The 2021 Nobel Peace Prize nominations include a star-studded list of folks who have sought to change the world — though not always for the better. Among the nominees this year are voting rights activist Stacey Abrams, the global racial justice movement Black Lives Matter, climate activist Greta Thunberg, the pandemic-combatting World Health Organization, and — checks notes — Trump world ghoul Jared Kushner.
Considering the Nobel Peace Prize is meant for people who have "done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses," according to the will of its namesake Alfred Bernhard Nobel, Kushner’s nomination is certainly jarring. But before you panic too much about the thought of a slumlord who reportedly tried to evict tenants from his apartment complexes in the middle of a pandemic getting recognized as some sort of peacekeeper, it’s important to consider how one comes to be a nominee.
While the Nobel Peace Prize is a prestigious award, the nomination process isn’t exactly a strenuous and thorough investigation into the qualifications of every candidate. The Norwegian Nobel Committee casts quite a wide net, welcoming nominations from a wide range of people, including members of national assemblies, governments, and international courts of law; university chancellors, professors of social science, history, philosophy, law and theology; leaders of peace research institutes and institutes of foreign affairs; and board members of organizations that have received the Nobel Peace Prize, among others. Theoretically, the nominations are supposed to stay sealed for 50 years, but nominators can reveal their choices — which is the real tell that nods like Kushner’s are self-serving efforts from like-minded people looking to boost their own ideology.
Donald Trump, who is now eligible to win the prize but not tweet about it. Trump, for the record, was nominated by far-right politician and climate change denier Christian Tybring-Gjedde.
In Kushner’s case, the Nobel nod is the result of a little self-dealing within the Trump world — no surprise for a guy who has benefited from having connections to people in high places his whole life. Alan Dershowitz, a member of the legal team that represented the former President during his first impeachment trial, nominated both Kushner and Kushner’s deputy White House adviser Avi Berkowitz. Dershowitz is a professor emeritus of Harvard Law School and while he hasn't taught a course since 2014, his ties to the university allowed him to submit his nomination. He used it on Kushner, giving him credit for brokering several peace deals among Middle Eastern nations including Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. Credit where it's due, those agreements were viewed by many — even Trump critics — as a genuine accomplishment, though the deals did entirely ignore the existence of Palestine.
Kushner isn’t the only member of the Trump family to get a nom this year — Donald Trump was also nominated (by far-right Norwegian politician and climate change denier Christian Tybring-Gjedde), making him eligible to win the prize but not tweet about it. Kushner and Trump are unlikely to actually win the Nobel Peace Prize, this year or any year — the committee is far more thorough in selecting the winner than it is in accepting nominations — but they’ll surely find a way to benefit from association with the award.
While their nominations may amount to a cynical ploy, not all of the nominees make a mockery of the process. Climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has repeatedly delivered devastating critiques of the world’s ineffectual political leaders, also received a nod — the third in a row. Stacy Abrams, the voting rights activist who founded the New Georgia Project and registered 800,000 voters in the state to help turn it blue, is also a 2021 Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
The Black Lives Matter movement also received a nomination, which recognizes the ongoing work activists have done to fight for equality in the face of injustice. "We hold the largest social movement in global history,” the organization tweeted in response to the nomination. “Today, we have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. People are waking up to our global call: for racial justice and an end to economic injustice, environmental racism, and white supremacy. We're only getting started."