- Geir Lundestad said awarding Nobel Peace Prize to Obama was a mistake
- Mr Lundestad claimed the committee thought it would give him a ‘boost’
- The decision to award it to the President was met with criticism in the U.S.
- He revealed White House staffers checked if Obama could skip ceremony
The decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama in 2009 was a ‘mistake’ and the President did not even want to travel to Oslo to pick it up, the committee’s former secretary claims.
Geir Lundestad, from Norway, writes in a book to be released on Thursday that the committee had expected the prize to deliver a boost to Obama.
Instead the award was met with fierce criticism in the U.S., where many argued Obama had only been president for nine months, which was not long enough to have an impact worthy of the Nobel.
Lundestad wrote: ‘Even many of Obama’s supporters believed that the prize was a mistake in that sense the committee didn’t achieve what it had hoped for.’
The 70-year-old, who stepped down last year after 25 years as the non-voting secretary of the secretive committee, noted that Obama was startled by the award and that his staff even investigated whether other winners had skipped the prize ceremony in Oslo.
That has happened only on rare occasions, such as when dissidents were held back by their governments.
‘In the White House they quickly realized that they needed to travel to Oslo,’ Lundestad wrote.
Geir Lundestad addresses media at a press conference ahead of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony
He also revealed he didn’t disagree with the decision to award the prize to the president but the committee ‘thought it would strengthen Obama and it didn’t have this effect’.
It is rare for Nobel officials to discuss the proceedings of the secretive committee or publicly criticize each other.
But in the book Lundestad also fired a parting shot at Thorbjorn Jagland who was the committee chairman for six years and is now a regular member.
Lundestad said that as a former Norwegian prime minister and sitting head of the Council of Europe human rights organization, Jagland should never have been appointed to the committee, which frequently emphasizes its independence.
Jagland declined to comment, said Daniel Holtgen, his spokesman at the Council of Europe.
At the time, the prize committee highlighted Mr Obama’s efforts to support international bodies, build ties with the Muslim world, promote nuclear disarmament and fight climate change.
The shock decision of the five-member committee drew both praise and criticism from former Nobel laureates and people in the world’s troublespots.
Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency – awarded the prize in 2005 – said: ‘In less than a year in office, he has transformed the way we look at ourselves and the world we live in and rekindled hope for a world at peace with itself.
But former Polish President Lech Walesa, a 1983 Nobel Peace laureate, declared: ‘So soon? Too early.
‘He has no contribution so far. He is still at an early stage. He is only beginning to act.’