President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 by The Norwegian Nobel Committee. There have been a lot of reactions of course since this is he world’s most prestigious prize – some positive and some very negative. Since my blog is about Norway and the Nordic countries, I though I should reflect on it (even if I normally don’t post about politics). However, I want us to learn something from my posts, so let’s start with some backgrounds from the committee’s own site:
The Norwegian Committee:
Whereas the other prizes are awarded by specialist committees based in Sweden, the Peace Prize is awarded by a committee appointed by the Norwegian Parliament. According to Nobel’s will, the Peace Prize is to go to whoever “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”.
The Committee’s reasons for the 2009 Prize:
“…for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons. …. Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. …… The Committee endorses Obama’s appeal that “Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.”
Some reactions from Norwegians:
Jan Egeland (foreign UN’s Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs): “I think this is a great price. I am pleased that the Committee is able to wait until the last second before deciding, because I think that it was Obama’s atomic resolution in New York (September 24, editor’s note), which means the beginning of the end for nuclear weapons, as was decisive here.
It is not naïve to give him the prize; because there is precedent for that we are to inspire action. It can not at least make here is to send a strong signal to those sour grin EBIT explained that sitting on the fence around Europe, and for the portion of a divided American public opinion, which says that Obama is trying to achieve is just a lot of big words.
Nils A. Butenschøn (Norwegian Center for Human Rights): This was very surprising. It’s highly unusual, both that one receives the prize so early in his career, and that the winner does not have as much to show for. It is very early in his political careers. The U.S. president has a major impact internationally, but you still waiting for results. Obama has some initiatives, but we have not seen the results of initiatives. One may wonder if this is the wish of the Nobel Committee to achieve the status it gives to give the award to the U.S. President.
CNNs Jonathan Mann:
There are of course pro & contra about the prize for 2009 as have been for the most of them since 1901. In my opinion; Obama has way to go, but he has created a new climate in international politics and multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position. He also has started the end of the Guantanamo base and stopped the missile defence shield in Europe. What really provoked me about all this reactions however, was what Mann said:
He has for many years to come to Oslo with his CNN team to interview the winner the day before the Awards 10th of December. He did not hide the fact that the Nobel Committee can not be in step with popular opinion, neither the U.S. nor the rest of the world. “For Americans, these people are mostly social democrats and socialists, progressive types. They come from semi-socialist Scandinavian countries and have its own view of the president they love and what a president they do not like” said Mann.
I do hope not all Americans are so narrow-minded that they believe that their form for democracy is the only one which counts. Yes we believe in sharing the wealth (including public health care) and we acknowledge feminism and same sex marriage – if that is too progressive, you’re welcome after. Social democrats are no less democratic, and we are quite happy to be ranked 1st as the best country to live in according to UN’s Human Development Report 2009 so something about the social democratic process must be working quite well :-)
BTW: I have the privilege of being married to a good old American girl, so I have learned quite a bit about American politics over the years. It was a lot of fun informing her that Obama won the Peace Prize today. As most of you know she has a mind of her own, and a blog of her own, hop on over and see what she has to say about the subject.