This year's Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to a global civil society coalition called the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Last year, the winner was a political figure: Juan Manuel Santos, the president of Colombia. He was awarded for his efforts to achieve peace in his country, where there had been 50-year civil war. As you may recall, Santos is the architect of the peace process between the Colombian government and the far-left Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerilla group, a process that put an end to the fighting with a comprehensive peace treaty.
The difference between the recipients of the award in 2016 and 2017 is obvious. Santos was awarded for an accomplished peace effort. In other words, he already had achieved what he intended and, as a result, his country is already enjoying a more democratic and peaceful political life. It is therefore difficult to argue that he did not deserve the prize.
As for ICAN, however, we are not sure what this platform has achieved so far. It is not ICAN that managed to persuade Iran to accept international control checks for its nuclear program, but the great powers that imposed an embargo on Tehran. Similarly, we have not heard anything about the ICAN's successes on the nuclear arsenals of North Korea, Pakistan or Israel.
It appears therefore that the Nobel Committee wanted this year to award not an achievement, but an expectation, or a hope of success. They did the same in 2009, when they gave the award to the newly elected U.S. President Barack Obama before he had the chance to achieve anything. The Nobel Committee acted then as the spokesperson of the international public, which was hoping for a more idealist U.S. administration after the one who invaded Afghanistan and Iraq.
Obama is probably, on a personal level, more pacifist than his predecessor, but while in office, he had no choice but to act as any U.S. president. This is exactly what he did, and the Nobel Committee was widely criticized afterward.
In 2015, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, a coalition of Tunisian democracy activists. The purpose was to encourage the democratic transition in Tunisia, which was passing through a turbulent period since the Arab Spring began. It was, of course, important for the Nobel Committee, which was leading this democratization process in Tunisia. The groups inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood movement were carefully excluded from this dialogue, though.
In other words, not all political movements were accepted worthy of being included in a national dialogue process, and the Nobel Committee was totally fine with this. The latter does not always make wise decisions, as when they awarded the prize to Burmese opposition figure Aung Sang Suu Kyi in 1991. A decision they now regret.
The Nobel Committee is allowed to make politically motivated decisions, and this is not that surprising, per se. Nevertheless, as they claim they are awarding those people or institutions serving the common interests of humanity, we probably have the right to ask some questions. One may very well want to encourage people who genuinely work for peace, dialogue, tolerance and so on. No one can guarantee, however, that these people will succeed in the long run, or will remain loyal to those ideals for the rest of their lives.
Those are some of the reasons why people have serious doubts every year about the Nobel Committee's real intentions and motivations. These doubts may discourage people who really work for peace. Maybe the actions of those prestigious organizations are more proof that world peace is, after all, an almost impossible goal.