Spec­u­la­tion in­ten­si­fies over No­bel Peace Prize win­ner


From the mi­grant cri­sis to the anti- nu­clear camp, spec­u­la­tion is rife about who will win the No­bel Peace Prize on Fri­day, with An­gela Merkel and John Kerry among the names men­tioned.

The only one of the six No­bel prizes to be awarded in Oslo — the oth­ers are an­nounced in Stock­holm — the Peace Prize is the one that garn­ers the most at­ten­tion and spec­u­la­tion.

But pre­dict­ing the win­ner is largely a game of chance, as the list of nom­i­nees is kept se­cret for 50 years. This year 273 names are known to be on the list.

Some No­bel watch­ers agree that the hon­ors could go to those work­ing to ease the mi­grant cri­sis, which has seen more than 630,000 peo­ple flee war and mis­ery in the Mid­dle East and Africa for Europe, test­ing the lim­its of the con­ti­nent’s gen­eros­ity.

Ac­cord­ing to the head of the Peace Re­search In­sti­tute of Oslo ( Prio), Kris­tian Berg Harpviken, the Ger­man chan­cel­lor is an ob­vi­ous choice.

“An­gela Merkel is the one who re­ally took a moral lead­er­ship,” he said.

In the same vein, the United Na­tions High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees ( UNHCR), which has al­ready won the prize twice in 1954 and 1981, and Eritrean Catholic priest Mussie Zerai, who helps res­cue mi­grants cross­ing the Mediter­ranean, have been tipped as pos­si­ble lau­re­ates by No­beliana, a group of his­to­ri­ans who spe­cial­ize in the No­bel.

Peace Deals

While the past year has been marked by vi­o­lence and tragedy in Syria, Iraq and across Africa, there have also been a few mo­men­tous steps to­wards peace.

In July, Iran’s regime reached a his­toric deal with world pow­ers to curb its nu­clear drive in ex­change for a grad­ual lift­ing of the crip­pling sanc­tions im­posed on its econ­omy since 2006.

“I think the work of the No­bel Com­mit­tee ... this year just got much eas­ier,” Swe­den’s for­mer for­eign min­is­ter Carl Bildt tweeted at the time.

In such a case, the prize could go to the ar­chi­tects of the deal, U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry and his Ira­nian coun­ter­part Javad Zarif, and pos­si­bly even EU for­eign min­is­ter Fed­er­ica Mogherini or her pre­de­ces­sor Cather­ine Ash­ton, ac­cord­ing to Peter Wal­len­steen, a pro­fes­sor at Swe­den’s Upp­sala Univer­sity.

If it were to make such a choice, the No­bel com­mit­tee would con­tinue its re­cent tra­di­tion of honor­ing an­ti­nu­clear ef­forts in years mark­ing the decade an­niver­saries of the 1945 bomb­ings of Hiroshima and Na­gasaki.

In 1975, Soviet dis­si­dent An­drei Sakharov re­ceived the nod, in 1985 it was the In­ter­na­tional Physi­cians for the Preven­tion of Nu­clear War, in 1995 it was Joseph Rot­blat and the Pug­wash move­ment, and in 2005 the In­ter­na­tional Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its di­rec­tor Mo­hamed ElBa­radei.

Ac­cord­ing to Wal­len­steen, if one were to fol­low that line of think­ing, the In­ter­na­tional Cam­paign to Abol­ish Nu­clear Weapons (ICAN) could be another con­tender.

Another re­cent peace break­through pos­si­bly wor­thy of the prize was in Colom­bia, where the gov­ern­ment and FARC guer­ril­las last month reached a deal on jus­tice with the aim of sign­ing a fi­nal peace agree­ment by March 23, 2016.

But, as with the Ira­nian deal, giv­ing the award to Pres­i­dent Juan Manuel San­tos and FARC leader Ti­moleon Jimenez now could be “a bit too early,” said No­beliana mem­ber Asle Sveen.

Blog­gers, Whistle­blow­ers,

the Pope?

Among other names men­tioned as po­ten­tial win­ners are Pope Fran­cis, for his com­mit­ment to so­cial jus­tice and the en­vi­ron­ment, and Con­golese doc­tor De­nis Muk­wege, who has treated thou­sands of women bru­tal­ized by rape in eastern Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo.

And as with ev­ery year, no No­bel spec­u­la­tion would be com­plete with­out the list of Rus­sian ac­tivists and or­ga­ni­za­tions who jeal­ously guard their in­de­pen­dence from Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin: ac­tivists Svet­lana Gan­nushk­ina and Lyud­mila Alex­eyeva, NGOs Me­mo­rial and Agora, or the news­pa­per No­vaya Gazeta.

“It starts to look like a sin of omis­sion not to have given a prize in Rus­sia’s di­rec­tion,” Harpviken said.

The fight for free­dom of ex­pres­sion could also be tapped in a year that has seen the Char­lie Hebdo at­tacks in Paris and the Copenhagen at­tacks.

Den­mark’s Flem­ming Rose, who pub­lished the Mo­hammed car­toons in daily Jyl­lands-Posten in 2005, jailed Saudi blog­ger Raif Badawi and whistle­blower Ed­ward Snow­den are names men­tioned if the com­mit­tee were to go that way.

Of course, the No­bel com­mit­tee could also pull another name out of its hat — the world will only know on Fri­day at 11:00 a.m. (0900 GMT).


(Left) Eritrean priest Mussie Zerai poses in front of Saint Peter’s basil­ica in the Vat­i­can on Sun­day, Oct. 4. Fa­ther Zerai is among the nom­i­nees for the No­bel Peace Prize for his work with mi­grants and refugees from Africa and Mid­dle East who try to cross the Mediter­ranean sea risk­ing their lives. (Right) This file pho­to­graph taken on Nov. 27, 1998 shows long­time Sin­ga­pore po­lit­i­cal pris­oner, Chia Thye Poh, stand­ing at the side of a bas­ket­ball court near his home in Sin­ga­pore. Sin­ga­pore dis­si­dents said on Satur­day, Oct. 3 that they had nom­i­nated the city-state’s long­est-held po­lit­i­cal pris­oner for the No­bel Peace Prize to high­light his role in the fight for greater po­lit­i­cal free­dom.

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