OSLO (Reuters) - Swedish authorities are looking into whether the Nobel Peace Prize has been going to the “wrong” type of people, like human rights campaigners and environmentalists, in violation of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s will.
The issue has dogged the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which gives the prize, since 2008 when an Oslo-based author began arguing that the prize had drifted from Nobel’s intent to promote only disarmament and “peace congresses.”
“They are ignoring the will altogether,” the author and peace activist, Fredrik Heffermehl, told Reuters.
In his view the last qualified peace prize winners were the United Nations and its then-secretary general, Kofi Annan, in 2001.
Heffermehl, a lawyer, has now won the ear of Stockholm County Administrative Board, whose duties extend to making sure the country’s 7,300 registered foundations fulfil the wishes of their dead benefactors.
“Mr. Heffermehl has a couple of good arguments,” Mikael Wiman, the board’s attorney, told Reuters after he sent a letter this week to the Stockholm-based Nobel Foundation board seeking comment.
While the annual prizes in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and economics are given in Stockholm, Nobel specified that a committee appointed by the Norwegian parliament should pick the peace prize winner. It is given in Oslo.
Nobel, who invented dynamite, wrote in his 1895 will that the peace prize should go to “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.”
Geir Lundestad, the Norwegian committee’s executive secretary, said “fraternity between nations” was broad enough to justify every winner in history.
“We reject the idea that we have no respect for the will,” Lundestad told Reuters. “There is more than one answer to how the will should be interpreted.”
“We will send our statement on March 15 and I think that will be the end of it. We have done nothing wrong.”
Heffermehl said human rights campaigners like Liu Xiaobo, the jailed Chinese dissident who won in 2010, and advocates of the poor like Muhammad Yunus, who won in 2006 for popularizing micro-loans, were fine people but “wrong” for the prize.
Nor did he approve of the three 2011 winners: Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemeni democracy advocate Tawakkol Karman.
“After last year you would think it’s is a prize for democracy and women’s rights,” he said.