Saturday, October 28, 2006
26 Oct. 2006 by Aboeprijadi Santoso Much to the disappointment of many, the Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono-Jusuf-Kalla government has missed the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize just as it enters its third year. However, the fact that the prize was not awarded to key figures involved in Aceh peace, could have been expected. The implementation of the Helsinki pact signed last year is unprecedented. This has been recognized precisely by not awarding the prize. The Norwegian Nobel Committee's decision is both traditional and innovative. As various peace efforts at state level were, as usual, considered, they opened a radically new horizon by awarding Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank, introducing what is seen as a contribution at grass root level of the war against poverty to peace. It's not a new paradigm, though, but one whose importance is now recognized and emphasized. Peace is thus no longer viewed as a matter of working toward resolving conflicts at diplomatic level only. Situations on the ground could matter as much, as the devils often lie in crucial details. In both respects, though, Aceh peace may stand as a good example of, so far, a successful settlement. Since no progress has been made on the Middle East, one of world's greatest headaches, it's fair to assume that Aceh, the only regional conflict settled last year, must have been considered seriously. President Susilo as well as GAM (Free Aceh Movement) top leader Hasan di Tiro presided over the general discourse that led to the deal. Susilo, the former general, had been particularly instrumental in two ways: by isolating the havik general Ryamizard Ryacudu in order to guarantee security on the ground, and by agreeing - albeit at the very last minute - to GAM's key demand on local political parties. Credit, however, should go to Vice-President Jusuf Kalla and his team of five – significantly, all non-Javanese - who boldly pioneered a breakthrough by initiating a confident-building approach since mid-2003 and pushing toward a peace talk, and the peace-broker Martti Ahtisaari whose authority and skills had been highly respected and effective. The former Finland's president Ahtisaari is an experienced diplomat with a strong self-confidence - "very firm" and "father like", according to both parties. Like him, though, the Noble institute views peace and its nurturing ultimately depend on the conflicting parties – not the mediator. Noble Peace Prize winners are not necessarily those whom we believe to have done the greatest service for world peace. Surely, they must have made some contribution, however, the way the prizes were bestowed in the name of Alfred Nobel suggests that it should carry - as it did in recent past - a clear moral-political message. It should strengthen the values related to the cause the winners pursued, and in doing so encourage them toward the enhancement of peace, human rights and democracy. Since the chances to resolve conflicts vary, the resolutions obviously cannot be expected to be readily visible, let alone credible. It follows, even in cases where the issues have been settled, one has to judge whether the solutions seem solid, or need to be pushed forward. This, it seems, has been most critical: it is the ongoing processes toward peace with greater, not lesser, degree of difficulties, rather than some definite peace deals, that seem fit the mission of the Nobel Peace Prize - which thus needs greater consideration. A number of cases demonstrate the importance of this pattern. Bishop F. Carlos Belo and J. Ramos-Horta had gone through a great deal of troubles to campaign for the East Timorese legitimate right to self-determination, yet their ideal seemed far from politically `realistic' by 1996 - hence, they got the prize then. Similarly, Nelson Mandela and Fredrik de Klerk were under heavy pressures from inside and outside during their negotiation to democratize South Africa when they were awarded the prize in 1993 – given the difficulties and critical situation, that was one long year before Mandela was finally released from prison. The Northern Ierland parties (John Hume and David Trimble), too, needed a strong push by being awarded the prize in 1998 as the peace talk gained momentum while the decommissioning had yet to be implemented; the latter, as it turned out, took years before it materialized. Likewise, it seemed no coincident, that Mikhail Gorbachov was awarded the prize for his role in ending the Cold War in the critical year of 1990; and the critical nature was soon demonstrated by the pro-communist – and Yelstin coups. Seen from this point of view, it's only natural that Aung San Syu Kyii got the prize in 1991. Being imprisoned by a military junta, the Burmese pro-democra-tic leader and winner of the 1988 elections was unable to lead a campaign herself the way Belo and Ramos-Horta did. She thus deserved the prize. Another clear example of peace-effort-in-a-critical-momentum as a crucial criterion for awarding the prize, however, was when it was given to Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin in 1994. Never before had a better chance emerged to achieve a settlement in the Israel-Palestine conflict, yet it was also feared that the situation remained precarious (which proved correct as the talk later failed) – hence the Nobel push. In short, no Nobel Peace Prize has in the last fifteen years been awarded to a definite peace settlement. Instead it was consistenly decided to push peace efforts which were at a critical moments or facing great stumbling block. Thus, Aceh did not, as some have argued, miss the prize because of the tsunami factor. It's true the tsunami had radically changed Aceh and made possible the Helsinki deal, but it should be noticed that the parties had in fact agreed to start talking only a week before the tsunami strucked. Moreover, many, from the locals to European diplomats, who had been skeptic at the outset, have in the end applauded and generally believe in the peace pact and its implementation. No conflict has ever been resolved, with its crucial parts implemented, within less than two years as the Aceh issue. So, why should anyone, with Nobel ideal in mind, give award to what is seen as a successful conflict settlement, rather than encouraging other important efforts toward peace, human rights and democracy? Aceh peace has thus become a victim of its own success. The writer is journalist with Radio Netherlands.