The 2013 Nobel Peace Prize went to The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. They are the group tasked by the United Nations to rid the world of chemical weapons and also ensuring that new ones are not developed. This is the culmination of work by many nations that have sought eradication of chemical weapons since World War One.
Many are arguing, however, that there was a more worthy candidate for this year’s award for peace. Malala Yousafzai is a young girl who grew up in Pakistan and sought education, even though the Taliban actively persecute and kill women who do this. She wrote an anonymous blog detailing her struggles, Diary of a Pakistani School Girl. She also appeared on a television spot for Pakistani presenter Hamid Mir. This brought her out of the shadows, giving a name and face to the struggle of young girls trying to educate themselves and improve their lives.
On October 9, 2012, Taliban radicals stopped her transport from school and asked “Who is Malala?” A friend’s innocent glance at her identified her, and the men opened fire. Malala was hit in the head. She was later airlifted to the military hospital in Peshawar. From there she would eventually end up being relocated with her family to Birmingham, England.
Since her injury and subsequent recovery, Malala has been even more vocal in her quest for education for girls in Pakistan. She has published a book and has made numerous public appearances to push awareness of the plight of girls in Pakistan, including speaking before the United Nations Youth Assembly. This brave girl has even called out President Barak Obama on how damaging his policies are in Pakistan. And her efforts are stirring discussions about the plight of women and children through much of the world.
She is also living in exile, far away from where she grew up and the place she hopes to return someday. In the midst of her struggles, she still has publicly forgiven those who shot her, calling for the education of their children in the hopes of improving the world.
I do not wish to demean The OPCW. What they do is important, and I do believe they should be praised. But how can the Nobel selection body compare the work of a world-wide mandated, militarily protected organization to the heroic bravery of a single girl fighting oppression of girls everywhere with no support other than her family and her personal convictions? The OPCW is little more than a policing agency, implementing rules over 90% of the world has already agreed to enforce. They are not really promoting peace; they are cleaning up the mess left over from almost a century of warfare culture. In contrast, Malala is creating discussion for change, and at great personal risk. And the change she seeks would equal the playing field for over half the world’s population. How can that not be worthy of recognition?
The biggest fallacy of the Nobel Peace prize is the very narrow selection process, dominated by the world view of one single nation, Norway. Also at issue is their policy that deliberations of each year’s prize are kept secret for 50 years. This keeps the process very murky and subjective.
The Nobel committee has a history of unfathomable choices for their prize. Even last year, the committee picked the European Union “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”. I guess religious wars in Ireland, the ethnic wars like that of the former Yugoslavia, or the current racial discrimination targeting Muslims in countries like Germany and France don’t count against those purportedly glorious six decades.
In 2009, President Barack Obama was awarded the prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”. Thing is, nominations begin in October of the previous year and end in February of the year to be awarded. So at the very most, Mr. Obama had been president 11 days before he was nominated for the prize. He possibly could have been nominated in October of 2008, before he was even elected. There is no way the nominating committee could have seen the qualities they supposedly selected him for in that span of time.
In 2001, Kofi Anan and the UN received the prize “for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world”. This despite several bloody conflicts raging on the continent of Africa, one of the most notable being a nearly two decade struggle in Sudan. This is still going on today. A total of 28 wars are still being fought in Africa and have been going on since 1980.
One of the most head scratching awards came in 1994, when Yasser Arafat was included with Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin “for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East”. Yasser Arafat directed terrorism for years through the Palestinian Liberation Organization, including the 1972 murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games, but the committee seemed to feel he was still somehow a peacemaker.
As for Malala’s passing over, there has been a theory passed by some that it has to do with a highly anti-Islamic sentiment in Norway itself. Anders Behring Breivik shocked the world when he orchestrated a bombing and then shooting that left 77 dead, including several children at camp. He claims he was motivated by a hostility toward Norway’s multicultural immigration and integration policies, which are largely the work of the Labor Party and which are turning Norway, like much of the rest of Europe, into an increasingly Islamic state.
It seems counter intuitive to skip someone who happens to practice Islam who was attacked by Taliban extremists, but bigoted practices seldom follow logic. And while people like Breivik are on the extreme, that does not mean others do not share his views. Muslims living in Norway are openly referred to by the epithet of “Pakis“, regardless of their actual national heritage. Like much of the Western world, Muslims in Norway have felt the sting of open suspicion after the events of September 11, 2001 in the United States. So it is very possible the five people responsible for the choice for this year’s Nobel were motivated in some measure by racist sentiments.
Sadly, the prize that was created to reward and further peace seems to have been hijacked by a political agenda that glosses over inconvenient facts. That may seem harmless, but giving intellectual weight to a person who may not actually have furthered the interests of peace at heart pollutes the quest for peace around the world. And not just peace, but equality. If five people with that much sway are that worried about promoting a peaceful young girl who happens to be from Pakistan, what message are they sending about the rights of women in the world at large?