Kuntzman: Trump’s human rights record should discredit him from a Nobel Peace Prize

Caroline Kuntzman, Staff Columnist

On Sept. 10, CBS News reported that President Donald Trump was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. His nomination came from Norwegian lawmaker, Christian Tybring-Gjedde, who claims that the president’s work in the Middle East is worthy of such international recognition. The Trump administration has made significant strides towards peace in the Middle East, having helped broker a peace treaty between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a historical landmark as the UAE is the first Arab state with whom Israel has agreed to sign a peace treaty in 25 years. After Trump’s Nobel Prize nomination, the U.S. also helped develop a peace agreement between Israel and Bahrain. Both of these agreements, signed at the White House on Sept. 15, are important legacies of the Trump administration that could improve stability in the region; however, the president should not receive the award due to his actions in other areas.

A Nobel Peace Prize should be awarded to 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.” There is precedent for presidents receiving Nobel Peace Prizes similar to Trump’s due to work in the Middle East. In 1978, the Nobel Committee wanted to award former President Jimmy Carter a peace prize for negotiating the Camp David Accords along with former President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and former Prime Minister Menachim Begin of Israel, but didn’t because he wasn’t nominated before the deadline. 

While there are parallels between the treaties that Trump and Carter helped negotiate, the rest of their work as presidents is dramatically different. Carter created a new approach to foriegn policy “rooted in our [American] values.” He focused on human rights, ending the practice of ignoring human rights violations committed by American allies. He cut off American support for abusive leadership in Nicaragua and sought to create peace through a variety of other means, such as signing the second round of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II) arms agreement with the Soviet Union and normalizing relations with China. After leaving office, Carter continued working to advance human rights internationally, founding the Carter Center in 1982 and working with Habitat for Humanity, demonstrating a genuine commitment to human rights and global well-being rather than just focusing on those issues in the hopes of being reelected. 

In contrast, the Trump administration has developed an “America First” policy. One of the core tenants of the America First policy is increasing the size of the American military, which is in direct contradiction to the focus on arms control and reduction that some past peace prize winners were nominated for. Trump also withdrew the U.S. from the United Nations Human Rights Council, indicating a lack of commitment to human rights abroad. All this without even addressing domestic policy. 

The Trump administration’s changes to immigration policies have had a disproportionately negative impact on refugees. Beginning in 2017, the administration separated undocumented parents and children upon arrival in the U.S. Associate Professor of Psychology Vanessa LoBue described this as an arrangement that not only causes children stress, but also takes away their primary method of coping with that stress. In June 2020, the Department of Homeland Security released a document outlining plans to make it harder for immigrants to claim asylum. The Human Rights Campaign released a list of 33 cases where the Trump campaign attacked the LGBTQ+ community, and data shows a correlation between Trump’s election and the number of hate crimes committed in the U.S. The Trump administration has rolled back policies meant to combat racism, protect sexual assault survivors and benefit people with disabilities. In short, the Trump administration does not have a good human rights record. 

The peace agreements Trump has helped negotiate in the Middle East are significant achievements for which he deserves credit, but he should not be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize given his administration’s human rights record. Awarding such a significant prize, that has been historically associated with people who advance human rights, would obscure the harm his administration has caused. History should consider both the merits and flaws of the Trump administration when considering its full impact, but the administration’s failings in human rights are many, and should not be overlooked by the Nobel Committee.