PRIO Director's Speculations 2004

[see here for the debate following the announcement that the 2004 prize would go to Kenyan Environmentalist Wangari Maathai.]

Based on the assumption that the Nobel Committee will want to award the prize to someone engaged in the most burning issues in today's global politics, PRIO's Director Stein Tønnesson has speculated that the prize for 2004 will be given to someone engaged in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The last time someone working specifically with nuclear arms and arms reductions got the prize was in 1995, when it - to everyone's surprise - went to Joseph Rotblat and Pugwash. Ten years before, it went to International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. The 1975 prize to Andrei Sakharov was also related to his background as a nuclear physicist.

The PRIO Director's favourites this year are:

(1) The IAEA and its leader Mohamed El Baradei

It is about time that the Mohamed El Baradei (bio) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are acknowledged for the work they have done, and continue to do, to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Their work in Iraq before the war; their work in North Korea, until they were expelled; their tireless efforts to save the non-proliferation treaty; their current work to secure full openness concerning enrichment of uranium in Iran; and their insistence that the 'recognized' nuclear powers must engage themselves in a credible effort towards disarmament and the eventual abolishment of nuclear weapons, would all count in the IAEA's favour.

The second most likely, if the Nobel Committee wants to address the spread of WMD, is (2) The Nunn-Lugar Programme

In 2002, the Director mentioned US Senator Richard Lugar (Republican) and former Senator Sam Nunn (Democrat) 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. Jimmy Carter received the prize instead. In 2004, it is possible that the Nobel Committee will consider an American candidate again, and the Nunn-Lugar programme is no less important two-years on (See Newsday article, 'How to Thwart a Nuclear Black Market', by Sally Ann Baynard, 10 March).  The CTR is a highly important effort to reduce the danger of nuclear weapons, plutonium or enriched uranium from ending up in the hands of terrorists. In a recent report, the US Defense Department’s National Defense University (NDU) concludes that the CTR should be expanded to counter additional global threats. Although there is no evidence to suggest that the Nunn-Lugar programme has been nominated (or to the contrary), there are several good reasons that it would make a good candidate: The last three laureates are, although in different ways, associated with criticism of US policies.  However, awarding a prize to the Nunn-Lugar programme could not be accused of being anti-American, but it could possibly be interpreted as criticising the Bush administration: 

o        The CTR programme has broad support from both of the parties in the US, but has, until recently, received far too little attention from the Bush administration. For more insight see article by Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe, “USD 7 Billion effort to disarm ex-Soviet WMDs slows” (8 February), and Richard Lugar, "Eliminating the Obstacles to Nunn-Lugar", Arms Control Today 34(2). For criticism, see Shawn Macomber's "Cooperative Threat Reduction Ad Absurdum" in The American Spectator, September 2004 (pp. 30-35).

o        Richard Lugar was one of the architects behind a proposal to the Senate to ensure that all diplomatic efforts were exhausted before an attack on Iraq was considered, as well as restricting the targets of a possible bombing.

o        Lugar is perhaps considered a moderating factor in American foreign policy, and as Chair of the foreign relations committee of the Senate, he has also criticised the Bush administration´s handling of the post-war reconstruction of Iraq.


Two outsiders, if the Nobel Committee wants to focus questions related to WMD and the Middle East are Former UN weapons chief Hans Blix and the Israeli nuclear scientist Mordechai Vanunu. However, the PRIO Director has become more and more doubtful that the Nobel Committee will focus on WMD. The IAEA has not been very successful lately in its attempts to prevent apparent or likely nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran. The fact that Jimmy Carter got the prize only two years ago may also reduce the likelihood that the Americans Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar will get it this year. In view of the fact that last year's prize went to Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi, he also thinks the Committee will avoid giving yet another prize this year to a dissident or human rights campaigner.

The Committee will rather want to widen the scope of the prize by opening a new subject area. A possible such area is the environment. Very few prizes have been linked to environmental matters. The Nunn-Lugar programme has a strong environmental aspect in addition to targetting WMD. Alternatively, there have been speculations by NRK reporter Geir Helljesen that a Russian or Kenyan environmentalist might win the prize. Russian Alexander Nikitin, 1997 Goldman Environmental prize winner, and a former naval officer that cooperated with the Norwegian environmental group Bellona to expose details of radioactive pollution from the Russian fleet in Arctic seas, was arrested in 1996 and charged with treason, but eventually acquitted. Kenyan Wangari Maathai, 2004 Sofie prize winner, and founder of the Green Belt Movement, may be awarded the prize for helping to get 30 million trees planted across Africa, to slow deforestation and help protect the environment.

However, another area which has not been much in focus in the past is health. And one of the most burning health issues today is HIV/AIDS. Hence a likely candidate is: (3) The Treatment Action Campaign and Zackie Achmat

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), and its chair person Zackie Achmat could be given the prize for their work fighting HIV/AIDS. They have been nominated by previous recipient (1947) The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), and they won the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights in 2003. An outsider in AIDS work might be former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, who has done much work on HIV and AIDS awareness, and who also has, to his credit, after a long period of authoritarian rule, allowed the introduction of electoral democracy in his country and stepped down voluntarily after losing the elections in 1991.

Another health related possibility, which would also encourage quests for more openness and political reform in the People's Republic of China, is to award the prize to:  (4) Chinese military surgeon Jiang Yanyong In 2003, Jiang Yanyong forced the Chinese government to admit that SARS had become a crisis, and later called on the authorities to rename the Tian An Men Massacre a "patriotic movement".  Click here for latest reports.  He was recently awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for public service.  

In conclusion, the PRIO Director's favourites for the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize (as of 5 October) are:

(1) The IAEA and its leader Mohamed El Baradei

(2) The Nunn-Lugar Programme

(3) The Treatment Action Campaign and Zackie Achmat

(4) Chinese military surgeon Jiang Yanyong  

NOMINEES 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 is confirmed only to the extent that the nominators have apparently chosen to publicise their choice anyway]

·         The Courage to Refuse movement and co-founder Captain David Zonshein, nominated by two former laureates.

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]

·         Mordechai Vanunu, nuclear technician, imprisoned in Israel since 1986 for revealing information about Israel's secret nuclear arsenal, and due for release on 21 April.  Also an honorary doctor at the University of Tromsø, and nominated in 2003 for the Nobel Peace Prize by University of Bergen law Prof. em. Edvard Vogt. A group of Norwegian have taken the initiative to award a 'People's Peace Prize' to Vanunu.

·         Willie Nelson, as 'apparently' nominated by American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) for his song "Whatever happened to peace on earth?"

·         Pakistan's President-General Pervez Musharraf and India's Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, if they maintain peace. Some speculation by Dr Farrukh Saleem, an Islamabad-based freelance columnist.

·         Pope John Paul

·         The Salvation Army

·         Former Czech President Vaclav Havel, who has also recently won the 7th Seoul Peace Prize.

·         Nunn-Lugar & Cooperative Threat Reduction

·         Former UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix (bio)

·         IAEA & Mohamed El Baradei

·         Jiang Yanyong

·         UN Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi (bio)

·         Tiananmen Mothers: group campaigning for the Chinese government to re-assess its use of the army to suppress the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in which their relatives were killed.  Some members of the group were recently briefly imprisoned.

·         Australian Prime Minister John Howard, given 1001-1 odds by Australian online betting site Centrebet.

·         Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union (UCSJ) and the Moscow Helsinki Group.

·         Rebiya Kadeer, 2004 Rafto Memorial Prize winner.

·         Previous Rafto Memorial Prize winners, Paulos Tesfagiorgis (2003) and Sidi Mohammed Daddach (2002).

·         Asma Jahangir, Pakistani human rights activist and lawyer.