Book review: The Real Nobel Prize


A CPNN book review

Frederik Heffermehl begins his book, “The Real Nobel Prize” with the words from the testament of Alfred Nobel: a prize “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for creating the brotherhood of nations, for the abolition of reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

Nobel tasked the Norwegian parliament to establish a five-member committee to award the prize.

The internal committee’s archives are available until 50 years ago, and for more recent years Heffermehl examined the reports from consultants and the committee’s shortlist to determine if Nobel’s intentions were respected. “It was a daunting task. The material is enormous. Fortunately, the Nobel Foundation, at its website, presents all laureates with a short essence of the reasons – under Facts.”

Considering the choices made by this committee over the years, Heffermehl says, “No doubt, the Norwegian committee has honored many fine people and purposes, humanitarian aid, democracy, resource conservation, the fight against poverty and child labor, for the environment, climate, human rights, education” but these do not correspond to Nobel’s testament as expressed above. Heffermehl concludes that only 36 awards over the 134 years pass the test.

If his Nobel’s will had been carried out correctly in recent years, Heffermehl argues that the prize could have gone to the following nominees:

2020: Federico Mayor, who created the Culture of Peace Programme at UNESCO.

2021: Julian Assange, who distributed to the world press “a huge and horrifying amount of revealing documents on US diplomacy and war crimes in Asia.”

2022: Alfred de Zayas, who “has become a leading, most prolific defender of improving global co-operation and “Building a Just World Order”, the title of his latest book.

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Question for this article:

What are the most important books about the culture of peace?

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Instead, the prize in 2020 went to the World Food Programme “for its efforts to combat hunger.”

The prize in 2021 went to Maria Ressa (Philippines) and Dmitry Muratov (Russia) “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression.” As Heffermehl says, “In 2021 the committee had several nominations asking it to help stop the probably deadliest onslaught against media feedom in human history”, e.g. Assange, “but the committee did not wish to embarass the US war machine. . . ”

In 2022, the prize went to three human rights advocates, Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, Memorial from Russia, and the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties. “As was the case in 2021, all three laureates were financed generously by a tool for the US secret services, the National Endowment for Democracy. They used their acceptance speeches to ‘parrot US State Department:Pentagon talking points’, even directly asking the the Norwegian government for weapons. . . the prize was used to take sides in an ongoing war, instead of against all war and war culture.”

As a Norwegian citizen and scholar concerning the Nobel Prize, Heffermehl has tried to correct the work of the Nobel Prize Committee. He first published his critique in 2007. The first official response came in June 2008 from the speaker of the Norwegian parliament who argued that “Parliament has no power to instruct the Nobel committee.” A few months later he became a member of the committee.

Over the years, Heffermehl has continued to request the Parliament to nominate committee members who would respect Nobel’s testament, and several times he has been joined in his request by other specialists. However, the Parliament even voted against the idea that Nobel’s intention should count in the election of members for the Nobel Committee.

One should not give up, however, and the book provides an appendix on how to nominate, and how to get nominated for the Nobel Prize.

At the end of the book, after listing his many acknowledgements, Heffermehl concludes, “My warmest thanks . . . to the inspiring line-up of peacemakers I discovered in the archives of the Nobel Committee. It has been heartbeaking to follow how our society, blinded by militarism, so far has been unable to benefit from their wisdom and unselfish dedication to our common security and survival.”

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(Editor’s note: On December 12, two months ago, Frederik Heffermehl sent me an email, saying “Thanks for the fine contribution to the Vijay Mehta and David Swanson talk on the net Saturday. I think you should consider my latest book as a very useful tool for peace education and creating awareness of the vast and varied movement for a fundamental change of attitude to weapons and war – launched a month ago: The Real Nobel Peace Prize. I would like to send you a copy – but then will need your postal address.” In reply I sent him my address and then received a copy of his book in the post. I then wrote the above review and sent it to him for his additions and corrections. But I did not receive a reply, and recently learned that he died on December 23. An article about his life is reprinted here on CPNN.)