I've been reporting on the Nobel Peace Prize for three decades. One of my first assignments as a journalist was to interview the late daughter of Carl Von Ossietzky, winner of the 1935 award. She lived in a suburb of Stockholm. We liked each other and I ended up spending a whole day with her. She let me hold her father's Nobel medal and told me many fascinating and horrific stories of his persecution by the Nazis. I've continued to write and comment on the prize in the intervening years, and I regularly attend the award ceremonies and other Nobel-related events in Oslo. In 2009, World Scientific published a volume I edited on the Nobel Peace Lectures.

The Nobel Peace Prize: The Award and the Laureates

 

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2013

Is the Nobel Peace Prize Overtly Political?

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is a worthy recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, one that follows a long tradition of awards to individuals and groups working for disarmament. The work is as vital as ever and a crucial part of the international peace effort. But for those of us gathered at the Nobel Institute in Oslo for the announcement, the news didn't seem surprising, or even very exciting. Many of us would have preferred that the award go to an individual rather than an organization—someone like Malala Yusoufzai, for example, who has emerged as one of today's most compelling symbols of freedom and courage. Read more...

Is the Nobel Peace Prize Overtly Political?

Is the Nobel Peace Prize Overtly Political?

The winners of the Nobel Peace Prize are chosen by current and former politicians, so it's hardly a surprise that the award often carries political overtones. But if your politics are motivated by a yearning for peace, freedom, democracy, human rights, and the empowerment of women, is that a bad thing? I discuss that question with Larisa Epatko of the PBS Newshour. Read more...

Who Will Win the Nobel Peace Prize for 2011?

The winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced tomorrow. I’m pulling for long-shot Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia and still the only woman elected head of state in Africa. Her many remarkable achievements include helping to bring an end to the nation’s long and bloody civil war. Read more...

Julian Assange — A Likely Nominee, an Unlikely Laureate

In late January, a few days before the nomination deadline for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, I was contacted by an AFP reporter asking if I had any idea who might be nominated this year. I told him I’d heard a few rumors and seen some buzz online about a few potential nominees. But none of them seemed especially noteworthy, I said. By way of speculation, I added that a nomination for Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, seemed likely. Read more...

A Nobel Peace Prize for Liu Xiaobo?

The winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on October 8th and, as always, there is a lot of speculation about who will get it. After the Norwegian Nobel Committee surprised everybody last year by giving the prize to President Obama, many have suggested that the five-member board will choose a more traditional peace laureate this year — a champion of human rights, perhaps, or a statesman with a well-established record of international peacemaking. A prize to the Chinese pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo would be well-deserved, though perhaps less timely than it would have been last year. Read more...

Reflections on President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize

Awards given to statesmen always present certain challenges, and the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama is no exception. While it's true that no one has done more in the preceding year “to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” as the Nobel citation put it, and that thanks to President Obama the United States is now playing a more constructive role on a wide range of global fronts, many are right to wonder whether the president, less than a year into his first term, really deserves the prize for that. Read more...

Commentary on the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize

Scott London on the Newshour with Jim LehrerLike most people, I was stunned by the news that Barack Obama had won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. But I was perhaps equally stunned by the media whirlwind that surrounded the news after it broke. As it happened, I got swept up in it myself, and was interviewed by many news organizations grappling with the implications of a prize not just to a sitting president, but to one less than a year into his first term. Here are some links to news reports and stories in which I'm quoted, or for which I was interviewed:

Nobel Peace Lectures

Nobel Peace LecturesNobel Lectures: Peace, 2001-2005 is the latest in a series of volumes presenting the texts of the Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speeches. In addition to the Nobel lectures for the years 2001-2005, the book offers a detailed introduction to each prize, the official announcement of the award, the presentations speeches by the Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman, biographies of the laureates, and extensive notes and bibliographies. Edited with the distinguished historian Irwin Abrams, the book was published by World Scientific in 2009 under the auspices of the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm. It includes a foreword by Geir Lundestad, executive director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute. More information...

The 2007 Nobel Peace Prize: A Photo Essay

Al GoreThe 2007 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Al Gore and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The award ceremony in Oslo, Norway, brought together heads of state, prominent humanitarians, Hollywood celebrities, rock stars, and journalists from around the world. This photoessay captures some of the highlights in words and images. See also my photoessays from the Nobel festivities in 2005 and 2006.

The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted — A Book Review

Heffermehl BookIn this hot-tempered polemic, Norwegian lawyer and activist Fredrik Heffermehl charges that the Nobel Peace Prize is “increasingly grandiose, pompous, and remote from its original purpose.” He raises some valid concerns, but his argument is plagued by inaccuracies and misinterpretations. The Nobel committee is hardly beyond reproach, but to say that it has "ruinously corrupted" the prize, and that numerous awards are illegitimate under Swedish and Norwegian law, is both far-fetched and off-the-mark. Read more...

The 2005 Nobel Peace Prize: A Report from Oslo

The 2005 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its director general Mohamed ElBaradei for their efforts to control the spread of nuclear weapons and promote peaceful applications of nuclear technologies. Adapted from my book with Irwin Abrams, Nobel Lectures in Peace, this report considers the broader context of the award, the Norwegian Nobel Committee's rationale in giving it, and what was said in Mohamed ElBaradei's historic acceptance speech at the award ceremony in Oslo. Read more...

Alfred Nobel: From 'Merchant of Death' to Peace Champion

When Alfred Nobel's brother Ludvig died in 1888, several French newspapers thought it was Alfred, not Ludvig, who had died. Knowing that the inventor of dynamite had also been somehow involved in the weapons industry and had invented a new gunpowder for cannons, the obituary described Alfred as a "merchant of death," someone who had amassed a fortune by discovering new ways to "mutilate and kill" people. Alfred was horrified when he read this and later became obsessed by his posthumous reputation. He subsequently changed his will, bequeathing most of his fortune to the establishment of a series of prizes, so that no future obituary writer would have any doubt as to his yearning for peace and progress. I was interviewed about this curious episode for an AFP news story and a segment that appeared on CBS Sunday Morning:

The 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for Wangari Maathai

Wangari MaathaiWangari Maathai was the first African woman and the first environmentalist to win the prize in its 104-year history. In selecting her, the Norwegian Nobel Committee was following a broader mandate than the one outlined in Alfred Nobel's will — a fact that some critics were quick to seize upon. But Ole Mjøs, the committee chairman, defended the choice, predicting that within a few decades the connection between environmental issues, natural resources, and armed conflict will seem "almost as obvious as the connection we see today between human rights, democracy and peace." Meeting our most urgent environmental problems will require "international cooperation across all national boundaries on a much larger scale than we have seen up to now," he asserted. "We live on the same globe. We must all cooperate to meet the world's environmental challenges. Together we are strong, divided we are weak.". Read more...

Letter from Oslo: 100 Years of the Nobel Peace Prize

Nobel Peace Prize medallionThe centennial of the Nobel Peace Prize brought together an extraordinary group of former peace laureates, international statesmen, distinguished scholars, and champions of human rights for one of the greatest peace summits of all time. The event was long on pomp and circumstance, as expected, but also genuine soul-searching about peace prospects in a world of conflict, terrorism, and deepening uncertainty. Read more...

The Nobel Peace Prize: Recommended Sources

Like any widely discussed and hotly debated subject, the Nobel Peace Prize has attracted the attention of a broad range of authors, from historians and peace scholars to commentators, critics and advocates of one sort or another. How do you separate the wheat from the chaff? Here's a list, compiled with Irwin Abrams, of authoritative books on the subject.