Nobel Peace Price

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Nobel Peace Price

A prize often awarded to send a message sometimes has the unintended effect of mobilizing forces opposed to change and impeding liberalization.

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The Nobel Peace Prize doesn’t always promote peace. In Political Science Quarterly (Winter), Ronald R. Krebs argues that it sometimes fuels repression.

After the Dalai Lama won in 1989, Tibetans grew more forceful in their protests. Krebs says they believed that “with the world focused upon them, thanks to the prize, the Chinese authorities would prove more lenient.” Instead, China forbade public religious ceremonies, imprisoned and executed dissidents, and staged an intimidating military parade. “If the Nobel Committee was sending a message, so too was the Chinese government,” Krebs observes. He thinks a similar dynamic played out when Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar won the Nobel in 1991 and when Shirin Ebadi of Iran received it in 2003.
“When awarded to promote domestic change, as it has been more often in recent years,” Krebs writes of the prize, “it in fact mobilizes the forces opposed to change and impedes liberalization.”