Mon | Oct 15, 2018

Nobel Peace Prize | The winners that soared and sank

Published:Saturday | September 30, 2017 | 12:00 AM
In this August 28, 1963 file photo, the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr., delivers his "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C. King won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, recognized for his leadership in the American civil rights movement and for advocating non-violence. (AP)
In this December 10, 1993 file photo, South African Deputy President F.W. de Klerk, right, and South African President Nelson Mandela pose with their Nobel Peace Prize Gold Medals and Diplomas in Oslo. (AP)


The Nobel Peace Prize does more than recognise the past achievements of individuals. By honouring causes and movements, the five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee often is encouraging future work toward peace.

But promising initiatives and peace processes sometimes flicker out, frustrating the committee's optimistic intentions. Other laureates go on to surpass the deeds that won them the Peace Prize.

As the committee prepares to announce the winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize on October 6, a look at some Nobel Peace Prize laureates who fell short, some who were undoubted successes, and others who landed somewhere in between:

Nobel letdowns


1994: Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat

The Oslo peace accords of 1993 - brokered in part by Norwegian diplomats in the city that's home to the Peace Prize - looked to have laid the groundwork for solving one of the planet's most intractable disputes: peace in the Mideast. Israel's Prime Minister Rabin, its Foreign Minister Peres and Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Arafat jointly won the 1994 prize after agreeing to build a peace framework. But many at the time saw Arafat as an unapologetic terrorist, and within months, Rabin had been slain by a Jewish Israeli fanatic. The accords gradually crumbled, and almost 25 years later, Mideast peace looks further away than ever.


1973: Henry Kissinger


Then-US Secretary of State Kissinger was supposed to share the prize with North Vietnamese negotiator Le Duc Tho for the Paris-brokered ceasefire in the Vietnam War. Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee might have known they were on shaky ground when Tho became the first and only person to refuse the Peace Prize. Kissinger didn't turn up to claim his and continues to be a figure negatively associated with the Vietnam War, which would rage on for another three years. Two Nobel committee members resigned in protest at his award.


1919: Woodrow Wilson


After the First World War spilt a generation of blood in Europe, US President Wilson cajoled the other big powers into creating The League of Nations. The idea was that whenever trouble flared, the international community could solve the crisis before it erupted into another global war. In practise, the US itself never ratified entering the League, more than half of its founding nations dropped out, and within 20 years, the world faced a global war again.

Nobel success stories


1993: Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk


The joint prize to black apartheid hero Mandela and white regime leader de Klerk, satisfied the Peace Prize Committee's favoured tactic of honouring figureheads from both sides of a political divide. The panel awarded the pair for their "work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the groundwork for a new democratic South Africa." The statement is as powerful as it is lasting, and their prize remains an enduring symbol of racial reconciliation.


1964: Martin Luther King Jr


In his acceptance address for the 1964 Nobel Peace prize, King said it's "better to suffer in dignity than to accept segregation in humiliation." A year after delivering his famous "I have a dream" speech, the American civil rights leader dedicated his Nobel Prize to the activists who he called the "real heroes of the freedom struggle" to outlaw racial discrimination in the United States.


1990: Mikhail Gorbachev


Some people in Russia and elsewhere might grumble today that by allowing the Soviet Union to collapse, its last leader, Gorbachev, handed global hegemony to the United States. But by pledging not to interfere in the internal affairs of nearby states, Gorbachev handed millions of Eastern Europeans the right to national self-determination. The most potent symbol of his pledge was the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, which signalled the end of the Cold War.