The prestigious prize committee has been heavily criticised several times for honouring personalities who have fuelled wars and denied massacres, instead of cultivating peace around the world.
The Nobel Prize has almost always been laced with controversies. This year, the US President Donald Trump’s nomination has sparked criticism against the prestigious prize.
While Trump’s nomination was made in light of his role in normalising ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, the choice raised eyebrows, putting the credibility of the award at stake.
Here is why the Nobel Prize has lost its sheen over the decades.
Denier of Bosnian genocide
Peter Handke is the 2019 Nobel Laureate in Literature, but the decision to grant him the most prestigious literary prize has been slammed by politicians, leading authors and writers’ organisations.
During the 1990s, Handke earned a reputation of being an apologist for the Serbian government, which was involved in acts of genocide against Bosnian Muslims and responsible for atrocities against other Balkan peoples, such as Kosovar Albanians.
In one notable incident in 2014, while receiving the Ibsen Prize in the Norwegian city of Oslo, Handke shouted down the genocide survivors and relatives of victims. “Go to hell, where you already are,” he said, while rebuking them.
Handke is known to be a great admirer of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, who died in 2006 while facing trial in The Hague for war crimes and genocide.
“Stand up if you support the Serbs,” Handke wrote during the 1998 to 1999 Kosovo War.
Barack Obama awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 2009
The former US President Barack Obama received the peace prize in 2009, just nine months after taking office. At the time, many people were left puzzled over why he deserved its given that he had not been in the position very long.
“This is the Nobel committee giving Obama the ‘you are not George W. Bush’ award,” said Brian Becker, national coordinator of Act Now To Stop War and End Racism. “Unfortunately Obama is continuing many of the same policies of Bush and is in fact expanding the war in Afghanistan rather than ending it.”
Later, his administration engaged in several conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan where the US carried out drone strikes against civilians.
In 2015, Ex-Nobel secretary of Peace Geir Lundestad said: “No Nobel Peace Prize ever elicited more attention than the 2009 prize to Barack Obama.”
“Even many of Obama’s supporters believed that the prize was a mistake,” he added. “In that sense the committee didn’t achieve what it had hoped for.”
The EU won 2012 peace prize
The Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union was heavily criticised, not least because of the economic pressure it has historically placed on some countries, like Greece, after the economic crisis started in 2009.
The leading EU countries’ arms sales to Middle Eastern countries that engaged in war or conflicts, were seen as inappropriate with the principles of the prize.
Around 50 organisations organised the torch-lit march by arguing that the EU is undemocratic and maintains large military aspirations, even as its people suffer an economic downturn.
“Alfred Nobel said that the prize should be given those who worked for disarmament,” Elsa-Britt Enger, 70, a representative of Grandmothers for Peace said. “The EU doesn’t do that. It is one of the biggest weapons producers in the world.”
Past prize winners Desmond Tutu, Adolfo Perez Esquivel and Mairead Maguire have also said the EU did not deserve the award.
1973: Henry Kissinger, Nobel Peace Prize
The US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, shared the 1973 peace prize with North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho for what turned out to be failed efforts to end the Vietnam War.
The selection of winners of the award was heavily criticised as Kissinger ordered a bombing of Hanoi during the negotiation for the truce.
Tho declined the accolade because he accused Washington of violating the ceasefire. Moreover, two members of the committee resigned after Kissinger’s selection.
German chemist Fritz Haber received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1918 for his invention of the Haber-Bosh process, a method that helped to synthesise ammonia from nitrogen gas and hydrogen gas, that was used as a chemical weapon during World War I. He always supported the use of chemical weapons.
Criticism – eurocentric and sexist
The Nobel committee is not only criticised for selecting the wrong people for certain categories, but also for having a bias against women and non-Europeans.
For example, physics researcher, Jocelyn Bell, discovered pulsar stars. She never won a Nobel prize. However, seven years later, her adviser Antony Hewish won the physics award for “his decisive role in the discovery of pulsars.”
On the other hand, Mahatma Gandhi was nominated 12 times but never awarded.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee was criticised for being eurocentric.
In 2006, Geir Lundestad said: “The greatest omission in our 106-year history is undoubtedly that Mahatma Gandhi never received the Nobel Peace Prize.”
“Gandhi could do without the Nobel Peace Prize. Whether the Nobel committee can do without Gandhi, is the question.”