“Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future,” the Nobel jury said in making the stunning announcement. It said the decision was unanimous. The committee attached “special importance to Obama’s vision and work for a world without nuclear weapons” and said he had created “a new climate in international politics.”
The Nobel Committee’s decision has come as a major surprise, as the US President had not been named as a frontrunner among this year’s Nobel Peace Prize nominees.
In a short statement outside the White House later on Friday, President Obama didn’t hide his own surprise, saying he felt he “didn’t deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who’ve been honoured by this prize. Men and women who’ve inspired me and inspired the world through their courageous pursuit of peace”.
“I will accept this award as a call to action”, he added, “to confront the common challenges of the 21st century”, citing climate change, nuclear disarmament, equality between people, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Afghan war as the biggest challenges.
!(http://pressenza.com/uploads/assets/fcd991bc603ffa8939828cf5d7131d113a75c586.jpg)[Listen to Obama´s reaction](http://download.omroep.nl/rnw/smac/cms/en_obama_speech_20091009_44_1kHz.mp3)
The decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the US President has been met with both praise and criticism. Many European leaders, as well as Afghan President Hamid Karzai, welcomed the jury’s decision, but others say it is premature or too political.
Jan Oberg, the director of the Swedish Transnational Institute for Peace Studies, said it was a bad choice. “Some say that the Nobel Peace prize should increasingly be given to people in support of a process, or in support of having started something that looks good and nice and useful”, adding that Alfred Nobel clearly stipulated in his will that the prize should be a rewarding of what has been achieved.
Mr Oberg also said the Nobel Committee should review its own criteria for awarding the prize.
Other criticism came from the Middle East. Former editor of the Al-Hayat newspaper, Abd Al-Wahab Badr-Khan, said: “President Obama wowed millions in the Middle East earlier this year. But only last week, he suffered a defeat against Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on his Jewish settlement policies”.
The Palestinian movement Hamas said the award was “premature at best”, while the Taleban in Afghanistan stated it was “absurd to give a peace award to a man who has sent 21,000 extra troops to Afghanistan”.
Those who have praised the jury’s decision see the award as an encouragement. “There is no peace yet in the Middle East”, said last year’s winner Martti Ahtisaari. “This time it’s clear that [the Nobel Committee] wanted to encouarge Obama to move on these issues”.
“I hope that we, as fellow recipients of the prize who frequently get together to promote world peace efforts, can help him in achieving his goals”, suggested Adolfo Pérez Esquivel from Argentina, winner of the 1980 Peace Prize for his peaceful opposition against South America’s military juntas.
The prize will be presented in Oslo on 10 December, the anniversary of the death in 1896 of the prize creator, Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel.