OSLO, NORWAY — The Nobel Peace Prize to be awarded on Friday could go to women’s rights campaigners, climate activists or international courts investigating war crimes, with experts saying the field is wide open.
The laureate, or laureates, will be announced at 11:00 am (0900 GMT) at the Nobel Institute in Oslo.
As is the case every year, speculation has hit fever pitch in the run-up to the announcement, but the gloomy state of the world — the war in Ukraine well into its second year, US-China tensions flaring and a slew of coups in Africa — has made it harder than ever to predict the winner.
The fact that the names of the nominees are not disclosed and are kept sealed for 50 years makes the exercise nothing more than a guessing game.
All that is known is that 351 individuals and organisations have been nominated this year.
After the “Woman, Life, Freedom” uprising in Iran following the death in custody of a young Iranian Kurd arrested for violating the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women, some Nobel watchers say the prize could go to Iranian women fighting for their rights.
“Give the Nobel Peace Prize to Iranian women,” an editorialist at Norwegian tabloid VG, Per Olav Odegard, wrote this week.
“A large part of the world’s population is deprived of the rights which provide the foundations for peace and freedom. Iranian women have shown they are ready to fight for theirs, even if the price is high,” he said.
Experts suggest that if the five-member Nobel committee were to look in that direction, they could give the nod to jailed Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi.
She could possibly be honoured together with Afghanistan’s Mahbouba Seraj, who has campaigned for women’s rights in a country where the Taliban have reclaimed power and drastically restricted women’s lives.
Also mentioned is Iranian-American activist and journalist Masih Alinejad, who started the movement “My Stealthy Freedom” encouraging Iranian women to protest against the mandatory requirement to wear the hijab.
Last year, against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, the prize went to a symbolic trio opposed to the war — Russian human rights group Memorial, Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties and jailed Belarusian rights advocate Ales Bialiatski.
Surprise up their sleeve?
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has topped online betting sites this year, but Nobel watchers say it is unlikely the prize would go to the leader of a country at war.
They say it is more likely the committee will turn to another geographic region or field this year.
With the upcoming COP28 climate summit just a few weeks away and warning lights flashing across the globe, the award could go to a movement like Fridays for Future, started by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, together with Brazilian tribal leader Raoni Metuktire, who campaigns against deforestation and for Indigenous rights.
The names of climate activists Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of the Philippines, Ecuador’s Juan Carlos Jintiach and Uganda’s Vanessa Nakate have also been making the rounds in Oslo.
Or, with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, the prestigious prize could also go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Yet others cited as possible winners include the UN refugee agency UNHCR, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC), which would likely raise the question of war crimes in Ukraine.
The Nobel committee could also have a surprise up its sleeve, as has been known to happen in the past.
Thousands of people around the world are eligible to nominate candidates before the January 31 deadline, including members of parliament and cabinet ministers of all countries, former laureates and some university professors.
The five Nobel Committee members can also submit nominations at their first meeting at the start of the year.
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