The Nobel Peace Prize process is so absurd that Trump was supposedly a nominee

Trump likes awards—he’s very, very good at them.
Trump likes awards—he’s very, very good at them.
Image: AP Photo/Julio Cortez
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On Oct. 7th, the holiest of humanitarian awards was doled out: the Nobel Peace Prize. Given this year to the president of Colombia for his attempts to broker a peace deal with the rebels ( …even though it failed), the lauded accolade, which has been awarded for over 100 years by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, is given to an extraordinary individual or organization that has “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

For 2016’s prize, the frontrunners with the most buzz included Edward Snowden, Pope Francis… and Donald Trump.

Well, that’s the rumor making the rounds, at least. The Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) has been making nominee predictions since 2002 and is considered the best of the Nobel crystal-ball gazers. This year its director, Kristian Berg Harpviken, put the leaders behind the Iran nuclear deal, a volunteer brigade of Syrian emergency workers, and a trio of gynecologists combating rape and sexual abuse in the Democratic Republic of Congo on its list of likely nominees. And Trump.

Trump might seem like the least likely candidate for such a prestigious accolade—even more so than potentially holding the position of US president. But Harpviken claims he has seen a submission letter from an unidentified nominator that mentions Trump’s “vigorous peace through strength ideology, used as a threat weapon of deterrence against radical Islam, the Islamic State, nuclear Iran and Communist China.” (No word on what the taxable income would be on the $930,000 prize if Trump had been declared the winner.)

This is all just hearsay though: We don’t actually know who the nominees were this year—and we won’t know for another 50 years. That’s because the Nobel committee keeps these names under wraps and only releases the list a half-century later. In the interim, the committee says that nomination whispers are ”either sheer guesswork or information put out by the person or persons behind the nomination.” In a statement sent to Newsweek in February concerning the rumors of Trump’s nomination, the director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, Olav Njølstad, said: “As a matter of principle, the Norwegian Nobel Committee never comment upon information and speculations about possible candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize. Thus, I can neither confirm nor disconfirm the information referred to in your inquiry.” This means that we won’t know for sure if Trump was nominated until 2066—or who had the gall to nominate him.

We may not know the names of the nominated, but we do know how many of them there are. The number of nominees has been steadily increasing since the prize was first handed out in 1901. This year the committee received the highest-ever number of persons and organizations nominated: 376, up from the 273 nominated last year.

So why the sudden influx in nominations this year? Were there more peaceful souls in the world in 2016, or did we just have the collective desire to anoint more peace progenitors with whom to place our hope? In fact, the increase may just be because it’s so damn easy to nominate someone for the Nobel Peace Prize.

“It is very, very easy to be nominated and very, very hard to win the Nobel peace prize,” former committee secretary Geir Lundestand once said. Nearly anyone with a bit of political standing can have a say in the most prestigious humanitarian award in the world. Here’s the list of requirements to be a nominee:

• Members of national assemblies and national governments (cabinet members/ministers) of sovereign states as well as current heads of states
• Members of The International Court of Justice in The Hague and The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague
• Members of Institut de Droit International
• University professors, professors emeriti 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
• Persons who have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
• Members of the main board of directors or its equivalent for organizations that have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
• Current and former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee
• Former advisers to the Norwegian Nobel Committee

Consider the list of nominators that was recently released from 1965. There were 77 nominations that year for 31 candidates—including a somewhat suspicious 31 nominations for the World Esperanto Association (Universala Esperanto Asocio), including nods from “A number of Italian senators,” “Members of the Bulgarian parliament,”  and, as they were mysteriously titled, “Professors.” The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize that year was UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), with votes from Gudmund HarlemBerte Rognerud, and “4 members of the Yugoslavian parliament.” (If you’d like to take a look at the lists from previous years pre-1965, you can explore their website here.)

On top of that, there’s no set criteria for who you can nominate or why. The entire process seems so laissez faire that they don’t even have an official submission form, and they give out the email address on their website. (It’s, if you want to say hello.) Here’s all that’s required in that illustrious email:

•  the name of the candidate,
• an explanation of why the individual or organisation is considered by the nominator to be a worthy candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize,
• and the name, title and academic or professional affiliation of the nominator.

So, to any professors or politicians reading this right now: Can you please be a little more original next year? Submissions are open until the end of January, 2017.