Why is the Philippines boycotting the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony?

So, the Philippines is boycotting the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. Big international news, but primarily because of the China connection. Perhaps the most extensive report on this is provided by Reuters, but even they can’t seem to find an exact reason for why so many states are boycotting the event alongside the Middle Kingdom, save for a vague economic incentive kind of rationale:

Joining China in staying away are: Russia, Kazakhstan, Colombia, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Serbia, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Venezuela, the Philippines, Egypt, Sudan, Ukraine, Cuba and Morocco.

“Most of them see China as a very important supporter and protector against Western pressure,” said Nils Butenschoen, director of the Norwegian Center for Human Rights.

The Philippines provides the world with the clearest explanation of the boycott:

“We do not want to further annoy China,” [a senior Filipino diplomat] said.

Understandably a lot of Filipinos were enraged by the news (we usually are enraged by anything the government does anyway). But I will save my agreement or disagreement until after we’ve been given a full explanation for why our peace-loving country is boycotting the most prestigious peace prize in all of humanity. “We do not want to further annoy China,” however is unacceptable. On the PR front, somebody please send this diplomat to communications training.

The other thing that has irked some Pinoys is the way the Reuters article lumped the Philippines with Serbia and Ukraine:

Ukraine, Colombia, the Philippines and Serbia are “flawed democracies” …

The main contentions were: 1) How dare they lump the greatness of the Philippines with lesser states like Serbia, Colombia and the Ukraine, and 2) they’re calling us a flawed democracy? ‘scuuuuze me!

Well, first of all, let’s do #2. The Reuters article explains it:

According to the democracy index, a rating system compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, none of the countries that plan to skip the Nobel gala are “fully fledged” democracies.

Ukraine, Colombia, the Philippines and Serbia are “flawed democracies” and the rest are either “hybrid regimes” or “authoritarian” states — such as China, which ranks in 136th place out of 167 countries covered in the 2010 democracy index.

It’s the Economist, stupid. The 2010 one is only available through purchase for now, but here is a link to the 2008 EIU Democracy Index: The Economist

If you really believe the Philippines is a perfect (opposite of flawed) democracy, please, speak up or forever hold your peace.

On to #1, do we really want to have a problem being lumped with Serbia and the Ukraine? I don’t know much about the Ukraine or Colombia (save for their amazing amazing coffee and the fact that they are pulling through the FARC issue better than expected), but may I just note that Serbia is well on its way to join the world’s second largest economy (World Bank 2008 ranking), the EU, thanks to the persistence of a few European parliamentarians in Belgium who seem to be willing to overlook the country’s failure to extradite perhaps the world’s most wanted fugitive Ratko Mladic to The Hague to face multiple counts of war crimes including genocide, in exchange for the economic and political benefits Serbia brings to the table for the mighty EU.

Let’s steer all our attention back now to the real question and quit the quibble over “failed democracies” and misplaced nationalism.


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