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Norway’s Parliament Must Change Its Routine for Selection of the Nobel Committee

By Fredrik S. Heffermehl*

23 Oct 2017 • The parliament will select a new Nobel Committee only in a month’s time–and we fear the worst. But there are 19 law professors backing our demands. Below, our letter to parliament.

I. Parliament must change its routine for selections for the Nobel Committee, legislators must comply with the law even in cases where Swedish law applies

When this autumn the Norwegian Parliament, Stortinget, shall elect three members to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, it must take the consequences of recent clarifications by Swedish authorities of tasks and responsibilities within the Nobel Foundation, point II below. These rulings are legally binding also when the body body assisting the Nobel Foundation is the parliament of another country.


In our view, the clarifications mean that the routine for election of Nobel Committee members introduced in 1948, must cease. The Storting’s task here is neither about Norwegian politics nor party politics, and not about what the representatives themselves think is the best peace policy. We support the recommendations repeatedly made to the Storting since 2007 that representatives are legally obliged to serve Nobel’s specific idea of how countries can collaborate on a global peace order. According to the testament, the Storting must choose those best suited to promote Nobel’s intention. Today there is a lack of direction, of idea and of will to challenge the belief in military power.

The redesign of the election routine in 1948 was not based on an interpretation of the testament, and delegating the selections of committee members to the party groups has obviously not served Nobel’s intention when he tasked the Storting with the selection. Our interpretation of the testament is that Nobel, as with the four other prizes, wanted a committee of experts.

He must have assumed or expected that the Storting would appoint a committee of professionals concerned with the “champions of peace” and their efforts to promote “peace congresses” ideas of “disarmament” and “creating the fraternity of nations”.

The peace policies of the Liberal Party [Venstre] (including their arbitration initiative in 1891) had brought the Storting in the vanguard of supporters of the new peace ideas. Stortinget was among the first parliaments in Europe to support the new peace movement financially, and Nobel knew this.

The peace prize for 2017 to ICAN has raised hopes that the Nobel Committee now, with a lawyer at the helm, has realized that Norwegian politicians have been entrusted with tending to Nobel’s approach to reaching the goal, not promote their own ideas of peace. On behalf of the committee the chair, Berit Reiss-Andersen, emphasized with firm conviction the responsibility of the nuclear powers to participate in the abolition of the weapons that constitute a constant threat of extinction of us all.

By this year´s award, the committee showed independence also in relation to Norwegian foreign policy. It showed interest in the will of Nobel by quoting three expressions in the testament – all derived from the peace movement of the period. The expressions help us understand the purpose, what and whom Nobel had in mind using the term “the champions of peace”.

Read more… including the statement of support.

*Nobel Peace Prize Watch – Transcend Media Service

Jan Oberg comments:
This is a struggle that Fredrik Heffermehl and I started in 2007. It’s very important because the peace people around the globe have been deprived of their prize, the “most prestigious in the world” – as it is often called. However, many peace people do not seem to have understood how important this issue actually is.
A series of good results have been achieved and the prize is no longer seen as uncontroversial. It is discussed. The Nobel Committee has been changed and media have begun to read Alfred Nobel’s will and understood how far the decisions of the Nobel Committee have sometimes been from the original intent. The fact that ICAN received the 2017 and with the motivation and ceremony speech in mind too, one can actually cherish a little hope that the prize may soon return to be awarded to those who struggle with distinction to achieve a world with less or no arms, with much less militarism and warfare and where dialogue, peace meetings and reconciliation dominate – in the spirit of Nobel himself.

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