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Talking about peace with… Fredrik S. Heffermehl

Interview published in Catalan in the Butlletí FundiPau 106


“The awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize should be peace activists and believe in a general and full disarmament.”


Fredrik S. Heffermehl (Rena, Norway, 1938) is a layer, degree in law by the Oslo University and  Master of Laws by the New York University Since 1984 he is a renowned activist for world peace and disarmament. He was President of Norwegian Peace Council and Vice President of the International Peace Bureau. Currently he is Vice President of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Weapons. He has just published in Spanish the book La voluntad de Alfred Nobel. ¿Qué pretendía realmente el Premio Nobel de Paz?, with Editorial Icaria.

What was the original intention of Alfred Nobel, creating the peace award?

Nobel´s intention was to abolish militarism. If we fail in this pursuit in the nuclear age we may all be viped out in a nuclear Armageddon.

Nobel dedicated his “prize for the champions of peace” to the peace movement struggling for a specific peace plan. His prize is not for “peace” in general, it is for those peace activists whose goal is to end militarism. 

Why was the task of selecting for the Nobel Peace Prize left to Norway?
Nobel chose professionals to take care of the selections for his awards, medical doctors, scientists, the Swedish Academy (of letters). In the 1890s the Norwegian Parliament was the best Peace Academy he could find. It was a leading supporter of the new peace ideas. Unfortunately the Nobel peace ideas have become dissident positions in the world of today. The political majority in Norway is for strong military forces and NATO loyalty – and has taken with them, to serve their new views, the prize with which Nobel intended to serve the cause of abolishing militarism.

What has been the evolution of the Nobel Peace Prize over the years?

In the first decades the Norwegian awarders were well aware that Nobel had been inspired by Bertha von Suttner, the Austrian peace giant whose ideas Nobel had promised to support. 1914 is a crucial year. Suttner died only a few months before World War I broke out and dealt a blow to her peace ideas that the movement would never really recover from. Since then the prize has been in steady decline. Today the Norwegian awarders have taken over the prize and use it to promote the exact opposite of the peace plan Nobel wished to support. The members of the committee are friends of militarism; they should be friends of peace.

What is your opinion about the recent Nobel Peace Prize awarded Barack Obama and the European Union?

Some still claim that “to have peace you must prepare for war.” Suttner called this way of thinking the “old Roman silly slogan” (altrömischen Idiotensatz). Obama and the EU both think this way, which is bound to generate new wars.
Obama was in charge of two wars, and the EU leaders traveled from the ceremonies where they received the Nobel disarmament prize directly to a meeting in Brussels where they adopted new agreements on improving their military strength.

And what do you think about the awarded of 2013, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)?

The prize is for political change, it should have gone to people who struggle for what Nobel in his will called the “brotherhood of (disarmed) nations” – not to bureaucrats implementing treaties already made. The OPCW does nothing to abolish militarism

Some controversial decisions about the peace award have raised some critical voices. How has the Nobel Committee reacted to these voices? 

The problem is that the Norwegian parliamentarians have taken over the prize and ignore the intention of Nobel. They break the law and ignore the critics. The chair of the Nobel committee, Thorbjørn Jagland, is acting in brazen disregard for the values of democracy and the rule of law, and should not be reelected as Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

Who would you have given the Nobel Peace Prize too if it was your decision? Who do you think deserves the award?

Nobel had a fantastic plan for a better world and the more strictly we stick to the peace ideas of the peace movement, the better. The winners must be peace activists, believe in general and complete disarmament. In my book “La voluntad de Alfred Nobel. ¿Qué pretendía realmente el Premio Nobel de Paz?”  I have listed hundreds of peace activists who deserve to be evaluated. One example in Spain is Federico Mayor, he is a keen defender of disarmament – even if I am not sure he has fully understood the “Nobel method”.

Can you make a wish?

Militarism is a strong and dynamic system, with enormous political power. We will never achieve a real change by small steps, an armistice here and an abolished weapon there. To achieve a real change you have to break with militarism, all countries must co-operate on a treaty to abolish all weapons. Extremely ambitious, but just imagine what that idea would do for a better world!