Nobel Peace Prize for Obama

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The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to US President Barack Obama in Oslo on Friday, citing his “extraordinary contribution” to world hopes for more cooperation between governments and people. The award is already being called both stunning and controversial.

The announcement set off immediate gasps, and later applause, from the crowd gathered at the Nobel Institute in Oslo. The prize was called “extremely bold,” if not controversial.

The new head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjørn Jagland, defended the choice, saying that Obama already has “more than met” the terms of Alfred Nobel’s will, even though he’s been in office less than a year: Obama, Jagland said, has done the most of all of the 205 Peace Prize candidates in the past year to stimulate dialogue and give people hope for the future.

Obama satisfied the criteria through his vision of dialogue instead of confrontation, his goals for reducing the world’s stock of nuclear weapons and strengthening democracy and human rights around the globe.

The prize includes a medal, a diploma and a cash award currently equivalent to SEK 10 million (about USD 2 million).

The committee sorted through a record number of nominations for the Peace Prize this year, including 33 organizations and 172 individuals. The committee doesn’t identify any nominees, but those submitting the nominations often publicize them.

Nominations can be made by members of national assemblies and governments, members of international courts at the Hague, university professors and directors of peace research institutes and former Nobel Peace Prize winners, among others.Nobel Prizes, funded through the will of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, have been awarded all week in Stockholm. (See box at right). The Peace Prize, however, is always awarded in Oslo.

Norway was still part of an uneasy union with Sweden at the time of Nobel’s death. It’s been speculated over the years that he wanted to give the Norwegians responsibility for an international peace prize, because he sympathized with their growing desire to break out of the union and form their own sovereign nation

They finally did, in 1905, but prior to that Nobel arranged for the parliament in Oslo to appoint a Norwegian Nobel Committee that would represent the political make-up of parliament. The committee would be charged with selecting the winner of the Peace Prize, which is presented in Oslo every year on the anniversary of Nobel’s death, December 10.The current committee is headed by Thorbjørn Jagland, a former prime minister from the Labour Party and former president of the Norwegian Parliament. Jagland waselected secretary general of the Council of Europe last weekand is moving to Strasbourg, but has said he will continue as chairman of the Nobel Committee.

Other members include Kaci Kullmann Five, a former government minister from the Conservatives; Sissel Rønbeck, a former government minister from Labour; Inger-Marie Ytterhorn, a former Member of Parliament from the Progress Party; and Ågot Valle, a former Member of Parliament from the Socialist Left Party.