Could Hillary Clinton and Kofi Annan sit on Nobel Peace Prize committee?

Fallout against Norway from China's furious reaction to awarding of peace prize to dissident could see body widened to include foreigners

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 May, 2014, 9:51pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 May, 2014, 11:38pm


International figures such as Kofi Annan and Hillary Rodham Clinton could get a say in who wins the Nobel Peace Prize, as a recent spat with China pushes Norway to spread responsibility for the award.

Norway is still suffering the fallout from the Nobel committee's decision to award the prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo in 2010.

Although Norway's government had no say in the decision, China was furious. It has frozen trade talks, cancelled ministerial exchanges and greatly reduced salmon imports.

Norway has desperately tried to rebuild ties, even refusing to meet the Dalai Lama, another Nobel peace laureate, when he visited Oslo earlier this month.

The dispute has triggered a debate in the Scandinavian nation over how to convince the rest of the world that the Nobel committee is not an extension of the country's government.

"The committee must absolutely consider opening itself to more diverse people, including the possibility to admit foreigners," said the director of Oslo's Peace Research Institute, Kristian Berg Harpviken, who has long been a supporter of reforming the committee.

Foreign countries can certainly be forgiven for questioning the committee's independence.

In keeping with Alfred Nobel's instructions, members of the committee are appointed by Norway's parliament who tend to prefer people with a political background; the current head of the committee, Thorbjoern Jag- land, is a former prime minister.

"Seasoned politicians have their place in it, but the recruitment should be expanded ... to have more varied competences, and ... to have a committee that is less of a reflection of Norwegian politics," said Harpviken.

During its 100-plus-year history, the committee has taken intermittent steps to distance itself from political power.

In 1936, it barred serving ministers from the committee, and in 1977 the ban was expanded to all members of parliament. Now an opportunity has arisen with three of the committee's five members, including Jagland, up for renewal in the autumn.

The name of former UN secretary general Annan - Nobel Peace laureate in 2001 - has come up. Former US Secretary of State Clinton and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt have also been mentioned.

"These are not bad proposals," conservative parliamentary group president Trond Helleland said. "We are open to a discussion about candidates with profiles that are different from before. It could be academics or possibly foreigners."

Critics argue that replacing Norwegian politicians with foreign ones would not do much to rectify the impression that the prize is politically motivated.

"The idea to cut ties with the political world should apply to foreigners in the same way it does to Norwegians," Harpviken said.