PRIO Director's Speculations 2007

In recent years the Nobel Committee has chosen to acknowledge fields that are more indirectly related to peace, and have chosen to give the award to less than controversial laureates such as the environmentalist Wangari Maathai and poverty eradicator Muhammad Yunus.

If the Committee decides to continue this practice also in 2007 it may choose to acknowledge a matter of great urgency: global warming. This would be particularly timely in view of the fact that negotiations for a follow-up to the Kyoto treaty will be held in Bali, Indonesia 3–14 December, just as the prize is being awarded in Oslo

If, however, the Committee decides to revert to a more traditional prize they may look to acknowledge the work and courage of a dissident (such as they have in previous years with prizes to Carl von Ossietzky, Shirin Ebadi, Aung San Suu Kyi , the Dalai Lama); the work of a peacemaker (such as they have in previous years with Kim Dae Jung; John Hume & David Trimble; Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo & José Ramos Horta; Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres & Yitzhak Rabin); or a humanitarian organisation (previous years: Médecins Sans Frontières, International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Pugwash).

PRIO Director Stein Tønnesson's speculations for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize are:

  1. Global Warming: Former US vice president Al Gore, and Sophie Prize winning Inuit activist Sheila Watt-Cloutier have been nominated by two members of the Norwegian parliament and must be considered favourites this year.  An alternative possibility might be the UN Climate Panel.
  2. Peacemaker: Martti Ahtisaari, primarily for his role in the successful peace process in Aceh, Indonesia, but also with relation to his previous work and his current work on Kosovo.
  3. Dissident: either a Russian (Lida Yusupova), Chinese (Rebiya Kadeer) or Vietnamese (Thich Quang Do) dissident.
  4. Humanitarian organisation: Save the Children.

1. Global Warming:
Though not a traditional theme, nor one that would be especially controversial, it is possible the Nobel Committee would wish to address a matter of great urgency in the world, and the issue of global warming will be very high on the agenda throughout 2007.  If so, there are two likely candidates:

Al Gore & Sheila Watt-Cloutier
Al Gore, former vice president and environmentalist who won the Global Environmental Citizen Prize in 2005, is a very high profile campaigner whose recent film An Inconvenient Truth has raised awareness of the looming global warming crisis.

A prize to Al Gore would also address the increasing role of the media in advocacy and raising public awareness - a new field that the Nobel Committee may wish to expand into.   In this regard, it should be noted that until her death in October 2006, the prominent Russian journalist and negotiator Anna Politkovskaya would have been a good candidate that reflected the importance of the media.  However, the Nobel Committee cannot award the prize to someone posthumously.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier, a Canadian Inuit environmental and social activist and winner of the Sophie Prize has been nominated together with Al Gore by Norwegian politicians Heidi Sørensen and Børge Brende.

The UN Climate Panel
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988 to assess scientific, technical and socio- economic information relevant for the understanding of climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. It is an important agent of change, helping to inform public debate, and to establish policy such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol. A report from its working group 1 was published 2 February, and the Panel will issue three more reports later this year, including a synthesis report.

2. Peacemaker:

Martti Ahtisaari
Former Finnish president (1994-2000) who in August 2005 successfully brokered a peace treaty between the government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement through his NGO the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI).  In November 2005 Ahtisaari was appointed as UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to lead the Vienna peace talks that will determine the final status of Kosovo. His proposal was presented to both Serbian and Kosovan authorities on 2 February, and awaits final approval from the UN Security Council (probably in February).

His chances of winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 depend very much on the fate of the Kosovo proposal, which looks less promising following rejection by Serbia.  If the question of Kosovan independence is not resolved this year, then the Nobel Committee may simply decide to postpone giving the prize to him.

The PRIO Director has this year broken from tradition (of only speculating but not endorsing) and spoken out that Ahtisaari deserves the peace prize for having brokered the most successful peace agreement in recent times ('Finland viser Norge fredsveien', Morgenbladet, 28 September--4 October, 2007).

3. Dissidents:

Lida Yusupova
Human rights lawyer and spokeswoman for the forgotten victims of the war in Chechnya, and winner of the 2005 Rafto prize.

Several worrisome trends in Russia contribute to putting a Russian dissident high on the agenda, but similarly makes it a controversial choice, especially as Norway wishes to keep good relations with Russia.

Rebiya Kadeer
A prisoner of conscience in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (also known as East Turkistan), and winner of the 2004 Rafto prize.  It is a long time since the prize has been awarded to a Chinese, and the Committee may also be looking to give the prize to a muslim, and especially a woman.  Kadeer is, however, in exile, and is thus not currently active in her own country.  The Committee may therefore look to other Asian dissidents.

It's also worth noting that Chinese authorities have threatened the Norwegian Parliament that if they don't act to stop the Nobel Committee giving the prize to Kadeer it will damage Norwegian-Chinese relations (Aftenposten, 22 September 2006).  Members of Norway's parliament have the right to make nominations for the prize, but do not have any power over the Committee's final decision.

Thich Quang Do
If the Nobel Committee does not want to antagonise Norwegian relations with Russia or China, then the Vietnamese Secretary General of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam Thich Quang Do, winner of the 2006 Rafto prize, may be considered.

4. Humanitarian Organisation:
A more traditional approach would be to give the prize to a humanitarian organization such as Save the Children.