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The bureaucratic birthday Nobel Peace Prize

Tuesday, 10 December, 2013

They’re handing out the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo today. According to the instructions in Alfred Nobel’s will, the recipient is selected by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, a five-member body appointed by the Parliament of Norway, and over the years it has displayed its fondness for similar officialdoms. Peace An outfit called the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, headquartered in The Hague, is this year’s recipient. Just 185km down the road in the Flemish region of Belgium lies Ghent and back in 1904 the prize went to the Institut de droit international, which was founded there and today maintains an infrequently updated website.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee, a somewhat sombre group, seems to have a weakness for bureaucratic birthdays. The 1917 prize was given to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which was similarly rewarded in 1946, and again in 1963, the year that happened to be the centennial of its founding. In 1969, the Committee gave its prize to the International Labour Organization, which was celebrating its 70th birthday, and when the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was having its 30th birthday party, it got the gong from Oslo. And then, the ultimate love in, the Nobel Peace Prize celebrated a century of its existence by awarding the 2001 honour to the United Nations and Kofi Annan.

Next up? In 2016, Unicef will be 70; in 2020, Terre des Hommes will be 60; in 2021, Amnesty International will be 60 as well, and in 2022, Vladimir Putin, the protector of Edward Snowden, will be 70.


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