Director of World Beyond War, http://WorldBeyondWar.org
Charlottesville VA 22902
President, Olemic Thommessen
Stortinget/Parliament of Norway, Oslo.
I write to you from the United States with great respect and fondness for Norway and my family and friends there, and the Norwegian language that my grandmother knew.
I write on behalf of an organization with supporters in 88 nations and with a vision very much in line with that of Alfred Nobel in his will, and that of Bertha von Suttner who is believed to have influenced that document.
World Beyond War supports the position expressed in the letter appended below. We would like to see the Nobel Peace Prize become a prize that honors and encourages work to eliminate war from the world, not a prize that goes to those engaged in good humanitarian work unrelated to the abolition of war, and not a prize that goes to leading makers of war, such as the current U.S. president.
With hope for the future,
Gothenburg, October 31, 2014
Stortinget/Parliament of Norway, Oslo.
by the President, Olemic Thommessen
Cc. by email to each Member of Parliament
The Nobel Foundation, Stockholm
Länsstyrelsen i Stockholm
SELECTION OF NOBEL COMMITTEE – “THE CHAMPIONS OF PEACE PRIZE”
This fall the Parliament of Norway (Stortinget) shall select new members for the Nobel Committee in a new situation. On March 8, 2012, in a letter to the Swedish Foundations Authority, the Nobel Foundation (Stockholm) confirmed its final and ultimate responsibility for all awards being in conformity with the law, by-laws and the description of purpose in Alfred Nobel´s will. To avoid embarrassing situations where the Foundation cannot pay a peace prize to a winner selected by the Norwegian committee, the Stortinget must appoint a committee that is qualified, committed and loyal to the specific method for peace that Nobel had in mind.
We refer to and support earlier appeals by author and lawyer Fredrik S. Heffermehl for a reform of the system for selection of the Nobel Committee to ensure that all members will have the attitudes to weapons and militarism that Nobel expected. We further call your attention to decisions of the Swedish Foundations Authority (The County Board of Stockholm) in March 2012 and of the Kammarkollegiet in March 31, 2014, and their consequences for the selection task of the Stortinget.
In these decisions the two Swedish authorities require respect for the purpose Nobel meant to describe in his will. They expect the Swedish Nobel Foundation to examine the intention of Nobel and give instructions to its awarding committees to ensure that all award decisions be loyal to the specific purposes Nobel intended to support.
We hope all members of parliament will consider their moral and legal responsibility in relation to the specific peace idea of Nobel, see more in the attached ANNEX.
We agree and join the appeal:
Nils Christie, Norway,
professor, University of Oslo
Erik Dammann, Norway,
founder “Future in our hands,” Oslo
Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Norway,
professor, University of Oslo
Ståle Eskeland, Norway,
professor of criminal law, University of Oslo
Erni Friholt, Sweden,
Peace movement of Orust
Ola Friholt, Sweden,
Peace movement of Orust
Lars-Gunnar Liljestrand, Sweden,
Chair of the Association of FiB lawyers
Torild Skard, Norway
Ex President of Parliament, Second chamber (Lagtinget)
Sören Sommelius, Sweden,
author and culture journalist
Maj-Britt Theorin, Sweden,
ex President, International Peace Bureau
Gunnar Westberg, Sweden,
Professor, ex Co-President IPPNW (Nobel peace prize 1985)
Jan Öberg,TFF, Sweden,
Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research.
NOBEL COMMITTEE SELECTION – ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND
Nobel took a position on how to make peace. “The prize for the champions of peace” intended to support efforts for a fundamental change of relations between nations. The concept has to be determined by what Nobel actually meant to express, not what one could wish that he meant. Nobel used three terms that specified precisely the kind of champions of peace he had in mind; “create the fraternity of nations,” “reduce or abolish standing armies” and “peace congresses.” It does not require much expertise in peace history to recognize the expressions in the will as a specific road to peace – a global accord, a Weltverbrüderung, the direct opposite of the traditional approach.
The Nobel peace prize was never meant as a general prize for fine people doing good things, it should promote a specific political idea. The purpose was not to reward achievements that may, at best, have a remote and indirect bearing on peace. Nobel obviously intended to support those who work for the vision of a global agreement on disarmament and replacing power with law in international relations. The political attitude to this idea in Parliament today is the opposite of the majority view in 1895, but the testament is the same. The idea that Parliament and the Nobel committee are legally obliged to promote is also the same. Our request for respect for the true purpose of Nobel relies on an in-depth analysis of the purpose of the Peace Prize presented in Fredrik S. Heffermehl´s book The Nobel Peace Prize. What Nobel Really Wanted (Praeger 2010). His analysis and conclusions have, as far as we know, not been refuted by Parliament or the Nobel Committee. They have just been ignored.
Nobel had obvious reasons for showing confidence in the Stortinget and entrusting to it the selection of a Nobel Committee. The Norwegian Parliament at the time stood at the forefront in supporting Bertha von Suttner’s ideas and was among the first to allocate funding to the International Peace Bureau, IPB (Nobel Peace Prize in 1910) – just like Nobel himself. Nobel sought professional expertise for the awarding committees in science, medicine, literature. He must have trusted the Stortinget to select a committee of five experts dedicated to promoting the ideas of the champions of peace on peace based on disarmament, law and international institutions.
It clearly violates the terms of Nobel when his prize for peace and disarmament today is being managed by people who believe in armaments and military force. No one in Stortinget today stands for his approach to peace. Today there are few professionals pursuing peace by the Nobel method, almost no academics in peace research or international affairs. Even in civil society few are so committed to the specific general disarmament idea of the prize that they are qualified to be members of the Nobel Committee. Nobel’s vision, today more relevant and urgently needed than ever, is entitled to the visibility that the prize should give to it. It is an injustice to the intended recipients to convert Nobel´s prize into a general prize for all thinkable purposes and systematically conceal and confuse the Nobel road to peace: a global agreement to free the world from weapons, militarism – and wars.
More seriously it is an injustice to all citizens of the world and the future of life on the planet when Stortinget has taken over Nobel´s prize, transformed it, and, instead of promoting his visionary idea is using the prize to promote their own ideas and interests. It is both legally and politically abominable for the political majority in Norway to have taken over a prize that belongs to the dissidents in peace politics. People who are filled with insecurity and anxiety by the idea of the prize are obviously unsuitable as stewards of the prize.
In a supervision case by the Swedish Foundation Authority the Nobel Foundation (Swedish) declared, in its March 8, 2012 letter, that the Foundation realized its overall responsibility for ensuring that all payments, including of the peace prize, comply with the will. When the Authority, in its decision of March 21, 2012, dropped further investigation, it expected the Swedish Nobel Foundation to examine the purposes of the five Nobel awards and give instructions to its sub-committees. The Authority considered such instructions to the committees as required, “otherwise the observance of the described purpose is bound to fail over time.” Since the Nobel Foundation thus has superior responsibility for the legality of all decisions, it must also be able to rely on sub-committees to be qualified and loyal to the purposes described by Nobel.
Such loyalty to the Nobel idea is a legal obligation not properly met by the current system where Stortinget has delegated the selection of seats in the Nobel Committee to the political parties. If Parliament does not find itself able or willing to demand that members of the committee must be loyal to the Nobel idea, other solutions must be found to protect the Nobel vision of peace. It would be unfortunate if direct orders from the Swedish side, or a court trial, should be required to change the untenable selection procedure that Stortinget has practiced since 1948.
The Nobel Foundation has applied to the authorities for an exemption from its statutory duty to ensure that all payments, including the peace prizes, have content within the intention of Nobel. This application for exemption (from its central and foremost responsibility) was rejected (Kammarkollegiet, decision 31. March 2014). The Nobel Foundation has appealed the rejection to the Swedish government.
Parliament´s duty is to appoint a Nobel committee consisting of people who support the peace prize idea. In 2014 Norway celebrates the 200th anniversary of its Constitution. If Parliament wishes to demonstrate its democratic level, its respect for the rule of law, democracy, the rights of political dissidents – and Nobel – it should discuss thoroughly the issues raised above before it selects a new Nobel Committee.
More information on the website: nobelwill.org