It’s a busy day in Oslo today, the Nobel Foundation is hosting an award ceremony to present its 2012 Peace Prize. There is also a Peace Prize lecture, followed by a very big and glamorous banquet. The dress code dictates: “gentlemen are required to wear white tie and tails, and long evening gown for ladies”. Very posh.
In 2009, one man won the prize, the then-new President of the free world, sorry, President of the United States of America, Barack Obama. In 2010, another man won it alone, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. In 2011, three people shared it, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakel Karman, werethe victors. But in 2012, half a billion people will share the prize – yes, most readers of this article are now Nobel Laureates, but they won’t be invited to the award ceremony or the banquet, though the Nobel Foundation has been considerate enough to allow everybody to watch it online.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee (Committee) decided to award the 2012 Peace Prize to the European Union, who, “For over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.” The Swiss must be kicking themselves for not joining the supranational body and UKIP have gone silent on demanding Britain leave it. (They haven’t).
The Peace Prize is probably the most controversial of all the Nobel Prizes given out. 2009 winner Barack Obama won it, “For his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” and “capturing the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future.” Obama ‘celebrated’ by increasing deadly drone attacks in Pakistan and other countries and continuing to threaten Iran over its nuclear programme. China reacted badly to 2010 winner Liu Xiaobo, but quickly attracted criticism for its actions when it celebrated its citizen Mo Yan winning the Literature Prize this year.
So, what has the European Union done to deserve this Prize? Well, the Committee’s claim that the EU advanced peace and reconciliation is not untrue. The EU has kept its two biggest countries, France and Germany, from engaging in deadly wars for sixty years, the preceding sixty years (and more) were extremely violent and saw the loss of millions of lives. But what the Committee neglects to mention is some EU states’ participation in unjust and illegal wars abroad, whether directly or through organisations such as NATO, in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, or of imposing strict sanctions in Iran.
The Committee also chooses to ignore the continuing unrest seen across many southern EU states, caused by recession and a faltering single currency, the Euro, and an increase in the number of suicides attributed to recession. Instead the Committee said, “The EU is currently undergoing grave economic difficulties and considerable social unrest. The Committee wishes to focus on what it sees as the EU’s most important result: the successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights.”
The Committee also neglects to mention entirely the increased instances of Islamophobia across the EU and the lack of a reaction in fighting it, by some states. And no mention is made of the rise of far-right parties and organisations across EU member states, which use and fuel Islamophobia.
Many thought the 2012 Peace Prize would go to ‘the Arab Spring’ or key players involved in it, but Tawakel Karman’s shared prize in 2011 ticked that box. Now there are calls from many to recognise Malala Yousafzai as the 2013 recipient.
A Peace Prize would recognise the noble struggle Malala faced, but it would smack of propaganda and injustice. Highlighting Malala’s plight, whilst forgetting the plight of the murdered victims of drone strikes (we don’t even know many of their names or how many have been killed), could serve to ‘justify by stealth’ these deadly drone strikes and even divert public attention away from them and of the innocent victims killed in them. Malala is just one victim of injustice in Pakistan, the other victims are the innocent Pakistanis, amongst them women and children, killed by deadly drone attacks perpetrated by the United States.
MPACUK wrote earlier this year that, “Children just like Malala are murdered [or maimed] every day by US drone attacks. Do they even get a mention on the news? Are they flown to the UK to receive the best medical treatment? The Bureau of Investigative Journalists reports that so far 168 children have lost their lives in Pakistan due to drone strikes.”
Highlighting and ‘rewarding’ one instance of injustice and neglecting the other is unfair and certainly not worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize.
(www.mpacuk.org / 11.12.2012)