ISSUE - Nobel Peace Prize Awarded to U.S. President Barack Obama







Separation of Religion or Belief & State





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Issue: Nobel Peace Prize Awarded to U.S. President Barack Obama 


For: United Nations, Governments, Religions or Beliefs, Academia, NGOs, Media, Civil Society


Review: From 205 Names, Panel From Across Political Spectrum Choose Most Visible, by Walter Gibbs, New York Times, Saturday, October 10, 2009.


This New York Times article printed below is on the reason the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to U.S. President Barack Obama. Thorbjorn Jagland, new chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee in announcing the winner said; “It’s important for the committee to recognize people who are struggling and idealistic.” He continued by saying “we must from time to time go into the ream of realpolitik. It is always a mix of idealism and realpolitik that can change the world.” Jagland, a former Prime Minister of Norway, was elected September 29 to be secretary-general of the Council of Europe, a 47 nation organization that, operating in parallel to the European Union, seeks to further democracy and the rule of law.


The Tandem Project call for a UN Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief is a mixture of idealism and realpolitik. A Tandem Project Survey is being developed in support of the United States of America Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council in December 2010 (attachment). There is an example of how to bridge proclaimed international human rights treaties with the reality of implementation at a local level, using objectives of President Obama’s White House Council for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, as ways to integrate U.S. domestic and international law and objectives to comply with Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – everyone has a right to freedom of religion or belief:  Example: Universal Periodic Review & Freedom of Religion or Belief


October 10, 2009

From 205 Names, Panel Chose the Most Visible


OSLO — The five-member Norwegian Nobel committee spent seven months winnowing the dossiers on dissident monks, human rights advocates, field surgeons and other nominees — 205 names in all, most of them obscure — before deciding to give the Nobel Peace Prize to perhaps the most famous man on the planet, Barack Obama.

While in recent decades the selection process has produced many winners better known for their suffering or their environmental zeal than for peacemaking, the panel’s new chairman, Thorbjorn Jagland, said that members this year took a more practical approach in their unanimous vote for President Obama.

“It’s important for the committee to recognize people who are struggling and idealistic,” Mr. Jagland said in an interview after the prize was announced, “but we cannot do that every year. We must from time to time go into the realm of realpolitik. It is always a mix of idealism and realpolitik that can change the world.”

The committee is overtly political, as the Swedish dynamite tycoon Alfred Nobel must have intended when, in his will, he instructed the Norwegian Parliament to appoint the selection committee. Because it is chosen to reflect roughly the balance of party strength in Norway, the current committee has members across the spectrum, from the Socialist Left Party to the far-right Progress Party.

Mr. Jagland, 58, a former Labor Party prime minister, was elected Sept. 29 to be secretary general of the Council of Europe, a 47-nation organization that, operating in parallel to the European Union, seeks to further democracy and the rule of law.

Geir Lundestad, who as executive director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute has handled the committee’s administrative affairs since 1990, said the panel met six or seven times this year, starting several weeks after the nomination deadline, Feb. 1.

Any member of a national legislature, any professor of the social sciences and several other categories of people are free to submit nominations, and someone usually puts forward the name of the American president. That was true this year, even though Mr. Obama had been in office less than two weeks when the deadline hit.

This year the panel did not settle on a winner until Monday, Mr. Lundestad said He added that Oslo now faced a major challenge: to get ready for the award ceremony for Mr. Obama, just two months away. It will probably be among the largest civic events in Norwegian history.

The committee took a chance in choosing Mr. Obama, who not only is in his freshman year as president, but also is directing two wars. Should his presidency descend into a military quagmire, as Lyndon B. Johnson’s did during the Vietnam War, the decision could prove an embarrassment.

Some in Oslo said the Nobel committee had put the integrity of the award at stake. But Mr. Jagland seemed to savor the risk. He said no one could deny that “the international climate” had suddenly improved, and that Mr. Obama was the main reason.

Of the president’s future, he said: “There is great potential. But it depends on how the other political leaders respond. If they respond negatively, one might have to say he failed. But at least we want to embrace the message that he stands for.”

He likened this year’s award to the one in 1971, which recognized Willy Brandt, the chancellor of West Germany, and his “Ostpolitik” policy of reconciliation with Communist Eastern Europe.

“Brandt hadn’t achieved much when he got the prize, but a process had started that ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall,” Mr. Jagland said. “The same thing is true of the prize to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990, for launching perestroika. One can say that Barack Obama is trying to change the world, just as those two personalities changed Europe.”

Mr. Jagland, asked if the committee feared being labeled naïve for accepting a young politician’s promises at face value, shrugged and said, “Well, so?”



Documents Attached:


Nobel Peace Prize Awarded to U.S. President Barack Obama

Minneapolis-St. Paul Area Survey on Freedom of Religion or Belief

Origin of the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Forum Series



United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, at the Alliance of Civilizations Madrid Forum said; “never in our lifetime has there been a more desperate need for constructive and committed dialogue, among individuals, among communities, among cultures, among and between nations.”


Genuine dialogue on human rights and freedom of religion or belief calls for respectful discourse, discussion of taboos and clarity by persons of diverse beliefs. Inclusive dialogue includes people of theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. The warning signs are clear, unless there is genuine dialogue ranging from religious fundamentalism to secular dogmatism; conflicts in the future will probably be even more deadly.


In 1968 the UN deferred work on an International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Religious Intolerance because of its complexity and sensitivity. Violence, suffering and discrimination based on religion or belief in many parts of the world is greater than ever. It is time for a UN Working Group to draft what they deferred in 1968, a comprehensive core international human rights treaty-a United Nations Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief. United Nations History – Freedom of Religion or Belief


The challenge to religions or beliefs at all levels is awareness, understanding and acceptance of international human rights standards on freedom of religion or belief. Leaders, teachers and followers of all religions or beliefs, with governments, are keys to test the viability of inclusive and genuine dialogue in response to the UN Secretary General’s urgent call for constructive and committed dialogue.  


The Tandem Project title, Separation of Religion or Belief and State (SOROBAS), reflects the far-reaching scope of UN General Comment 22 on Article 18, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Human Rights Committee (CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.4). The General Comment on Article 18 is a guide to international human rights law for peaceful cooperation, respectful competition and resolution of conflicts:


Surely one of the best hopes for humankind is to embrace a culture in which religions and other beliefs accept one another, in which wars and violence are not tolerated in the name of an exclusive right to truth, in which children are raised to solve conflicts with mediation, compassion and understanding.


The Tandem Project is a non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in 1986 to build understanding, tolerance and respect for diversity, and to prevent discrimination in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief. The Tandem Project has sponsored multiple conferences, curricula, reference materials and programs on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion - and 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.


The Tandem Project is a UN NGO in Special Consultative Status with the

Economic and Social Council of the United Nations