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The Nobel Peace Prize’s Odd History: 5 Fast Facts

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Nobel Peace Prize


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This picture taken on December 10, 2010 shows the front of the Nobel medal awarded to the Nobel Peace Prize laureate for 2010, jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiabo.

President Donald Trump is nominated for the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize “for a peace agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel which opens up for possible peace in the Middle East,” according to the member of Norwegian Parliament who nominated him, Christian Tybring-Gjedde, the Associated Press reported.

Tybring-Gjedde supports far-right politics, but there is a wide swath of people who can nominate others for Nobel Peace Prizes, which may explain why leaders from Adolph Hitler to Nelson Mandela have all been nominated for the prize (Mandela won with Frederik Willem de Klerk in 1993 “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa,” according to the Nobel Peace Prize website.)

This year there are 318 nominees for the 2020 prize. The Norwegian Nobel Committee’s policy is to not disclose the names of the nominees or the nominators for 50 years later, but those who nominate and are nominated can go public on their own. Individuals or organizations can be nominated.

Here is what you need to know about the Nobel Peace Prize:


1. The Nobel Peace Prize was Inspired by the Acts of a Woman

 Mother Teresa

GettyCharity worker Mother Teresa (1910 – 1997), seen in her hospital around the time she was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress.

The Nobel Peace Prize is among several Nobel prizes awarded for exemplary work in various areas, including Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Peace. It exists due to Alfred Nobel, a Swedish man who is credited for inventing dynamite and being an entrepreneur who loved poetry. When Nobel died in 1896, he left most of his money to be used for a series of annual prizes, the winners of which would be decided by a Norwegian committee, as is still done to this day.

Nobel left instructions in his will that the Peace Prize should go to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”.

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According to Nobel’s biography on the committee’s website, he had a long-standing friendship with an Austrian woman named Countess Bertha Kinsky who was very vocal against the arms race and wrote a book called Lay Down Your Arms, becoming a well-known advocate for the peace movement. Nobel’s biography page says, “No doubt this influenced Alfred Nobel when he wrote his final will which was to include a Prize for persons or organizations who promoted peace.”

Seventeen women have won the Nobel Peace Prize, including Mother Teresa and Malala Yousafzai, who was the youngest ever recipient at 17-years-old.


2. Benito Mussolini & Adolph Hitler, Were Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize & Joseph Stalin was Nominated Twice

Mussolini And Hitler

GettySeptember 1937: German dictator Adolf Hitler (1889 – 1945) and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini (1883 – 1945) ‘Il Duce’, viewing columns of German troops in Munich during Mussolini’s visit to Germany.

According to Nobel Prize, “Joseph Stalin, the Secretary-General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1953, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945 and 1948 for his efforts to end World War II.” History reports that Stalin is credited for keeping the Nazis from taking over Russia, but also for being “the “mass murderer of the century,” responsible for the deaths of somewhere between 8 and 20 million Russians during his reign. He did not win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Adolph Hitler was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1939 but according to the Nobel Prize website the person who nominated him, a member of the Swedish parliament and an anti-fascist named E.G.C. Brandt, meant the nomination as a satirical criticism in reaction to the nomination of then British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlin, “a nomination which Brandt viewed with great skepticism.” The nomination didn’t get too far after it was met with push back from the committee and withdrawn from consideration.

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Benito Mussolini, the founder of the Fascist party who was ultimately killed by his own people in 1945, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1935. According to War History Online, two people nominated Mussolini — both professors — on German and one French. The reasons for the nomination are not clear, however, because War History Online reports that the letters of nomination are usually kept in the Nobel Institute Archives but in Mussolini’s case, the letters are missing.


3. Mahatma Gandhi was Nominated 5 Times but Never Won

Gandhi

GettyA portrait of Indian nationalist leader Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869 – 1948), popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi, whose policy of peaceful demonstration led India from British rule to independence, 1941.

Mahatma Gandhi was the leader of the non-violent movement in India for independence from British rule and was an activist against racial degradation in South Africa. To this day the teachings of the peaceful protester are remembered as a means to non-violent solutions to society’s problems, even if they are not often put into practice.

Martin Luther King, Jr. looked to the teachings of Gandhi when he was leading the civil rights movement. King “argued that the Gandhian philosophy was ‘the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom,’” according to the King Institute at Standford.

It’s not a surprise that Gandhi was nominated five times — in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 and, in 1948 before he was assassinated — for his non-violent efforts to bring change. What may be more ironic is that he never won. However, lessons learned from Gandhi may have contributed to  Martin Luther King Jr. winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

The Nobel Prize website called Gandhi “one of the strongest symbols of non-violence in the 20th century,” yet gives no reason why he was passed over so many times. However the year Gandhi died, the Nobel Committee did not award the Peace Prize to anyone saying, “there was no suitable living candidate”.

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4. 4 US Presidents Have Won the Nobel Peace Prize

JImmy Carter Nobel Peace Prize

GettyFormer U.S. President Jimmy Carter holds up his Nobel Peace Prize December 10, 2002 in Oslo, Norway. Carter was recognized for many years of public service and urged others to work for peace during his acceptance speech.

Since 1906 only four U.S. Presidents have won the Nobel Peace Prize, three of which were awarded during those President’s tenures. Jimmy Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, though his presidency ended in 1981. Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development,” according to the Nobel Committee.

In 1906 Theodore Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while he was acting President. The first U.S. President to receive the award, he earned it for “negotiating peace in the Russo-Japanese war in 1904-5. He also resolved a dispute with Mexico by resorting to arbitration as recommended by the peace movement,” the Nobel Committee wrote.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson was next. He won in 1919 for his role in creating the League of Nations in an effort to keep world peace after World War I.

In 2009 Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize after only having been President for a matter of months. The Prize Committee said it was “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

Years later there were stirrings that Obama should not have received the Nobel Peace Prize, as in 2016 the Cato Institute wrote, “Obama now has the ignominious distinction of being continuously at war longer than any other American president in U.S. history.”


5. President Trump’s Nomination Announcement Means he Made the Short List & Could Win

Donald Trump

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference the White House on September 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump took questions on a variety of topics, including a recent magazine article in The Atlantic accusing him of making disparaging remarks about American soldiers.

There are hundreds of people who can nominate candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize, including former winners of the prize, professors, members of governments and courts, members of the Nobel Committee, and more. That means there are potentially hundreds of candidates, so those are widdled down to what is called “the shortlist” by the end of August. The shortlist consists of about 30 or so candidates. Trump is on that list.

The criteria for candidates are simply to be nominated. According to the Nobel Committee, “The candidates eligible for the Nobel Peace Prize are those persons or organizations nominated by qualified individuals.”

Finally, it’s up to the Nobel Committee, to decide who the final winner is. That committee consists of five people, currently including an attorney, two professors, a former member of parliament who is now an independent advisor, and the Secretary of the Council of Europe.

The winner will be announced on Oct. 9.

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