Daily Parse | The Arctic Council did not win this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. That should be seen as a sign of its success

Blue helmet not required (📸: Finnish Foreign Ministry / Kaisa Sirén)

Kevin McGwin

The Artic Council did not win this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. (That honour went to the World Food Programme, a UN agency. Congratulations.)

Whether it was even a candidate, as it was purported was last year, and definitely was the year before, is known only to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the outfit that vets nominees. Unless someone with inside knowledge comes forward, it will not be known until 2070 whether it was being considered; the committee keeps the official lists of nominees secret for 50 years.

That we know from year to year that certain people or organisations have been nominated comes down to nominators and nominees themselves: they can – and often do – spill the beans. This is why we know that Donald Trump has been nominated at least once, and it is also why we know that 60 academics specialising in the region put forward the Arctic Council as a nominee in 2018, arguing that it deserved the award for “promoting and maintaining peace and political stability in the rapidly-changing Arctic region”.

Last year, no-one claimed to have nominated it again, but speculation that someone did took hold after it was, for a time, on the personal shortlist of a Nobel Peace Prize insider. (It did not appear on his list this year. Neither did the WFP, but it is worth noting that it was on his 2018 list.)

In not renominating the Arctic Council last year, Heather Exner-Pirot, an academic who inspired the 2018 nomination after suggesting it in an op-ed the previous year, explained that it was because “nothing exciting” had happened.

“It’s still an exceptional organisation; it can get the US and Russia to co-operate and the Trump administration to acknowledge climate change,” she said, referring to the 2017 Fairbanks Declaration, a document signed off on by representatives of all eight Arctic states during their biennial meeting. “But if we submitted a nomination letter again this year, it would have said the exact same thing.”

A new nomination, she said, would need a “worthy event” of the scale of a summit of Arctic leaders (who, include presidents Putin and Trump). Perhaps, but Nobel Peace Prizes have been awarded for less: Barack Obama was awarded his nine months into his presidency, underscoring that the awarding committee does not so much reward the establishment of peace as it does acknowledge the existence of a problem; for the winner, the award is more of mandate than an accolade.

If that is the case, the 2018 nomination would seem to have come too late; or, if the doomsday outlook depicted by the media and some academics comes to pass, it may, unfortunately, have been too early.

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