until then was famous for selling his inventions mainly weapons throughout Europe and America (Dynamite and Bofors to name few). Later Alfred Nobel in his will envisioned his peace prize to those “who have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”.
Since then the peace prize being awarded from 1901 has largely been given to individuals and institutions from Europe and America with few exceptions. Only after the ’70s, the award has been given to diverse groups of individuals from other parts of the world.
Overall, the concept of peace for the Nobel Peace committee is more to do with the alignment of the recipient’s views with the Christian Centric western imperialistic world view. The objective of nonviolence and peace in this worldview has always aligned with expansionary tactics of oppressor more than protecting the oppressed.
A war criminal like Henry Kissinger also gets awarded with Nobel peace prize who slaughtered hundreds and thousands in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Between 1964 and 1973 during the Vietnam War 260 million bombs were dropped in the region with an average of 8 bombs per minute by the American forces.
Nobel peace prize was also awarded to Obama (2009) who after receiving the prize bombed seven countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and Syria) in 6 years on an average of 34 bombs per day. Under his command a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan was bombed in October 2015 using 40MM cannon made by Bofors, a company once owned by Alfred Nobel (founder of peace prize!!) killing a dozen people and three children which he later apologised saying it was a tragic accident.
Aung San Suu Kyi- was seen as a beacon for universal human rights – a principled activist willing to give up her freedom to stand up to the ruthless generals who ruled Myanmar for decades was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. The Nobel Peace prize committee called her “an outstanding example of the power of the powerless”.They could not be any more wrong. Since becoming Myanmar’s de facto leader in 2016, the country remains as repressive as ever. Ms. Suu Kyi has been accused of ethnic cleansing and the possible genocide of Rohingyas. She was also stripped of Amnesty International human rights award.
The Nobel peace prize to Malala Yousufzai, then 15-year-old girl who gained instant international fame when she was shot in the head by the Taliban while she along with other girls were going to school in 2012. Malala was transferred to the UK for treatment. She was lapped up by Western politicians and media and the world got another shot at denouncing Taliban (Surprise, Surprise.. It’s not that the Taliban is very popular in Pakistan or Afghanistan). Not to forget the US facilitated the rise of the Taliban with large amounts of weapons to counter USSR.
Many sympathised with Malala and rightfully took up the cause of universal right to education, however, there were many critics who pointed out the western bigotry in championing Malala. Malala and many more girls in different parts of the world want to go to school and are denied that right. But one should look at the devastation caused by continuous western wars since the 1950s which have killed more children, left many orphans and have denied more girls an education via their missiles than the Taliban has by their bullets. Many criticised the award as a means to positively portray US intervention in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In 2006 Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his pioneering work in the fight against poverty through the microcredit system. The Microcredit system instead of poverty alleviation makes poverty worse and traps the poor in a cycle of debt.
As Jason Hinkel rightly puts out in his piece in the Guardian–
It promises revolution without the messiness of class struggle. And, what is more, it promises that we can help save the poor while making money from it. It’s the neoliberal development strategy par excellence. Forget about colonialism, structural adjustment, austerity, financial crises, land grabs, tax evasion, and climate change. Forget about challenging the concentration of power and wealth. And, above all, forget about collective mobilisation. Bankers shall be our new heroes and debt our salvation. Debt, incidentally, is a great way to keep people docile.
Most of these individual winners have become another political pawn in extending western geopolitical and economic interests in the Global South.
While there are many unsung men and women who are working towards making the world a more just and equitable society, the Nobel peace prize committee chooses well-groomed, well connected, NGOised and propped up individuals to whitewash the collective crimes of war and structural policies of Western powers.
Peace for Global South means freedom from the neoliberal order that creates poverty in the first place. Peace means freedom from dictatorial regimes that create economic austerity and chaos. Peace for Global South means freedom from manufactured wars and loss of lives of millions!
Its time to ask what does Peace means for the Western powers and NATO that dictates the Nobel Peace prize committees?