In September 2020, two lawmakers in Sweden and Norway, respectively, said they had nominated the U.S. government and President Donald Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2021. Trump, his re-election campaign and his supporters cited the nominations as the major achievements and points of pride. However, the rules and history of the nomination process suggest that simply having his name put forward for a Nobel Peace Prize is not necessarily the honor or feat that Trump and his supporters have claimed.
On 9 September 2020, Christian Tybring-Gjedde, a member of the Storting (Norway’s national legislative assembly) from the right-wing Progress Party, conducted an interview with Fox News, in which he said that he had nominated Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize on the basis of a US mediated agreement signed in August 2020 to establish full diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
I have nominated the US Government and the governments of Kosovo and Serbia for the Nobel Peace Prize for their joint work for peace and economic development through the White House Cooperation Agreement. Trade and communication are important building blocks for peace. pic.twitter.com/XuhkLbHZAV
– Magnus Jacobsson (@magnusjacobsson) September 11, 2020
Kosovo had been recognized internationally as a province of Yugoslavia and later Serbia for many years, but declared its independence in 2008. It is now recognized as a sovereign state by more than 100 other nations, including the United States, but not Serbia.
‘A great thing’
Trump, his campaign and his supporters spied on the nominations in the ensuing days. On September 9, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany opened her press briefing with the announcement of Tybring-Gjedde’s nomination, calling it “a hard-earned and well-deserved honor.” The White House announced the nomination on Twitter and on its website, mistakenly describing Tybring-Gjedde as “chairman of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly” (that body does not have a chairman, but its president is Attila Mesterházy from Hungary. Tybring-Gjedde is chairman of Norwegian delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly).
At a rally in Minden, Nevada, on September 12, Trump called the nominations “a big deal” and said that on September 11, he had been “nominated a second time for another Nobel Prize,” a confusing wording that confused the fact that he was only nominated for an award, albeit by two different people. He announced the nomination again at a meeting in Las Vegas the following day and told the audience: “They nominated your president twice last week on two different topics for a Nobel Prize.”
Sean Hannity, Fox News host and one of the president’s most prominent supporters, tweeted that in the course of “just one week” Trump had been “nominated for not one but two Nobel Peace Prizes”, the same strangely inaccurate wording that was used by the president himself.
Between Sept. 10 and Sept. 14, Trump and his campaign ran a total of 48 Facebook and Instagram ads announcing the nominations as part of his re-election tone to voters. Half of these ads contained graphics with an unfortunate misspelling that read: “President Trump was nominated for noble Peace Prize ”:
Despite Trump’s characterization of the nominations as a “big thing”, the barrier to being nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize is lower than many American voters could imagine, and the list of nominees is typically neither short nor exclusive. It has previously even contained the names of some of the most hidden and controversial figures in 20th century history.
It should also be noted that the Nobel Foundation does not reveal the names of nominees or nominees for 50 years, so formally we can not yet say with certainty that Tybring-Gjedde and Jacobsson actually nominated Trump for the award in 2021. Tybring-Gjedde also claimed to have nominated Trump for the award in 2018, and in 2016 saw unconfirmed reports that an unnamed person had also nominated the upcoming president for this year’s award.
In 2018, a senior official from the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the five-member body making the ultimate decision on the recipient of the Peace Prize, confirmed that two separate nominations for Trump in 2017 and 2018 appeared to have been falsified and that the case was referred to the Oslo Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
‘It’s pretty easy to be nominated’
According to the Nobel Foundation, the Swedish institution that administers the Nobel Prizes, a person cannot nominate himself for the Peace Prize, and only living people and active organizations are valid candidates. The following categories of persons are eligible to nominate a person or entity for the Peace Prize:
- Current heads of state
- Members of governments and national assemblies of sovereign states
- Members of l’Institut de Droit International (of which there are 167)
- Members of the International Board for the International League of Women for Peace and Freedom (of which there are 17)
- University professors, emeritus professors and associate professors of history, social sciences, law, philosophy, theology and religion; university rectors and university directors (or their equivalents) directors of peace research institutes and foreign policy institutes
- People awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
- Members of the General Board or its equivalent organizations who have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
- Current and former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee (proposals from current members of the committee must be submitted no later than the committee’s first meeting after 1 February)
- Former advisers to the Norwegian Nobel Committee
Based on data collected by the Interparliamentary Union, more than 46,000 people sit in national legislatures around the world. Assuming a rough assumption of an average cabinet size of 20 members (based on existing research) and the 193 UN countries, the number of government ministers worldwide would be around 3,800.
Based on U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, there are approximately 170,000 post-secondary instructors in the academic disciplines specified by the Nobel Foundation in the United States alone. The worldwide figure is probably a multiple of that. In 2017, higher education analyst Quacquarelli Symonds estimated that the number of universities around the world would likely be more than 40,000, so “directors, principals and equivalents” from these institutions could also be added to the pool of nominators.
The total number of people eligible to nominate another for the Nobel Peace Prize is therefore likely to be greater than half a million, even if this is only a rough estimate.
The number of nominations in a typical year is, of course, only a small fraction of this number, but still greater than many readers may have assumed. According to the organizers, 318 candidates were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020 (211 of them individuals and 107 units). The highest number of candidates came in 2016, when 376 individuals and organizations received nominations.
The Nobel Prize was funded and created in accordance with the will of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish chemist and inventor of dynamite. He intended that the Peace Prize should be awarded to “the person who has done the most or the best to promote community among nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and the establishment and promotion of peace congresses.”
But as a result of the very large pool of potential nominees representing a wide range of views and expertise, the list of nominees for the Peace Prize is not always composed of worthy individuals. In the past, even some of the most controversial and hidden historical figures of the 20th century have managed to get nominations, including:
- Joseph Stalin – Responsible for the deaths of millions of Soviet subjects through political purges, forced famine and starvation and mass execution. Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945 and 1948.
- Benito Mussolini – Brutal Italian fascist dictator. Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by two nominees in 1935.
- Josip Broz Tito “) – Controversial Yugoslav dictator proclaimed “president of life” towards the end of his nearly three decades in power. His secret police fiercely suppressed disagreement and opposition to his leadership. Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1963.
- Rafael Trujillo The Dominican dictator, whose 31-year reign from 1930 to 1961 was marked by unusually brutal and violent breakdowns of perceived dissenters and opponents, as well as the parsley massacre of October 1937, in which Trujillo ordered the execution of thousands of Haitians, carried out with macheter. Received seven nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1936.
In 2019, Olav Njolstad, secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, summed up the dynamics of the nomination process and told the AFP news agency: “There are so many people who have the right to nominate a candidate that it is not very complicated to be nominated. . Geir Lundestad, Njolstad’s predecessor in the committee, added: “It is quite easy to be nominated. It’s a lot harder to win. ”