Nobel Peace Prize from Norway to women rights activists

The Peace prize 2011 awarded by the Nobel Committee in Norway was to be divided in three equal parts between Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman. This important yearly event is of course to be mentioned here since my blog is about Norway: our history, culture and traditions and also since I often talk about how Social Media empowering people. This time we’re talking about empowering women – to get a better world – and I gladly support that. This year I really liked the Nobel Committee’s reason: “For their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work. We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society”. Let’s hope it will help to bring an end to the suppression of women that still occurs in many countries, and to realize the great potential for democracy and peace that women can represent.

Karman of Yemen, Leymah Gbowee and Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Photo: John McConnico/AP)

To recognize women rights activistsa:
Karman – at 32, the first Arab woman and the youngest peace laureate ever – is a journalist and member of the Islamic party Islah. She also heads the human rights group Women Journalists without Chains. The prize is also recognized the Arab Spring movement championed by often anonymous activists from Tunisia to Syria.
Sirleaf is widely credited with helping her country emerge from an especially brutal civil war. She was elected president of Liberia in 2005 and won re-election in October this year.
Gbowee challenging Liberia’s warlords, long campaigned for the rights of women and against rape. In 2003, she led hundreds of female protesters through Monrovia to demand swift disarmament of fighters, who continued to prey on women, despite a peace deal that should have ended the 14-year civil war.

Nobel Peace Prize 2010 awarded China dissident Liu Xiaobo

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2010 Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. From the committee’s announcement it’s written:”Over the past decades, China has achieved economic advances to which history can hardly show any equal and this status must entail increased responsibility. China is in breach of several international agreements to which it is a signatory, as well as of its own provisions concerning political rights. Article 35 of China’s constitution lies down that “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration”. In practice, these freedoms have proved to be distinctly curtailed for China’s citizens”. The whole idea by awarding Xiaobo, is to take the opportunity to focus on that – I guess.

Since my blog is about Norway: our history, culture, traditions and habits, this important yearly event is of course to be mentioned. However, since this is political dynamite, I shall be careful with my personal view on pro et contra – In my blog’s theme, I’ll give you some facts and reaction from the press in Norway instead:

The Committee’s independence:
Jagland with 2010 award winnerSome have the idea of The Norwegian Nobel Committee represent the official Norwegian Political authority – or in general the (whole) nation of people for that matter – It’s not so! In the beginning, the committee was filled with active parliamentarians, but ties were later weakened so that the committee became more independent. Now, active parliamentarians cannot sit on the committee, unless they have explicitly stated their intent to step down shortly. The committee have their own mandate and act as independents as the constitutional freedom of the press. (Photo: Andersen, Aleksander/Scanpix -> T. Jagland, the chairman of the committee with a picture of Xiaobo).

Comments and reactions from Norway:
Jonas G. Støre (Foreign Minister): “Liu Xiaobo has become a symbol of opposition to the Communist Party, which shows no signs of giving in to Western pressure to implement democratic reforms.
China has previously expressed a pressure against the Norwegian government and warned that Liu Xiaobo is awarded the Peace Prize. Minister stressed that the Nobel Committee is independent. There is no basis for China to take measures against Norway if they disagree with the price.”

Chinese in Norway: “We believe it is inappropriate. It creates more conflict between Norway and China, as Chinese officials have protested strongly against the deal” says Spokesman Ya Ming Yuen the Norwegian-Chinese Association. The statements came after both the Chinese Foreign Ministry and Chinese embassy has protested against the controversial Nobel Peace Prize-decision.
– A peace prize is to create peace. If a price creates conflict, then it becomes a problem. Therefore, we believe the distribution is inappropriate, “said Ya.

A threat to trade between Norway and China:
It is not long since the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee was in China to establish a free trade agreement with the country. The theme for the meeting between the Minister for fisheries and aquaculture issues is the bilateral cooperation between the two countries, trade issues and resource management. Today, China is the eighth largest purchaser of Norwegian fish, and so far this year, exports of fish there for 1.5 billion.

Some believe this will have consequences for the relationship between Norway and China. There is no doubt about the leadership of the Communist Party feels humiliated and there will be a strong reaction, and they have a tradition of over-reacting. The question is how long the relationship between China and Norway will be harmed by the current allocation?

Is it worth the consequences?
Most likely, Liu Xiabos chair in the award ceremony at the City Hall December 10th, will be empty. Probably he will not be informed that he has won the award at all. Already now CNN’s broadcasts to China to be blocked (or was at the announcement this morning) – and his His wife sits in the practice of house arrest today.

There are plenty of other good candidates – also this year – for the peace prize. It would have been a lot more easy to award a less controversial candidate too – like last year. I am happy The Norwegian Nobel Committee make some unpopular decisions that at least set focus on delicate, political matters – small or big, local or global.

For those who want to stay neutral in comments on this; have you noticed the announcement of this award at all?

Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama in Oslo Norway

President Barack Obama received the Norwegian Nobel Peace Committee’s award for 2009 in Oslo, Norway yesterday. A lot of pro et contra has been said about this years award: “A Nobel for nothing”, “Too much too soon”, “Sorry, Obama, you don’t deserve it yet”, “Peace Prize to Obama, but it’s not his fault” etc. However even the wonder and critical American media lately have taken the Nobel Committee in defence. Like when CNN’s Fareed Zakaria rhetorically asks whether Mother Teresa abolished poverty before she got the Peace Prize. Further more he said: “Wiped Al-Baradei out nuclear weapons or did Woodrow Wilson ending all war? The prize is often given on basis of vision rather than goals achieved”.

Obama left this morning and it’s time for a bit of afterthoughts; what’s the impression – what does Norwegian think and did he convinced the people in Norway and around the world? Well, it depends on whom you ask I guess and again; not all people in Norway think the same or speaks with one tongue. It’s like other controversial matters, like death penalty or abortion: There are different opinions – in your country too (I hope!). So reading through the press tonight, here are some reactions and reflections:

Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech made it:
Some says it was the best speech given in Norway and even more: this speech will go down in history as one of the truly great speeches of the Nobel Prize. Few have probably performed a Nobel speech at more convincing manner and he put it all in an ideal context, while he was talking about a real political world. He denied the gap that exists between the idealists and the realists who are very prominent in both the U.S. and in Norway which many thought was very liberating. Implicitly Obama demonstrated that he believes the war in Iraq is not a just war. By excluding the war in Iraq in his speech, Obama implied that he believes the war in Iraq is not a just war, like Afghanistan might be.
It was a wise speech in a “faded” voice – deep and principled and not a “Yes, We Can” speech – no reason for that under this circumstances. Also many pointed out that it was a good speech from the U.S. to the world. Obama for sure know how to do the right thing at the right time :-)

Continuing at the Grand Galla dinner:
In the evening, after eating reindeer fillet, smoked farm sand, fish and moose, Obama gave his toast speech – a Norwegian tradition. He opened to comment Thorbjorn Jagland – The Nobel Committee chairman’s – speech during the ceremony: “You gave a brilliant speech. I was almost convinced that I deserved award,”….. to laughter from all the guests at the Grand Hotel.
– Both my and Jagland’s message is to lift the people and things that are forgotten for up to an international level, as was done when Martin Luther King received the prize in 1964, said the president.
– The case of the civil rights movement was still uncertain, and no one was sure how it would evolve. How we thought of each other and in the minority.
– It helped to put wind behind the sails of the fight that make me and Michelle can stand here today, “said Obama.

Will we all gain from this prize?
A Norwegian journalist asked this question: How will you use the award and Obama’s answer was:
– It’s a big surprise to get the price. I have no doubt that others might have deserved it more. My task is to continue on a line that is important for the United States and a line that will ensure peace in the world: by fighting against nuclear weapons, combat climate change, creating stability in Afghanistan and the fight against terrorism.
– My goal is not to win a popularity contest or get a price.

There are still pro et contras left and the debate will go on. I think he increases his popularity in Norway and a lot of Norwegians hope he will send some more concretely and committed message to U.N. climate change meeting in Copenhagen.

My wife DianeCA, is an American who have lived in Norway for 10 years. You should also click to read her thoughts about Obama’s visit.
How about you: Did you notice that Obama was in Oslo yesterday – and the reason why?

Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded Peace Prize to Barack Obama

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.

2008 Nobel Peace Prize to Martti Ahtisaari

This year there was 197 nominees and some of the hottest candidates was; former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl; Algerian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika; Hu Jia, Chinese activist and dissident; another Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng; Israel’s Mordechai Vanunu; Vietnamese monk Thich Quang Do; The African Union and even Bob Geldof.

The Nobel InstitueThe Nobel Committee consists of 5 members appointed by The Norwegian parliament. The committees’ composition shall reflect the relative strength of the political parties in the parliament. Members of the parliament have not been allowed to be member of the committee since 1977.
The Nobel Committee shall be entirely independent in its work. The discussions about the candidates are kept secret and the members avoid participating in the public debate after the name of the winner is announced.

The winner this year was very deserved and of course we Norwegians are proud of it too – his great grandfather came from Norway: Martti Ahtisaari from Finland:

Click for this postHis most notable achievement was overseeing the 2005 reconciliation of the Indonesian government and Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels, bringing an end to a three-decade conflict that killed some 15,000 people.
Ahtisaari also helped lead Kosovo down the path toward independence, even though his intense mediation efforts failed to clinch a joint agreement between Serbia and Kosovo and Pristina earlier this year unilaterally declared independence.
Prior to his involvement in the Aceh talks, Ahtisaari was unfamiliar with Asian geopolitics, but widely respected as a gifted diplomat and outstanding negotiator.
He came to the negotiations after a Finnish businessman linked to the Jakarta elite was convinced the former Finnish president had what it took to bring new life to the apparently moribund peace process.

My regular readers might remember that my candidate from last year was the farther of the Internet: Vint Cerf. In your comment I would like to hear your suggestion for a candidate next year :-)