It is enormously encouraging that the Nobel Committee chose its Peace Prize winner on the basis of the hope he instills and inspires around the world. With the added luster of such an award, peace activists hope that President Obama will wade more deeply into resolving the deadliest conflicts in the world in the last half century: Sudan and Congo.
The Nobel Peace Prize will provide new momentum and a new point of positive leverage on behalf of America’s peacemaking efforts around the world. As the president himself remarked this morning:
[T]hroughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it’s also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes. And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action — a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.
Nowhere else is such engagement more pressing from a humanitarian and human rights standpoint than in Congo and Sudan, two of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman or a girl due to the prevalence of sexual violence.
The United States has appointed special envoys for both conflicts, but could do much more to move from conflict management to conflict resolution. With the president’s help, more united international action could prevent a return to deadly war in southern Sudan, where over two million lives were lost before a 2005 peace deal, and could catalyze a peace deal in Darfur, which everyone supports but no one is pushing forward strategically. In Congo, the new Nobel Laureate could help catalyze efforts to end the trade in conflict minerals, helping to lay the foundation for peace in much the same way ending the blood diamonds trade helped end the wars in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Angola.
Throughout Africa and the rest of the world, the selection of Barack Obama is generating further hope for real action in support of peace. It is hard to conceive of a more propitious time to act on that hope than now, and difficult to imagine two places that need it more than Congo and Sudan.
Photo: Nobel Laureate Barack Obama (AP/Alex Brandon)