Thoughts on the Nobel Peace Prize 2013

This year the Nobel Peace Prize has been very personal for me. I was flown to Oslo to speak at the Telenor Youth Conference, to give a keynote speech to a wonderful group of 25 social entrepreneurs under 25, to share my vision with Esplori, the startup I founded, on how to democratise the tools for teaching and learning worldwide. I told them my life story, the mission that drives me, and some life lessons that I've learned along the way, that might be useful to them in pursuing their projects.

Nobel federico pistono invitation

Official Invitation to thr Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony. Notice how they misspelled my name (I knew I was just an impostor!)

We did this in collaboration with the Nobel Peace Centre, and we were invited to the official Nobel Ceremony, at the Oslo city hall. As I write this on my phone, I'm sitting behind the king of Norway (trying to put my thoughts into words without getting caught).

King of Norway

The King of Norway

This year's prize goes to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The speech justifying this choice outlines what the OPCW has achieves in the last 15 years, with a significant reduction of chemical weapons worldwide, many countries signing the treaty, and the steps they took in making the world safer.

Outside Nobel Peace Centre

Outside the Nobel Peace Centre

All this is very good, chemical weapons are a real threat and I'm sure OPCW has done excellent work in the past three lustra. However, I find myself in a state of emotional conflict. While I understand the reason for this choice, I see its merits, and I'm honoured to be here at the ceremony, I also feel that this has been a very, to use a mild term, safe choice.

What I mean by that is that there are a few elephants in the room, and this year prize seems to be ignoring them wholly. The United States is the country with the most troops deployed worldwide (1,3 million in more than 150 countries), and plays a crucial geopolitical role. The fact that Obama, a warmonger, received the prize a few years ago is a disgrace, and it undermines the credibility of the organisation as a whole. Giving the prize to OPCW is a safe choice, one that offends no one, and it could have been given any year, since they've been around for so long, and they are (luckily) likely to stay here for some more, hopefully until there are no more chemical weapons in the world.

The Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony as seen from the inside

The Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony as seen from the inside

But the political climate of 2013, I think, was not in need of a safe choice. It required a bold action, one that would send a strong message. Personally, I think it should have been given to Manning, Assange, and Snowden, for exposing war crimes, government abuse, and bringing the topic to the public spotlight, while also carefully selecting the material, ensuring that no human lives were at risk as a result of the leaks. This would have been a smack in the face of governments and agencies that are committing crimes against humanity, against millions of people every day, and would have put into question the imperialism grandiose plans that are being enacted without us knowing, without our consent, against most constitutions of civilised countries, ironically using public money to do so.

This is my two cents, and while I'm honoured and humbled to be here at the Nobel Peace Ceremony, I have a bittersweet taste in my mouth, thinking that it could have been so much more than a safe walk in the park and pats on the back.

assang manning snowden

Maybe a mid way would have been more appropriate, with a shared prize between OPWC and the whistleblowers, though I don't know if that's even allowed by the rules.

Perhaps the future will change my mind, but as of now, I think that bold actions, not safe choices, are required to restore the credibility of this ceremony. And in a perfect world, next year they would take away the prize from Obama, but maybe I'm just being delusional.

Cartoon by Patrick Chappatte.