Complaint about the Nobel Peace Prize Committee to the Swedish Foundation Inspection Board

By Jan Oberg

Open Letter

Dear Mikael Wiman

May I permit myself to join Mr. Fredrik Heffermehl – one of the world’s leading experts on peace as well as the Nobel Peace Prize – in his letter to you.

There is very substantial arguments that Nobel’s will has been ignored in a series of cases, no matter how much one can and should of course argue that times have changed since he wrote his will.

One of the fundamental features of those changes is that nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction have entered the world and that the world’s governments (with a few exceptions such as Costa Rica and Iceland) have incrementally decided to squander more and more scarce resources on armament and warfare – and preparations for it. The sum total of it amounts to about US$ 1700 billion – in a world where the UN for all its activities has a budget of about 30, development aid stands on 160 and peace-building about 0,5 billion – all according to the latest report by the U.N. Secretary General. Indeed, therefore, the problem Mr. Nobel intended to combat is many times bigger and more threatening to humankind than he could ever foresee.

To award the European Union the prize is to poke fun of Alfred Nobel’s intentions which, indisputably and above all, was to reduce the level of armament throughout the world and reward individuals who have done something in support of such a development.

The EU consists of some of the most armed countries – and nuclear weapons countries – in the world, its members have consistently intervened with military means in other countries; the EU did – by its premature and international-law defying decision to recognize Slovenia and Croatia out of former Yugoslavia (without having a plan for the rest) indisputably make war in Bosnia-Hercegovina unavoidable. (I have done scholarly work in ex-Yugoslavia since 1974 and if you want the admittedly complex ethnic, historical, political and cultural explanations why the EU was directly responsible as I state, I shall be happy to provide the details).

The EU is also set by its Constitution to increase its military strength – as is evidenced also in the article attached by Mr. Heffermehl. The Lisbon trety never makes mention of disarmament, peacebuilding, non-violence, reconciliation, the UN norm of peace by peaceful means and nor does it mention nuclear abolition or general and complete disarmament. Not even once. (I have written a book about these matters which I shall be happy to send to you upon your request).

This said, the EU could in principle simultaneously, in some kind of ways, have contributed to mediation or spoken – as it shall – with one voice against warfare and the UN Article 1 norm that “peace shall be established by peaceful means”. It has not. In all important international conflict-related decision such as Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria it has not been able to speak with one voice and has not performed a constructive role in even trying to bring peace by peaceful means. This very year, it was not a player in the issues around Syria.

Instead, EU member states have consistently provided weapons and ammunition to more or less murky forces (such as in Libya) or performed various types of military intervention in contravention of international law, including – such as in ex-Yugoslavia in 1999 and Iraq 2003 – bombing without a UN Security Council mandate.

So why is Europe – not the European Union, but Europe – more peaceful today? That is a very legitimate question in this matter.

Well, because of personalities, events and trends such as the following:

Willy Brandt’s kneeling down at the Warsaw monument, Germany’s overall constructive and reconciliation policies – including the Ostpolitik that in the 1970s opened up for relations with the Eastern Bloc; because of Finnish President Urho Kekkonen’s initiative to establish what is the OSCE today; because of Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s world historical and uniquely peaceful dissolution of the Eastern Empire and the simultaneous civil society activities in the East and Western part of Europe in the 1980s – not the least a struggle against nuclear deployments – by women, peace activists, human rights people, dissidents, the Green movement at the time, academics, General for Peace and many many others, in fact millions of citizens.

Evidently, the relatively peaceful situation in Europe can also be explained by late Swedish Prime minister Olof Palme’s “Common Security” Commission and similar reports at the time as well as by the increasing integration among Europe’s different economies.

None of this is reflected in the Nobel Committee’s – intellectually ignorant, if I may, but clearly politically-motivated – decision. In its decision it confuses completely Europe with the Union.

Additionally, may I also direct you attention to this problem:

The Nobel Peace Prize stands out as the only Nobel prize not decided by competent-in-the-field people. As you very well know the Committee consists of people who are former members of the Storting. Alfred Nobel does not say – as you are also well aware – that it shall consist of such people, he only says that a committee shall be establish by the Norwegian parliament.

To make it rhetorically clear: Would you find it acceptable that retired MPs would also decide the prize in, say, medicine, economics, physics or literature? In these fields it is taken for granted that the prize is decided by people competent within the respective fields. Only in the field of peace can it be awarded by people who are non-competent, or amateurs in the substantial sense of the word.

For your information, there is close to 900 academic programs around the world in peace and conflict studies, almost all at university level. I myself teach, among other places, at the World Peace Academy in Basel, which comes under the University of Basel and I have been teaching peace and conflict research in some ten countries during the last 30 years. There is a comprehensive body of academic literature too. There are state institutes such as SIPRI in Stockholm, and we have chairs in the subject at Uppsala and Gothenburg University. In summary, it is beyond dispute that peace is a competence field and an academic subject – precisely as, say, economics and law.

While this was not the case when Alfred Nobel wrote his will, it is today – and it is certainly one more argument against the decision-making method, indeed the very composition of the Nobel Committee. And when the knowledge and the composition of the committee is as it is, the risk is very likely that the will of Mr. Nobel will be violated also in the future. I permit myself to believe that that should be a serious concern for anyone who is tasked with securing that the spirit and the letter of the will is respected through the times, including in the future.

I look forward to your early answer as to what you plan to do and when concerning this very important matter.


Jan Oberg, dr.hc., professor
Director, The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, TFF
Vegagatan 25, 22457 Lund, Sweden

PS I consider this an Open Letter as the issue is a public issue and of concern to potentially millions of people. It is therefore in English and will be published wherever possible.

Letter from Fredrik Heffermehl

Oslo, December 10, 2012

The Stockholm County Board
Foundations inspection

I find it unacceptable that the Foundation has not yet performed its legal obligation to intervene to avoid that the Nobel Foundation money is being disbursed in clear violation of the purpose prescribed in the will of Alfred Nobel.

The Swedish Radio today published a report that the EU is planning to decide, later this week when they receive the peace prize pretending to be the prize of Nobel, on an increased and more efficient military co-operation. As anyone can see, from the will and open, public sources

One example today: the EU policies are not what Nobel wished to support. EU-parliamentarian Carl Schlyter is correct that disarmament is a core idea of the prize and that the EU prize is a scandal! (See quote below).

It is the responsibility of the authorities to protect the legitimate recipients of Nobel´s money against a brazen and indisputable violation of their rights under the will. They shall be spared the burden of having to go to the regular courts because the Norwegian Parliament is misusing entrusted money for their own political agendas, the opposite of Nobel´s described purpose!

The rich and powerful have no exception from the law, and I implore the Authority to immediately, without further delay perform its duties to intervene under the Foundations Act and ban payment.

Best regards,

Fredrik S. Heffermehl

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