2022 Nobel Peace Prize

Nobel Outreach, Oslo, October 7, 2022

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2022 to one individual and two organizations.

The Peace Prize laureates represent civil society in their home countries. They have for many years promoted the right to criticize power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens. They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power. Together they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy.

This year’s Peace Prize is awarded to human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, the Russian human rights organization Memorial, and the Ukrainian human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties.

Ales Bialiatski was one of the initiators of the democracy movement that emerged in Belarus in the mid-1980s. He has devoted his life to promoting democracy and peaceful development in his home country. Among other things, he founded the organization Viasna (Spring) in 1996 in response to the controversial constitutional amendments that gave the president dictatorial powers and that triggered widespread demonstrations. Viasna provided support for the jailed demonstrators and their families. In the years that followed, Viasna evolved into a broad-based human rights organization that documented and protested against the authorities’ use of torture against political prisoners. 

Government authorities have repeatedly sought to silence Ales Bialiatski. He was imprisoned from 2011 to 2014. Following large-scale demonstrations against the regime in 2020, he was again arrested. He is still detained without trial. Despite tremendous personal hardship, Mr Bialiatski has not yielded an inch in his fight for human rights and democracy in Belarus.

The human rights organization Memorial was established in 1987 by human rights activists in the former Soviet Union who wanted to ensure that the victims of the communist regime’s oppression would never be forgotten. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov and human rights advocate Svetlana Gannushkina were among the founders. Memorial is based on the notion that confronting past crimes is essential in preventing new ones.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Memorial grew to become the largest human rights organization in Russia. In addition to establishing a center of documentation on victims of the Stalinist era, Memorial compiled and systematized information on political oppression and human rights violations in Russia. Memorial became the most authoritative source of information on political prisoners in Russian detention facilities. The organization has also been standing at the forefront of efforts to combat militarism and promote human rights and government based on rule of law.

When civil society must give way to autocracy and dictatorship, peace is often the next victim. During the Chechen wars, Memorial gathered and verified information on abuses and war crimes perpetrated on the civilian population by Russian and pro-Russian forces. In 2009, the head of Memorial’s branch in Chechnya, Natalia Estemirova, was killed because of this work.

Civil society actors in Russia have been subjected to threats, imprisonment, disappearance and murder for many years. As part of the government’s harassment of Memorial, the organization was stamped early on as a “foreign agent”. In December 2021, the authorities decided that Memorial was to be forcibly liquidated and the documentation center was to be closed permanently. The closures became effective in the following months, but the people behind Memorial refuse to be shut down. In a comment on the forced dissolution, chairman Yan Rachinsky stated, “Nobody plans to give up.”

The Center for Civil Liberties was founded in Kyiv in 2007 for the purpose of advancing human rights and democracy in Ukraine. The center has taken a stand to strengthen Ukrainian civil society and pressure the authorities to make Ukraine a full-fledged democracy. To develop Ukraine into a state governed by rule of law, Center for Civil Liberties has actively advocated that Ukraine become affiliated with the International Criminal Court.

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Center for Civil Liberties has engaged in efforts to identify and document Russian war crimes against the Ukrainian civilian population. In collaboration with international partners, the center is playing a pioneering role with a view to holding the guilty parties accountable for their crimes.

By awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for 2022 to Ales Bialiatski, Memorial, and the Center for Civil Liberties, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to honor three outstanding champions of human rights, democracy and peaceful co-existence in the neighbor countries Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Through their consistent efforts in favor of humanist values, anti-militarism and principles of law, this year’s laureates have revitalized and honored Alfred Nobel’s vision of peace and fraternity between nations –– a vision most needed in the world today.

– PeaceMeal, Fall 2022

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2021 Nobel Peace Prize

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2021 to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace. Ms. Ressa and Mr. Muratov are receiving the Peace Prize for their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia. At the same time, they are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions.

Maria Ressa uses freedom of expression to expose abuse of power, use of violence, and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines. In 2012, she co-founded Rappler, a digital media company for investigative journalism, which she still heads. As a journalist and Rappler’s CEO, Ms. Ressa has shown herself to be a fearless defender of freedom of expression. Rappler has focused critical attention on the Duterte regime’s controversial, murderous anti-drug campaign. The number of deaths is so high that the campaign resembles a war waged against the country’s own population. Ms. Ressa and Rappler have also documented how social media is being used to spread fake news, harass opponents, and manipulate public discourse.

Dmitry Andreyevich Muratov has for decades defended freedom of speech in Russia under increasingly challenging conditions. In 1993, he was one of the founders of the independent newspaper Novaja Gazeta. Since 1995 he has been the editor-in- chief for a total of 24 years. Novaja Gazeta is the most indepen-dent newspaper in Russia today, with a fundamentally critical attitude toward power. The newspaper’ s fact-based journalism and professional integrity have made it an important source of information on censurable aspects of Russian society rarely mentioned by other media. Since its start-up in 1993, Novaja Gazeta has published critical articles on subjects ranging from corruption, police violence, unlawful arrests, electoral fraud, and ”troll factories” to the use of Russian military forces both within and outside Russia.

Novaja Gazeta’s opponents have responded with harassment, threats, violence and murder. Since the newspaper’s start, six of its journalists have been killed, including Anna Politkovskaja, who wrote revealing articles on the war in Chechnya. Despite the killings and threats, editor-in-chief Muratov has refused to abandon the newspaper’s independent policy. He has consistently defended the right of journalists to write anything they want about whatever they want, as long as they comply with the professional and ethical standards of journalism.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee is convinced that free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda. These rights are crucial prerequisites for democracy and protect against war and conflict.

– edited from Nobel Prize Outreach, October 8, 2021
PeaceMeal, Nov./December 2021

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2020 Nobel Peace Prize won by World Food Program

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the World Food Program (WFP) for its “efforts to combat hunger” and its “contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas.” The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which presented the award in Oslo on October 9, also described the organization as “a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.”

In awarding the prize, committee chair Berit Reiss-Andersen noted the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on global food supplies and criticized the politics of populism.

The WFP, a United Nations entity, was created in 1961 and today provides food to over 100 million people a year.

WFP executive director David Beasley, the former Republican governor of South Carolina, said, “Where there’s starvation, there’s conflict, destabilization and migration,” adding that the world was now experiencing “all of those things coupled with Covid.” He warned there were “possibilities of famines of biblical proportions,” calling for billions of dollars in additional aid to save people around the globe.

– edited from CNN, October 9, 2020
PeaceMeal, November/December 2020

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‘Department of Peace’ is a bonkers idea that’s totally necessary

Many of author-turned-Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson’s ideas, while bonkers in practice, hit on a kernel of truth, and her latest proposal for a federal Department of Peace is no exception.

Williamson unveiled her formal proposal on her campaign website August 19, outlining in broad terms what the Department of Peace would look like. She wrote, “Through support of my candidacy for president of the United States, you can help alter the course of our nation and model peace for our world. This campaign to establish a U.S. Department of Peace is the first step in dismantling our systemically entrenched perpetuation of violence.”

Williamson’s plan emphasizes a “focus on restorative and healing oriented approaches.” The details of her plan are all over the place, but her underlying point — that the United States needs to radically rethink its love affair with endless war — rings completely true.

As Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) has routinely lambasted, “We’re at war with at least eight different groups and in 20 different countries.” Prolonged conflicts in Middle Eastern countries, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, have claimed hundreds of thousands of civilian lives and trillions of taxpayer dollars, with the war in Afghanistan now approaching 18 years and counting. The U.S. has troops stationed in almost 150 countries worldwide, and — thanks to the Authorization for the Use of Military Force — the president doesn’t even need proper constitutional permission from Congress before engaging in acts of war.

According to Brown University’s Cost of War project, a conservative estimate indicates that nearly half a million people have died in our post September 11 conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. This includes almost 7,000 of our own military members and service people, buried by grieving families and largely forgotten in the never-ending news cycle.

All this death comes in the course of endless regime change wars that lack a clearly defined purpose or obvious advancement of American interests. Meanwhile, the people pushing these wars largely do so from think tanks on Capitol Hill, far removed from the costs of war.

Williamson is not crazy to suggest that we need more voices and institutions working to advance peace in our federal government. We probably don’t need another bloated federal bureaucracy, but, at the same time, we have decided to budget some $700 billion for defense spending — the most in the world and more than the next seven countries combined.

We do have a publicly funded United States Institute of Peace, whose budget is $39 million. So, for every dollar we spend on peace, we spend $18,000 on war.

If we’re going to spend all that money anyway, it’s hard to see why a couple dozen billion couldn’t be re-appropriated and used by our government to promote peace rather than endless war and death.

The idea of a Department of Peace may seem far-fetched, but Williamson deserves credit for at least trying to address the culture of endless war, or “systemically entrenched perpetuation of violence,” that’s plaguing our government. Even an unrealistic effort is more than establishment swamp dwellers from either party have ever done to promote peace.

– edited from an op-ed by Brad Polumbo in Washington Examiner, August 20, 2019, and published in PeaceMeal, Sept/October 2019.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

2018 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to anti-rape activists

The 2018 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. Dr. Mukwege, a gynecologist and surgeon, has long worked to treat thousands of women and girls affected by rape and sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ms. Murad is a Yazidi woman from the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, who was tortured and raped by Islamic State militants. In 2016, she was made a United Nations goodwill ambassador for the dignity of survivors of human trafficking.

“Both laureates have made a crucial contribution to focusing attention on, and combating, such war crimes,” said Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, as she announced the award on October 5 at the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo. “Denis Mukwege is the helper who has devoted his life to defending these victims. Nadia Murad is the witness who tells of the abuses perpetrated against herself and others. Each of them in their own way has helped to give greater visibility to wartime sexual violence, so that the perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions.”Ms. Murad, 25 (the second youngest winner of the Peace Prize), said in a statement that many Yazidis would “look upon this prize and think of family members that were lost, are still unaccounted for, and of the 1,300 women and children which remain in captivity. For myself, I think of my mother, who was murdered by [Islamic State], the children with whom I grew up, and what we must do to honor them.”

New Iraqi President Barham Saleh called the award “an honor for all Iraqis who fought terrorism and bigotry.” Dr. Mukwege and his colleagues are said to have treated about 30,000 rape victims, developing great expertise in the treatment of serious injuries sustained during sexual assaults that were carried out as a weapon of war. He was operating at his hospital when he heard he had won the prize and dedicated his award to all women affected by sexual violence.

“This Nobel prize is a recognition of the suffering and the failure to adequately compensate women who are victims of rape and sexual violence in all countries around the world,” he told reporters. He lives under the permanent protection of U.N. peacekeepers at his hospital.

– edited from CNN and BBC News, October 5, 2018
PeaceMeal, Nov/December 2018

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Anti-nuke campaign group wins 2017 Nobel Peace Prize

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) — a coalition of grassroots non- government organizations in more than 100 countries. The organization was chosen for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of the weapons.

In her speech announcing the prize, Berit Reiss-Andersen, the leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said “the risk of nuclear weapons being used is now greater than it has been for a long time. Some states are modernizing their nuclear arsenals, and there is a real danger that more countries will try to procure nuclear weapons, as exemplified by North Korea.”

The award to ICAN was unexpected, particularly in a year when the architects of the 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran had been seen as favorites for achieving the sort of diplomatic breakthrough that has won the prize in the past.

ICAN’s Executive Director Beatrice Fihn said the group was elated. Asked if she had a message for North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un, who has tested nuclear weapons in defiance of global pressure, and President Donald Trump, who has threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea to protect the United States and its allies, Fihn said both leaders need to know that the weapons are illegal: “Nuclear weapons are illegal. Threatening to use nuclear weapons is illegal. Having nuclear weapons, possessing nuclear weapons, developing nuclear weapons, is illegal, and they need to stop.”

Fihn said Trump’s impulsive character illustrated the importance of banning nuclear weapons for all countries. “A man you can bait with a tweet seems to be taking irrational decisions very quickly and not listening to expertise.”

ICAN has campaigned for a U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted by 122 countries in July. That agreement is not signed by — and would not apply to — any of the states that already have nuclear weapons, which include the five U.N. Security Council permanent members — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.

Although NATO member Norway, whose parliament appoints the Nobel Peace Prize committee, congratulated ICAN, it said it would not sign the treaty to ban nuclear weapons. “Norway will not support proposals in the U.N. that would weaken NATO’s role as a defense alliance,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg said.

– edited from Reuters and the Norwegian Nobel Committee
PeaceMeal, Nov/December 2017

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Tunisian group wins 2015 Nobel Peace Prize

The Norwegian Nobel Committee on Oct. 9 awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to an alliance of four Tunisian civil society groups for their tireless efforts to foster democracy in the nation that gave birth to the Arab Spring. The four groups, including a worker’s union with more than 1 million members, have worked to advance democracy in Tunisia, which still struggles with unrest but has made relative strides in reforms as other Arab Spring nations face greater violence, instability and the re-emergence of dictatorships.

The groups, the committee said, made a “decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011. More than anything, the prize is intended as encouragement for the Tunisian people who have laid the groundwork for a national fraternity which the committee hopes will be followed by other countries.”

The National Dialogue Quartet consists of four key organi-zations in Tunisian civil society, including the Tunisian General Labor Union, the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, the Tunisian Human Rights League and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers. But the award also seemed to more broadly honor a nation where the Arab Spring began after street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire on Dec. 17, 2010 to protest his impotence after his wares were confiscated by local authorities.

Ali Zeddini, vice president of the Tunisian Human Rights League, acknowledged that the Nobel decision comes “at a time of great stress and tension in Tunisia. But it has reminded us of our accomplishments, and places great responsibility on us to maintain peace and our democracy through dialogue.”

Today, Tunisia’s political transition remains far from complete and tenuous. But the progress made thus far came about because of the ability of civil society groups to reach a “landmark compromise” between the government and opposition groups, according to Mohamed Kerrou, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center.

In 2013, the influential labor union sought a national dialogue, uniting with other groups to force the fledging Tunisian govern-ment into negotiations and compromise with opposing forces as the nation was spiraling into both economic and political crises. Following the fall of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, Tunisia’s democracy emerged as the strongest in the Arab world, even as it confronted still deep divisions and challenges.

After a dialogue between Islamist and secularist lawmakers, Tunisia last year passed a constitution seen as one of the most liberal in the Arab world and winning praise from human rights groups. Tunisia also held its first democratic presidential elections, voting in President Beji Caid Essebsi, an 88-year-old who formerly served under the repressive regime of Habib Bourguiba.

Yet the nation has since struggled to find a lasting peace, and fears have reemerged about the threat to democracy following a crackdown against rising Islamic extremism.

– edited from The Washington Post, October 9, 2015
PeaceMeal, Nov/December 2105

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Pakistani teen, Indian activist win 2014 Nobel Peace Prize

Malala_Yousafzay.jpg (29687 bytes)OSLO – Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for advocating girls’ right to education, and Indian campaigner against child trafficking and labor Kailash Satyarthi have been named winners of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. Yousafzai, 17, becomes the youngest Nobel Prize winner, and Satyarthi, 60, the first Indian-born winner of the prize. They were picked for their struggle against the oppression of children and young people, and for the right of all children to education, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.

The sharing of the award between an Indian and a Pakistani came after a week of hostilities along the border of the disputed, mainly Muslim region of Kashmir between India and Pakistan — the worst fighting between the nuclear-armed rivals in more than a decade.

“The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism,” said Thorbjoern Jagland, the head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

Yousafzai told reporters in the English city of Birmingham where she now lives with her family that she had spoken by telephone with Satyarthi and they had agreed to invite the prime ministers of India and Pakistan to the ceremony in December.

Kailash_Satyarthi.jpg (19398 bytes)Satyarthi said he hoped to work with Yousafzai for peace. “I will invite her to join hands to establish peace for our subcontinent, which is a must for children, which is a must for every Indian, for every Pakistani, for every citizen of the world,” he said at the New Delhi office of his organization Save the Childhood Movement.

Yousafzai said she had found out about winning the Nobel Peace Prize on October 10 from a teacher during a chemistry lesson, adding that the news had come as a big surprise. “This is not the end of this campaign which I have started. I think this is really the beginning. I want to see every child going to school,” she said, adding she felt “really honored”.

Malala was attacked in 2012 on a school bus in the Swat Valley of northwest Pakistan by masked gunmen as a punishment for a blog that she wrote as an 11-year-old for the BBC’s Urdu language service to campaign against the Taliban’s efforts to deny women an education. After emergency surgery, she was sent to Birmingham, England, for further treatment and recovery. She has set up the Malala Fund, and supports local education advocacy groups that focus on Pakistan, Nigeria, Jordan, Syria and Kenya.

Earlier this year Malala traveled to Nigeria to demand the release of 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamist group Boko Haram. She said in a speech, “To the girls of Nigeria and across Africa, and all over the world, I want to say: don’t let anyone tell you that you are weaker than or less than anything. You are not less than a boy. You are not less than a child from a richer or more powerful country. You are the future of your country.”

Satyarthi, who gave up a career as an electrical engineer in 1980 to campaign against child labor, has headed various forms of peaceful protests and demonstrations, focusing on the exploitation of children for financial gain. “It is a disgrace for every human being if any child is working as a child slave in any part of the world,” Satyarthi said.

In a recent op-ed, he said NGO data indicated that child laborers could number 60 million in India. “Children are employed not just because of parental poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, failure of development and education programs, but quite essentially due to the fact that employers benefit immensely from child labor as children come across as the cheapest option, sometimes working even for free,” he wrote.

Last month, based on a complaint filed by his organization in a Delhi court, the Indian government was forced to put in place regulations to protect domestic workers who are often physically and sexually abused and exploited.

The Nobel Peace Prize, worth about $1.1 million, will be presented in Oslo on December 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the award in his 1895 will.

– edited from Reuters, October 10, 2014
PeaceMeal Nov/December 2014

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)