A little over a week ago, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the institution charged with removing Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons, was awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.
You have to hand it to the Nobel Peace Prize committee – they have consistently chosen only the most deserving individuals and organizations for recognition of their invaluable contribution to promoting peace among nations and peoples. The Nobel Peace Prize has been given to Martin Luther King Jr., Elie Wiesel, Mother Teresa… all famous for their advocacy of tolerance and human rights.
More recently, they have given the Prize to Barack Obama (2009), the European Union (2012), and, this year, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Clearly, they canvassed all possible options, including Pakistani teenage hero Malala Yousafzai. I mean, really, what’s she done? It’s not like she’s spoken up for education, tolerance, and women’s rights to such a radical extent that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is looking to put her head on a silver platter. Seriously. Not a big deal.
So it was the OPCW that won the 2013 Nobel peace prize. At least we can all agree that this was a big step-up from last year’s salute to the European Union.
The point of the Nobel committee, and the Nobel Peace Prize itself, is to acknowledge groundbreaking contributions to the maintenance of global order and peace. It is not to recognize those that are simply doing their jobs. Fighting to stop the proliferation of chemical weapons is certainly commendable, but that is the purpose of the OPCW, and chemical weapons are already considered taboo in the international arena. Most of us would tick the “strongly disagree” box as far as chemical weapons go.
The EU’s “contribution” was said to be the inclusion of new member states – however, mere expansion does not necessarily entail tolerance, or mutual respect, much less peace.
Since when has the Nobel Peace Prize been so inconsistent and selectively political? The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize awardees were Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman, three women who made great strides in the fight for women’s rights in countries where they are continuously flouted. The year before, Liu Xiaobo, prominent Chinese human rights activist, was given the prize. In 2009, however, Barack Obama, without having done anything except be democratically elected, was given the Prize. This year, Russian President Vladimir Putin was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, despite all of his violent campaigns both domestically and internationally. The schizophrenia of the Nobel Peace Prize committee is jarring.
The peace prize is controversial. That’s the point. It’s meant to acknowledge and award those who have radically defied dominions and authorities that have executed heinous crimes against humanity, stood up against those who conducted miscarriages of justice beyond our conceivable imagination, and fought against the status quo in the darkest corners of our world. It is inevitably politically sensitive. If you were to pull apart a fight between the bully and the victim, would we ever be left with a happy bully?
So come now, committee. Stop the side-stepping and petty pandering. Let’s give credit to where it’s due – to those who have made sacrifices and risked their lives, under no bearing of obligation, to fight for peace in a world where even the Peace Prize is beginning to lose its meaning.