The Nobel Peace Prize Committee has shown its overcautiousness for the second year in a row.
Last year, it made the safe choice of the European Union, and this year it has unadventurously picked the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons.
According to the scuttlebutt, the Pakistani teenager Malala Yousufzai and a Congolese doctor were instead thought to be the main contenders.
"Paddy Power, an Irish bookmaker, listed [Yousufzai] on Thursday as the second favorite to win the Nobel Peace Prize, behind Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist who has treated women who were gang-raped during the continuing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo," the New York Times reported. "A British bookmaker, William Hill, listed her as the favorite, at odds of four to six, leading a field of contenders that includes Mr. Snowden at twenty to one, and Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, at twenty-five to one."
So much for the supposed insider know-how of bookies. There is no doubt, though, that Mukwege or Yousufzai would have been much more deserving.
Mukwege runs a hospital in the Congo that treats rape victims. He has done crucial surgeries for thousands of injured women since the 1990s, and has been internationally recognized for his work. Mukwege was almost murdered in an assassination attempt last October, managing to avoid harm only after throwing himself to the ground. His bodyguard was killed.
Yousufzai has become globally famous for speaking out against the Pakistani Taliban even after the group almost killed her last year. (Her recent appearance on Jon Stewart's show has gone viral.) Yousufzai's boldness is quite remarkable.
"I hate the Taliban," she told a Progressive correspondent in 2009. "They cut the heads off the people and hang them upside in the squares. They are very cruel people. They are doing very bad things. They are stopping us from going to school, and they stop people from getting polio vaccinations." Her dad rightly told the reporter that Yousufzai "is made for skies and not for caves."
The selection of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons is perhaps motivated by relief that it obviated the U.S. need to bomb Syria. Or it is possibly meant as encouragement as the group completes its work of disarming the Assad regime of its chemical weapons. Either way, the choice is uninteresting.
"If you think that 500 bureaucrats deserve the Nobel Peace Prize for doing their decent job, you are in line with the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee," John Jones told the Institute for Public Accuracy. "But the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize for OPCW is a prize that kicks in open doors."
The Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons was in the news ten years ago when the Bush Administration got its then-head, Jose Bustani, removed. Professor Stephen Zunes reveals that this was because Bustani "insisted that the OPCW inspect U.S. chemical weapons facilities with the same vigor it did for other countries and because his efforts to get Saddam Hussein's Iraq to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention and open their facilities to surprise inspections would undermine U.S. claims that Iraq was still developing them." Since then, the organization has not challenged the West or its allies.
If the intent of the Nobel Committee is to make the work of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons better known, it is probably not going to succeed on that front, too. The committee needs to show more audacity the next time around.
Photo: Flickr user hobvias sudoneighm, creative commons licensed.