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World: Who Will Win The 2002 Nobel Peace Prize?

  • Don Hill

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate for 2002 will be announced tomorrow in Oslo amid the usual speculation as to who the recipient will be. The Norwegian Nobel Committee said last week it has chosen the Peace Prize winner, but it so closely guards the name that it won't even reveal the proposed 156 nominations for 2002. RFE/RL joins the speculators and discovers some surprising facts about the whole process.

Prague, 10 October 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the man who is striving against odds to lead war-crippled Afghanistan toward political stability?

Or could the million-dollar Nobel Peace Prize go this year to U.S. senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar, authors of the Nunn-Lugar program for disposing of Russia's Soviet-era nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons?

How about Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, who many see as a moderate in a country governed mainly by passionate immoderates?

The Nobel Committee has scheduled the announcement of its choice for tomorrow at 11 a.m. in Oslo. It is the only Nobel award not announced in Stockholm. And the only certainty about it appears to be that the award will be a surprise. So strict is the committee's security that it won't even disclose who has been proposed in the record 156 nominations for this year.

Among the most authoritative of the peace-prize watchers is the Peace Research Institute of Oslo, or PRIO, which over the years has scored well in efforts to predict the outcome of the committee's annual deliberations.

PRIO spokeswoman Agnete Schjonsby said that PRIO sometimes worries that it will be considered too prescient. "Last year, our director guessed -- I think he was the only one who made the right guess. So the record is not bad at all. But, of course, that makes us a little nervous that some people may feel that we have information from the Nobel Committee. But no one has," Schjonsby said.

The 2001 winner was a combination of the United Nations and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The Peace Prize is the only one of the Nobel awards that can go to an organization rather than an individual or individuals.

Other speculation this year has included the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and its chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte and even a Canadian teenage university student, Craig Kielburger, who founded the 100,000-member Kids Can Free the Children seven years ago when he was 12 years old.

One of the mysteries of the Peace Prize is that Sweden and Norway were a united kingdom in 1901 when the prize was first awarded, and why Swede Alfred Nobel chose the Norwegian parliament, the Storting, to appoint the prize committee, he didn't say and nobody appears to know for sure.

Over the years, the Norwegian authorities have moved steadily further in asserting the committee's independence from the national government. In 1936, when the committee awarded the prize to German peace advocate Carl von Ossietzky, the Norwegian prime minister and former prime minister withdrew from the committee's deliberations to emphasize that the award is not an act of Norwegian foreign policy. The year after, the Storting ruled that members of the government could no longer even serve on the committee.

Even so, Schjonsby said, PRIO believes that Norwegian interests can weight the decision process. PRIO's best bet this year is on Nunn-Lugar. "The Nobel Committee is in Norway and the enormous problems of the ex-Soviet nuclear arms located in the Kola Peninsula, which is very close to the Norwegian border," may be an influence.

A prize to the two senators, PRIO's thinking goes, would appeal both to environmentalists and to worldwide concern over terrorism.

Schjonsby said: "Secondly, the prize would, of course, support the efforts that are indirectly antiterrorist. Nunn and Lugar have been working with limiting the supply of uranium available, also for illegal trade, and also for potentially producing dirty bombs that could fall into the hands of terrorists."

Schjonsby conceded that Hamid Karzai's name is on many lips, but she said PRIO has reservations about his candidacy, at least for this year. "These are pure [guesses], but we are all talking about Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, who in himself just being there represents a clear alternative to the Taliban regime. On the other hand, he has not really done much yet or enough to prove himself for the level of the peace prize," Schjonsby said.

The peace prize is much desired, of course, and the $1.1 million in prize money may be secondary. Laureates receive a place in history as advocates of peace. But over time, the award has proven a mixed blessing. With the applause comes worldwide scrutiny. South Korean President Kim Dae-jung currently stands accused of secretly paying $400 million to North Korea before the historic summit with Kim Jong-Il that brought him the 2000 prize.

Others whose reputations have declined from the prize year's peak include Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, 1994; Poland's Lech Walesa, 1983; and the United States' Henry Kissinger. Even Mother Theresa, who received the prize in 1979, is under fire. Rationalists in India say the miracle cure attributed to her was actually a medical cure.

Some Nobel Committee members publicly discussed this year withdrawing the 1994 prize from current Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who shared it with Arafat and Israel's Yitzhak Rabin. When Kissinger came under fire, he proposed returning the 1973 prize. Nobel Committee rules forbid both withdrawing a prize once awarded and reaccepting a prize.

Want a long-shot tip for this year's winner? Just a few names down the PRIO list is Irish rock star Bono, who is under consideration for his long-term campaign in favor of debt relief for developing countries.

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