09 October 2009

Hope and Peace

There may well be more deserving candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize than Barack Obama. But let there be no doubt about his accomplishments.

First, he got elected on a progressive ticket. A ticket that said we want people around the world to welcome American help. A ticket that stressed "Cooperation and Interconnectedness" as opposed to McCain's American "Exceptionalism and Leadership". A ticket that rejected cynicism.

Second, he is taking on big foreign policy issues in the middle of the fullest domestic agenda any US president has faced since the Second World War. We don't know how well he will do on climate or on the reform of the World Bank, IMF and the US State Department or on Middle East peace talks, but he is expending scarce political capital when many would just forget their overseas campaign pledges.

Third, he has changed the way the world sees America and has given numerous failed peace processes renewed impetus. As I wrote back in January "If there is a silver lining to the current global economic downturn, it is the upturn in progressive leadership in the US. We are loading impossible hopes onto the new administration and it faces many practical problems in achieving stated plans on sustainable development. But I suspect it will be the as-yet-unknown possibilities and opportunities that an Obama administration will inevitably create space for which will, in the end, make the biggest positive difference to global poverty and justice".

It is this game-changing dynamic that the Nobel committee awarded the prize for. What has he achieved? The replenishment of that crucial ingredient for peace-building: hope.

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