The Black Lives Matter movement has been nominated for the 2021 Nobel peace prize for the way its call for systemic change has spread around the world.
In his nomination papers, the Norwegian MP Petter Eide said the movement had forced countries outside the US to grapple with racism within their own societies.
“I find that one of the key challenges we have seen in America, but also in Europe and Asia, is the kind of increasing conflict based on inequality,” Eide said. “Black Lives Matter has become a very important worldwide movement to fight racial injustice.
“They have had a tremendous achievement in raising global awareness and consciousness about racial injustice.”
Eide, who has previously nominated human rights activists from Russia and China for the prize, said one other thing that impressed him about the Black Lives Matter movement was the way “they have been able to mobilise people from all groups of society, not just African-Americans, not just oppressed people, it has been a broad movement, in a way which has been different from their predecessors.”
The Black Lives Matter movement was co-founded in 2013 by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi in response to the acquittal in the US of the man who shot Trayvon Martin.
It gained wider recognition in 2014 following protests over the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and was the wellspring of a series of global protests in 2020 following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Nominations for the Nobel peace prize are accepted from any politician serving at a national level, and they are allowed just 2,000 words to state their case. The deadline for this year’s submission is 1 February, and by the end of March the committee prepares a shortlist. The winner is chosen in October and the award ceremony is scheduled for 10 December. There were more than 300 nominations for last year’s award, which was ultimately won by the World Food Programme.
The committee awarded the WFP because it wanted to “turn the eyes of the world to the millions of people who suffer from or face the threat of hunger”, but perhaps the most high profile nomination last year was for former US president Donald Trump.
Trump was nominated for a second time by another Norwegian MP, Christian Tybring-Gjedde. The far-right MP cited Trump’s role in normalising relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates under the Abraham Accords, although Eide said he had “a little difficulty defending that nomination” after the Capitol riot of 6 January when a pro-Trump mob stormed the US Congress buildings and five people died.
Eide, however, said he didn’t want his nomination for Black Lives Matter to be seen as a comment on domestic US politics. And he dismissed criticism from rightwing voices that the group had been behind violence in US cities.
“Studies have shown that most of the demonstrations organised by Black Lives Matter have been peaceful,” he said. “Of course there have been incidents, but most of them have been caused by the activities of either the police or counter-protestors.”
Data assembled by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project in September 2020 showed that 93% of Black Lives Matter demonstrations involved no serious harm to people or property.
The 61-year-old politician, who has represented the Socialist Left party in parliament since 2017, cited precedents of the Oslo-based Nobel prize committee recognising the battle against racism.
Albert Luthuli and Nelson Mandela received the prize in 1960 and 1993 respectively for advocating against racial discrimination in South Africa, and Martin Luther King was awarded the prize for non-violent resistance against racism in the US in 1964. Mandela shared his award with FW de Klerk, the man who ordered the ANC leader’s release from prison.
“There is actually a tradition for doing this,” Eide said. “It’s a strong linkage between antiracism movements and peace, and a recognition that without this kind of justice, there will be no peace and stability in the society.”
His written nomination concludes: “Awarding the peace prize to Black Lives Matter, as the strongest global force against racial injustice, will send a powerful message that peace is founded on equality, solidarity and human rights, and that all countries must respect those basic principles.”