The Nobel Peace Prize Committee receives critique on their recent Laureate choice


2008 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Martti Ahtisaari.
2008 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Martti Ahtisaari.

By Tina Hveem

Finnish ex-president received the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday in Norway’s capital, and the Norwegian Nobel Committee is being critiqued for their recent decision.

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Martti Ahtisaari yesterday during the annual award ceremony in Oslo. Ahtisaari (71) has been negotiating peace for more than three decades in areas such as Namibia, the Aceh province in Indonesia, Northern Ireland, Central-Asia, the Horn of Africa and Kosovo. 

However, some people have raised harsh critique against the award winner. “Ahtisaari does not solve conflicts but drives through short-term solutions that please Western countries”, says the Norwegian peace and conflict studies expert Johan Galtung. In addition, a Swedish peace foundation finds it scandalous “to honour a man whose solutions involved militarism and violations of international law”. 

Although Ahtisaari unarguably has done a lot of good around the world, some people do question his work in Kosovo, where he in 1999, and again in 2005-2007, sought to find a solution for the conflict between the Serbs and the Albanians. The critique is mainly that he took the side of the Albanian people, in a process where both sides are supposed to be heard and gain something.

Ahtisaari recommended independence for Kosovo, an area where there is an ethnic Albanian minority. The result was not what the peace-mediator wanted, as the two sides could not agree, and only 50 countries have accepted Kosovo’s independence so far. Consequently, the Nobel Committee’s choice this year might come across as a reward for taking sides in the conflict, an unjust that is continuing to poison the conflict rather than put it to ease.

The Nobel Committee says in Ahtisaari’s defence that he has worked successfully in a lot of conflict zones and that there is no alternative to an independent Kosovo.

The fact that Ahtisaari has been brokering peace deals for the most of the last 40 years has made some people think of this year’s choice as somewhat uninspired, and that the prize seems more like a “lifetime achievement” award.

Another critique raised against the Nobel Laureate is regarding his views on the Iraq war. In August 2003, five months after the United States invaded Iraq, Ahtisaari made it known that as far as he was concerned, the war was justified: “Knowing that about a million people have been killed by the Iraqi government, I don’t really need those weapons of mass destruction”.

Some people find that the Nobel Committee is not put together in the best possible way, and question whether or not Nobel’s will is behind every decision made by the Nobel Committee in Norway. The Swedish committee, which is also the superior, will launch an investigation of the neighbouring one as some people have questioned their recent choice for the Peace Prize.

“We have the will of Alfred Nobel as the ground pillar of everything we do. In addition, we have to make sure it all happens in Nobel’s spirit. Nobel was a dynamic person, and we obviously believe that it is in the spirit of Nobel to expand on the term peace to some extent. There are more than one way to achieve peace”, replies the leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Ole Danbolt Mjøs.

Today the Nobel concert will be taking place in Oslo with Michael Caine and Scarlett Johansson as the evening’s hosts. Some people have raised their eyebrows worrying that the concert has become purely commercial and is no longer in the true spirit of Alfred Nobel. “The concert is superficial, unilateral, flat and celebrity wagging with too much of a glitz-factor”, says a Norwegian journalist about the show.

To read more about the Nobel Peace Prize click here.