Myths About the Nobel Peace Prize

An award that generates as much interest as the Nobel Peace Prize (search) is bound to be surrounded by mystery, myth and misconception. The 2004 prize has created its own share of speculation and wishful thinking and speculation.

Geir Lundestad (search), secretary of the secretive committee that awards the prize, once addressed some of the most common misunderstandings for The Associated Press:

— Myth 1: The awards committee announces a list of possible winners.

The committee, with a strong tradition of not leaking, does not release the names of any candidates, and keeps records sealed for 50 years. Any "Nobel short list" most likely stems from speculation by the news media and others.

— Myth 2: A campaign for a particular candidate can sway the awards committee.

It could have the opposite effect on the fiercely independent committee, which does not want to appear to have been influenced by public pressure.

— Myth 3: 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. The committee wanted to include former U.S. President Jimmy Carter (search) for the Nobel in 1978 for his work on the Camp David peace agreement but couldn't because of the deadline. Carter won the 2002 peace prize for his many years of peace efforts.

— Myth 4: Anyone can nominate a person or group for the Peace Prize.

Nobel statutes state who may make nominations. They were slightly broadened in 2003, and 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 5: The prize can be revoked if a laureate does not live up to the standards of the peace prize.

There are no provisions in the Nobel statutes for revoking the prize. The committee says the prizes are awarded for efforts up to the moment of the announcement, and does not comment on activities after that.

— Myth 6: The prize can be awarded posthumously.

The prize was award posthumously only once — in 1961, to former U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammerskjold, after he was killed in a plane crash in Africa. The rules were amended in 1974 to prohibit posthumous prizes. But someone still can win the prize if they die between the October announcement and the Dec. 10 award ceremony.

— Myth 7: 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 in a process, despite the risk of failure.