PRIO Director's Speculations 2003

Last year, PRIO's Director Stein Tønnesson mentioned Richard Lugar and Sam Nunn as the most likely candidates for their Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programme which dismantles nuclear missiles and submarines to secure fissile materials in the states of the former Soviet Union. Instead, former US President Jimmy Carter got the prize. Richard Lugar is now Chair of the US Senate foreign relations committee, and has criticized President Bush's handling of post-war reconstruction in Iraq. The CTR is now also running projects on biological terror prevention.

The Nobel Committee is, however, unlikely to award the prize to an American for a second year running.  On 14 February 2003, the PRIO Director told Reuters that he thought Hans Blix, United Nations chief weapons inspector, and Mohamed El Baradei, Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), could get the prize for 2003 if they succeeded in getting Iraq to disarm sufficiently to prevent the US and UK from going to war. It would appear that their chances had been significantly reduced given that the war took place, but their integrity in light of the near-assured absence of WMD in Iraq may be valued by the Nobel committee. Moreover the IAEA's continued work in Iran, and in Korea until the inspectors were expelled, are essential in order to save the nonproliferation treaty from being completely undermined. Perhaps the IAEA may after all be acknowledged for its important work.

In general, his judgement is that in the recent high profile politics of the war on Iraq, increasing US pressure on Syria and Iran, and the crisis with North Korea, no political leaders have distinguished themselves in ways deserving of the prize. The Nobel Committee is, therefore, more likely to award the prize to a humanitarian organisation, a dissident, or a politician of a different kind.

The latter could be Brazil’s new president, the former metal worker Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who could need support in his attempt to rectify the enormous social injustices on his continent. Such a result is the Director's personal preference, but would perhaps come a little premature, as the results of his efforts have yet to be seen.

With this in mind, the Committee will look for dissidents, most likely in China, Iran or Russia (or even Vietnam). There are no obvious candidates among the Chinese dissidents, but in Russia, Sergei Kovalyev, a prominent Russian human rights activist who spent ten years in the Soviet gulag, and who later "braved the massive shelling of Grozny to report on the savagery of Russian troops in Chechnya", seems like a suitable candidate. Awarding the prize to him would draw attention to a war that has, for geo-political reasons, been given little attention by politicians of other countries, and also by the media.

Other such possibilities may mean that the Nobel Committee choose to give the prize to a Muslim reformist, such as Mr Hashem Aghajari, the Iranian lecturer who was condemned to death last year on charges of blasphemy (for an article he wrote on Islamic Protestantism), and although the death sentence was revoked, still remains in prison. Awarding the prize to him could be interpreted as encouraging democracy and reform in Iran, and may even urge Iran to engage more fully in the world in a way that would prevent if from being further targeted by the US. For a chronology of the events that led to Aghajari's death sentence in 2002 click here. For an insightful overview of the US move to bring reform in Iran, and the Aghajari case click here.

Because of a lack of political leaders that have shown themselves worthy the Committee may favour a Humanitarian Organisation. One such organisation is The Community of Sant'Egidio, which has reputedly been nominated by nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The Community, which began in Rome in 1968, is a global movement of lay people dedicated to evangelisation and charity. The spirituality and principles which characterise the way of Sant'Egidio include Prayer, Communicating the Gospel, Solidarity with the poor, Ecumenism, and Dialogue.

There are, however, many worthy humanitarian organisations, and those that work with HIV and AIDS may in particular be favoured.

The PRIO Director thinks that Pope John Paul II is a strong candidate for the prize. The chances of him receiving the prize, despite his views on abortion, birth control and homosexuality, may be much higher this year than previously. The main reason is his outspoken opposition to the war in Iraq; because of his position as a religious leader, his opposition has vastly contributed to lessen the potential rift that opened up between Christianity and Islam, and that could have made the Iraq war a "crusade". It was clear from Pope John Paul II's visit to Jerusalem in 2000, which included a visit to a mosque, that his intentions were radically different from when Pope Urban II authorised the capture of Jerusalem over 900 years previously, and even to that of his immediate predecessor. His call for peace in the Middle East and "an end to bickering among Christians" reveals his truly ecumenical stance, and in this way he lives up to Alfred Nobel's wish that the prize go to someone "who, during the preceding year, should have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind - who shall have done the most or best work for fraternity between nations". Worries about the Pope's current health may also prompt the committee to seize the chance to award him the prize this year.

But perhaps the most likely candidate this year is a man virtually everyone can agree is a man of peace and integrity, former Czech President Václav Havel. Playwright, poet and political dissident, Havel became the leading figure in the Civic Forum, a coalition of noncommunists pressing for democratic reforms. The Communist Party finally conceded in 1989 to the bloodless "Velvet Revolution", and Havel became president of a coalition government. He resigned in 1992 in opposition to the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, only to be re-elected at President of the new Czech Republic. He stepped down earlier this year.

Because nominations are officially kept a secret, the list below is based on information leaked to the press/world wide web and could possibly be based on rumours and hearsay. It is by no means complete or assured, but represents the best possible list given the information present at the time of writing. For further information on the nomination process click here.

Confirmed nominations:

[Although nominators are strongly requested not to publish their proposals, the following list of nominees are confirmed only to the extent that the nominators have apparently chosen to publicise their choice anyway]

Possible nominations:

[The following "possible" nominees are not confirmed. Although there is plenty of speculation in some cases, the nominators have apparently not chosen to publicly confirm their nominations]