The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Wangari Maathai was a pleasant surprise (simply not giving the prize would have been so tired).
"Peace on earth depends on our ability to secure our living environment," said Ole Danbolt Mjoes, the head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. "We have emphasized the environment, democracy building and human rights and especially women's rights," Mjoes said of the prize. "We have added a new dimension to the concept of peace."
By giving the prize to someone who tries to improve living conditions, the committee takes the view that people who live well, who can provide for themselves, and who can get into the world trade system, have every incentive to avoid conflict. In a sense, it's giving the prize for the prevention of theoretical conflicts, rather than attempts (not always successful, as a look at the list of past winners shows) to resolve ones that were not prevented.
I like the idea. I hope the award to Maathai is conscious act for the Committee, and not just an expedient one for 2004.