This is just your friendly neighbourhood Norwegian reminding you that it is that time of year again...
Tomorrow, at 11 AM CEST (or is that CET? Daylight saving confuses me... I am aiming for whatever abbreviation the current time zone of Continental Europe has...) the announcement of this year's Nobel Peace Prize Laureate will be made from a building not far from my current location. I'd tell you all about the background for this, but that is completely unnecessary since I already did that, last year.
Last year I also took the opportunity to deviate from my insistence on starting every title of every blog post on this blog with the word "on" when I felt the need to double-post (!) to comment on the surprising choice of US President Barack Obama as last year's laureate. I promise I will do no such thing today (I also promise, on behalf of the Nobel Committee that Obama won't win again this year). Instead I plan on taking a few moments tomorrow to share my thoughts on this year's laureate, whomever that may be. This means that tomorrow's post will be slightly delayed from its regular 8 AM schedule, though, but I am sure you all bear with me...
In the meantime I have some thoughts with regards to what sort of laureate we'll be looking at. Or first off, what sort of laureate it won't be.
It most likely will not be a "nuclear" prize this year. The Committee has a tradition for picking laureates that has worked specifically for reduction of nuclear weapons in years marking the decade anniversaries of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in 1945. In 2005 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) og Mohamed ElBaradei won. In 1985 the organization International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War won.
It is also very unlikely, in my opinion, that we will see a retreat to the 2000s trend of picking laureates that are not specifically honoured for their work for reduction of wars, but for other factors that are considered vital for a peaceful world. Climate awareness and poverty reduction were issues the previous Committee, with its leader the value-oriented Ole Danbolt Mjøs, considered important factors to lasting peace in a changing world. I am sure the current committee also values these issues, but the current leader, Torbjørn Jagland, is a much more traditional politician in many ways. He is also the current Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and his knowledge of international politics is impressive to say the least. Thus, pragmatism and geopolitical denominators are much more likely factors to determine the current committee's choice. I would be surprised if a new Wangari Maathai, Muhammad Yunus or Al Gore wins this year.
One previously alternative factor have become conventional for the Nobel Committee's interpretation of the term peace, however. Human Rights advocates have periodically been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize since the 1960s. The last time this was used as a foundation for finding a laureate was in 2003, when Shirin Ebadi won. It doubtlessly seems like a good time to pick another human rights candidate. I could also add that it is a good time to pick another female laureate, as those are a minority in the Prize's almost 109 year long history.
Commentators have been speculating for years if it is not time to give the prize to a Chinese dissident as a way of commenting on the continuous breach of human rights in China. One candidate might be the former Rafto Human Rights Prize winner Rebiya Kadeer, who is a Uyghur business woman and political activist who for years have been suggested as a potential Nobel candidate. Though this is probably where I'd place my money, there are also other Rafto winners that might be potential Nobel laureates - the Nobel Peace Prize has actually several times been awarded to former Rafto winners.
One final guess from my part - I don't think the Nobel Committee will choose any Russian dissidents this year. The Norwegian Nobel Committee are independent of the Norwegian government, but I think I would give the Committee too much credit if I said it was making its decisions in a vacuum from Norwegian foreign policy and interests. Norway and Russia recently signed an important agreement that settled border questions that have been a point of disagreement for forty years. The current friendly political climate between Norway and Russia is probably not something the Nobel Committee would want to risk. Even though the decisions of the Nobel Committee in no way represents the official Norwegian policy, a critical prize to a Russian dissident would be received extremely unfavourably in Moscow. I'm willing to bet, then, that this is not a chance the Committee will take at this time.
So, if you're placing any bets (though you'd have to hurry!) I'd go for human rights, and check out the list of Rafto winners. Though I don't guarantee that I am right...
ALSØ WIK: Woot! The Literature Prize announced today (the Swedes like to start early...), and it was well-deservedly (is that a word?) given to Mario Vargas Llosa. I have been doubting the judgement of the Swedish Nobel Committee for some time, but they made a good decision this year. A laureate I've actually read (and liked)!