Nobel Peace Prize – Does it deserve the attention it gets

There has been quite a few controversies over the Nobel Peace Prize in the past. The eligibility of Barack Obama or otherwise being only one in a considerably long line.  Omission of Mahatma Gandhi in the honour roll being a long standing one. The Official stand of the Norwegian Nobel Committee is

Examples of nominated individuals who did not receive the Nobel Peace Prize (1901-1950)

The three most common searches on individuals in the Nobel Peace Prize nomination database, are Adolf Hitler, Mahatma Gandhi and Joseph Stalin.

Joseph Stalin, the Secretary General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1922-1953), was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945 and 1948 for his efforts to end World War II.

Mahatma Gandhi, one of the strongest symbols of non-violence in the 20th century, was nominated in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 and, finally, shortly before he was assassinated in January 1948. Although Gandhi was not awarded the Prize (a posthumous award is not allowed by the statutes), the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to make no award that year on the grounds that “there was no suitable living candidate”.
Read more about “the missing Laureate” »

Adolf Hitler
, was nominated once in 1939 by E.G.C. Brandt, member of the Swedish parliament. Brandt changed his mind, however, and the nomination was withdrawn in a letter dated 1 February 1939.

To say the least the Mahatma seems to be in August company.

The same page in a different context goes on to say

Posthumous Nobel Peace Prizes

There is one posthumous Nobel Peace Prize, to Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961. From 1974, the Statutes of the Nobel Foundation stipulate that a Prize cannot be awarded posthumously, unless death has occurred after the announcement of the Nobel Prize. Before 1974, the Nobel Prize was also awarded posthumously to Erik Axel Karlfeldt (Nobel Prize in Literature 1931).

The point is Mahatma Gandhi did very little between 1948 and 1974 to stake a claim. All his work was done before 1948 Jan 30th. The committee after all by its own admission refused the prize or euphemistically found others better in the years 1937, 1938, 1939 and 1947. It could have awarded him atleast in the year of the death. The change in Statutes was after all only in 1974.

The moot question is did the Prize deserve the legitimacy that it would get by adding the name of the Mahatma to its rollcall?

A random example of an individual who got the prize in 1930.

Nathan Söderblom (January 15, 1866-July 12, 1931), near the beginning and near the end of his illustrious career, found his name linked with that of another Swedish citizen of the world, Alfred Nobel. He was called to San Remo in 1897 to conduct the memorial service for Nobel and in 1930 to Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

A reading of his acceptance speech and the Biography posted on the Nobel website throws very little light on how he fits into the following description – “the person who 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”.

But anyway find below the highlights of his career.

Internationally, he is best known, however, as the architect of the ecumenical movement of the twentieth century. He had already begun to move toward intercommunion between the Swedish Church and the Church of England as early as 1909; in 1920 he arranged to have Bishop Woods of Peterborough, England, participate in the consecration of two Swedish bishops; the following year Woods welcomed Söderblom’s «Life and Work» movement to Peterborough. Söderblom found that the ecumenical movement was hampered during this period for various reasons: the French, German, and American church officials were conservative, the Archbishop of Canterbury cautious, the patriarchs of the Eastern Orthodox churches just emerging from isolation, the Roman Catholic Church decidedly opposed, and the proponents usually men without power. Söderblom himself did have power, however, since he was the head of a national church, and he possessed other important attributes, including scholarly prestige and persuasive personal charm.

The Stockholm Conference in 1925, which brought together Anglican, Protestant, and Orthodox Christians, was the culminating event in Söderblom’s ecumenical efforts. Rome was not represented and in his opening address, Söderblom regretted the absence of the «Apostle Peter». The Conference, described in detail in Söderblom’s book Stockholm 1925, laid the basis for a future ecumenical creed, emphasized the need to reconcile the competing philosophies of subjective spirituality and of objective social action, and sought to find unity in appealing for world peace.

Links :

1. List of Awardees

2. Nathan Soderblom’s Biography on the Nobel Prize website

3. The committee’s own FAQ where they contradict themselves.


2 thoughts on “Nobel Peace Prize – Does it deserve the attention it gets

  1. If Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler could be nominated for the Nobel Peace Price (which I come to know was a later introduction to the list of subjects), we can imagine the “standard” of this Award. The Nobel Peace Price has become more of a ‘Political” Award nowadays, with the likes of Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, Anwar –al-sadat , Yaseer Arafat being awarded . If Sadaam Hussein had been on the side of the western Powers, he would have been awarded too.

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