An award that generates as much interest as the Nobel Peace Prize is bound to be surrounded by myths. Geir Lundestad, secretary of the secretive committee that awards the prize, outlined some of the most common misunderstandings:
• Myth: The awards committee announces a shortlist of candidates.
The committee does not release the names of any candidates and keeps records sealed for 50 years.
• Myth: A campaign for a particular candidate can sway the awards committee.
A campaign could have the exact opposite effect on the fiercely independent committee, which does not want to appear influenced by public pressure.
• Myth: Candidates can be nominated until the last minute.
The nomination deadline is eight months before the announcement, with a strictly enforced deadline of Feb. 1.
• Myth: Anyone can nominate a person or group for the Peace Prize.
No, although Nobel statutes on who can nominate were slightly broadened in 2003.
They now include former laureates; current and former members of the committee and their staff; members of national governments and legislatures; university professors of law, theology, social sciences, history and philosophy; leaders of peace research and foreign affairs institutes and members of international courts of law.
• Myth: The prize can be revoked if a laureate does not live up to the standards of the peace prize.
There are no provisions for revoking the prize.
• Myth: The prize can be awarded posthumously.
The prize was award posthumously only once — in 1961, to former UN secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold, after he was killed in a plane crash in Africa. The rules were amended in 1974 to prohibit posthumous prizes.
• Myth: The prize is awarded to recognize efforts for peace, human rights and democracy only after they have proven successful.
More often, the prize is awarded to encourage those who receive it to see the effort through, sometimes at critical moments.
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