Antinuclear advocates win Nobel honors for peace
In the 81 years since its creation, the prestigious and often controversial Nobel Peace Prize has been bestowed on personalities as famous and colorful as Teddy Roosevelt, Henry Kissinger, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin. The award has also been given to faceless organizations. In 1981, the five-person Norwegian Nobel Committee passed over Polish Trade Union Leader Lech Walesa to bestow its gold medallion and $180,000 in cash on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Last week the Nobel panel opted for a middle ground between the bland and the flamboyant. It awarded the 1982 peace prize to two dedicated diplomats who are little known outside their circles of influence but who have campaigned long and hard for nuclear disarmament. The winners were Swedish Sociologist Alva Myrdal, 80, and Alfonso Garcia Robles, 71, a Mexican career diplomat who energetically sponsored the 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco, which is intended to make Latin America the world's largest nuclear-free inhabited zone. Myrdal belongs to an even more elite circle. She is married to another Nobel Laureate, Gunnar Myrdal, 83, who shared the 1974 Nobel Prize for Economics. They are the first husband and wife to earn Nobel honors in separate disciplines.*
Alva Myrdal was appointed Sweden's Ambassador to India in 1955. As the head of Sweden's delegation to disarmament talks in Geneva between 1962 and 1973, Myrdal developed a pointed and somewhat naive cynicism about the intentions of the U.S. and the Soviet Union in their drawn-out negotiations to scale down the arms race. Says she: "They had been playing games with us, and often with their own delegates, pretending those years at the negotiating table were important, when all it was was a kind of occupational therapy. It was the two superpowers who were on the same side, working behind our backs, while the rest of us who believed in disarmament were cruelly deceived." Myrdal finally set down her views in an angry The Game of Disarmament.
Myrdal's efforts have made her a darling of antinuclear circles. In 1980 she received the inaugural Albert Einstein Peace Prize in New York City, an award presented by former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. Last year Norwegian pacifist organizations raised funds to give her a special People's Peace Prize to protest her having been overlooked by the Nobel Committee. Says Myrdal of her 1982 Nobel award: "The prize money will come in handy to support the peace campaign."
Co-Laureate Garcia Robles, on the other hand, has pursued a low-profile path to the same ends. A diminutive, soft-spoken Mexican career diplomat, Garcia Robles joined his country's foreign service in 1939 (his first posting: Sweden). Involved in the San Francisco Conference of 1945 that founded the U.N., he filled a variety of posts before presiding in 1965 over the first Latin American convention, held in Mexico City, on the dangers of nuclear proliferation. Two years later, he proudly oversaw the signing of the Tlatelolco Treaty. (That document, however, still has only symbolic significance: the two countries most likely to develop atomic bombs in Latin America, Argentina and Brazil, have signed the treaty but have not yet ratified it.)