How can you be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize? Here Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, gives an inside look at how the peace prize is awarded.
Can you tell us who you are?
My name is Berit Reiss-Andersen. I am by profession a lawyer, but I am the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the committee that hands out the Nobel Peace Prize.
Can anybody be nominated for the peace prize?
Anyone can be nominated, but not anyone may nominate. There are rules on who has the right to nominate a candidate.
What criteria do you use to select a Nobel Prize laureate?
We are bound by the criteria in the will of Alfred Nobel. He points out three criteria for the peace prize. It is reduction of standing armies, it is contributing to peace congresses and fraternity between nations. This we have interpreted through 120 years to cover arms reduction, international cooperation, and organisations contributing to peace. The fraternity criteria covers, among others, human rights contributions to peace. In several prizes we combine all the criteria and in some prizes, it is only one of the criteria that we point out as a reason for the peace prize.
Is there a minimum age to be eligible for a Nobel Peace Prize?
No, but it has to be a contribution as I mentioned. And it has to be a contribution that is to the greatest benefit of humankind so it’s obvious that you can’t be a child and fulfil these criteria. But our youngest peace prize laureate was Malala Yousafzai who at the time was only 17 years old but a very worthy recipient of the prize.
Do you take a person’s personality into account?
We consider first and foremost the contribution, but to consider the quality of the contribution, you also in fact have to consider the personality. If it is a person then the person and the contribution is sort of interwoven.
How did you get your role with the prize?
The Norwegian Parliament, the Storting, elects the members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee and it is the members of the committee themselves who elect the chairperson. So it’s a combined effort of the Storting and my colleagues in the committee.
What is your favourite part about this role?
My favourite thing in the role is the moment in our final meeting where we, after many months of intense work, draw the conclusion on who is this year’s Nobel Prize laureate. When we have voted on the decision and we do agree, it is like an angel walking through the room.
How do new laureates find out the news?
To give them the happy news, we call them 10, 15 minutes before we actually announce it at a press conference.
Is it possible to revoke a peace prize?
By our regulations it is not possible to revoke the Nobel Peace Prize. The peace prize is given to a person or an organisation for the efforts that this individual had achieved at the time of receiving the prize. We cannot be responsible for what a Nobel Prize laureate does subsequent to a prize. It’s of course always possible that the prize committee can make a mistake and that is our responsibility that we just have to face, but we never revoke a prize.
How can I receive the Nobel Peace Prize?
You may receive a Nobel Peace Prize if you manage to give a contribution that is significant to humankind and that is a contribution to peace. So please go ahead and start your work. I will consider you!
First published September 2021