By KARL RITTER, Associated Press
STOCKHOLM (AP) — By honoring the global chemical weapons watchdog, the Nobel Peace Prize committee stuck to its tradition of not just awarding past achievements, but highlighting a cause, movement or process it hopes can promote world peace.
So does this high-minded ambition work?
Sometimes. The 1991 prize to Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the 1996 award to East Timor independence leaders Carlos Belo and Jose Ramos-Horta are widely seen as having had a significant political impact.
History hasn't been kind to some other prizes, like the 1994 award shared by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli leaders Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin for what was seen as a breakthrough in peace talks. Or the 1926 prize given to the foreign ministers of France and Germany to promote reconciliation between the two World War I adversaries. A decade later, Hitler denounced their promises not to invade each other and sent troops into the demilitarized Rhineland, paving the way for WWII.
The 1973 award to U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and North Vietnamese leader Le Duc Tho (who declined it) for negotiating a ceasefire in Vietnam is among the most controversial. The war continued for two more years.
Recently, though, the influence of the Norwegian Nobel Committee is less clear cut.
The Associated Press analyzed the fallout of the six most recent peace awards, and asked the committee's non-voting secretary, Geir Lundestad, for his thoughts:
2012 — THE EUROPEAN UNION
Last year's prize underscored the EU's role in turning war-ravaged Europe into a continent of peace. It was meant to give the bloc a shot in the arm at a time when the idea of European unity was losing traction amid financial turmoil and social unrest.
FALLOUT: It's still early, but there are no signs that the Nobel helped revitalize the EU's image. Not in the minds of its citizens, at least. Their trust in the EU remains at a record low, according to the EU's own Eurobarometer surveys. The latest survey showed support for the bloc's common currency dropped to 51 percent this year, its lowest point since 2006. Only 30 percent of Europeans — unchanged from last year — had a positive image of the EU.
LUNDESTAD: "It's much too early to come to a definite conclusion about last year's prize. ... I think the committee felt that this was a rather obvious prize, which maybe came too late, but that's a different matter. And the way in which this was received by the EU, I mean you could see how exceedingly happy they were. (German Chancellor) Angela Merkel made all these ... heads of state or heads of government come to take part in the ceremony. So it was just obvious ... how proud the EU has been of this and how they promote the fact that they have received the prize. So it would certainly seem to have had a significant impact on the EU itself."
2011 — PRESIDENT ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF AND WOMEN'S RIGHTS ACTIVIST LEYMAH GBOWEE OF LIBERIA, AND YEMENI ACTIVIST TAWAKKUL KARMAN
The committee hoped that giving the prize to the three women would "help to bring an end to the suppression of women that still occurs in many countries, and to realize the great potential for democracy and peace that women can represent."
FALLOUT: The Nobel amplified Karman's calls for reforms in Yemen and the street protests she helped organize against President Ali Abduallah Saleh. He agreed to step down a month later after pressure from the U.S. and Gulf states, but there is little sign that the rights of women have improved since. Human Rights Watch says Yemeni women still cannot marry without permission, do not have secondary rights in divorce and child custody and more than half are married off before they are 18 — some as young as 8.
The political role of women has improved in sub-Saharan Africa, with Joyce Banda becoming president of Malawi and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma appointed as the first female chair of the African Union Commission. Sirleaf used her prize money to help fund scholarships for girls and also to help pay for school dormitories for young women, according to spokesman Jerolinmek Piah. Tangible results from those efforts, though, will take years to materialize. Sirleaf had a falling out with co-winner Gbowee, who resigned her post as head of the reconciliation commission, accusing Sirleaf of engaging in nepotism and failure to fight corruption.