Norwegian Nobel Peace Center has no money for Nobel Prizes

A major scandal over the funding of the Nobel Peace Center has broken out in Oslo just days before the next Nobel Peace Prize is to be awarded. The Nobel Peace Center is under the auspices of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, members of which are appointed by the Norwegian Parliament to award the annual Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Peace Center’s board had requested the Norwegian Ministry for Culture for a great increase in state funding to support the center’s operations. The request, however, was plainly denied by the ministry. Moreover, Trond Giske, the current state minister for culture, leveled his harsh criticism at the center’s board for its “lack of financial control.” As a result, the future of the Nobel Peace Center, opened in 2005, may be at risk, reports newspaper Aftenposten.

The Nobel Peace Center has become the largest and most pompous of all Nobel institutions. The original proposal of setting up a peace prize museum was put forth several years ago in Norway. Establishment of the Nobel Peace Center was approved by the Norwegian Parliament in 2000. The center opened with much fanfare in June 2005.

The center is housed in the 19th century train station building, which was completely rearranged to suit the new purposes. The sponsors alone donated 85 million Norwegian krones to the development of Oslo’s new place of interest. The center regularly holds exhibitions and conferences attended by high-ranking guests including the Nobel Prize winners. Substantial funding is required to cover the costs of a large-scale cultural program. So far ticket revenues have failed to match the expenses related to the center’s operations.

The center is largely financed out of state coffers. According to Aftenposten, the government allocated 16.7 million krones for the institution in 2006. Only 17.3 million was earmarked in the government’s budget proposal for the next year. However, the Nobel Peace Center’s board believes the amount is far too small, and therefore should be doubled. Trond Giske, the man who pretty much has control over the state funding for the center, is furious over the request.

On Monday the whole nation could watch Giske lash out at the center’s director Bente Ericsen in a live TV debate. The government minister looked extremely annoyed by the stance of his opponent. He accused the center of failing to execute proper financial control. He also argued that the center might risk discrediting the name of Alfred Nobel. “I’m shocked over how an institution of such importance has been run,” Giske told Aftenposten. “They’ve gotten the message again and again that they couldn’t count on getting more state funding, and yet they committed themselves to irresponsibly costly operation,” added he. In his turn, Geir Lundestad, the leader of the Nobel Peace Center’s board, expressed his disappointment about the failure “to present a true reality to the minister.”

The situation is getting even more complicated for the Norwegian government because it has to finance an institution which is not owned by the state. The point is that the center is in the books of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the private foundation, which awards the Nobel Peace Prize every year. However, the trust behind the Nobel Prizes cannot spend any money on similar projects because there is no mentioning of any museums or cultural centers in the will of Alfred Nobel. On the other hand, the center is located in a building formally controlled by the state. The center must pay back 14 million krones in rent to the state – the largest cut of the funds allocated by the government for the Nobel Peace Center. That leaves just 3.3 million for operations. The government simply takes the money from one of its pockets and puts it into the other one. The Norwegian Nobel Committee is concerned about the status quo.

The center will have to tighten its belt next year if the board fails to convince the government in general and the angry minister for cultural affairs in particular. Much of the center’s stuff will have to be let go, and the museum’s hours will be restricted. It seems that he gap in the center’s budget can only be filled by funds donated by a sponsor. Thus far the Nobel Peace Center has failed to find any sustainable source of extrabudgetary funding.

Vremya Novostei

Translated by Guerman Grachev

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov