Alfonso García Robles’s Acceptance Speech, on the occasion of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, December 10, 1982
Your Majesty, Your Royal Highnesses, Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is indeed a special privilege to have been distinguished with the Nobel Peace Prize for 1982.
Such a high honor carries for me on this occasion particular significance both for the exceptional qualities of the person with whom I share the prize – Alva Myrdal, my old friend and partner of so many battles fought in the forums of multilateral diplomacy, which have emphasised once again the identity of purpose of Mexico and Sweden in the fields of peace and of disarmament – and for the reasons specifically mentioned by the members of the Nobel Committee in their explanatory statement to the effect that they have decided to award the Peace Prize for 1982 “to two persons who for many years have played a central role in the United Nations’ disarmament negotiations” and who have helped “to open the eyes of the world to the threat mankind faces in continued nuclear armament”.
To correctly appraise that threat it will suffice to recall that the United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared in 1978, at its first special session devoted to disarmament, that it is “the very survival of mankind” which finds itself threatened by “the existence of nuclear weapons and the continuing arms race”.
Similar reasons, no doubt, moved Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell to state in their historic Manifesto of 1955, speaking “not as members of this or that nation, continent, or creed, but as human beings, members of the species Man, whose continued existence is in doubt”, that we have “to learn to think in a new way”.
In fact, every time that in the past a new weapon was invented, people would say – and, as is well known, Nobel himself originally shared this belief – that it was so terrible that it would never be used. Nevertheless it was, and even though it was terrible, it did not make the human race disappear. But, as so rightly stated by that eminent philosopher of history who was Arnold Toynbee “now we have something that could really extinguish life on our planet. Mankind has not found itself in a similar situation since the end of the palaeolithic age…. In fact, the threat to mankind’s survival has been much greater since 1945 than it was during the first million years of history”. There is no doubt that – and I again use here the authoritative concepts of Einstein and Russell expressed almost thirty years ago and which obviously are even more valid today – “it is feared that if many H-bombs are used there will be universal death – sudden only for a minority, but for the majority a slow torture of disease and disintegration”.
The foregoing considerations, of unimpeachable authority, have led me to think something which I would not dare mention had I not already received the Nobel Peace Prize, inasmuch as otherwise I would risk being accused of acting pro domo or, in other words, for personal reasons: the advisability that when awarding the prize in the future, the highest priority be given to the contribution which the candidates, be they individuals or non-governmental organisations, have made to disarmament.
To justify this suggestion it would be enough to bear in mind that, as the General Assembly of the United Nations rightfully proclaimed – and it did so by consensus – if it continues to be true that security is “an inseparable element of peace”, at present “the increase in weapons, especially nuclear weapons, far from helping to strengthen international security, on the contrary weakens it”, inasmuch as “the accumulation of weapons, particularly nuclear weapons, today constitutes much more a threat than a protection for the future of mankind”. Thus, it is evident that the time has come “to seek security in disarmament”.
I am convinced that a man with the foresight of Alfred Nobel would have so provided if he were to draw up his will in our days, when it can rightly be said that there is an organic relation between peace and disarmament. Naturally, that should not mean disregard to the numerous contributions which can be made indirectly to peace in the broad field of human rights, beginning with the right of self-determination of peoples whose observance requires also respect for the basic principle of non-intervention. A practical solution could perhaps be one involving a procedure similar to that which resulted in the creation of the prize of economics in 1968 thanks to a donation from the Bank of Sweden and which is awarded by the Royal Academy of Sciences of Sweden, which awards the prizes of physics and chemistry. If another Maecenas were now to be found who might provide the necessary funds, a new prize devoted to human rights could be established and awarded annually by the same Nobel Committee of Norway which awards the Nobel Peace Prize.
I trust that this suggestion, which I deem constructive, be interpreted as it is meant: a modest contribution to show my sincere appreciation for the honor which has been conferred on me by the Nobel Committee. Were it to become a reality, the intervals between the Nobel Peace Prizes awarded for achievements in the fields of disarmament would never again be as extended as has unfortunately been the case during the second half of the current century.
The fact that lately some circles, not less powerful by their small size, have been actively promoting certain theories, as dangerous as they are illusory, of a “limited”, “winnable” or “protracted” nuclear war, as well as their obsession of “nuclear superiority”, make it advisable to bear always in mind that the immediate goal of all States, as was expressly declared in the Final Document of the Special Assembly of 1978, “is that of the elimination of the danger of a nuclear war”.
In order to contribute to the achievement of this pressing objective, the United Nations has just launched last June, during the second special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament, a “World Disarmament Campaign”, which, under the auspices of the Organisation and coordinated by it, will have the task of “mobilising world public opinion on behalf of disarmament”.
If disarmament, as I have taken the liberty to suggest, were in the future to become the decisive criterion for the evaluation by the Nobel Committee of the activities for peace, it would constitute, just as the Campaign which I have mentioned, another invaluable element to convince all nuclear powers, including those which have been more reluctant up to now, of the necessity to respect the “vital interests” of all peoples and to become fully aware of the profound truth of the following conclusion which the United Nations approved by unanimity four years ago:
“Mankind is confronted with a choice: we must halt the arms race and proceed to disarmament or face annihilation”.
Their work and discoveries range from the Earth’s climate and our sense of touch to efforts to safeguard freedom of expression.
See them all presented here.