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All eyes on Nobel Peace Prize, highlight of awards week

  • Published at 05:23 am October 9th, 2020
The portrait of Alfred Nobel
File photo: The portrait of Alfred Nobel is seen prior to the announcement of the winners of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm on October 5, 2020 AFP

The four women crowned so far this year with a Nobel is more than usual, closing in on 2009's record of five female winners

The Nobel Peace Prize, the highlight of the annual awards week, will be announced Friday, with press freedom watchdogs, Greta Thunberg and the World Health Organization seen as possible laureates in a field wide open.

The chairwoman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, will reveal the 2020 laureate or laureates at 0900 GMT at the Nobel Institute in Oslo, where coronavirus restrictions will drastically reduce the usual throng of reporters in attendance.

This year, 318 nominees were known to be under consideration -- 211 individuals and 107 organizations.

But the names on the list are kept secret for 50 years, making predictions difficult.

"There are good reasons for a prize in the field of journalism," said Sverre Lodgaard, a researcher at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI).

"In order for decision-makers to intervene in a conflict, they must be able to build an opinion based on accurate information provided by the media," he explained.

Since the first Nobel prizes were awarded in 1901, the Peace Prize has never honoured work in the field of freedom of information.

But the time may have come, experts say, citing Reporters Without Borders (known by its French acronym RSF) and the US-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) as possible winners.

Climate campaigners could also get the nod, 13 years after the UN's climate science advisory panel IPCC and former US vice president Al Gore won.

Swedish teenage activist Thunberg could in such case be honoured, either alone, with other activists, or with her "Fridays for Future" movement.

The four women crowned so far this year with a Nobel is more than usual, closing in on 2009's record of five female winners.

On Thursday, American poet Louise Gluck won the literature prize, Emmanuelle Charpentier of France and Jennifer Doudna of the US shared the chemistry prize on Wednesday, and Andrea Ghez of the US shared the physics prize with two male colleagues on Tuesday.

Will Thunberg join this prestigious club? 

With her "School Strike for the Climate", the 17-year-old has raised public awareness about the dangers of global warming and mobilized millions of youths across the planet.

"Climate change is in the long term much more serious" than Covid-19, Nobel historian Asle Sveen told AFP.

She would be the second-youngest Nobel laureate in history, just behind Pakistani activist Malala, and the 18th woman to win the Peace Prize.

Nobel in pandemic year 

As the world reels from the most serious pandemic in a century, the five members of the Nobel committee may also choose to support multilateral efforts -- as opposed to nationalistic trends -- to combat the virus.

In such a case the World Health Organization (WHO) could take home the prestigious prize, according to some observers, even though its response to the crisis has been criticized.

Last year, the award went to a more traditional laureate, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, for his efforts to end a 20-year-postwar stalemate with Eritrea. His country now faces inter-ethnic violence and police crackdowns on anti-government protests.

Many other names of possible Nobel winners have also been circulating in Oslo, including Afghan peace negotiator and women's rights activist Fawzia Koofi, the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN and its secretary general Antonio Guterres, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the icon of Sudan's revolution Alaa Salah.

Those eligible to nominate candidates for the prize are also allowed to disclose their choice.

As a result, those believed to be on the list include the people of Hong Kong, Uighur intellectual Ilham Tohti, Nato, indigenous Brazilian leader and environmentalist Raoni Metuktire, and the whistleblower trio of Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning.

Tens of thousands of people around the world -- members of parliament and government ministers, some university professors, former laureates, etc -- are allowed to submit nominations to the Nobel committee.

The Nobel prize -- which consists of a gold medal, a diploma and a cheque for 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.1 million) -- will be presented to the winner on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of Swedish industrialist and philanthropist Alfred Nobel, who created the prizes in his will.

Depending on the coronavirus restrictions in place at the time, it will either be awarded in-person at a scaled-back ceremony in Oslo, or remotely in an online ceremony.

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