Author: Peace Prizes miss Nobel's intent

/ Source: The Associated Press

Where there's a will — someone always thinks there's another way.

A Norwegian peace activist and lawyer has criticized recent decisions by the Nobel Peace Prize committee, claiming the prestigious award is not being handed out in line with the terms of Alfred Nobel's 1895 will.

Fredrik S. Heffermehl said this week he had analyzed the Swedish industrialist's will and the prizes handed out since 1901 for his book "Nobel's Wishes."

The 182-page book was released across Norway this week, ahead of Friday's announcement of the 2008 winner.

Heffermehl, a former vice president of the International Peace Bureau, said 85 percent of the awards made by the five-member Norwegian committee before World War II met Nobel's criteria, but since then only 45 percent did so.

"This is not an evaluation of the candidates, but an evaluation of the committee," Heffermehl told reporters.

He said last year's winner, climate campaigner and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, may be worthy of a prize, but his environmental efforts did not qualify for the award that Nobel said should honor a "champion of peace."

Other recent prizes Heffermehl believes missed Nobel's mark include: Mother Teresa in 1979; Poland's Lech Walesa in 1983; Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli leaders Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres in 1994; Doctors Without Borders in 1999; the South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung in 2000; Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi in 2003; Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai in 2004; and economist Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank in 2006.

Matter of interpretation
Peace prize awards committee secretary Geir Lundestad disagreed with Heffermehl's assessment.

"Of course we follow Nobel's intent. There can be lengthy discussion about how the will should be interpreted," he told The AP. "Heffermehl thinks his alone has the correct interpretation. But we don't agree."

Nobel's will said the peace prize should be awarded in Oslo for promoting "fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses."

Heffermehl said Nobel wanted to honor peace activists working to change the world order so that it could be safe for nations to disband their armies.

The committee now often includes human rights activists, environmentalists, economists and others, stirring intense debate about whether those efforts are directly related to peace.

Heffermehl said, starting in the late 1940s, the committee appointed by Norway's parliament started to make the prize reflect their own political views rather than Nobel's wishes.

He conceded that as a peace activist, he could appear to be making the case for prizes to people like himself. However, he insisted that he strove to be neutral.

"I have tried to do an honest job," he said of his book.