The Nobel Prize Committee’s decision to award the Peace Prize to a climate warrior and an organisation that has made hard scientific data comprehensible to policy-makers is yet another brave step towards redefining the word ‘peace’. This year’s award went to former US Vice-President Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”. By honouring Mr Gore and the IPCC, the committee has underlined the fact that peace should not be equated with political peace only, but it encompasses other development markers too. It has rightly equated the sufferings of people living in war-torn zones with all those whose life is being threatened by global warming.
This is not the first time that the committee has awarded the coveted prize to people working on issues that are not directly linked to ‘conflict’ zones, in the narrow sense of the term. In 1999, the prize went to Doctors Without Borders; in 2006 it went to economist Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank for their efforts through micro-credit to create economic and social development from below. In fact, the speech given by the Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee at the 2006 ceremony underlines the link that exists between peace (in the non-political sense) and human development: “Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Micro-credit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights.”
Many others have echoed this thought: of taking peace out of its straitjacket definition. In last week’s Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, celebrated rockstar and activist Sir Bob Geldof talked about Africa, poverty and how culture can be a tool for change. And, he wasn’t just talking about low-intensity wars, but about the fight against poverty and health issues. In India too, we have seen that the exclusive nature of our growth has led to social tensions that can destabilise the country. The Nobel Committee’s decision will see a worldwide acceptance of the fact that environment degradation, poverty and gender inequality need to be tackled to achieve real peace and growth. The aim, as the committee said, must be peace with justice in the world. And justice means a life lived with dignity.