The Norwegian Nobel Committee is apparently so angry with its former secretary Geir Lundestad that it has kicked Lundestad out of the office he’d been allowed to use after retiring last winter, also as longtime director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute.
At issue is the new book Lundestad has written about his 25 years working for and with the committee that awards the Nobel Peace Prize. The book is full of characterizations of present and former committee members and Nobel prize winners.
What really riled the committee, though, was Lundestad’s descriptions of how they worked, and, in several cases, how they deliberated over who would win the prize. The inner workings of the committee have always been shrouded in secrecy, with archives sealed for 50 years. On Monday the committee released a statement charging Lundestad with violating a confidentiality oath he had signed.
Lundestad, who has advocated more openness around the Nobel prizes, denied the charge, claiming there is nothing in his book about what various committee members thought about Peace Prize candidates. Newspaper Aftenposten reported, though, that the book does reveal how former committee member and bishop Gunnar Stålsett wouldn’t go along with giving a prize to a pope, that another (former Labour politician Sissel Rønbech) blocked her own party fellow Gro Harlem Brundtland’s candidacy for a prize, and that Jagland and Lundestad himself were the promoters of the Peace Prize to the EU, with current committee leader Kaci Kullmann Five as an ardent supporter.
The book also reveals that the commitee rejected Vaclav Havel as a prize winner because they were unsure about his competence as a politician. The book contains Lundestad’s descriptions of the thinking behind several other prize winners and how committee members would allign themselves.
Commentator Harald Stanghelle, writing in Aftenposten, claimed that Lundestad may be commended for shedding new light on the work of the Peace Prize committee, but that he got into trouble for breaking a “code of honor” with his book. Lundestad also put committee members bound by their own confidentiality oaths into impossible positions, Stanghelle wrote, because they can’t defend themselves without breaking the oaths themselves.
The departure of their once-so-trusted secretary after 25 high-profile years at the Nobel Institute is thus “sad,” Stanghelle wrote. The normally outspoken Lundestad confirmed he had been told to vacate his office at the Nobel Institute by the end of the year but otherwise declined further comment.