It’s a rite of early autumn in Oslo that local media start speculating over who will be the next person to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Articles are already appearing, quoting the heads of think tanks and peace institutes, and the Norwegian Nobel Committee seems to enjoy the annual attention.
This year’s winner has a hard act to follow, after last year’s prize went to US President Barack Obama. That set off both harsh criticism and widespread praise, and an onslaught of international coverage.
This year’s winner is expected to be less flashy but likely will be aimed as usual at drawing attention to a particular cause or rewarding the efforts of those trying to make a difference in the world. Critics of the Peace Prize often claim it has strayed from rewarding pure peace-makers. Nobel committee officials have defended their choices by broadening the definition of what can lead to peace.
Nominations set new record, again
This year the committee, appointed to reflect the current political make-up of the Norwegian Parliament but with no strict ties to the Norwegian government, has sifted through 237 nominations. They include 199 persons and 38 organizations and the total sets another record.
While the committee never identifies the Peace Prize candidates, those nominating them are free to do so and often do. Nominations can be made by members of national assembles and governments (politicians), members of international courts, former Peace Prize winners, university deans and professors, active and former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee and former permanent advisers to the Norwegian Nobel Institute.
Among those often called upon to speculate on candidates for the Peace Prize is the director of the Oslo-based peace research institute PRIO, now an expert on Afghanistan, Kristian Berg Harpviken. He told news bureau NTB last week that his top candidate is Sima Samar, a human rights activist in Afghanistan and a “prominent spokeswoman” for Afghan women, peace and security.”
Samar, Harpviken says, is also a good candidate because she’s a Moslem woman, “and there haven’t been many of them in Nobel Prize history.” Samar, a doctor, heads the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, has also been active in human rights movements in Sudan and resigned a post in an Afghan interim government after being harassed and receiving death threats.
Several perennial candidates
Other top candidates, according to Harpviken, include the Democratic Voice of Burma, which has struggled to provide independent reports from Burma, where a disputed election finally looms later this year. He also singles out the international court for Sierra Leone.
The head of the Stockholm Peace research Institute also believes an international court may win this year’s prize, while others favour humanitarian organizations such as the Salvation Army. Often-mentioned candidates from earlier years include Rebiya Kadeer of the World Uyghur Congress, Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, Buddhist monk Thich Quang Do of Vietnam and Morgan Tsvangarai, who has fought for democracy in Zimbabwe.
The Nobel Peace Prize will be announced, as always, on the second Friday of October (the 8th this year), at 11 am.