Interpretation—the determining factors

To sum up: the goal of the interpretation of a will is to find out what the testator intended, the purpose he or she had in mind. To describe the recipients he had in mind Nobel created a Swedish word, fredsförfäktare (''champions of peace''). Under the law it is both improper and illegal for the Nobel Committee to ignore the specific expression that Nobel actually used, champions of peace, and instead give its own content to the much less specific term ''peace prize.'' The committee is guilty of an unauthorized change of its mandate.

The interpretation of a testament, determining its content, is all about what the testator intended. The Nobel committee is left with six criteria to help it understand what Nobel had in mind and his idea of the most deserving and legitimate recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize.
First, thereare two general expressions that apply to all five Nobel prizes:
during the expired year
has conferred the greatest benefit on mankind
Then there are four particular expressions regarding the Peace Prize:
the champions of peace
the confraternization of nations
the abolition or reduction of standing armies
the holding and promotion of peace congresses

The concepts confraternization, disarmament, and peace congresses are interdependent and mutually helpful to understand what a champion of peace is. Although the other prizes are intended for persons who have ‘‘invented,’’ ‘‘discovered,’’ ‘‘improved’’ (physics, chemistry, medicine), or ‘‘produced’’ (literature), Nobel used the word ‘‘worked’’ (verkat) to explain what he expected the champion of peace to have done. This seems to exclude work with a more indirect and incidental bearing on peace. Even if the word work might appear to indicate practical activity, it is highly unlikely that Nobel wished to exclude intellectual activity and prizes rewarding bright and innovative ideas and thinking.
In the search for Nobel’s intention it is late-19th-century Swedish and his own use of language that counts. Further clues are the belief of the era in innovations that would change the lot of mankind and Nobel’s life and background, which made him see the needs of the world rather than narrow national interests. Then there is the particular history behind the will, especially his contact with Suttner and his promises to do something great for her peace movement. His trust in Norway as the most suitable executor must have been occasioned by the fact that the Norwegian parliament was the leading protagonist of arbitration, neutrality, and alternatives to military force in the 1890s.34 The fairly correct understanding of the mandate in the early decades, both in Parliament and in the Nobel Committee, is another strong indicator of his original intention.
In current usage, the purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize may be summed up as honoring work toward the establishment of a ‘‘peaceful, demilitarized international community through negotiation between nations.’’ It is an idea whose time has come.


Having determined the purpose Nobel had in mind in 1895 we then need to translate this purpose to the present time. The task is to rediscover and recognize, as closely as possible, Nobel’s own intention in the modern world and formulate it in the usage of our time. Very often wills become outdated or irrelevant over time, but 115 years later Nobel’s approach to peace and security is a more urgent necessity than ever before. The error of the Nobel committee is not in adapting to a modern age, but in failing to understand the point of departure for this exercise. What they should have developed was Nobel’s idea of peace, not their own.