The Nobel Peace Prize 2022


Dr SK Mahapatra

The Nobel Prizes for Peace for 2022 have been shared by an Individual, Ales Bialiatsky of Belarus, and two Organizations, Memorial of Russia, and Center for Civil Liberties of Ukraine. The Nobel Committee citation for them reads, “They have for many years promoted the right to criticize power and protect the fundamental rights of the citizens. They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and abuse of power. Together, they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy”. All the three awardees belonged to nations that were part of erstwhile Soviet Union.

The Nobel Prizes was instituted in 1895 as per the will of the Swedish Inventor Alfred Nobel for recognizing outstanding Individual contribution in the fields of Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature and Peace, and was first awarded in 1901. Except for Peace, all the other awards are administered by Swedish Organizations, including a sixth prize in Economics added in 1968. The Norwegian Nobel Committee awards the Nobel Peace Prize. Among all the Nobel announcements, the Peace Prize gets the most limelight and attention of the entire world. The Peace Prize announcements are also often the most awaited.

The nomination and selection process also adds to the aura of the Nobel Prize. The records of nomination and selection process are kept secret for 50 years, to avoid any conjectures or question marks about the selection process and the final choice of the awardees. Some changes have taken place over the years though.  For example,  originally the awards were mandated to be given to candidates for their work in the preceding year. Later, the interpretation has changed to include work done in earlier years so as to establish that the impact or effect of the work proves to be a lasting contribution without getting negated by subsequent invention or work by others.

As per the will of Alfred Nobel, the Peace Prize was to be awarded to the person who had done most for ‘’fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”. Initially, the Peace Prize was awarded to individuals who brokered armistice in the continent of Europe, which was perpetually at war on some pretext or the other. The Award was mostly Eurocentric, even though some of the awardees were from outside Europe. President Theodore Roosevelt of USA was awarded the Peace Prize in 1906 for brokering a truce between Russia and Japan, after the defeat of Russia in the hands of Japan. President Woodrow Wilson of USA was awarded the Peace Prize in 1919 for his contribution to the foundation of the League of Nations after the World War  I. The award was all about having lasting peace in Europe. As the European Nations administered most part of the World in the colonial era, peace in Europe was considered sine-qua-non with peace in the World. 

The cause of Human Rights, climate change and sustainability, were not in the zone of consideration as per the original charter for the Nobel Peace Award and was considered only by exception, by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. The notable exceptions to the original charter of the Nobel Peace Award given to Rev Martin Luther King Jr. of USA in 1964, Norman Borlaug of USA in 1970, Mother Teresa of India in 1979, Bishop Desmund Tutu of South Africa in 1984, Dalai Lama of Tibet in 1989, Rigiberta Menchu of Guatemala in 1992, Nelson Mandela of South Africa in 1993, Jimmy Carter of USA in 2002, Shirin Ebadi of Iran in 2003, Mohammad ElBaradei of Egypt along with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2005, Mohammad Younus along with Grameen Bank of Bangladesh in 2006, Al Gore of USA along with Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007, Liu Xiaobo of China in 2010, Kailash Satyarthi of India in 2014 and World Food Programme in 2020.

After the end of the World War – II, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a Power Bloc in West Europe led by USA, was formed in 1949, to safeguard the rebuilding and reconstruction of post war Europe against any further aggression. Incidentally, George Marshall, who provided the financial plan for this rebuilding and reconstruction was awarded the Nobel prize for Peace in 1953. The members of NATO agreed that any attack on one member shall be considered as an attack on every member, and accordingly all the members of NATO shall join in its defence. Soviet Union as the leader of the largest nation in East and Central Europe and Part of North Asia, became the principal architect of the Warsaw Pact in 1955, creating another Power Bloc in the Central and East of Europe, to counter NATO. The standoff period between the two Power Blocs, is known in history as a period of peace and unprecedented prosperity in Europe.

The two Power Blocks of Europe maintained the balance of power in Europe, as well as, in the entire world, since the end of World War – II until the collapse of the Soviet Union. This period between 1955 till 1990 is often referred to, as a period of Cold War between the two most powerful military blocs. The cold war ended in 1990 and Mikhail Gorbachev, the Supreme Leader of the Soviet Union, and the chief architect of the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and disintegration of the USSR, was conferred with the Nobel Peace Prize in the same year, 1990. This changed the balance of power system from a Bipolar structure, to a multipolar structure, on the basis of economic power of independent nations. The European Economic Union was formed to counter the United States, while the China reformed its economic policies and grew fast enough to become the second largest economy in the World.

The independent nations in Asia, South America and Africa did face a period of instability and infighting in the post-colonial area, leading to full-scale wars at times but such conflagrations have been limited in scale, and have been resolved with successful mediation by United Nations. In some cases, the nations who have been members of the security council namely USA, UK, France, China and Russia, have bypassed the UNO to intervene in their national interest using their veto power as permanent members of the UN security council. The interventions of the Big-5 have been always in their national interest, be it in Vietnam, Afghanistan or in the Middle East. Such interventions however have been made invariably in the name of protecting ‘Popular movements for Democracy’ and ‘Protection of Human Rights’. The General Assembly resolutions have not been able to persuade the Big-5, for exercising more restraint. Given a choice between negotiation for peace, and war, the decision has to be only one ie, in favour of peace. When there is a fire, it has to be doused and not stoked. Asia and African nations have matured over time and have been able to bilaterally resolve their differences and many have experience rapid economic development.

The World being now firmly set on the path of rapid economic prosperity, the United Nations urged the attention of global leadership to issues of sustainability and adopted 17 sustainable development goals for mankind, to be attained by 2030. For the first time in history of mankind, people could see the real possibility to end Poverty, Hunger, Illiteracy, unemployment, mortality due to lack of healthcare etc., from the face of earth. Rapid progress in science and technology have made it possible to think of a fair and just human society, where everyone can fulfil his/her aspirations. Even the discussions have stretched beyond to envisage a future for the future generations where they could breathe cleaner air, drink cleaner water, and move in a planet with more flora and fauna and ice in the poles. Unfortunately, what is happening in Ukraine today can turn the clock back by centuries.

In 1962, the world faced the Cuban missile crisis, which was the first real threat of an all-out nuclear war between NATO and Warsaw Pact nations. USA, the leader of NATO, had deployed nuclear missiles in Turkey and Italy, facing USSR and the latter had deployed nuclear missiles in Cuba facing the United States. President John F. Kennedy of USA and President Nikita Khrushchev of USSR could realize the possibility of a ‘no-win’ situation and complete annihilation of the entire mankind, should one nuclear missile gets fired. They rose above their personal ego and called for war by the hawks in their respective camps, and decided to enter into an era of nuclear disarmament starting with gradual reduction of number of nuclear warheads on both sides and removal of the deployed missiles from all fronts between NATO and Warsaw Pact nations. President Kennedy had prophetically said that never should any nation with nuclear weapons be pushed into a situation where they must have to choose between a humiliating withdrawal and use of their nuclear weapons.

The War in Ukraine can escalate into a nuclear war anytime as the NATO powers are already engaged in a proxy war with Russia. Though the NATO powers have not entered the war by directly sending in their troops to the theatre, they have been supplying weapons and other resources to Ukraine for over nine months now and expecting a defeat of Russia sooner or later. Innocent people are dying every day, and the infrastructure for communication, education, healthcare, office and residence, are in ruins in most part of Ukraine. The war is being fought on Ukrainian territory and therefore maximum loss of life and property has been borne by people of Ukraine. The war must stop. Both parties should realize that now they have only one choice, i.e., to engage in negotiation for Peace.  As of now, Europe is in the verge of self-destruction unless the leaders stop their rhetoric and propaganda against one another and make the correct choice taking heed of the lessons from the Cuban missile crisis. President Kennedy had also said, “One should not negotiate out of fear, but one should never fear to negotiate”.

The Nobel Peace Prize might have been given in 2022 to send out a political message to the global community about the wrongs committed by various regimes in their respective countries, but such awareness alone cannot bring peace to Ukraine or Europe.  The parties have to sit down for negotiation with a genuine intent to understand and accommodate each other’s perspective, and by asking their propaganda machinery to go silent without belittling, insulting or insinuating the adversary.  The Nobel Laureates for Peace, past and present, are widely respected around the World.  They should join together in this common mission, and offer to mediate between Russia and Ukraine for immediately putting an end to the ongoing war before it escalates to nuclear or chemical warfare. They should encourage the parties to declare a cease fire, and settle for peace through direct dialogue and negotiation. In human history such occasions rarely come, where people of peace, from across the globe get together to save the mankind from extinction, and restore the march of human civilization for attaining the sustainable development goals and proudly handover a better planet to our next generation. The situation demands from the Nobel Peace Laureates of 2022, to play an active role to save the World from a catastrophe.  They should consider seriously to convene this alliance of Nobel peace laureates, to use their moral authority and persuasive powers, to save the planet preempting a third world war and demonstrate to the World why the Nobel Peace Prize is highest recognition for any human being born in the planet. The members of this alliance of living Nobel laureates can persuade as ambassadors of peace, all the parties who are directly or indirectly involved in the Ukraine War, to change their rigid stance and help diffuse the tension in Europe, which is affecting the economy of the entire world.

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