By Lars Johnsen
The Nobel Peace Center has decided to end their involvement in the heavily symbolic “Handshake for Peace”-project. Josimar understands that the decision has been made as a result of the recent scandals surrounding FIFA.
Up until now the Nobel Peace Center has been part of the team, along with FIFA and the Norwegian FA, and in return has received annual funding in the region of 1 million NOK.
– The board decided that we will terminate our involvement with FIFA as soon as circumstances allow it. We will now enter into dialogue with the Norwegian FA and FIFA”, said Bente Erichsen, director of the Nobel Peace Centre.
What does “as soon as circumstances allow it” mean?
– We think the idea behind “Handshake for Peace” is good, and we wish that the project continue. Because of this we will enter into dialogue with The Norwegian FA and FIFA, Erichsen says.
Olav Njølstad, chairman of the board of the Nobel Peace Centre, elaborates.
– The contract with FIFA runs until the end of 2016. Our decision is to take an initiative towards FIFA with a view of terminating the Peace Centre’s role in the “Handshake for Peace”-project. We want to have as clear cut a process as possible. The board stresses that “Handshake for Peace” is a laudable initiative, and an initiative that in itself is in line with the values of the Peace Centre. We have no wish to shoot down “Handshake for Peace”, we just want to withdraw from the project in an orderly manner.
“Handshake for Peace” is the brainchild of Kjetil Siem, general secretary of the Norwegian FA. He had the idea when he was CEO of the South African Premier Soccer League. Siem is following the Women’s World Cup in Canada at the moment, and he had just been notified of the Nobel Peace Center’s decision to withdraw when Josimar caught up with him.
– Bente (Erichsen) called me just now and told me that the Nobel Peace Center has had a board meeting where they decided to terminate our cooperation when they find the right moment. This isn’t news, as such. They have previously said that they felt the project has gotten very large, and they’ve communicated that they didn’t want to be involved with the operational part of it. That the decision is made now is probably to do with that’s happened at FIFA. I think that’s a bit strange, one should rather wait and see what happens, and possibly demand changes at FIFA to continue. Because neither FIFA nor Nobel are doing anything wrong with “Handshake for Peace”. Now it seems more important to demonstrate distance than to look at what the project actually means and what it’s meant where it’s been used, for example now with Israel and Palestine where FIFA has just created a committee.
– When they send this signal with a decision of the board right now, it becomes difficult to at the same time convey that they also want to finish the contract. I can imagine that it would also be difficult for the Norwegian FA to continue working with the Peace Center.
– Handshake for Peace” is three-pronged: It’s about the handshake itself, it’s the branding around it, that referees and FIFPro are behind, that football can build bridges in the world, like in Israel and Palestine, between Northern and Southern Cyprus – in troubled places in the world, where we use football as a “weapon”. The next thing is Ukraine and the World Cup in Russia. This will continue, but maybe in a different packaging.
“Handshake for Peace” is your initiative. Is this a personal defeat?
– No, it isn’t about me, it’s about football using it’s position, in line with both Alfred Nobel’s will and the legacy of Nelson Mandela. There will still be wars in the world, but “Handshake for Peace” is a good platform for communication – in everything from the World Cup to the jungles of Burma. I understand that working with FIFA right now is difficult, with arrests and massive rumours. I understand that some want to distance themselves. But not everyone who works at FIFA are criminals, nor are everyone who are here at the World Cup in Canada, where we are. We can’t come home from a World Cup because people have been arrested for corruption in the big FIFA family. It’s a difficult balance.