As the Norwegian Nobel Committee prepares to announce this year’s winner of the Nobel Peace Prize next week, champions of climate- and human rights issues have emerged once again as among the most worthy candidates. Two international journalist organizations are also on the shortlists of “good” candidates, not just those considered most likely to win.
“I don’t think there are any major front-runners this year,” Henrik Urdal, director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), said at a meeting with foreign correspondents in Oslo on Wednesday. Urdal and historian Asle Sveen, who worked at the Nobel Institute for many years and co-authored a book on the first 100 years of the Peace Prize, are among those compiling shortlists of top candidates every year based on verified nominations.
The Nobel Institute has itself confirmed a total of 329 candidates for the prize the year, includig 234 individuals and 95 organizations. The institute never identifies the candidates, but those able and willing to nominate are free to disclose their nominees.
Norway itself faces shame again
Both Urdal and Sveen placed nominees fighting climate change on their lists. Sveen has Greta Thunberg, the young and highly outspoken Swedish climate advocate, at the top of his list, not least because selecting someone who’s been so critical of Norway’s own oil and gas industry would stress the independence of the Nobel Committee itself.
“She would lash out at the Norwegian government from the podium in the Oslo City Hall, because of how Norway has been riding two horses as the ‘green Norway’ and the ‘oil and gas Norway,'” Sveen said. He conceded that Thunberg would be a controversial choice, but it would also grab attention and spark debate just a month before the UN’s next climate summit begins in Glasgow.
Urdal doesn’t think members of the Nobel Committee would be able to agree on Thunberg as a Nobel Laureate, and she may not even accept a Nobel Peace Prize awarded in Oslo because of her outrage over what she and many others view as Norwegian hyprocrisy over alleged climate concerns while maintaining an active and profitable oil industry. Urdal also has climate on his agenda, though. He thinks the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) would be “a fitting candidate” along with its leader, Patricia Espinosa. Urdal and PRIO noted that UNFCCC, the parent treaty of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and the Paris Agreement in 2015, plays “an essential role in coordinating the global response to climate change” and thus makes “an invaluable contribution” to building the “fraternity among nations” cited by prize benefactor Alfred Nobel in his will.
Urdal topped his list, however, with the international organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Based in France, it’s become a global watchdog stressing the importance of independent, factual reporting and fighting fake news. “That’s what holds governments and movements accountable,” Urdal said, with Sveen also having Reporters Without Borders in second-place on his list. Both also agreed that another worthy candidate for a Peace Prize in the same category would be the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). It compiles data on journalists who have been attacked or killed by those trying to silence independent journalism.
Both Urdal and Sveen also have Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, leader of the non-violent pro-democracy movement in Belarus, on their lists, in second and third place respectively. She took over, also as a candidate for president of Belarus, after her husband, activist Sergei Tikhanovsky, was arrested just days after declaring his own intention to run against the authoritarian president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, widely viewed as Europe’s last dictator. Her campaign for democracy and human rights in Belarus, now from exile abroad, makes her a worth candidate in Urdal’s and Sveen’s view, after she united the opposition and tried to secure a democratic and peaceful transition of power in Belarus. A prize to her would likely be viewed as a rebuke against Russia and its president Vladimir Putin, who still supports Lukashenko.
Other candidates deemed worthy by Urdal include the Israeli organization B’Tselem and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), both of which keep trying to find a peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians. Urdal also listed two advocates of democracy and human rights in China: Ilham Tohti and Nathan Law Kwun-chung. Tohti fought for the rights of the Uighur minority in China while Law fought for the same in Hong Kong, only to meet brutal oppression by Chinese authorities. “As China continues to asset itself as a rising superpower in an emerging multipolar world, it continues to be important to highlight pro-democracy efforts and human rights breaches in China and its claimed territories,” PRIO wrote when publishing its updated list on Wednesday.
Gone from the top spot on PRIO’s list, meanwhile, is COVAX, earlier viewed as a worthy candidate for its efforts to contain the Corona crisis and promote rapid production and distributin of Covid-19 vaccines. Urdal said on Wednesday, however, COVAX “has not been successful” in achieving more global cooperation in fighting the spread of infection. He also question how COVAX and the World Health Organization have handled their mission, also in prodding the Chinese government to collaborate.
Sveen rounded out his list with the Black Lives Matter movement the Tax Justice Network that seeks to reduce social differences worldwide. Other organizations based in Norway have also compiled lists of candidates they view as most worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize, including the Nobel Peace Prize Watch (NPPW) led by Oslo attorney Fredrik Heffermehl. It advocates strict adherence to the terms of Alfred Nobel’s will, and lists its own favourites accordingly.
The Nobel Committee’s decision on this year’s Peace Prize winner will be announced in Oslo on October 8.