Henrik Syse, a high-profile philosopher, peace researcher and public speaker in Norway, has emerged as the Conservative Party’s choice to fill its newly won extra spot on the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Syse is also the son of the late Jan P Syse, a former prime minister and veteran politician for the Conservatives.
Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported on Tuesday that the leaders of the Conservatives’ Members of Parliament have chosen their candidates for the party’s two seats on the Nobel committee, which awards the Nobel Peace Prize every year. In addition to Henrik Syse, DN reported that the Conservatives plan to re-nominate one of their former fellow politicians and former government ministers, Kaci Kullmann Five, to the committee. Five has served on the committee since 2003 and is its deputy leader.
Under the terms of benefactor Alfred Nobel’s will, the five members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee must be appointed by the Norwegian Parliament and thus reflect its makeup. Since the Conservatives won last year’s national election, they gained a seat on the Nobel committee at the expense of the Socialist Left party (SV), which performed poorly at the polls. That leaves the committee with two members from the Labour Party (Thorbjørn Jagland and Berit Reiss-Andersen), two members from the Conservative Party (Kaci Kullmann Five and Henrik Syse) and one member from the Progress Party (Inger-Marie Ytterhorn).
The committee elects its own chairman and Jagland has held the post since he joined the committee in 2009. He has been harshly criticized over several highly controversial Nobel Peace Prize winners since, however, and also serves as secretary general of the Council of Europe, a role that critics claim can lead to conflicts of interest. Now, with a conservative majority on the committee, Kullmann Five may be elected as chairman instead when the new committee convenes in January.
Philosopher makes an entrance
The Conservatives’ choice of Henrik Syse, meanwhile, helps fend off accusations that the committee is made up mostly of former politicians. Even though Syse comes from a political family and is a member of the Conservatives, he has never held political office, turning instead to research and academia. He completed the military’s prestigious Russian course in the mid 1980s, earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Oslo and a master’s at Boston College in the US on a Fullbright Scholarship. He later earned a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Oslo and did post-doctorate work as well, in the university’s ethics program from 2002 to 2005.
Syse, age 48, works for the Oslo-based peace research institute PRIO, lectures at the Norwegian military college and other schools, and has been a frequent columnist in newspaper Aftenposten. He often speaks at conferences and various events and has been a member of the group that guides investments on an ethical basis for Norges Bank Investment Management, the arm of the central bank that is responsible for Norway’s huge sovereign wealth fund known as the oil fund.
Syse also has served on numerous state commissions and written and edited books, including a collection of his father’s texts. His brother Christian Syse is a veteran diplomat in Norway’s foreign ministry.